The new version of Al Brown’s iconic Eat Up New Zealand is designed to cater for the summer crowd. I love the concept which Brown interprets in a uniquely Kiwi way. He is that kind of chef – the type who epitomises ease and charm; and one who successfully channels this country’s anti-celebrity culture.
I’ve loved previous Al Brown cookbooks – and there are many. I especially enjoyed Stoked and Go Fish. To my mind, at least, both of these aforementioned books really capture the essence of what it is to be a Kiwi hunter/gatherer type – one who catches their own, and who loves a good blaze or barbecue to cook it.
And, as might be expected, the recipes in this new book are great. They are exactly what you’d expect from a chef of the calibre of Al Brown. I especially liked the Pudding, Baked, Preserves and Garnish sections. In fact, I would buy the book on the strength of all of the sections at the back. But of course, there is a great deal more.
Naturally, Brown begins with Kaimoana; and perhaps also unsurprisingly with a recipe for sashimi, which epitomises any seafood lover’s idea of a tantalising taster of freshly-caught fish. Of course he chefs it up a bit with ponzu and truffle oil, but he’s laid it all out in an easy way. Brown includes three different sashimi recipes, and also one for snapper tartare, so this will appeal to many fishers who like their seafood fresh off the boat.
There’s also a recipe for kina on toast. Good news for anyone who loves the briny, tangy, taste of this largely under-rated seafood and proliferating pest. Al has also included a recipe for battered kahawai tacos. This is inspired and makes sense for the use of this strongly-flavoured fish. Speaking of strongly-flavoured foods - there’s a recipe for muttonbird and kumara cakes. I haven’t eaten muttonbird since I was a child. It’s highly rated, both locally and more broadly by many indigenous cultures, many of whom were introduced to it as a delicacy at an early age. I am not a fan. But if I tried Brown’s recipe, where the gamey falvour has been paired with the sweetness of kumara, he might yet convince me.
By contrast, Brown’s pie recipes – there are numerous throughout the book – already have me hooked. But it’s business as usual, where I am concerned, and I already know I’m going to save myself for the back of the book and spend my focus on the very things that elevate even the plainest of fare to something Al Brown might have prepared.
Reviewer: Peta Stavelli
Allen & Unwin