Good from Scratch, a new cookbook by popular TV chef and cookbook author Michael Van de Elzen, is a handsome book that wouldn’t go amiss on a coffee table. The stunning photographs were taken by Babiche Martens.
The recipes were created by Michael and his wife Bee (who is also a chef) for the Good from Scratch Cookery School, which they run on their lifestyle block in Muriwai, West Auckland. Their philosophy is that food truly does taste better when it’s made from scratch with quality produce, when you know where your raw ingredients come from and, in turn, what is going into your body.
The school has a garden-to-table focus. On arrival, the students go outside to gather fresh produce from the extensive garden, prepare it under Michael’s expert guidance and then sit down together to sip wine and eat the fruits of their labours. It sounds heavenly!
Some of the recipes in this cookbook are his creative twist on classic recipes like that seventies dinner party showstopper Beef Wellington to which he has added an extra layer of truffle pancakes. He accompanies another old favourite, chicken liver parfait, with a delicious gingery apple relish, and pickled red onions. In some other recipes, he includes ingredients which are in vogue right now, such as miso, kale, and kimchi.
Interspersed between the recipes, which are arranged according to the four seasons, are short chapters on how to grow, and harvest a variety of vegetables. He also provides sound practical advice, based on his own experience, on such diverse topics as worm farming, composting, pickling, raising happy chickens, beekeeping, and making your own sausages.
The first recipe I tried was his Beef Meatloaf, a superior version of a good old meatloaf, wrapped in slices of prosciutto. When you bite into it, little chewy nuggets of dehydrated dried mushrooms add a delectable umami flavor to each mouthful. I would happily make this again for a special family dinner.
A feature of his book is delectable share-around platters, perfect for casual entertaining with friends. For Yesterday’s Roast Chicken with Cauliflower, Sourdough and Curried Labneh, guests simply spoon a bit of curried labneh, a few spicy roasted cauliflower florets, kale, and nuts and a bit of leftover chicken, onto a piece of crispy sourdough and pop it into their mouths, like a bruschetta. So easy and tasty, although I did have to plan ahead as the labneh has to be strained overnight in the fridge.
A real highlight for me was successfully making the miso emulsion for his Pumpkin Salad with Miso and Kale, another tasty share-around platter. I’d never attempted to make an emulsion before. It did indeed prove to be super easy as promised and didn’t split, which emulsion-based dressings are prone to.
The Dutch Spiced Apple tart is Michael’s version of the iconic Dutch appeltaart, passed on from the Dutch side of his family. That’s my heritage too. My auntie Annie was an excellent baker, so it is high praise indeed to say that I think Michael’s appeltaart is right up there with hers, although perhaps he is a little heavy-handed with the raisins. I especially like his brown sugar pastry. There are more scrumptious desserts in this cookbook, like an almond cheesecake with orange syrup and a plum and blueberry crostata, which I can’t wait to try.
Some of the recipes in Good from Scratch are elaborate and time-consuming, as you might expect for special occasion recipes. But they are not difficult to do as his clear instructions are easy to follow.
Whatever the season, if you want to impress your family or guests with a very special meal, you will find this book is an absolute treasure trove!
Reviewer: Lyn Potter
Allen & Unwin