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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Riverstone Kitchen: Modern Classics by Bevan Smith

It’s no secret that I love a good cookbook with a seasonal, local approach to cooking. What’s not to love about using the best of fresh locally produced food to celebrate the turn of the seasons and make heroes of simple ingredients, straight from the sea, the land, or the garden?

For those in the know, Riverstone Kitchen is something of a destination in itself, a reason, if any was needed to venture to that most celebrated of northern Otago towns, Oamaru.

Oamaru is a divinely picturesque coastal town which features wide streets, lined with New Zealand’s largest collection of unmodified Victorian and Edwardian buildings. These limestone buildings are built from locally quarried stone – cleverly renamed as Oamaru stone, or whitestone – a name most familiar throughout New Zealand for its association with the eponymous cheese.

But Oamaru (the place of Maru) has long been known as a food-basket by its residents. In fact, its history stretches back to the time of moa hunters, around 1100 AD when archaeologists estimate that around 1200 ovens were in use near to the mouth of the Waitaki River. Apart from sealers and whalers, the region was not widely settled by Europeans until 1850 when large pastoral runs and fishing fleets were established to capitalise on the export of the region’s bounty., and make food-barons of some savvy locals.

These days, the harvesting of natural resources is more of a low-key, sustainable affair with local restaurateurs, like Fleur Sullivan (from nearby Moeraki’s internationally acclaimed Fleur’s) and Bevan Smith from Riverstone championing a more respectful attitude to the growing, harvesting and cooking of food. Bevan rightly says that good food doesn’t go out of fashion. “Free-range chicken with tarragon at the start of spring, hot-smoked salmon with new-season potatoes and Parmesan soup at the start of summer is food with soul and still ticks all of my boxes.” And readers of this book, as the name suggests, will find a familiarity of recipes within; recipes which have become classics associated with the fame of the highly-acclaimed Riverstone Kitchen.

New Zealand born Smith earned his stripes abroad in Michelin-starred restaurants. When he returned to New Zealand and established Riverstone Kitchen in 2006, he quickly established the restaurant as a haven for foodies; winning numerous accolades and publishing sell-out cookbooks. This time around, the recipes for which the restaurant has become famous have been tweaked to be simpler and more accessible for home-cooks. And, I for one will remain eternally grateful for access to the recipes for everyday basics like harissa, herb-oil, aioli, tomato chilli jam and sourdough - among many others – which are the very things to elevate food from the simple to the sensational.

If, like me, you are an Aucklander, you may have noticed the tendency among our southern counterparts to indulge in a greater celebration of the seasons than we do in our sub-tropical climate. I have friends who speak reverentially about obtaining the first of the new season potatoes (Oamaru Jersey Bennes); fresh peas, still in their pods: and wild-caught fish. Coming from cool-temperate Tasmania, I grew up with this mindset and respectfully suggest that if you can, you visit Riverstone Kitchen, but if that is impossible, buy Riverstone Kitchen’s Modern Day Classics and live vicariously.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Upstart Press


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