I am a cook book fanatic. I have hundreds of them and I am always flicking through the colourful pages for inspiration and I smile to myself when I come across a page that is already splashed with a little bit of food that I have cooked from the particular recipe. I have series of books by big corporations, I have singular books by almost unknown chefs, I have books by cooks, books by mums, books by barbeque lovers and I have books by top chefs. Each and every one of them provides me with much joy.
While I love these books with a passion, it is not just about the look or the feel; it is obviously about the content. It has to inspire; it has to make me want to search out unusual ingredients; it has to be easy to follow, and for me, the recipes have to be pictured – I need to know what I am aiming for – ‘Food for Friends’ does all of this for me.
Food for Friends has 100 sensational recipes and channels the wisdom of 40 world renowned chefs such as Margaret Fulton, Ben O’Donoghue and Charmaine Solomon, into a recipe format that is simple for everyone to read, understand and cook.
There is something for everyone in Food for Friends from impressive dishes you can conjure in minutes such as Antonio Carluccio’s luscious zabaglione with bitter chocolate sauce, to spectacular feasts for the senses, like Paul Wilson’s sweetcorn French toast with pancetta and avocado or Luke Nguyen’s crisp silken tofu in lemongrass.
Designed for stress-free entertaining Food for Friends will take you from languid weekend brunches to spontaneous dinner parties which are sure to impress your guests. Whip up an indulgent high tea of cakes, pastries and savoury tarts. Fire up the grill for a laid-back barbecue with a Latin accent, or linger over a sumptuous Sunday roast with all the trimmings. There is also a plant-based feast for vegetarians as well as modern picnic ideas, Greek cheese pies and Javanese meatballs.
I am already in the process of planning my next gathering with recipes straight out of this book, starting with a weekend brunch. The recipes by Greg and Lucy Malouf (zucchini omelette with mint and melting cheese), Fern Green (turkey patties with maple bacon) and Molly Brown (oat, ricotta and berry pancakes with thyme honey) will have my guests extremely satisfied.
To whet your appetite even further why not try the following recipe courtesy of Luke Nguyen.
VIETNAMESE COFFEE TART WITH FRESH POMEGRANATE
The Food of Vietnam
170 g plain flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
100 g chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1 cm cubes
1½ tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold water
VIETNAMESE COFFEE CURD
40 g caster sugar
2 teaspoons agar
50 ml freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee or strong espresso coffee
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter using your fingertips until the mixture has an even sandy texture. Make a well in the centre, then add the sugar, lemon juice and cold water. Lightly mix to form a smooth paste, taking care not to overwork the pastry, so it doesn’t shrink during cooking, and adding just a little more cold water if needed to bring it together. Shape the pastry into a round disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Divide the pastry into six equal portions. Working quickly, roll each pastry portion out separately to about 3 mm thick. Cut out six 11 cm diameter discs using a round pastry cutter. Ease the pastry discs into six greased 8 cm flan tins, taking care not to stretch the pastry.
Cover the pastry with sheets of foil and weigh the foil down evenly using baking beads or uncooked rice. Rest for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C.
Bake the tart shells for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and baking beads. Turn the oven down to 170°C and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, or until the pastry is an even golden brown colour. Remove the tart shells from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For the Vietnamese coffee curd, beat the eggs in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Add the sugar and beat until the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle the agar agar into the mixture and whisk again to incorporate. Stir in the coffee and condensed milk. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula occasionally so it doesn’t become grainy.
Pour into a chilled container to cool, placing some plastic wrap directly on top of the curd to prevent a skin forming.
When the curd is completely cool, pipe it into the cooled tart shells.
Cut the pomegranate in half. Over a bowl, tap the pomegranate with the back of a spoon to release the seeds. Spoon the seeds over the tarts and serve.
NOTE —Vietnamese coffee beans are available from gourmet coffee suppliers.
This is an edited extract from Cooked: Food For Friends published by Hardie Grant $24.99 available in stores nationally.