Maggie Beer has become synonymous with local, high quality ingredients used to produce gorgeous inspirational food. Her passion for uncompromising excellence has given her a position as one of Australia’s leading cookery authors, on a par with a selected few such as Stephanie Alexander. She has recently been recognised as Senior Australian of the year for 2010, for bringing joy to many Australians through food.
Maggie’s Kitchen contains 120 recipes, most of which she has shared with her television audience, along with a wealth of information on kitchen fundamentals. This book is beautifully set out. It starts with an introductory chapter on basics, such as kitchen equipment; larder and freezer essentials; what she grows in her kitchen garden; as well as what to buy (and when) in terms of fresh ingredients. This is followed by a section flagged as ‘making cooking easy, enjoyable and fun,’ as she shares tips and techniques to cover most cooking/kitchen eventualities. The rest of the book is divided simply into ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’.
Ingredients such as the ubiquitous verjuice present themselves in interesting possibilities such as Verjuice and Avocado Jellies. There are good basics – fantastic Boston Baked Beans, a sumptuous Beef Pie Mix as well as her versions of Spag Bol and Macaroni Cheese. However one of the main strengths of the book is that these versions of old favourites form only a proportion of its recipes. The balance is comprised of dishes that will not be immediately familiar to many readers and there are a few less common ingredients included such as guinea fowl, camel, kangaroo and pheasant. There are also plenty of recipes that will become staples – as new takes on readily available fresh ingredients abound. The flavours are strong and the Mediterranean influences are obvious. Mixtures of sweet and savoury veer from the expected and there are several creations that will challenge and enthral the palate.
The recipes themselves are easy to follow. Each has an introductory paragraph with a story and extra information about the dish. The ingredients are clearly described and those for separate parts of the dish are listed under different headings. The difficulty level varies – this is not a book for beginning cooks, although some recipes are very easily accessible. However it will definitely reward those prepared to put in some time and effort. This book stands alongside Australian classics such as The Margaret Fulton Cookbook – it is one that you will cook from again and again, and over many years, regardless of passing food fads. Personally, Chocolate Ganache Tart with Blood Orange will certainly be on the table at my next dinner party!
Maggie Beer is the author of six cookbooks, Maggie’s Farm, Maggie’s Orchard, Cooking with Verjuice, Maggie’s Table, Maggie’s Harvest and Maggie’s Kitchen, and co-author of the bestselling Stephanie Alexander & Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook.
Maggie Beer’s website is at www.maggiebeer.com.au