Friday, 26 September 2008

Balance & Harmony

Amidst all the feverish preparations for the upcoming season of cheer and retail frenzy, there are calm oases of reward and the occasional cause to skite. The lovely people at Murdoch are publishing Neil Perry's forthcoming cookbook Balance & Harmony: Asian Food and they hosted a function at the master chef's Rockpool.

Mr Perry himself oversaw an Asian banquet for 22 lucky people (and didn't we all know how fortunate we were!) and before the food was served, we were treated to an explanation of the forthcoming dishes, and a bit of background to how the book came to be. Charming and articulate, he told us how he had grown up trying Chinese dishes (bringing back memories of the restaurants that had the little coda on the menus -Australian Dishes - for those who couldn't eat that foreign stuff!) but it wasn't until he toured Thailand with David Thompson of Darley St Thai fame, that he came to appreciate the beauty of the subtle depths of flavour achieved with spices used differently.

Everything we ate is featured in the new cookbook: White cut chicken (poached in a very simple method) with ginger and shallot; sichuan salt and pepper silken tofu (absolutely divine - not an adjective that has ever been paired with soybean curd in my words before!); steamed blue-eye trevalla with black beans; pork shoulder curry; sichuan style eggplant; and seasonal fruit to follow and cleanse the palate. Of course, the cooks amongst the company made a beeline for the finished copy on display, to try to work out what went into the dishes. Much to my amazement, the ingredients were simple, though you would have to source the occasional one from an Asian grocery, and the methods very easily achievable at home (as long as you have a good wok).

It will be a very beautiful book, with excellent paper and every now and then an insert to divide the sections, composed of art paper which is lovely to touch. The photography is delicious and the layout very easy to navigate. The limited first print run will be cased in a gorgeous cloth covered case, and subsequent printings will just be cloth covered binding without the box. Start hinting now to your principal gift-giver, how much you would like to cook for them out of this usefully beautiful book! Lindy

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