by Al Brown, photography by Kieran Scott
RRP $70 vicbooks price $59.99
I read cookbooks in bed like novels and consider my self to be pretty good in the kitchen. I cook everyday for my family, trying to get enough green stuff on the plate and not having too many take-aways. My two boys eat all of my meals (mostly) without complaint, though the recent pumpkin and pea curry was a struggle and even I am sick of my vegetable soup. The meals they enjoy the most (Dad included) are the simple meat and 3 veg ones; crumbed schnitzel and coleslaw, roast chicken with Nigella’s stuffing, roast lamb and always my mother-in-law’s roast potatoes. When eating out, my eldest will make a beeline for the kranksy sandwich dripping with sauce, onions and mustard.
Whilst I’m happy enough with my cooking (and I think I’m a pretty good baker so no issues there) it does get a bit bland, lacking as it does the deep savouriness and depth of flavour of the well-cooked restaurant meal I sometimes crave. Now I know that restaurant chefs have all day to slowly simmer stocks, while having access to cuts of meat and essential bones that I would have to give up my day job in order to procure and deploy. But all the same I want more from my cooking and, with Al Brown’s new cook book, I think I’ve found it.
Stoked: Cooking with Fire is just the thing. It’s a book about meat and how to cook it: pork, beef, lamb and birds all get their own chapter. There’s a chapter on Hunting, Fishing and Foraging which, if I’m honest, I’ll probably skip – but the manly shots of men being manly, with dead pigs on their backs, destined for the transformative flames of deliciousness, carry their own promise and interest.
One of the great things about this book, as well as Al’s earlier book Go Fish are the sides. Whilst the meat is central the sides are dishes in their own right, and will easily accommodate non-meat eaters. All the recipes sound delicious and are packed with flavour, every one making my mouth salivate.
There’s a lot more to this book, not least how to cook with fire and the evocative photography of the NZ high country – there’s plenty to get lost in. Did I mention production quality – the postcards, the ‘charred’ cover and the dust jacket as poster are really cool.
But right now I’m gearing up for a meat fest. Thanks Al, I’m stoked.