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It will be another six months before we see the 2011 winners cookbook appear on the shelves. In the meantime, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris are working on their next collaborative effort, Julie Goodwin the first Australian MasterChef winner has a new collection due in October, and Marion Grasby, a 2010 standout contestant, has just released her first cookbook under Pan Macmillans new lifestyle publishing venture, Plum.
Although her surprise elimination in the final weeks failed to deliver a fairytale ending, Grasbys contribution to last years MasterChef was immense. She was a generous and optimistic contestant, a creative thinker and a talented technician who raised the bar and forced her opposition to jump higher.
Audiences loved her and amateur cooks around the country were inspired by her often-brave attempts to blend cuisines. This same kind of courage and creativity infuses her new cookbook, which I expect will become one of the publishing hits of this year.
Grasby proves you dont have to be a winner to be a grinner and theres a lot of grinning in this book. Because this is a personal food story, Marion features plenty of photos of Marion. But there are also some superb art-directed shots of ingredients, utensils, market stalls and vendors, the Grasby family photo album, finished dishes and, yes, more of the smiling Marion, to encourage you to try the recipes.
Grasbys culinary background reflects the kind of melding of cultures that would have made her almost-namesake, former Whitlam government immigration minister Al Grassby, proud. Marions father, a building project manager, grew up in country Victoria; her mother a qualified chef is Thai. Born in Darwin, at the age of four she moved with her family to Papua New Guinea. She went to boarding school and university in Brisbane, then worked as a journalist for the ABC in South Australia. She now lives in the McLaren Vale wine region with her partner, Tim.
The food of my childhood was dominated by the Thai flavours that came from my mothers heritage, Grasby writes. We had wok-fried noodles when others had spaghetti bolognaise. She adds: The recipes in this book are not simply recipes Ive plucked out of thin air. Each recipe tells a little story about me, where Ive been and the people I love.
Many of her dishes are Asian-influenced. They are accessible and the ingredients are familiar to those who like Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Malay-style food. Her dishes, such as khao soi, pork spring rolls with sweet carrot dipping sauce, pad siew and sticky beef ribs with sweet coriander sauce, reflect years spent shopping and cooking with her mother.
But Grasby also acknowledges her life experiences, which include studying gastronomy at university, working at SAs Bottega Rotolo gourmet food and wine company and MasterChef. Marion: Recipes and Stories From a Hungry Cook features European-style dishes with a Marionesque twist, including pea soup with crisp pancetta, an eight-hour lamb roast, confit duck with star anise and cherry sauce, roasted pork with apple sauce, and almond and cherry tart.
Plums brief to produce beautiful books that people want to touch, flick through, mull over, showcase, and give to loved ones has certainly been met in this debut publication.MARION: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM A HUNGRY COOK
by Marion Grasby
» $49.99 (Plum)
by Rosalie Ham
» $32.95 (Random House)
In her new novel, Rosalie Ham reflects the gritty realities of Melbournes changing inner-northern suburbs and finds inspiration in the streets, the people and the tone of her own neighborhood. Her central character, Margery Blandon, has just turned 80 and, despite a couple of falls and accidents, is determined to remain in her home of 50 years. One son has disappeared, another son has a crush on his mothers home help, while Margerys scheming daughter and son-in-law want her to sell up and move into an aged-care facility. A series of shock revelations drive Margery to a lonely hotel room, where she contemplates suicide as the only way out of a what she perceives to have been a sham of a life. Ham deftly balances grief and trauma with a gentle humour, and her characters spring off the pages and settle (at times uncomfortably) in your heart.
by Gaye Weeden and Hayley Smorgon
At first glance, this may appear to be yet another foodies guide to Melbournes best food shops, providores, cafés and restaurants. But Weeden and Smorgon, co-authors of Cooking From Memory: A Journey Through Jewish Food, have infused this little jewel with personality, style and some very good tips. Best coffee? Theyll tell you where to buy it, where to sip it and how to make it. Suburban butchers with specialist produce, most interesting pizzas, where to go for freshly shucked oysters, best afternoon tea spots, yum cha tips, the hidden bars of the CBD and more plus plenty of recipes, celebrity tips and important basic information such as addresses, websites, opening hours and the like. Highly recommended for those who celebrate Melbournes food culture.
by Robert Hughes
» $50 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson)
Part history, part social observation, part art guide and part love letter, art critic Robert Hughes fascinating new book celebrates one of the worlds great cities. Hughes recalls his first visit to Rome in 1959 when, as a 20-year-old Australian, the city became my guide backward as well as forward. It provided insight into beauty as well as destruction, triumph as well as tragedy ... For me, that first time, Rome turned art and history into reality.
by Anita Silvey
» $36.95 (Frances Tenenbaum)
Anita Silvey is an American professor of childrens literature, and this book of recommended teenage reading certainly has a US skew. But there are enough of the worlds great classics and modern hits to make this appealing to parents and teachers of the 12-plus age group. Silvey has also consulted a wide range of literary specialists and teenage readers and, as such, her diverse list includes horror and gothic, graphic novels, poetry, sport and romance.