Review of Amisfield: Food, wine and stories from Central Otago

Posted: September 11, 2014 in cookbook, history, Review


Unusually, there is no by-line, and it is apparent that this is a collaborative effort, involving various of the people of Amisfield; its vineyard, winery and bistro. We don’t get to meet them except in the acknowledgements and the illustrations, and perhaps that’s just a bit impersonal, for a book which is very much rooted in a place and its people.

It’s an unusual book, part local history, part wine-making treatise, and about three-quarters cookbook. The historical background was well-written and quite interesting, but I have to confess that I have little interest in wine, being more of a cider-drinker (I’m from Somerset and that’s my excuse). It is the section relating to the bistro and the recipes that got most of my attention, and I was not disappointed. Many restaurant books have little to offer the home cook, but that’s not the case here, for a couple of good reasons. Firstly, the folk at Amisfield like to make their food from scratch using local produce, and consequently there are a number of recipes for making items that you wouldn’t normally think to try making yourself. This is particularly true of the breads and the charcuterie – meat products like pancetta which are horrendously expensive to buy, but actually look like something one might be able to make oneself, at home. Secondly, the recipes, though often complex, are clear and well-illustrated, and though many are definitely for special occasions, they don’t look ridiculously difficult. I can’t say that mine would come out looking as beautiful as they do in the book, but I’d give it a good go. And speaking of illustrations, I was especially impressed with the photomontage accompanying the English Muffins recipe which displayed the steps elegantly without the clunky step-by-step labels. It worked very well, and I won’t be surprised if it sets a trend.

I expect they’ll sell a lot of these at Amisfield, at the cellar door and at the bistro, because the book would make a lovely souvenir. Meanwhile, until I get to go there, I’ll just read the book, experiment with the recipes, and take myself vicariously to central Otago. And so can you…

Random House

Supplied by Random House NZ

Reviewed by Jacqui


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