Posts Tagged ‘al brown’

Go Fish – Al Brown

Posted: September 27, 2013 in cookbook, Review

go fishThere is an issue with fish and fish cookery – you have to buy local. Fish species vary widely across the world and although recipes for one species can be applied to a similar local species, it’s a whole lot better to buy a locally published book. For example, a fish cookery book from overseas isn’t likely to have the interesting selection of recipes for paua (abalone) that you’ll find here in “Go Fish”. I didn’t come across “Go Fish” when it came out in hardback, so I was pleased to see this paperback edition. My only New Zealand fish book used to be a slim volume from the 1970’s and I have to say that this is a huge leap forward, even for someone who isn’t “big on fish” like me.

There was a lot to like about “Go Fish”.  There is an excellent selection of recipes, organised roughly by biological phylum – first crustaceans, then molluscs, the majority for “fin fish”, followed by a collection of handy go-to recipes for sauces, batters and the like. The recipes are presented in the style I recognise from “Fresh” with the ingredients listed in groups at the top, but they’re not as “cheffy” and there’s plenty that only have a handful of ingredients. All the usual suspects are here… fish pie, fishcakes, fish chowder, fish and chips. There are clear instructions with step-by-step photographs for all those mysterious skills needed to deal with seafood. There are Al Brown’s fish tales. And the whole is lavishly illustrated.

Which brings me to those little niggling criticisms. A picture of the recipe is an aid to the cook, whereas an arty picture of a piece of random fishing equipment isn’t nearly as useful, and doesn’t tell me what those paua fritters should look like. The index isn’t as helpful as it might be – try looking up “chowder” or “fish cakes” and you won’t find them, at least not under those names. That said, the paperback is well bound and it does sit surprising flat on the kitchen bench.

Overall, this may well be the definitive book on New Zealand fish cookery and it’s certainly an excellent reference for anyone with the urge to go and cook fish. Not a finny business at all.

Random House

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

get fresh with al brownOnce upon a time there was no such thing as a distinct Kiwi cuisine – unless you count colonial goose followed by pavlova and ANZAC biscuits! It’s apparent right from the introduction to this book that Al Brown believes that not only is there a New Zealand style of cooking, there ought to be regional specialities as well, based on what’s available and fresh in that part of the country. This contention is supported a discussion of ingredients and producers from some of the regions (arranged in a somewhat eclectic order), each accompanied by a menu showcasing the area, all directly taken from his TV series.

The book is beautifully presented, with sumptuous photographs, not just of the dishes, but also of people and places around New Zealand. Unlike a lot of cookery books it’s cleverly bound in such a way that it sits flat on the kitchen bench. This is a bit of a waste because there are only thirty recipes, many of which are a bit daunting for a home cook! Although Al is quite good at detailing the method, he is definitely a chef, and the sheer length of the ingredient lists is likely to deter most cooks from trying these dishes – a pity, since some of them look delectable.

If I may compare “Get Fresh” with other books from my collection that are also based on the kind of cookery TV that combines food with travel – such as the “Hairy Bikers” books or even “Kiwi Kitchen” – I have to say that “Get Fresh” has a relatively low ratio of recipe content to other content. Now, this is probably because it’s based directly on the series, but to only present the recipes seen on TV, while adding extra material in other areas, means that the book is a lot less than it could have been.

I also suspect a lot of that other content, mostly relating to food producers and markets will date quite quickly. I was most interested in the pages on the Otara market – it beats me why people always go on about the Otara market, and never mention any of the other South Auckland markets (like the Mangere one I visit most Saturdays). His South Auckland menu begins with an appropriately island-style raw fish dish, followed by an Indian chicken curry, and a rice pudding with tropical fruit that I really doubt I’ll ever see brought to a church dinner here in Mangere! Or anything like… There’s so much more that could have been done to show off the cross-cultural cuisine of this city!

This is more a book about food and cookery than a cookery book, the sort that relates more to a comfy chair and a coffee table than the kitchen. It’s about New Zealand and its food producers, filling in the details that weren’t able to be covered in the TV series – and I’m sure that if you liked that series, you’d love this book. It’s written in a very chatty style, so it’s easy to pick it up and browse an article or two. It would be a great resource for any foodie who should happen to be travelling around New Zealand. It even comes with a CD of quite acceptable local music….

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui