A world in my kitchen by Peter Gordon, Hodder Moa Beckett, 2003.
Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club was the most exciting restaurant in Wellington in the 1980s. I have a memory of going frequently, however as I was a single parent on a tight budget that hardly seems possible. What I remember best was the Thai beef salad, which I think of as Peter Gordon’s signature dish. In fact that may be the only thing I ever ate there. As you know,i I am a creature of habit and I often just order the same meal. Mt Cook café in the 80s, Louisiana chicken salad; Nikau in the 2000s, kedgeree or sometimes haloumi.
A friend gave me this book for Christmas in 2004 and again in 2006. She didn’t recall having given it and I didn’t recall receiving it. It seemed vaguely familiar, although the two copies were different editions with different covers and, in my defence, I was somewhat preoccupied with my father’s illness in 2005/2006. Once I found the time to explore the book, I was quite inspired.
The very first thing I made from the book was panettone and mascarpone cake with berries and cherries, p195. It is much easier now to source panettone in Wellington than it was then, so you can easily make this at home over the cherry season. It’s an assembly rather than a full build so a great idea for a no effort pudding to wow your guests. Slice a panettone horizontally into four rings and place the bottom ring on a serving plate. Whisk mascarpone with cream and reassemble the cake with layers of mascarpone cream and berries and cherries. This year I did this with pandoro and it was very pretty. Panettone is the Christmas cake of Milan and pandoro is typical of Verona. The pandoro is a bit lighter, as well as taller, so I think it works better with the richness of the mascarpone and cream.
The second thing I recall making is marinated strawberry and pawpaw salad, p192. Another assembled pudding that will impress your guests with little effort on your part. For four, marinate 500g halved strawberries with 60 ml dessert wine and set aside in the fridge for an hour or two. Peel and seed ½ a medium pawpaw and cut into 2cm chunks and marinate in a tbsp lime juice and a handful of small mint leaves. To serve, gently combine the fruits and juices. A magical combination.
I am not really a pudding person and I am surprised to find that I had made two puddings and then apparently shelved the book for twenty years. I have a recollection of also making baked nectarines with honey and pistachios, p214. It was Christmas and summer and I must have had time on my hands.
It’s summer now, and zucchinis are plentiful in our garden, so I started with zucchini mint and Parmesan soup, p51. Sauté a diced onion in olive oil until it has caramelised, then add 300g coarsely grated zucchini and cook for a minute or two. Add 600 ml of vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in 100g grated Parmesan, a handful of roughly torn mint leaves, season and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a handful of toasted pinenuts. The recipe thickens the soup with finely chopped pinenuts before adding the zucchini but that seems both extravagant and unnecessary. If you want to thicken it, I would use ground almonds. Just cook them out a bit with the onions before adding the zucchini and stock.
For a simple assembled weekend lunch or weeknight supper try potato, chorizo, green bean and capsicum salad, p65. Peel and slice 300g spicy chorizo and fry in a little olive oil. Set aside and add 500g of boiled, halved, baby waxy potatoes to the pan with a little salt. Fry until slightly browned all over. Tip into a bowl with the pan scrapings and toss with 300g blanched green beans, sliced, roasted red capsicum. For the last I cheat and use a jar. I always keep a jar on hand and they’re a great addition to lots of meals. Toss with a little olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. I used sherry vinegar, but balsamic or red wine vinegar would do as well. Top with the sliced chorizo.
I made two linguine recipes. Linguine w minted pistachio pesto, p108 was a huge hit with my kitchen helper who helped to blend the pesto and then to taste. The recipe made far more pesto that was needed for the pasta, but it is delicious tossed through roasted vegetable or served as a dip, so more is good. Process 140g lightly toasted pistachios with a handful each of mint and parsley leaves and 2 cloves garlic for about 5 seconds. Add 90 mls olive oil and process another 5 seconds. Add 100g Parmesan and another 80 ml oil and process another 5 seconds. Season to taste and if necessary, process again to your preferred consistency. Toss with cooked pasta. I estimate 60g pasta per person, 100g for big appetites. Be sparing with the pesto and serve with more grated Parmesan and some toasted roughly chopped pistachios and a green salad.
We are collecting at least a zucchini a day from the garden now so zucchini, oregano and almond linguine, p109 was the obvious choice. Julienne or thinly slice two zucchini – this would be lovely if you had both green and yellow but sadly this year, I only have the pale green. Sauté in a little garlic oil with a couple of tsps of dried oregano until lightly wilted. The recipe suggests that you cook sliced garlic in the oil, but I find it often catches and tastes burned so I always use garlic infused oil unless I want texture of garlic. Cook the pasta, drain, and add to the pan with 3 tbsp toasted sliced almonds, juice of a lemon and grated Parmesan. Serve with a green salad
While on p108/109 I was inspired to make broad bean, tomato and mussel linguine. I still have frozen broad beans from our spring harvest. Sauté a finely sliced red onion in garlic infused oil. Add 120g podded broad beans and cook until they start to split. Add a dozen pre-cooked mussels and two large tomatoes, diced. Cover pan and cook on high heat about a minute. Toss through mint and cooked linguine with a little pasta water. I cooked the mussels in a little wine which I strained, to eliminate the mussel grit, then added to the sauce.
You could use any ribbon pasta for these dishes, but I find the linguine gives a better pasta to sauce ratio, especially for the pesto.
Finally, I made the Thai beef salad w lime dressing, p62/63. This is really simple and although I am certain that the Sugar Club version was far superior to mine, it was pretty delicious. I followed the recipe almost to the letter, and I was pleased with the result. The dish is described as a starter, but I served as a light supper for two. I needed 250g of beef fillet cut horizontally into two equal pieces, which my butcher obligingly did for me. I’m not sure I could have achieved this at home.
I toasted a tsp of uncooked rice in a small frying pan over a very slow heat until it was golden brown all over. The recipe didn’t specify which rice, so I used Jasmine. I finely ground the toasted rice with a mortar and pestle because I don’t have a spice grinder. This did the job perfectly.
I peeled and sliced two small shallots, toasted and chopped a handful of shelled peanuts, and picked a handful of mint leaves from the tips of the plant.
I made the dressing with the zest of a lime and the juice of three, 2 tsp demerara sugar, ¼ red chilli, finely chopped, ¼ tsp fish sauce and ¼ tsp soy sauce.
Lastly, Peter seared the beef strips in a very hot pan with a little oil till cooked rare. After resting the beef for 10 minutes, he thinly sliced the beef and mixed everything in a bowl.
One observation as I was making these recipes is that there is an assumption that the reader is an accomplished cook. There was no guidance, for example, on how to cook the mussels for the linguine. Nonetheless, this is a great book with a range of wonderful recipes covering light meals, soups, vegetables, pasta, cake and puddings. Sadly, I will never get around to making most of them and there is no longer room for this book on my shelves.