Chris Gordon’s self-isolation cooking diary: Week 7

For this week’s cooking diary entry, our food and gardening columnist Chris Gordon looks to others for inspiration…

During isolation I have tried cooking a variety of delicious, inspiring dishes. I started off with a few simple ideas for inspiration, and from there I’ve tackled pickling, sourdough and hot cross buns (well, almost). I’ve also embraced my inner Nonna and learned some valuable lessons on how best to let your adults children take over the kitchen. Cocktails may be required.

Throughout, I have tried to keep my head up high and consider the broader picture: we are keeping inside our homes for the greater good of the community. It was only weeks ago that my family sat around the table – playing cards, finishing jigsaws, browsing through cookbooks, and remarking to each other: isn’t this lovely?

This past week though, our pace deteriorated. Some meals were eaten on laps as we watched MasterChef. Dinnertime attire was starting to look an awful lot like what we wore to bed. Numerous cheesy toasties were being consumed, matched with wine. We had lost momentum. We needed a reboot, new inspiration…

And so it is that I look to what other women are doing in their homes. In this week’s column, I’ve invited some of our favourite Melbourne foodies to share what cookbooks they’ve been referring to during self-isolation.

Almay Jordaan | Head Chef & Owner of Neighbourhood Wine & Old Palm Liquor

The Whole Fish Cookbook, due to not much being exported right now I’ve found there’s incredible fish available, and this is the book to make sure I get to use all the bits! The terrine is a bit of a hit as of late.

Mamushka from Olia Hercules is a book I turn to in the colder months; every single recipe is exciting. I also particularly like all the brothy soups and stews with pickles added for extra kick! And a good home challenge is to attempt making the breads in the book.

I refer to Downtime by Nadine L. Redzepi a lot if I don’t know what to cook at home. I tend to overthink home cooking, and I’ve learnt the hard way a toddler doesn’t wait!

Meera Sodha’s East is my new favourite book for spicy, punchy vegetarian and vegan meals, especially anything from the chapter on pulses.

Right now I’m reading Amanda Little’s The Fate of Food. An enlightening view on the subject. There are a number of books out on this topic at the moment, and this one seems more positive than many!

Dani Valent | Writer, Eater, Traveller, Cook

I work from home in normal times – writing, cooking, eating – so the being-at-home part of isolation isn’t entirely different. What has changed is that my husband is next to me in the study, and the kids are home all the time. There is a lot of, ‘Is it feeling a bit like lunchtime?’ and I exhausted my supply of saintliness in exactly five days. Yesterday, I instituted a ban on asking what was for dinner unless it was followed up with, ‘What can I do to help?’

Maybe by the end there’ll be a dinner roster – these are strange times, after all. But I do love cooking and now more than ever appreciate the punctuation that cooking and eating bring to our days. I also think it’s lovely to have different food rhythms and metres at play, which is why I’ve fallen hard into Sharon Flynn’s Ferment for Good. This chatty, comprehensive book walks the home fermenter through all kinds of bubbling magic, including on-trend kimchi, kefir and kraut, but also fermented breads like dosa, and Japanese rice ferments like amazake: a sugar-free sweet paste that adds a crazy extra dimension to everything from porridge to smoothies. I love the way a jar that’s gently fizzing on the kitchen bench represents its own little microbial universe – it’s untroubled, busy, it feeds on itself and, in turn, it nurtures my family’s insides.

At a completely different pace, Tony Tan’s Hong Kong Food City brings the jangly clang and bustle of one of the world’s great food destinations to my Melbourne kitchen. Jumping into this book – egg tarts, scallop dumplings, red-cooked pork – isn’t just about getting dinner sorted. It’s also fond reminiscence and hopeful anticipation of street life, market bustle, food travel and the rich worldwide connections fostered by the thrill of eating wide and full of wonder.

Alice Zaslavsky | Writer & Founder of Phenomenom

I’m going through a period of heading back to my roots, so I’m finding myself gravitating towards Eastern European and Baltic cookbooks. I love Darra Goldstein’s new Beyond the North Wind. Mamushka by Olia Hercules is just gorgeous, as is Black Sea by Caroline Eden and Alissa Timoshkina’s Salt & Time.

I’m about to get stuck into Supra by Tiko Tuskadze and cook a bunch of Georgian dishes to WhatsApp to my mum so she can tell me what’s missing. It’ll be like she’s right there in the kitchen next to me again.

On a side note, if you’re looking to explore food from this neck of the woods through more of a historical lens, I can’t recommend Anya Von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking enough… I’m flipping through that any moment I need to have a chortle and a weep at the same time.

Sharlee Gibb | Author and Founder of Fully Booked Women

Cooking in the kitchen with two young boys means we are always reaching for Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Apprentice which is written specifically for young and new cooks. Very approachable.

Hands down my favourite recipe book in terms of cookable and eatable recipes is Family by Hetty McKinnon, try the haloumi and kale gozleme or the stir-fried lettuce bowl with ginger rice. Oh and the sweet and sour cauliflower with noodles.

I love the colour and imagery in Little Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl plus the amazing use of vegetables in everything from bright fruity smoothies to crispy rice paper rolls to carrot and ginger patties.

For literally hundreds of ideas to utilise food waste try Simplicious by Sarah Wilson, there’s a banana peel cake and nasturtium & apple pesto that we are keen to try.

Of course, our bible… Not a day goes past when we don’t cook or use something from our own cookbook, Mr & Mrs Wilkinon’s How it is at Home.

Family: New vegetable classics to comfort and nourish

Family: New vegetable classics to comfort and nourish

Hetty McKinnon

$39.99Buy now

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