Family stories and fond memories fill this food with love and good times.
UK celebrity chef Rick Stein used his time during last year’s COVID lockdown to revisit old recipes and rediscover the simple joy of cooking from home. From this, he updated some recipes and simply enjoyed the perfection of others. The ultimate result has become Rick Stein at Home, an autobiographical cookbook where he reveals “great cooking experiences at my place.”
His focus is not so much dinner parties, but family meals and time together. Despite having restaurants on both side of the globe, including two in NSW, Stein has collated over 100 of his all-time favourite home-cooked meals. He presents them with a lot of narration, family photos, and food photography by James Murphy in a hardcover volume of over 300 pages. This is a thick book for the shelves, but it’s filled with recipes that aren’t too onerous despite the text-heavy presentation.
Bar Snacks, First Courses, Fish & Shellfish, Poultry, Meat, Vegetarian, and Desserts & Drinks make up the main sections with additional chapters on Side Dishes and Basics, Cook’s Notes, and Pointers for throwing a party.
There’s a lot of reading, including within the recipes themselves with their introduction and additional tips that sit alongside the paragraphed cooking instructions rather than easier-to-follow dot points. The formatting of the recipes also forces some onto multiple pages, which is never ideal.
There is a kindly, homey, loving feel to Stein’s words though, and they’re often worth a read simply to hear what he has to say or share, whether it’s a note from his son or lamenting the gooseberry bushes of yesteryear. His cooking instructions are clear to follow despite the formatting. There’s a good variety to recipes to choose from, covering all tastes and many different cuisines. I tried three, beginning with Stein’s variation of Greek Spanakopita followed by a Vietnamese salad and a Thai rice dish, which I then ate with Chinese friends, who had never tasted any of these dishes before, so I could garner their opinion.
There are many more pages I have marked in the book for future dinner parties. Stein brings his food alive with the stories he tells, and despite the disappointing formatting of the recipes, he makes the effort worthwhile.
FETA & SPINACH FILO ‘CIGARS’ (PAGE 16)
One of the most extraordinary discoveries about pastry making is just how much mess one can make in the kitchen. Thankfully there were no witnesses to the melted butter Armageddon that was once my benchtop and clean floor, but lots of soap suds later, all evidence was gone. The cause was layering the filo pastry with brushes of melted butter to seal the sheets together. This recipe only calls for two layers of filo pastry, which is not enough. An additional couple of layers would work better to keep these delicious spinach and feta parcels intact, but my cleaner sincerely thanks Stein for limiting my time with the melted butter.
Anyone who enjoys Spanakopita will know and love these heavenly snacks. They’re super-easy (but messy!) to make, and well worth the knowledge that, if you’re like me, you’ll spend more time cleaning up than actually making the dish. I’ll definitely follow Stein’s recipe again with two tweaks–extra layers of filo, and longer in the oven to brown the pastry more.
VIETNAMESE POACHED CHICKEN SALAD WITH MINT AND CORIANDER (PAGE 74)
If I wrote the word ‘delicious’ in all-capitals it would seem like I’m shouting but it would definitely represent just how amazing this salad is. I de-seeded the red chillies because my mouth is a coward like that, but doing so allowed me to enjoy the chilli flavour without the bite. In making this recipe, Stein offers a handy extra tip for peeling ginger which really works. The secret to the success of this salad is in the dressing, as one would expect. Keep it separate until ready to serve, then enjoy the crispiness of the salad with all the flavour you could wish for.
CHARLIE’S PAD KRA PO (PAGE 195)
Stein’s son Charlie refers to Pad Kra Po as the ‘ultimate comfort dish’ in Thailand. It is a pork and rice dish served with an egg on top. This version includes up to six chillies, with another four in the dressing. Yeah, nah, they were all de-seeded for my meal, which is the ideal way to get the flavour without the heat. There are quite a few ingredients needed to make Pak Kra Po; there are 17 listed, but they’re all easy to come by in any decent supermarket. The process is very straight forward and suitable for even the most basic of cooks. The result is a new comfort food that you’ll crave too.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: October 2021
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.