Cookbook Review: Food Safari by Maeve O’Meara

By Cookie McBookie

My rating: 4 stars

Food Safari is a “culinary adventure around the world” that you can do from your kitchen in Australia. Its a great idea and Maeve O’Meara has assembled a big collection of recipes from professional chefs and home cooks.

However, styling-wise the book looks like a tribal painting threw up on a persian carpet.

There is also a real darkness to the photos, or perhaps I’ve become too accustomed to Donna Hay crispness?

On the upside, the book makes a valiant attempt at capturing the charm of the show. Its pretty ambitious and has recipes from 28 country/regions but omits some deal breakers eg an Italian’s recipe for lasagne or a Thai’s recipe for green curry. The cuisines are from:

Africa Brazil China Croatia Egypt England
France Germany Hungary India Indonesia Italy
Japan Jewish Korea Lebanon Malaysia Malta
Mauritius Mexico Morocco Pakistan Persian Portugal
Singapore South America Spain Sri Lanka Syria Thailand
Turkey United States Vietnam

Each chapter is prefaced with a an interesting blurb on the food culture of each country.  There is also an “Essential Flavours” panel that describes some of the more exotic ingredients used in the recipes.

I appreciate that the book pays homage to the theme of the show and includes photos of “normal” cooks from various cultures, but I wish they’d used the space to have a photo of some of the more exotic ingredients eg Niter Kibbeh (some kind of butter used in African cooking).

However, the reader should note that Food Safari is accompanied by one of the best food websites I’ve seen in a long time at www.sbs.com.au/food/foodsafari

The Food Safari website also comes with a “featured business” section divided by region so you can (hopefully) find some of the more exotic ingredients.

The site also has some video clips from the show including one of George Calombaris from days when he had hair like Julie Goodwin.

Adapted From The Age (photo adapted from The Age)

I digress…

Even though the book has a decent index, I wish it had an additional section on suggested starters, mains and desserts. Unless you are doing a “themed” dinner party eg Vivre Le France! its hard work going through the book to try to put a menu together. Nonetheless, there is a categorisation of the recipes into classes on the website.

Its hard to assess how well the book “cooks” as the recipes are from a ton of authors. Some of the recipes are complex eg Guillame Brahimi’s very yummy looking Beef Bourginon, but some such as Rosetta Lee’s Mango Pudding feel like cheating.  Rosetta’s pudding is basically gelatinized melted icecream!

I’ve therefore tried to select recipes from both a professional chef and a non-famous ethnic cook. I tried Hoummus by famous chef Greg Malouf and Paella from Carlos Lopez (who?).

Paella by Carlos Lopez (who?)

The recipe for this gives some nice tips about Calasparra rice and how to get the most out of saffron by grinding it first. I have to say, the paella produced got rave reviews from my guests.  One said it was the best paella they have ever eaten.  I had to spend quite a bit of cash on the seafood, but it was very easy to make and extremely tasty.  This is a great recipe but you have to follow it pretty closely.

Hoummus by Greg Malouf

500g dried chickpeas
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Parsley, finely chopped

I could grout tile with this hoummus.


With half a kilo of chickpeas the small amounts of lemon, tahini and oil make a pretty firm houmus. And, Malouf recommends only 1 tablespoon of oil for drizzling at the end.  It was nice, very nutty but we found ourselves fighting for the oil drops floating at the top.

Perhaps this is how hoummus is made by thin Lebanese people?? It does taste better than ready-made hoummus but I would definately add more oil if I made it again. It also makes A LOT of hoummus.

I give this book 4 1/2 for the food, 4 for the variety and 3 for the styling and layout. All up 4 stars. If you have friends who are into “World Music” or wear birkenstocks then its probably 5 stars.

Shopping

Always shop around.  I bought my copy at a Borders bookstore (now closed). At time of post I found good prices for the 2010 edition at US sites: www.bookdepository.com/ or amazon.com/Food Safari: Glorious Adventures Through a World of Cuisines

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4 Comments

  • Stella kwong
    December 13, 2010 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    The cuury taste much better the day after. The best curry i have ever tasted.

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