Author(s): Mark Best
Food and Wine
Best Kitchen Basics beats the revolutionary drum in the domestic kitchen - no longer are high-end techniques or recipes the sole domain of multi-award-winning restaurants like Best's Sydney fine diner Marque and his bistros Pei Modern in Melbourne and Sydney. Here, Mark Best breaks it down, putting the individual elements of each recipe into the home cook's hands and empowering them to think differently. It includes 100 original recipes built around 30 accessible ingredients - from eggplant to pumpkin to chocolate and eggs.
Best Kitchen Basics ups the ante on the familiar. Best insists that it is not a question of luxurious ingredients, simply the knowledge and wherewithal to unlock the beauty of some of the most basic elements of cooking. He says a good cook can compose a menu walking through a supermarket. A purple salad onion has its own beauty, for example, and in good hands can be elevated beyond the ordinary. Or a parsnip usually relegated to the roasting pan or soup pot can sing as a dessert when transformed with common builder's lime.
In the case of pumpkin, he starts with a basic recipe for the ubiquitious but much-loved pumpkin soup. Explanation of basic principles and detailed technique deliver a superior version. The next step is a pumpkin custard, sweet or savoury, and requiring a little more application. And then, for the enthusiastic cook with a little more time on their hands, a pumpkin ravioli in pumpkin consomme.
"This is not just about technique," says Best. "But new thought: changing the context." The book does not aspire to be comprehensive, rather an enjoyable - and useful - insight into one man's craft. Originally inspired by a well-thumbed recipe collection left to him by Margaret Hebbard, his beloved grandmother ("Little Nanna") on his mother's side, Best has set the tone for an accesible, engaging book that will prompt cooks to take their skills and mindset to another level.
In addition to recipes, Best takes readers on "skills sessions", unpacking some of the building blocks that he believes have been lost - including to young chefs. Step-by-step guides will include the art of puff pastry, the perfect consomme, and mastering sourdough at home. Peppered throughout the book are snippets including technical detail, a minor recipe (world's best fries!) and casual observations or stories. He also debunks myths and kitchen lore surrounding ingredients and cooking (such as searing meat to keep the juices in: "don't do it!").