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Cooking at Home - Karen Martini

Paperback Published: 29th January 2014
ISBN: 9781921383441
Number Of Pages: 256

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Karen loves cooking traditional food - be it Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or comforting English baking - but adds something extra to make it look and taste special: kibbeh, normally made with lamb, is a revelation when ocean trout is used instead; a dollop of smoky eggplant completely transforms a piece of chargrilled tuna; and a classic cheesecake becomes an elegant dessert when paired with a spoonful of wine-soaked berries.

Based on Karen's phenomenally popular column in Sunday Life magazine, this collection of 150 recipes, beautifully photographed by Earl Carter, offers the inspiration needed to turn the evening meal into a special occasion, every night of the week.

About the Author

Karen Martini began her food career at the age of fifteen at Mietta's in Melbourne. She worked at various restaurants before taking the helm at the Melbourne Wine Room, which proved a resounding success for her. In 2002 she moved to Sydney to take up the position of Executive Chef at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar - a meeting of Melbourne style and Sydney glamour. On her return to Melbourne, Karen and her husband Michael Sapountsis opened mr wolf, a chic pizzeria in St Kilda. Karen was food editor of Sunday Life magazine for six years and is the current food editor of Epicure, the food lift-out from The Age. In addition, Karen is the resident chef on the television show Better Homes and Gardens and a regular judge on My Kitchen Rules. Karen Martini's previous cookbooks are Where the Heart is, Cooking at Home and Feasting.

The recipes in this book are a fair reflection of what has been going on in my household during the last two to three years. The food I cook is still very much the result of my heritage, hunger and curiosity – as I said in my first book, Where the Heart Is. These days, however, I find organisation is as important as inspiration when it comes to creating new dishes.

The biggest change in my life has come with the arrival of my daughter, Stella, in 2006. I no longer have time for much leisurely contemplation. Instead, I scribble my ideas in point form on the backs of dockets, tiny scraps of paper or the upper left corner of my diary. Shopping, once a casual cruise of the market or supermarket aisle, is now a precise journey, usually involving a list or two.

As in most households, the end of each day brings the almighty question of what to have for dinner. On a good day, I have my strategy mapped out; on a not-so-good day, I might have six marylands of duck defrosting in the sink, waiting for me to transform them into a new dish – which may or may not hit the table by 10.30pm – to be eaten by my very hungry and long-suffering husband, Michael.

Cooking at home and eating in most nights has helped me to understand how much though and effort is required to come up with something different for dinner, day in and day out. I have a massive repertoire of recipes, yet I still struggle to produce food that is varied. Like most people, I am tempted to stick to my favourites – those dishes I know I can whip up without a fuss. I do always try to experiment, even just a little. I'll make the Bolognese sauce I have been making for years, but may use, say, veal and pork sausage instead of beef mince to keep things interesting.

This is the feedback I get constantly from readers and viewers. Most stress the need for simplicity – no one wants to have to rifle through cupboards looking for sixteen pieces of equipment to make a meal that needs thirty exotic ingredients. But people are also interested in variety, in how to add that twist to please the eye and surprise the palate. The recipes in this book – recipes I have cooked for friends and family over the last twelve years – are all about taking familiar food and making it special. Chargrilled tuna is given new life when served with smoky eggplant; the humble omelette becomes a gourmet feast with the addition of crab and corn; and old-fashioned cheesecake takes on a different character when paired with wine-soaked berries.

How to entertain is always a topic of conversation. I am probably typical of most people in my desire to keep fuss to a minimum so as to spend more time with my guests. These days, with a small child on the move and another on the way, I opt for grazing, particularly in hot weather. We invite people over and offer food straight off the barbeque, served with salads, breads and cheeses – it's a very casual affair. Again we stick to the favourites, but add a little something extra: some herb butter to enliven a nice piece of Scotch fillet, a tuna salad pepped up with some paprika.

One of the big changes in my approach to food of late has been my concern for produce. Like many others, I want to know how long a particular item has been in transit and how it was treated on the journey. There's so much choice out there.

While most of us occasionally grab a few vegies at the supermarket, I'd like to think that more and more people are heading for their local greengrocer, or to the farmers' markets that are springing up all over the place. We are learning the value of absolute freshness and gaining a true appreciation of organic produce.

Cooking for a family reminds me of my own childhood. My mum never made packet cakes, and was bemused if we bought them home from our friends' houses. Baking was a big part of life in our house, as was the Sunday roast. My mother was a very good cook, but she was not adventurous. She'd say. 'Oh no, we won't be using any of that coriander.' But now she grows fresh herbs in her garden, and is always asking for ideas on how to cook with them. I think she is typical of many Australians who are coming to understand how just one extra ingredient can turn a fairly ordinary dish into a special meal.

Mum taught me one of the most important things I know about food: sharing a meal with people you care about is what matters most. The table was always set, with the cloth, the bread, the water. Everything was ready so we could sit down to eat and chat about our respective days. It would be wonderful to preserve these household traditions, and if this collection of recipes does nothing else, I would like to think it encourages people – family, friends, households – to share at least one meal together, two or three times a week. So simple, but truly one of life's greatest pleasures.

ISBN: 9781921383441
ISBN-10: 1921383445
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 29th January 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 28.1 x 21.0  x 1.8
Weight (kg): 1.01
Edition Number: 1