Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Comfort Food by Gary Mehigan

Last Sunday night I was hanging out on Twitter and watching Masterchef (as you do) , and noticed a contest to win a signed cookbook by one of the co-hosts of Masterchef Australia, Gary Mehigan. Lucky for me, I was chosen as the winner, which I was very excited about. The signature says Love to Cook! Not necessarily true about me because I hate Monday to Friday cooking, but I do like finding a recipe, going and buying the ingredients and then eating it which is much more of a weekend type thing to do.

The book is called Comfort Food and in the introduction Gary talks about his early days of cooking, and the inspiration that he got from his grandfather.

I only got the book on Thursday and so I haven't had much of a chance to look through it, but I thought I would post some initial reactions. Understandably I guess, the author's idea of comfort food is much more cheffy than mine is! He didn't have any suggestions that included sitting on the couch eating chocolate. Easy (as long as there is already some in the cupboard), quick (how long does it take to unwrap?) and definitely comforting, although not necessarily good for you in copious quantities.

What I did like just looking at the recipes was that each one has an introduction telling why he chose that particular recipe, lots of lovely photographs, as well as the instructions and ingredients, but then there are are notes as well. For example, in the recipe for Pumpkin Soup, the instruction is to grate the pumpkin. Now as soon as I read that I was immediately dismissive! I mean, really... but then at the end of the recipe, there was a note saying

Even though it may take a little longer, grating the pumpkin is an important step because it helps to draw out its natural sweetness. Grated pumpkin also cooks more quickly, which helps to preserve the true pumpkin flavour.

Now when I cook pumpkin soup I tend to do it in the slow cooker so I am not necessarily worried about it cooking quickly, but rather than just being dismissive of something as being just a cheffy thing to do, I was glad to read the reason why he says that it is an important step. Whether I will listen or not is another thing entirely.  It probably is worth remembering for those days when I want to cook pumpkin soup and don't have a lot of time.

Pumpkin is one of the things that I am intending to post about in a future Weekend Cooking post, simply because it is a vegetable that seems to be used in very different ways all around the world. There will be at least one pumpkin soup recipe included when I do actually get around to writing that post.

Coincidentally, when I was searching for an image of the book cover, I did find this link to an interview with Gary which people in Australia should be able to listen to. Not sure about anyone else.

So these are my initial reactions. I may yet end up sharing a recipe or three from the book as I get around to trying a few of them.

What do you like to see in cookbooks? Handy tips? Photos? Personal anecdotes from the chef or author? Perhaps you prefer just the recipes without all the added extras?

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.


  1. I don't normally like buying brand new cookbooks, I prefer the pre-loved variety with the emphasis on the word loved. I just adore looking at the amendments people have made to recipes or the recipes they've pencilled in. One such recipe book I was given a few weeks ago was one from my childhood and has the scone recipe I've made so many times. The book was not in perfect condition and has so many notes and added pages and is just lovely.

  2. Congratulations, cool win! I love cookbooks with little anecdotes and lots of drawings and pictures. Not many exist, actually.

  3. Wow! Congratulations on your very cool win. And truly what could be more comforting than just opening up some chocolate? Well, having someone else cook and clean up come close.

    I am looking forward to your pumpkin post, because I'm one of the odd Americans who thinks pumpkin can be used for more than pies.

    I loved knowing the why for different techniques -- but like you, I don't always listen and I often just cook my own way.

    Photos are a huge plus in a cookbook, but some of my favorites have no photos at all.

  4. normally, i like photos of the food, although the book i reviewed this week had no food photos, but lots of other pics, and i still loved it.

    my pumpkin soup, i use canned pumpkin. ;-)

  5. What? A book on comfort foods and no recipe for chocolate on the sofa? All kidding aside, I love my cookbooks with lots of pics, although they hardly get *used*.

  6. What a great prize!

    I guess what I look for in cookbooks is really prior knowledge of the author--especially from the web! I have several Martha Stewart books because I'm familiar with her recipes from her website and I know her recipes are always top knotch! Same thing with King Arthur Flour--even though their cookbooks look 180 degrees different than the Martha books!

  7. I love that you said his idea of comfort food is more "cheffy" than yours - I find that to be true so often, I was beginning to think it was just me!

  8. I like to keep my number of cookbooks limited otherwise there's so much to choose from! LOL

    I like easy tips for delicious cooking and I prefer pictures that show the dish.

    Being a vegetarian I also prefer veggie cookbooks -- it is so frustrating to see something you like and discovering it has meat in it ;)

    And I MUST say: my fav pumpkin sup recipe has roasted pumpkin indeed!!!

  9. What a fun post this was to read. First, congratulations on your win... and I think chocolate is the perfect comfort food, too! Photos are really important to me when choosing a cookbook. I'm already looking forward to your pumpkin post!

  10. How nice to win a cookbook! Whether or not you'll use it a lot, it's the idea that counts.

    I have only a few cookbooks and I tend to make about 10% of the recipes in a cookbook. But they're fun to read (especially when there is some back ground info or a picture).

    I've got a soup recipe this week.

  11. How fun to win a cookbook! I'm with you on the comfort foods. Just give me a bar of chocolate. I think you idea of pumpkin recipes is a good one. My experience is pie and muffins. I'd like to experiment with pumpkin but don't have any ideas.

  12. Interesting suggestion about the pumpkin. I made a soup with squash and sweet potatoes a few weeks back and the recipe said to peel and chops the veggies and then roast them in the oven for however long. Oh bother I thought. well I did follow the directions and the soup turned out fantastc. Also, I didn't have to worry about boiling the veggies and the pot bubbling over.

  13. Congratulations on winning the cookbook! I will also be interested in seeing your recipe for pumpkin soup coming up! It sounds like I would have a lot of fun with this book, though my idea of comfort food is mac and cheese with hotdogs!!



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