The making of Peter Gordon's cookbook

By Grant Allen

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Grant Allen has a dizzy schedule overseeing Peter Gordon's new book.

Behind the scenes on the set of the new Peter Gordon cookbook with Grant Allen (left). Photo / Jason Dorday
Behind the scenes on the set of the new Peter Gordon cookbook with Grant Allen (left). Photo / Jason Dorday

Early this year, chef Peter Gordon asked if I was interested in working with him on his new book Everyday. Peter is an old friend from my restaurant days in Wellington. As chef at the Sugar Club, his innovative food gained immediate attention. The place was a hit.

When the owners of the Sugar Club moved to London, Peter went too. Sugar Club Mark 2 appeared, with Peter serving up his distinctive fusion food. Further fame followed and from there Peter took the big leap and opened his own establishment, The Providores. Last year he opened his second restaurant in London, Kopapa.

Peter has an international life. He consults globally, writes books and food columns, develops products under his own name and still has time to fundraise for various charities. His New Zealand efforts support the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation of New Zealand, leukaemia.org.nz.

He's back here every three months keeping an eye on his New Zealand operations, dine by Peter Gordon and Bellota at SkyCity, consulting for Air New Zealand, fulfilling various commercial and media commitments and keeping touch with his family and friends.

His punishing schedule would have most on their knees, but Peter remains upbeat, enthusiastic and in the moment. How he does this, I don't know.

The 100-plus photos required to create Everyday were to be shot in 10 days, and within a limited budget.

Before starting a cookbook, many decisions have to made. What is the mood of the book? What styling and props are appropriate? Do all parties understand their roles in the project? Many emails occur before the actual project takes life.

With Peter available for only the first three days of the shoot, all action shots, portrait shots and potential cover shots were first priority.

He set the style, leaving photographer Manja Wachsmuth and me to work on until completion, aiming to capture his intent.

Sometimes the most simple shots become the hardest - the light changes, the planned prop isn't quite right, the food refuses to "sit" how you want it.

Manja is a perfectionist, constantly checking the minutiae of each shot on her laptop.
Is that herb sprig perky enough? Is there the slightest smear on the plate? Is the food the absolute "hero" of the shot?

For 10 intense days we worked to make the book, shopping late at night for the next day's cooking, beaming in on a daily email basis with Peter to approve photos and feeding back on how the recipes worked.

There was a big sigh of relief when all the photos had been taken.

For me it was over. For Peter and Manja the job went on - writing introductions, choosing which shots were best, reshooting some dishes as they crossed paths in London.

Back at the publishing company, designers and editors pulled the book together until finally it went off to the printer.

Months later, with bated breath, we got to hold the finished book in our hands. I heaved another big sigh - it looked absolutely wonderful.

THREE RECIPES FROM EVERYDAY TO TEMPT YOU

Creamy chicken, mushroom and parsnip pie

This open-top pie is rather like a quiche. The mushroom custard on top hides the juicy chicken filling beneath. You could serve it hot but I prefer it at room temperature, and it's just as good served the next day. Serve with either a green salad or steamed veggies.

Serves 6-8

250g short crust pastry
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
50g butter (or 2 tbsp olive oil)
2 parsnips, peeled, cores removed if woody, then roughly cut into 1 cm dice
500g chicken mince
200ml water
flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g open-capped mushrooms (portobello mushrooms look best)
3 eggs
200ml cream
2 tbsp snipped chives

1 Preheat oven to 180C.

2 Roll pastry out roughly to a 32 cm disc, 5 mm thick. Line a 24 cm diameter tart tin with the pastry and place in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.

3 Line the pastry with baking paper, three-quarters fill with baking beans or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C.

4 While the pastry is cooking, make the filling. Saute the onion and garlic in the butter or oil until the onion begins to caramelise, stirring occasionally.

5 Stir in the parsnip and cook a few minutes more.

6 Stir in the mince, breaking it up as it cooks, until lightly coloured.

7 Add the water, 1 tsp flaky salt and plenty of pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a rapid simmer and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, stirring frequently.

8 Slice the mushrooms 5mm thick and reserve the 15 best slices. Once the liquid has evaporated from the chicken, stir in the mushrooms.

9 Beat 2 eggs with the cream and season with ½ teaspoon flaky salt. Mix half of this into the chicken, along with the third egg, and spoon into the pastry case, pressing it flat.

Turkish-style beans and tomatoes with dill and chilli

This Turkish-inspired dish is always a favourite of mine in summer. It's important to note that the beans are not meant to be crunchy, and they will lose some of their green colour if eaten the following day - which is totally fine. What they lose in colour they gain in flavour.

Serves 6 as a side dish

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 red chilli, roughly chopped (more or less to taste)
2 tbsp sunflower oil or canola oil
2 tomatoes, cut into large chunks (unpeeled)
200g green beans, trimmed
3 tbsp water
½ tsp salt
100g podded broad beans, grey skin removed if they're large
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped dill (use the stalks and keep it chunky)
1½ tbsp lemon juice

1 In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion, garlic and chilli in the oil until softened but uncoloured. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, then add the green beans, water and salt.

2 Put the lid on and cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, then turn down to medium and cook for a further 2 minutes.

3 Stir in the broad beans, put the lid back on, and cook for another 2 minutes.

4 Take off the heat and stir in some pepper, the olive oil and the dill. Leave to cool, then stir in the lemon juice.

5 This is best made at least 6 hours before you want to eat it, or even the day before. Eat at room temperature.

Raspberry sorbet with honey cream ripple

This rippled sorbet really is easy to make even without an ice cream machine. I didn't have one when I made it. Just make sure you have your terrine mould already chilled in the freezer before you make it. You can replace the raspberry purée with any other pureed fruit, such as mango, peach or blackberry.

600g raspberries, plus extra for serving
200g caster sugar
4 tbsp lemon or lime juice
150 ml honey
300 ml cream

1 Line a 1.5 litre terrine tin with a double layer of plastic wrap and place in the freezer.

2 Purée the raspberries, sugar, lemon or lime juice and 50 ml honey in a blender or food processor until fine. You can strain this if you want, but some seeds left in give it a good texture.

3 Place in an ice cream machine and churn until frozen. Alternatively, freeze in a shallow metal tray, stirring every 30 minutes with a fork, until almost frozen. The stirring prevents ice crystals forming as it freezes, which helps make a smoother sorbet.

4 Once frozen, in a large chilled bowl whisk the cream with the remaining honey to form almost firm peaks. Add the sorbet to the same bowl and, using just 5-6 movements, fold the sorbet through the cream, making sure the sorbet and cream don't become incorporated.

5 Tip the mixture into the terrine and fold extra plastic wrap over the top to tightly seal it. Freeze for at least 8 hours.

6 To serve, peel the plastic wrap from the top of the terrine, invert on to a platter and tip out. Remove the rest of the plastic wrap and thickly slice. Serve with fresh raspberries.

Credits for Everyday

* Food styled by Peter Gordon, Manja Wachsmuth and Grant Allen

* facebook.com/GRANTCOOKS

* Shot on site of the ONE STOP PROP SHOP.

* Published by HarperCollins, RRP $49.99

* peter-gordon.net

* manjawachsmuth.com

- Herald on Sunday

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