Anna Hansen: Pantry to page (+recipes)

By Pam Neville

A Kiwi chef's fusion food has inspired in London. Now she shares her best recipes in a book. By Pam Neville.

Anna Hansen. Photo / Supplied
Anna Hansen. Photo / Supplied

"My God, this young woman can cook," said The Guardian's restaurant reviewer soon after New Zealand's Anna Hansen opened her cafe and restaurant, The Modern Pantry, in London, in 2008.

Now, less than three years later, not only is the young woman still cooking but she has written it all down in a hefty book of recipes, anecdotes and advice, which she has called The Modern Pantry Cookbook. It is available here now.

Anna Hansen is a former business partner of Peter Gordon. The pair set up the still-successful Providores in London, in 2001, and experimented with "fusion" style cooking, mixing ingredients from different cultures to create new dishes which blended east with west.

Fusion food may no longer be high fashion - it has passed its peak in terms of trendiness - but it will never be passe while Hansen flies the fusion flag. Her food is such a mix of tasty-yet-light, exotic-yet-comforting, different-but-not-unrecognisable that customers have been asking for recipes since day one. She has obliged, writing what may well become the ultimate fusion cookbook.

"My larder is global," she says. "I am not concerned with the origins of each ingredient, only whether the flavours and textures are balanced.

"To me, a spoon of Japanese miso is just as welcome in a French celeriac remoulade as Dijon mustard."

So this is a recipe book for people who are open-minded about food, and for cooks who are prepared to be brave.

Some of the ingredients listed will be difficult to find. The amchur powder and salted yuzu juice spring to mind. If you can't find them, just experiment with something else, says Hansen.

Alongside the unexpected, such as the sherry and seaweed mix in "seared oloroso-marinated venison loin with bone marrow and hijiki jus", and the Italian-Middle Eastern fusion of "salad of slow-cooked octopus with confit artichoke hearts and sumac lavosh", are many classic recipes. Kiwi ginger crunch is included, along with orange cake by Anna's mother, a sausage roll, and rye bread icecream, inspired by her Danish grandmother.

The signature dish of The Modern Pantry is "sugar-cured prawn omelette with smoked chilli sambal", invented by Anna through trial and error in her London flat. If it seems too time-consuming to make at home, then, should you find yourself in Clerkenwell, London, sample it at The Modern Pantry; an old brick building overlooking an historic square. It is never off the menu.

- NZ Herald

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