Cookery time capsule
Chef Paul West has left River Cottage to live in the big city, but he still enjoys hunting down a meal, writes Louise Richardson
PAUL West says his biggest inspiration in the kitchen isn’t a person, it’s the world.
“That sounds like such a crappy cliched answer ... but for me, my biggest inspiration is the ingredients around me,” he tells The Guide.
The former host of River Cottage Australia, which followed his adventures farming and living self-sufficiently at Tilba on the south coast of New South Wales, has left the farm behind him but is still just as passionate about his food.
He’s also honoured to be included in The Great Australian Cookbook series alongside some of the country’s most celebrated culinary icons.
“It’s a snapshot of some of the best cooks and chefs in Australia and it really is a vehicle of telling the story of Australian food through people who live and breathe it,” West says.
“I couldn’t actually believe they asked me to be involved.
“It’s The Great Australian Cookbook – it’s a time capsule of Australia.”
The father of two appears on this week’s episode to share his meal of braised wild rabbit with salami and warrigal greens.
“With wild game, they live their life as nature intended out in the world and one day it’s done,” he says about hunting for his meat.
“Rabbits are a feral species and they put a huge amount of pressure on our flora and fauna and it’s nice to be able to source my meat in a way that’s good for the environment.”
He says hunting is also a form of mindfulness for him and helps him feel connected to the world around him.
“It makes you feel like you’re an animal in the landscape – you’re feeling the world, you’re smelling, you’re feeling the wind on your face, you’re feeling the cool rain coming in over the top of you and your eyes are scanning complex environments,” he says. “It’s what we were designed to do.”
Not that he’ll have too many opportunities to hunt for rabbit at his new home as he tells me he moved to Melbourne a few days before our interview.
“I don’t know what the future’s holding, I don’t know how long it’s going to be for but I’ll certainly explore what it takes to grow food in an urban environment,” West says.
“It’s all well and good if you have 20 acres of rolling soil, but what about us poor people in the city?”
West and his wife, Alicia, are parents to seven-month-old Bowie and two-and-a-half-year-old Otto and he says if the boys leave home knowing how to make a decent loaf of bread and cook for themselves, then he’ll be happy.
“If I didn’t have two kids and a wife I’d probably be out there somewhere in a swag in a dusty corner,” he says.
“My goal would be to instil that sense of adventure with my two sons and maybe one day they’ll go out and see the great wide world.”
West has had the chance to do a bit more adventuring himself lately, and fans can expect to see him on screens again in a guest presenter role on ABC’s Back Roads.
“For the first time it’s got absolutely nothing to do with food, it’s not a cooking program.”
THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN COOKBOOK – LIFESTYLE FOOD – TUESDAY AT 7.45PM QLD, 8.45PM NSW