A LITTLE FOOD FLIGHT READING
THIS unlikely duo of celebrity chefs has been described as ‘‘ Delia Smith meets Easy Rider ’’, which is a lovely image. Dave Myers and Si King — the ‘‘ hairy bikers’’ of television cookery fame— are as far removed from earnest studio-set foodies (Gary Rhodes instantly springs to mind) as one could imagine. These big, bearded Brits travel the world on their trusty motorbikes looking for fun food experiences. The closest equivalent would be that hit pair of the late 1990s, Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson of TheTwoFat Ladies fame, who cavorted around Britain by vintage Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle and sidecar, upholstered in mannish leather bike jackets and industrial-duty goggles.
Paterson has passed away (happily eating lard and double cream to the last, one suspects) and the popular show is no more. Enter TheHairy Bikers series, which displays a similar sense of fun but with a more emphatic travel context. Their new book of more than 100 recipes, set amid a journey to India, Argentina, Belgium and Morocco, is TheHairyBikersRide Again (Michael Joseph, $49.95).
You might wonder, as do I, what Belgium is doing in that exotic mix, but its inclusion gives Myers and King an opportunity to present a recipe for blind finches in beer gravy, a concoction that has nothing to do with minuscule birds bearing white canes, thank heavens. The hairy bikers like their hops, which could explain Belgium’s place in the book.
The best recipes are those from India: all clearly explained and robust in feel, including a vegetable biryani that’s said to feed ‘‘ four hungry bikers or six normal people’’. Best washed down not with a foaming pint of ale but a banana, cardamom and vanilla lassi. Botanical:InsidetheIconicBrasserie by Paul Wilson (Hardie Grant, $85) is a beautifully presented volume of recipes from Melbourne’s Botanical restaurant, which overlooks the blooming beds and heritage trees of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
This chic eatery is a Melbourne institution — lovingly known as the Bot, according to director Fred Schepisi in his fond introduction — and scene of many a jolly lunch merged into dinner.
I imagine Melbourne diners will be the principal audience for this book but its recipes by Wilson look luscious indeed, well organised into sections of breakfast dishes, starters, mains, desserts and subsidiary courses. Some of the recipes look convoluted for the home cook— pot-roasted chorizo-stuffed pork rack with Spanish flavours, braised beans and spiced apples, for instance, has a forbidding column of ingredients — but others are happily concise. More than anything else, here’s a volume to make any keen foodie rush to book a seat at Botanical and eat and drink well amid those great green grounds. Alexandra James
Engine double: The hairy bikers
Green acres: Botanical fare