A LITTLE FOOD FLIGHT READING
PORTUGUESE food books are not seen every day, and this one, PiriPiri Starfish:PortugalFound by Tessa Kiros (Murdoch Books, $59.95), arriving in bookshops on March 3, is a rare gem.
With a Greek-Cypriot father, Finnish mother, South African girlhood, Italian husband and travelling history, Kiros is well qualified to explore foreign cultures, and this is what she does in her fourth book.
She travelled and lived with her family in Portugal and her deep love of the country is evident on every page. PiriPiriStarfish is a book about place as well as food. The photography and design of the pages are evocative and beautiful: sardines, madonnas, faded frescoed walls. And where did she find so many collectors’ plates? In Portugal, presumably. It is clearly a trove less visited.
Piri piri is a hot chilli, originally from Angola, and much loved by the Portuguese, who lace their dishes with piri piri oil. Kiros’s first chapter offers a recipe. Then come petisco plates (small bites) and dishes of salt cod, octopus, chicken, clams . . . many in fragrant-looking broths, with broad beans, chourico sausage and piri piri.
Seafood predominates. There’s a wonderful-sounding baby fish panfried with garlic, rosemary and white wine vinegar. But there are also pork, rabbit, chicken, partridge, lamb and steak dishes (including a Lisbon favourite of fillet steak with garlic, bay leaves and espresso coffee).
Desserts include a rose cake and sighs ( suspiros ) — which turn out to be meringues — served with almonds and a sauce of dates, figs and brown sugar. And there are recipes for those old favourites, portuguese tarts, churros and quince marmalade. If you can’t go there, at least have a taste.
PiriPiri is a very different kettle of fish from Stephane Reynaud’s new book, Terrine (Phaidon Press, $45), also out in early March. Reynaud is the grandson of a village butcher in regional France, chef and owner of a restaurant in Montreuil near Paris and author of last year’s favourite book, Pork&Sons .
Terrine is his second book and though pork is his thing, his terrine recipes cover vegetable dishes — including seasonal terrines for summer, with zucchinis, aniseed and basil; spring (petit pois, celery hearts) and winter (root vegetables) — as well as a large seafood chapter (salmon rillettes, bouillabaisse terrine, scallops with vegetables wrapped in spinach).
There’s lobster and prosciutto, lentil and snail, rabbit, fabulous cheese and dessert terrines.
Each section ends with sauce recipes; those for the cheese dishes include preserves (black cherry, bitter orange) and recipes for walnut oil with shallots for mild cheeses, walnut and celery cream for parsleyflavoured pates, and honey and nut sauces for cheeses such as camembert and brie.
This is not a travel book, it is solidly about its dishes, each page with an enticing image of its subject: in a pot or a rustic terrine, on a board, with a hefty knife, unadorned. Judith Elen