REVIEW: FOOD OF THE SOUTHERN FORESTS BY SOPHIE ZALOKAR

FOOD OF THE SOUTHERN FORESTS

Author: Sophie Zalokar
UWA Publishing RRP $59.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Food of the Southern ForestsAs a home gardener who’s been experimenting with preserving, I’ve been enjoying the rise in popularity of growing and sourcing fresh, seasonal produce for food preparation. Sophie Zalokar’s beautiful book, Food of the Southern Forests, had twofold appeal for me – firstly, the emphasis on seasonal produce, and secondly, the focus on produce from the Southern Forests area of Western Australia. It’s an absolutely beautiful region, comprising wilderness, national parks and state forests as well as prime agricultural land. It’s been some time since I’ve been down that way, but rest assured I will heading there sooner rather than later.

Chef Zalokar’s love for the region – the landscape and the produce – flavours the book with warmth and authenticity. Zalokar is from the popular Foragers Field Kitchen & Cooking School in Pemberton, Western Australia, so is no stranger to sourcing beautiful, fresh ingredients and creating delicious recipes. At a glance the book is stunning, with delectable food photography interspersed with images of the region’s producers and places (photography by Craig Kinder). Looking closer, the book is more a portrait of the region’s abundance of niche food producers and produce than a cookbook. And what a portrait it is, layered with stories of hardship and joy, full of history and wisdom, and varnished with love of food and family.

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Yoghurt Pistachio Cheesecake with Apricots In Orange Blossom Water, Mace & Bay Leaf Syrup. Image: Craig Kinder

 

Complementing the stories are original and delicious recipes representing the diversity of produce, ranging from cherries, truffles, marron, trout and avocadoes, to milk and cream, beef and pork, nuts, persimmons and wild mushrooms. That’s just a start. The recipes will suit lovers of fine foods and gourmet dinners, being more on the fancy side. Some of the products would be difficult to source and would err on the expensive side. Realistically, I won’t be cooking many of the recipes, much as I would love to try some of the dishes, mainly because they won’t suit our family or budget. Others have been included as part of the story, but most home cooks will find them difficult to convert to reality – my idea of making Mary’s Macedonian Cheese was quashed when I realised I needed a cow and a dairy:

Milk your cow and strain the milk through fine muslin or a sieve … By the time you have walked home from the dairy it will be perfectly mixed.

Likewise, I probably won’t attempt the sausage recipe as I’ll probably have trouble storing 45kg pork.

Recipes I will try include:

  • Broccoli soup with Tahini, Lemon and Pine Nut Za’atar
  • Cauliflower cheese with Caraway Seeds
  • Greek Lime & Coconut Custard Tart
  • Semolina & Almond Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary & Lavender Sugar

Blue Eyes had also made a request for Cherry, Almond & Kirsch Clafoutis. He read the book cover-to-cover before I got to it (not for the cooking but for the region). Like me, what stood out were the stories – the “insight to the people who love the land and love food”. In his words: “I drifted off down there and wished I could live there.”

If you are interested in eating fresh, local and sustainable produce, this book deserves a spot on your cookbook shelf.

Here’s an extract (includes a few recipes).

Available from good bookstores and UWA Publishing. My copy was courtesy of UWA Publishing.