Cookbook review: Rockpool by Neil Perry Sydney Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Rockpool by Neil Perry

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

Neil Perry is a quintessential Sydney-sider. He started his cooking career there when he was nineteen working at Barrenjoey, Perry's and then the ground-breaking Blue Water Grill. His success there enabled him to set up a new style of restaurant for the time - elegant, architecturally interesting, serving the freshest possible produce and right in the emerging tourist precinct of The Rocks. He has therefore been at the forefront of the emergence of Sydney onto the world food scene.
The restaurant has been an 'anchor' - a rock is a sea of change in Sydney. Opening in 1989 it has been at the top of the Sydney dining scene ever since. This hasn't stopped Perry exploring new concepts and new ideas at the same time, however. He has dabbled in Middle Eastern cuisine at Rocket in Potts Point, served stunning food at the barn-like Star Grill at Darling Harbour which later morphed into Wokpool. His Asian dishes also featured at XO in the Potts Point site which has now moved to Crown Street in Surry Hills in the premises formerly occupied by MG Garage.
A significant part of the book is devoted to explaining the produce and products that are important to the flavours and textures Perry is devoted to. In the mid-nineties when this book was released, many of these ingredients were unfamiliar to Australia's amateur cooks.
The book is then mainly divided into a section devoted to Asian cooking and another section devoted to traditional western cooking.
The Asian section starts with a dish of steamed whole fish that is steamed until nearly cooked and then finished off with hot oil poured over it to add crispness to the skin.
He then moves through recipes devoted to roasting, to a discussion of poaching. Here he gives his recipe for master stock chicken - a great dish that is simple to prepare and can be used to start a perpetual master stock that can be kept for years and years getting more complex as it gets older. He also gives a recipe for a dish that we love in Chinese restaurants - cold chicken and jellyfish salad.
He also delves into the techniques of Thai and Vietnamese cooking with a lovely recipe for nuoc cham - the popular dipping sauce from Vietnam which he uses in a tripe and chilli salad.
When he reaches the Western section you will find recipes for roast chicken, roast lamb, roasted blue-eye cod with sea urchin butter, his famous spanner crab ravioli with oxtail and rosemary jus and then his frozen espresso cake.
This is one of those books that you will keep going back to for inspiration. The recipes are clearly explained and the techniques are not daunting.
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