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Nostalgic nod to family meals

Mr Brown said he never wanted to produce cookbooks, but with the release of his sixth book this week, he thinks ‘it’s a beauty’. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


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A well-made scone is as delicious as a French bouille base as far as Al Brown is concerned.

New Zealand’s culinary identity is made of up nostalgic dishes that are part of every family, he said.

Growing up on a farm in Bideford, near Masterton, the Brown family were more of a “ginger crunch and louise cake type of family”.

And that’s why Mr Brown believes his new cookbook, ‘Eat Up New Zealand’, will cause a lot of discussion around his 150 recipe choices.

“This is my story, and there will be a few arguments around the water cooler about how come you didn’t put afghans in there and what sort of book is this,” Mr Brown said.

“But that’s what it’s about — it’s your connection to your family memories and what food you grew up with.”

Dish after dish, Mr Brown has made a name for himself, the forever smiling, relatable ‘chef of the people’.

But one thing he has never done is put his hand up and suggest an idea for a new cookbook, in fact he never wanted to produce any cookbooks.

Mr Brown’s new cookbook is packed with 150 recipes ranging from traditional baking to modern dishes. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“I find them hard to do — it’s a love hate relationship.

“They are big projects and you are working on them a long time and you never want to see them again after you’ve sent them off to get printed, and then they arrive back and you burst into tears.”

But even after six emotional rollercoasters creating his cookbooks, he is “incredibly proud” of this one – “it is an absolute beauty”.

He said this is number six and he was out, but admitted he has said that after every book.

Mr Brown, 52, describes the new book as an adventure of where the New Zealand culinary scene has come from and where it is now – sort of old testament and new testament.

To him, it was interesting to see how far New Zealand had come.

“We all travelled and Mr Google came along — suddenly we realised we lived in a country with four seasons, fertile soils and surrounded by the ocean. We realised we have potential and now there’s not much we can’t grow or produce in this country.”

So it was only obvious for Mr Brown to create a book jammed-packed with what he thinks make up New Zealand’s food identity.

The book includes traditional baking, preserving, a lot of seafood, and even a paua pie.

“[Paua pie] is a nod to nostalgia as a pie but also growing up and gathering paua on the Wairarapa coast.”

He hopes New Zealanders will embrace it and it will become a household staple cookbook.

Mr Brown was last in Wairarapa for the A&P show in February – which was “atrocious weather”.

But after his cooking demonstration at the show, he set off for the coast with his photography crew in the hopes of capturing Wairarapa scenery for the book.

“We shot lots of photography and pieces around Tora — good coastal stuff.”

There is plenty in the book about Castlepoint where he draws on memories of growing up and fishing off the coast, he said.

“I have a soft spot for Wairarapa, it’s where I grew up, it’s my spiritual home and I love being there any time.”

While Mr Brown takes a break from cookbook creating, he will track on with his successful Auckland restaurants such as Depot, and Federal Deli.

He will soon be opening another couple of Best Ugly Bagels restaurants in that city.

The ‘Eat Up New Zealand’ cookbook is in stores now.

Mr Brown said he couldn’t do a tour for a new cookbook without going to Wairarapa.

He will be at the Carterton Events Centre roday at 7.30pm.

Tickets are $20 and are available at Hedley’s Booksellers website or instore.

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