Penguin Random House Australia
July 2022
Hardcover, Rrp $55.00
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

In Australia we are deprived the opportunity to visit many of the world’s finest restaurants, but that doesn’t mean we have to remain in the dark about global food trends and high flyers. Ixta Belfrage is one of the brightest young stars on the global food scene, having recently spent five years in Yotam Ottolenghi’s test kitchen, where her own cuisine refined and flourished.

Belfrage spent her formative years in Italy. Her mother is Brazilian, her father American to English parents, who lived in Mexico from the age of fourteen. All of these cuisines, including Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, inform Belfrage’s own style, and the results are spectacular.

Belfrage’s food is rustic, yet classy. The recipes herein are – whilst not always simple – relatively easily replicated by the home cook, or chefs willing to soak up more influences (which the best of us always are, no matter how experienced we are).

There’s a wonderfully simple Porcini Ragu (“I’m not sure if you’re allowed to call a sauce that doesn’t contain meat, doesn’t start with a soffritto, and that only cooks for 10 minutes a ragu…” Belfrage admits in her down to earth introduction. As a side note, every recipe is introduced warmly, and sometimes playfully – a lovely personal touch which makes a difference); a Gem & Herb Salad with Maple, Lime & Sesame dressing which I intend to have a run at this weekend; Giant Cheese on Toast with Spring Onion, Honey & Urfa Chilli Butter which is a flavour combination I’ve not seen before and got the saliva flowing; Creamed Plantain With Dendê, Ginger & Lime – and this is all just scraping the surface of the first chapter, dedicated to Veg.

Most, if not all, of the recipes in this book are featured in full page photos – some of the more complicated recipes have step-by-step pictures, which is extremely helpful.

Seafood, poultry and meat all feature, as do a smattering of divine desserts. Chicken With Pineapple and Nduja, Bavette Resting Over Tomatoes With Black Lime & Maple Butter, Chiles Rellenos With Salsa Roja Risotto, Prawn Dumplings & Creamed Corn, Lamb Loin with Ajvar & Miso Butter and Miso Caramel Ice Cream Bomba are all standouts showcasing the masterful way Belfrage balances the fusion of her influences.

This book does exactly what it says on the cover – these recipes often excite, and even go one step further: they inspire.

Originally published on 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Shane Pinnegar
Shane Pinnegar is an author, chef and music/pop culture writer who lives in Western Australia. He has a lovely wife, two rambunctious dogs with no respect for personal space, especially on the sofa or bed, twenty-something koi, a flock of itinerate galahs who visit regularly, and a never-comprehensive-enough rock n' roll record collection.

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