Book review: Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry

04 January 2022 by
Book review: Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry

Neil Perry defined 1990s fusion cooking at his Sydney restaurant Rockpool. In 2020, he announced his retirement, selling Rockpool Restaurant Group for £44m (A$60m). But he wasn't gone for long; in 2021 he opened what he claims will be his last restaurant, Margaret, a glamorous neighbourhood brasserie, named after his late mother.

Everything I Love To Cook is not the cookbook of the restaurant, but it does share the same sustainable approach. Perry says in his introduction: "There's no Planet B, so we have to do the right thing. Eat more plant-based meals." So, there's a chapter on vegetable main courses that, true to Perry's globe-trotting style, includes everything from Italian-style spinach torte to steamed silken tofu with black vinegar and chilli oil.

At over 450 pages long, there is plenty of room for favourite recipes culled from across Perry's restaurant empire (he's still a shareholder and consultant) including Rockpool salad with palm sugar vinaigrette; crudo of tuna with horseradish, coriander and lemon oil (from Rockpool Bar and Grill) and ramen noodle salad with chicken, ginger and spring onion (from Spice Temple Noodle Bar).

In addition to the comprehensive collection of 230 recipes, there's articles covering kitchen basics like seasoning ("the difference between a home cook and a professional chef is the amount of salt they use") pasta ("best handmade – I find pasta made in a food processor to be of inferior quality") and desserts, which Perry says "can be as simple as a perfectly ripe piece of fruit... there is something sophisticated about being able recognise perfection and then standing behind it."

With its near-encyclopaedic length and career-spanning content, the book would make a fitting finale to Perry's 40 years in the professional kitchen. But with so many vibrant and inventive recipes, it seems that Perry has a lot more yet to share. Let's hope that, unlike Margaret restaurant, Everything I Love To Cook is not a full stop, but merely a comma in the chef's influential and inspiring story.

Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry (Murdoch Books, £30)

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