Het nieuwe kookboek van Matt Preston is uit; de perfecte Preston. Een geweldig tof boek waarin hij zijn 300 (!!) ultieme keukengeheimen deelt. Wat het nog leuker maakt; ik mocht hem interviewen!! Wat hij zei over mijn vragen;

It’s an epic reply but your questions were rather good and I’m in full-on writing mode now that MasterChef has finished filming!

Dus, pak er een kopje koffie/thee bij want er is genoeg te lezen!

Heel even nog een klein stukje over het boek. Zoals gezegd deelt hij hierin dé keukengeheimen om van elke thuiskok de beste kok ooit te maken. Maak de recepten je eigen en tover de lekkerste gerechten op tafel.
Uiteraard vroeg ik Matt ook met welk gerecht je het beste kunt beginnen, ik zal je vast verklappen; hij kon het niet bij 1 gerecht houden.

Matt, if you ever read this; Yes! If you ever need someone to show you the best place for ‘hot lightning’ (hete bliksem) i’m your guide!

Hieronder lees je alle vragen en de (uitgebreide) antwoorden. In het Engels, dat dan weer wel.. want het voelt niet helemaal goed om ze te vertalen naar het Nederlands.

De perfecte preston

1. At the age of 30 you moved to Australia, I can imagine the English food has had a big influence in your way of cooking and your recipes. What is the biggest influence you took from the UK?

The slow roasting of meat, the use of something fruity in savoury dishes, our great history of puddings, a pre-Victorian history of using lots on interesting spices. I’m lucky enough to have family recipe books dating back to 1765 and that earliest handwritten recipe book is loaded with coriander seed and ginger! Some of these recipes popped up in my second and third book, “CookBook”. The third book also featured loads of quotes from another of my ancestors, the gentleman food writer AV Kirwan who was a champion of free range chickens and roasting your coffee daily! These, along with my family recipes from Grandmothers, have been huge influences – although that i should note that both sides of my family had Irish, French and American roots as well so this muddies those UK waters a little.

2. What is for you the biggest difference in food between England and Australia?

Australia is lucky to have become home to so many different people – Chinese, Lebanese, Thai, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Indian, Somalian, Ethiopian, Persian, Turkish, Eastern European – and all have left a mark on our cuisine. This combined with our geographical location close to Asia, the produce grown here and the outdoors/beach lifestyle means that Australia has a cuisine that is keener to BBQ, loves seafood, is more interested in sour fresh flavours and seems to eat way more vegetables. Salads and uber salads are very much a “thing” here!

Obviously when you look at Australian country cooking and the cookery of 20 years ago it was much closer wed to Anglo-Celtic culinary traditions and flavours. This means my London roots don’t seem too incongrous! But whereas the US might make a golden syrup somnger pudding we’d make a lime delicious which is a lighter, more acidic, self sourcing pudding.

De perfecte preston

3. As a Dutch food lover I watched every season of Master Chef, what is until now the dish that most surprised you?

Thank you for watching!
In a bad way: Andre’s strawberry risotto in season 1, the bilious green camel liver in Professionals, Noelene’s throw-absolutely-everything-together-salmagundi in the Barossa in season 5. These were no good dishes and i have nightmares about that camel liver!

In a good way: there are so many – i love those dishes which mark a huge leap in contestant’s aspirations and abilities like Brett’s Green Ant Dreaming in this last season, Adam’s “seven gods” skewers in season 2 or the “seafood platter” that “announced” Andy Allen in season 4 and Brent’s apple dessert in the season 6 semi final. All these last three annouced each cook as serious contender to win – and they did.

The most amazing cooking performance was the way Billie smashed Heston’s pressure test dish last year in the finale. Botrytis was such a hard dessert but she nailed it to such a degree that Heston’s head chef and head pastry chef could not beleive she wasn’t a professional chef with years of experience – which is why he gave her a job at the Fat Duck.

4. Have you ever been in Holland, if so; what you think about Dutch cuisine?

I have been to Holland twice. The first time I don’t think I ate anything other than cheese, chocolate sprinkles and patatje oorlog at 3am in between clubs.

The next time I fell in love with “snert” and brown cafes although I don’t remember much of what I ate as this was back in 1990.

When I was a kid my late father had many Dutch and Moluccan friends. So in the late sixties and early seventies there was always pindakaas, jars of satay sauce and sambal olek in the cupboard of my London home from his friends who came over from Amsterdam. This meant I also ate a fair amount of rijsttafel made by them – or even by him.

More recently I have become a bit of a fan of speculaas as a biscuit, crumb or spread. I’m keen to get back to Holland as I am long overdue for a visit. There are a few restaurants I’d love to visit… and I really need to be shown the best place to eat “hot lightning”  – wanna be my guide?

De perfecte preston

5. In ‘The Perfect Preston’ you say it’s all about improving the details in recipes. Would you say practice makes perfect?

Listening to advice; remember all those little “one percenters” that make tiny improvements to what you are cooking (like salting the water for pasta properly, emulsifying your sauce with a little of the stachy pasta water); trusting your instincts; and finding trustworthy source for recipes are all important.

NOTHING however replaces practice and the knowledge you gain from the conscious and engaged repetition of a dish. That’s one of the challenges for home cooks; their “signature dishes” they cook when friends come round are not cooked nearly as much as the everyday dishes. That’s why I’m always striving to developing recipes that are bullet-proof and will deliver something close to the promise in the introduction and the picture in the book even when you cook them first time.

6. I love all the secrets you share for each chapter, I think these details can help every cook to make their food taste and look better. What do you think are the things that often needs improvement for a lot of home cooks?

Yes, these are the “one-percenters” that each bring little improvements but when you do lots of them make a big difference. Here’s what I always try and improve!

Confidence – I suspect that ingredients can smell our fear and misbehave accordingly, so be bold!

Understanding – that things might turn out differently if you substitute ingredients in a recipe;

Simplicity – it’s far easier making three ingredients coherent in a dish than a dozen. This is about balance, which leads us neatly to…

Balance – I love the way the Thais cook, colliding sour, sweet, hot, salty and sometimes bitter. It’s something that is equally important in our cooking so often a dish needs a little bit of acidity, salt or sweetness to bring it into focus. I see it as sharpening the flavour or rounding out the flavour profile. That’s why when making something very sweet and sour like a BBQ sauce I’ll always add a shot of espresso coffee to add a touch of bitterness. You won’t taste the coffee but compare the two sauces side my side and you’ll find the one with the shot is mellower and less obviously sweet.

Contrast – So often a good dish can become great by the addition of something “creamy” against all the “crunchy”; something “nutty” against the “smooth”. It’s why crunchy fries go so well with mayonnaise after all!

Understand Umami – this mysterious fifth taste is the secret to the savouriness we so often crave whether it’s Australian with their vegemite, the Italians with their love of parmesan and tomatoes, or Dutch with their love of aged gouda, smoked eel or cured meat. I’m always looking to supercharge dishes with everything from old parmesan crusts, adding mashed anchovies or smoked bacon in the base of lamb or beef stews, and even adding a splash of soy or Worcestershire sauce as well. Try couple of drops of that Maggi seasoning liquid (basically an umami bomb) to you mayo will make your fries sing! It’s a great David Chang (momofuku) tip.

Complexity – While straight forward combos like tomato and cheese, cashew and chicken, ham and pineapple are always winners I’m always looking for that extra ingredient that pushes the dish into a slightly less predictable place whether it’s adding tarragon to the cheese and ham, coriander seed or maple syrup to the chicken, or caramelising that pineapple quite hard with a little sugar to bring a bitterness and sweetness from the caught sugar to the bite of the pineapple or the saltiness of the ham.

Seasoning – it usually need to be bolder. I like to season with salt and something acid like a squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar

Taste – again, and again and again.

Trust your gut – once to understand all this you need to learn that your instincts on whether something needs to be cooked more, or what ingredient to add (or how much of it) is usually right! Although you also learn not to overcommit which is which I’ll always add ingredients in batches tasting along the way.

De perfecte preston

7. Every picture in the book makes me want to recreate the dish (except the naked David Hasselhoff with the dogs) have you been involved in all the pictures for the book?

Not at all! That’s been one of the great joys of doing the book. We sent designer Arielle Gamble all the words and the brief of “punk fanzine meets 1880s gentleman’s club” and she hand-sourced and matched every single image based on her own warped sense of humour – which bizarrely perfectly matches with mine! The photo of the woman on Amanda’s slice is particularly odd given it’s my neighbour’s recipe.

It’s not often you find pictures of Dawson’s Crying Face, Mariah Carey, a brontosaurus or David Bowie’s haircut from Labyrinth in a cook book and I love that. It makes me smile every time I open the book! (But there are still some images that I’m struggling to decode but that’s half the pleasure!)

The naked Hasselhoff shot (which makes perfect sense illustrating a recipe for Hasselback potatoes in my mind and Arielle’s) and the obsessive overkill of the meatloaf spread are particular favourites.

De perfecte preston

8. As said above, almost every recipe in the book is on my ’to-cook’ list. Do you have 1 favourite recipe that you recommend me to start with?

The baked cheesecake, Amanda’s slice and the dinkelcookies are pretty special and seemed to become a housefold standard for pretty much everyone who bakes them.

I really like the leeks with burnt butter, grilled cucumbers, plum and tomato salad, the blackberry and celery salad, the burrata with zucchini and the Asian gravalax because they are all unusually delicious and easy. Like much of the non meat stuff in the book they are so bright and fresh.

The white fish poached in a puttnesca sauce, the “spatchcocked chicken with a zapata moustache” (ie cooked slathered in a paste of pepitas/pumpkin seeds, corainder root and stems, lime and garlic) and the ocean trout/salmon in sweet chilli sauce are all a regulars in our house,
The Korean burgers with fresh pear ketchup (roughly based on the ingredients for a traditional bulgogi marinade – ie pears, ginger, sugar, garlic, vinegar, soy, seame oil, etc) were one of the favourite recipes of the food team at Australia’s delicious magazine this year. And that’s out of about 2000 recipes that they tested and cooked so it must be doing something good!         The secret here is to make the burger with no more than brisket ground with kaiserfleisch (no bread, egg, seasoning, herbs of other crap!) and then shape the mince into small patties with hands moistened with soy sauce. This adds umami and helps the meat not stick to your fingers.

Yeah, OK that’s not one

The warm salad of roast sweet potato, whole shallot, bacon, pecan nuts, plumped sultanas and maple is pretty insane, as is the bacon jam with roast sweetcorn. So maybe start there!

9. In your book you mention your kids had the best treat from Amanda down the street. I love the fact that kids are always brutally honest, do you think they are your judges sometimes?

Always! And they are far crueller than I ever was as a critic but that’s also incredibly valuable. If they like something it is usually a hit in a book! Like that baked cheesecake…

10. I took the test in the back of the book and my score was 6, once I hit the 28 can I call you to work together? 😉

Of course, but what’s far more interesting is what six did we agreed on! Some are far more important that others!

The perfect Preston | Matt Preston | Kosmos Uitgevers | reeds verschenen
| € 24,99 | ISBN: 9789021563251