Home by Stephanie Alexander
Whether you’re a confident cook or can’t boil an egg, there’s no greater companion in the kitchen than a cookbook by celebrated chef and author Stephanie Alexander. Home is the prolific author’s 19th book and no doubt will be essential reading for cooks planning wonderful Christmas and summer celebrations. Nikki Fisher caught up with Stephanie and talked about Home and Stephanie’s memories of growing up on the Peninsula.
Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process for Home?
I did a lot of cooking. My approach was to plan and think about dishes I wanted to include and then to cook them all again, with a notebook beside the stove next to the scales and the measuring cups and spoons. I took pictures on my phone more as a personal reference than anything else at this stage. Later I would go to the computer and create a new folder and files and wrap the recipe in an introduction that allowed me to reflect on where the inspiration had come from, or the detours that I had explored that resulted in a certain combination. By the time the first draft was able to be submitted we were well and truly in COVID land. My editor lives 300km away so we started our long-distance collaboration, which was very enjoyable and detailed. It got both of us through the longest of the lockdowns.
What do you hope readers get out of your book?
Pleasure first and foremost. And that it inspires some lovely gatherings now they are allowed. And hopefully many of my readers will enjoy the stories and the essays that are an important part of this book. They do cover a lot of ground, from my travels to my work with the Kitchen Garden Foundation.
What are some of your favourite inclusions in Home?
A bit like asking me which is my favourite child. I have always loved the first part of a meal where one is whetting the appetite for good things to come. And I love salad, so I tried to show how varied salads can be.
What are some of your favourite memories of growing up on the Peninsula?
Just so many. It was an enchanting time and my early adolescence in West Rosebud was enjoyed amongst wild bushland, twisting tea-tree and banksias, riding bikes, there were orchids on the foreshore, lolling on deserted beaches after the annual holidaymakers went home, Saturday night dances and longer excursions to nearby back beaches at Sorrento and Portsea with my boyfriend at the time.
The Peninsula has changed considerably since you grew up here. How do you remember it?
My parents owned a caravan park and like many others the year was divided into The Season and the rest of the year. Winter was spent preparing for The Season. And when it arrived, my three siblings and I had a very special few weeks, with lots of new friends, games, dances, dress-up nights, excursions to the local carnival. All very simple pleasures. My memory tells me there were no restaurants except one held in a private house in Sorrento, and there was the local café in Rosebud and the pub.
Do you still visit the Peninsula?
Not very often. The traffic is fearsome. Holidayed last year in Shoreham, and Merricks Food Store is a favourite spot. Celebrated a friend’s birthday at Point Leo Estate and have had some lovely meals over the years – pre-COVID of course – at Ten Minutes by Tractor and Montalto. There are still tucked-away houses on lovely bush blocks I am sure, but the built-up character of the once tiny townships is quite startling.
What do you love about the Peninsula now?
I am a great supporter of Peninsula wines. Pinot noir is a favourite from Ten Minutes by Tractor and the Italian varietals pioneered at Dromana Estate, and I have bottles from Paringa Estate and Stonier Wines in my small cellar.