A slight furrow ruffles my brow whenever I’m faced with yet another book by a Michelin chef promising the cosy, laid-back food they cook at home. This is not territorial defensiveness on my part, I assure you, but simply because most of the chefs of that calibre I’ve ever come across spend all their waking hours in their restaurants, and rarely cook at home in the normal run of things. And, furthermore, so often a chef’s notion of what constitutes home cooking calls for a level of dexterity and precision that can make those of us who have to get food on the table day in, day out feel less than equable. But of course, there are gratifying exceptions and, as became reassuringly evident as I progressed through this book, Monica Galetti is one of them.
I have always been a huge admirer of hers, and it’s a wonderful thing to find yet more to fuel that admiration. I love her honesty, her approach, and her food. There’s something so direct about this book: her professional rigour is there, for sure, but the more loosely-wrapped Kiwi side of her comes through most emphatically; and that mixture of briskness and warmth just rings so true. Her recipes, too, feel authentically sprung from life: many are infused with the flavours of her native Samoa; others made me smile as they reminded me of meals eaten in New Zealand, where Galetti grew up. And while some recipes are geared towards entertaining, none is out of the range of the busy home cook, and all are infused with a relaxed conviviality: real food from a family who love eating.
There’s so much I’ve eagerly earmarked: the pani keke or Coconut Doughnuts as made by her Auntie; the Masi Samoa or Samoan Shortbread which is made with coconut oil rather than butter, and thus a perfect sweet treat for those who are vegan or lactose-intolerant as well, of course, for those who are neither; the lovely Manuka Spiced Granola, the spice in question being the Moroccan ras el hanout; the Spring Onion Tempura with Soy & Garlic Dipping Sauce, born to be picked at over a drink in the evening; a gorgeous and very simple Tuna Poke which, Galetti tells us is how it is always made and eaten in the Pacific Islands rather than - with a note of reprimand in her voice - the fancy and fashionable versions that have come to the fore recently; Sweetcorn Fritters with Horseradish Cream; Soy and Honey Chicken with Coconut Rice from her mum’s kitchen as made now in hers; Mixed Mushroom Pasta with Marmite (and yes, of course, I love this!) for her once-a-month Marmite Days, which she kicks off with four slices of hot buttered toast spread with Marmite, and ends with this; an intriguing Fennel, Orange & Kohlrabi Salad with Coffee (and the coffee in question is a teaspoon of instant coffee sprinkled over the top - don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!); Mackerel with Pickled Cucumber Salad; Prawns and Sumac in Spaghetti; the simple yet spectacular (you don’t make this from scratch but begin with shop-bought bread) Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Mozzarella Loaf; the fabulously named Monster Rhubarb Crème Brûlée; Curried Mussels with Sweet Potato Fries; and a wonderful and easy Apple & Blackberry Bake, a seriously buttery sponge (made with ground almonds rather than flour and thus gluten-free) studded with fruit, which has Sunday Lunch written all over it, even if it does come from the Week Nights section!
But the recipe I’ve chosen to share with you today is one I just kept coming back to: it’s the Eggs Benedict with Sriracha Hollandaise. With Christmas not so far away now, I thought you’d want to know about this.
At Home: My favourite recipes for family and friends by Monica Galetti is published by Aster (£20).
Photos by Yuki Sugiura.