It might have started off as a collection of Neil Perry's hottest 100 recipes – revised versions of dishes with enduring appeal drawn from the menus of restaurants such as Rockpool, Spice Temple and Rosetta, his nine previous cookbooks, and classics from his long-running Good Weekend column.
But when the sandwich-loving chef-restaurateur started trying to whittle down his list of favourites for the first chapter of Everything I Love to Cook, he quickly realised it would be impossible to limit himself to 100.
The seasoned chef has seeded cooking tips throughout the book, which he hopes will give readers greater kitchen confidence.
"Organisation is key to all good cooking," he writes. "If you have everything in place, ready for when it is needed, the chances are you'll enjoy your time in the kitchen more."
Flourless chocolate cake
This cake was on my first dessert menu at Barrenjoey House in 1982, and is now a firm favourite with my daughters, who've mostly had it as their birthday cake for all of their young lives. The reason it's been kicking around for so long is that it's just a terrific cake, with a heavenly texture like a chocolate souffle – and it behaves like one too. With no flour to hold it up, it rises as it cooks and falls as it cools, so do not freak out when it sinks in the middle.
- 400g good-quality dark chocolate, broken up
- 6 eggs, separated
- 150g caster sugar
- 2½ tbsp Cointreau
- 300ml pure cream
- cocoa powder, for dusting
- lightly whipped cream, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional). Lightly oil a 900g loaf tin, then line it with baking paper.
- Melt the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water; don't let the water boil, or you might scald the chocolate. Carefully lift the bowl of chocolate off the pan and leave it to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and two-thirds of the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the Cointreau and beat until well combined, then add the chocolate and mix until completely incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form.
- In another bowl, start whisking the egg whites until soft peaks start to form, then gradually add the remaining sugar and keep whisking until firm peaks form.
- Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, followed by the whisked egg whites.
- Pour the mixture into the tin, then sit it in a deep baking dish or roasting tin and add enough hot water to come about 2.5cm up the outside of the loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150C fan-forced (170C conventional) and bake for a further 45 minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the cake inside for 20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely.
- To serve, carefully run a knife around the inside edge of the tin, then turn over the tin onto a wire rack – the cake should slide out easily. Invert on to a plate. Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut into slices, dipping the knife into hot water after each cut. Place on plates, dust with cocoa powder and serve with lightly whipped cream.
Tip: This cake keeps well for 2 days at room temperature; don't put in the refrigerator or it will become hard and unpalatable.
Spicy noodles with pork and chilli oil. Photo: Petrina Tinslay
Tou chow noodles with pork and crispy chilli oil
These thickish noodles are another Spice Temple favourite. Originally from the Chaoshan region of eastern China, they are about 1cm wide and roughly cut into shape, and you can usually get them in Chinatown and at Asian grocers. The sauce is nice and spicy, but you can easily cut down on the chilli if you like it milder.
- 300g fresh tou chow noodles*
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 200g minced fatty pork
- 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
- 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 100ml shaoxing wine
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 tbsp chilli oil
- 2 tsp Lao Gan Ma crispy chilli oil*
- 250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
- 1½ tbsp potato starch, mixed with 1½ tbsp cold water to make a slurry
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 30g (½ cup) sliced spring onions
- ½ Lebanese cucumber, cut into fine julienne strips about 7.5cm long
- Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water until chewy, then drain and set aside.
- Heat a wok until just smoking. Add the vegetable oil and when it is hot, add the pork and stir-fry until the liquid has just about evaporated. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli flakes and cook until fragrant.
- Add the sugar and shaoxing wine, stirring to deglaze the wok, then add the soy sauce, chilli oil, crispy chilli oil and stock. Bring to the boil, then add 1 tablespoon of the potato starch slurry and simmer, stirring, until the sauce thickens, adding a little more if you want the sauce to be thicker. Finish with the sesame oil and spring onions.
- Serve the noodles in bowls, topped with the sauce and garnished with cucumber strips.
- Lao Gan Ma crispy chilli oil is available from Asian grocers and some supermarkets. Trust me, once you've got a jar in your cupboard, it quickly becomes addictive and you'll find yourself adding it to all sorts of dishes.
- Tou chow noodles are not unlike a thinner version of pappardelle, so you could serve this sauce with any long, wide pasta to great effect.
Variation: This sauce is very tasty on fried noodles. Deep-fry some fresh ramen noodles (they will explode and go crispy), then pour the sauce over them. You will get parts where the noodles go soggy and other parts will stay crisp, just like in chow mein.
Serves 4 as part of a shared meal, or 2 as a one-dish meal
Curry meets stew. Photo: Petrina Tinslay
Thai-style beef stew
This is a sort of half-curry, half-stew. It is simple and delicious, and gives you another way to make a curry by just boiling the paste in water. What could be easier than that? And the only other thing it needs is a bowl of steamed rice.
- 750g beef brisket, cut into chunks
- 2 tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp grated palm sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp tamarind water (see note)
- small handful of Thai basil leaves
- lime wedges, to serve
For the spice paste
- 3 candlenuts, toasted in a dry frying pan and chopped
- 6 long red chillies, chopped
- 3 red Asian shallots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 knob of ginger, chopped
- 1 knob of galangal, chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, tender inner stems only, chopped
- 1 finger of fresh turmeric, chopped
- For the spice paste, use a mortar and pestle to pound all the ingredients to a fine paste. (Alternatively, process in a blender, adding a little water if necessary.)
- Put the spice paste, brisket, tomatoes, cinnamon, lime leaves and salt into a large heavy-based casserole. Add enough water to cover the beef by about 2cm and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about 2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind water, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Stir through the basil leaves, then serve with lime wedges on the side.
Tip: Raw candlenuts are mildly toxic, but cooking makes them safe to eat.
Note: To make tamarind water, combine roughly equal amounts of tamarind pulp and hot water in a small bowl. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes or until soft, then mix well with your hands to create a thick liquid. Push the tamarind water through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds.
Serves 4 as part of a shared meal
Prawn, tomato, nectarine and hazelnut salad
Ripe tomatoes and nectarines make a killer combination in summer: at the peak of their season, both are deliciously sweet, especially when matched with the natural sweetness of prawns.
The sharpness of lime offsets all the sweetness, and the mellow richness of crushed hazelnuts and hazelnut oil is pretty hard to beat, though you can of course just use olive oil. The cos and witlof contribute freshness and crunch.
- 16 large cooked prawns, peeled and deveined
- 2 heads of witlof (red, white or a combination) leaves separated, washed and dried
- 2 heads of baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
- 2 tbsp hazelnut oil
- juice of 2 limes
- 2 yellow-fleshed nectarines
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cored
- 75g (½ cup) hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- small handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely shredded
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Place the prawns in a large bowl. Roughly tear the witlof and baby cos leaves and add to the bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle with the hazelnut oil and lime juice, adding a little at a time and tasting as you go to achieve the right balance.
- Cut the cheeks off the nectarines and thinly slice each cheek. Cut the tomatoes into wedges.
- Arrange the nectarines and tomatoes on four plates. Divide the salad leaves and prawns between the plates, placing them gently around the fruit. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and parsley and serve.
Variations: Any crustacean would work well here – crab, lobster or bug meat would be great. Try this with fragrant white peaches or nectarines. When stone fruit is in season, it can be hard to choose!