Guillaume – Food for Friends
A book review by Franz Scheurer
Donning an unusual blue cover with negatively embossed white ‘Guillaume’ and a black spine, this book immediately feels substantial and will stand out on the shelves. It’s a gorgeously put together publication with fabulous photography by Anson Smart. But apart from being a true part of Guillaume Brahimi’s soul, this book is also produced and dedicated to a great late friend, Professor Chris O’Brien with all the proceeds going to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA. And I quote Brahimi: “Chris taught me and many others to appreciate and savour life and all its oddities, to love and treasure one another – and to never, ever let hardship get in the way of enjoying a good lemon tart”.
The book is a culinary journey though what makes Guillaume Brahimi an extraordinary chef and a beacon of strength and dedication. The book is divided into:
My House: Family and Friends
Opera House Dining
Manor House Buffet
Fashion House Lunch
Terrace House Brunch
Art House Paella Party
Beach House Canapés
French House Bistro
Country House Easter Weekend
Followed by Basic Recipes, Acknowledgements and a good index.
This book shows us who Guillaume Brahimi is, how he lives, how he entertains and how he works. All the favourite recipes are there, giving away the ‘sheet music’ to his food. Are you up for a personal performance? I have good news: most recipes are quite achievable for the dedicated cook. Some are challenging and some are showcases of what can be done and not necessarily for reproduction in a home kitchen. That’s when you gather your family or friends and go and eat at Guillaume at Bennelong.
When I think of Guillaume Brahimi’s food the ‘Crab Sandwiches’ immediately come to mind and you find the recipe on page 14. Another one of his hearty, simply and quick dishes is the ‘Scallops with Leek and Caviar’ and you’ll find instructions for that one on page 22. A good ‘Crème Brûlée’ is one of life’s little pleasures and you’ll have to search for a long time to find one as good as the recipe on page 32. Signature dishes like the ‘Basil Infused Tuna’ you’ll find on page 50 and my favourite ‘Turban of Scampi with Spaghetti and a Lemon and Caviar Sauce’ might be on page 54 but this dish will take you many, many goes before it looks right (and tastes right). The recipe tells you everything you need to know, but this dish is a doozy. Brahimi’s ‘Paris Mash’ is famous and you find it on page 70 and the famous ‘Lemon Tarts’ are on page 145 (and as the recipe is for 24 you can always tell everyone it’s for 12 and eat the other lot when no-one’s watching). I love Brahimi’s canapés. They are inventive, tasty morsels of food that put a smile on everyone’s face. His ‘Gougères with Truffle Cream’ are on page 186 and his wonderful ‘Mini Duck Pies with Shiitake Mushrooms’ on page 190.
When Brahimi had his Bistro in Melbourne, two dishes stood out to me: the ‘Traditional French Onion Soup’ served with Gruyère Croutons, page 200, and ‘Bistro Guillaume Fish and Chips’ with pommes Pont Neuf and Beurre maître d’hôtel, which you’ll find on page 212. Almost at the end of the book are two of my favourite side dishes: ‘Cumin-glazed Carrots’ and ‘Gratin Dauphinois’ (page 222). What a terrific way to end a culinary odyssey!
Food for Friends
By Guillaume Brahimi
Published by Lantern (and imprint of Penguin Books)