Book showcases local chefs, ingredients

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April 12, 2013

On the Flavour Trail; Recipes by Island Chefs’ Collaborative
Edited by Christabel Padmore,
Touch Wood Editions, 184 pages, $29.95

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

The richness in variety and flavour of locally sourced food on and around Vancouver Island is undeniable. The Island Chefs’ Collaborative (ICC) was founded in 1999 to promote sustainable local production, and this cookbook is a lovely homage to what is in our backyards (literally and figuratively). The editor, Christabel Padmore, invites readers to learn more about the ICC by checking out its website.

The nineteen contributors to this volume are all chefs dedicated to creating tasty dishes with local ingredients. The recipes cover a wide range of foods and are organized by where the main components come from: sea, orchard, forest, field, and farm. As food writer Don Genova notes in the Foreword, the chefs are continually working on behalf of local food: “Without exception they have always been generous with their time and their knowledge and, above all,  their willingness to take part in fundraising efforts that protect, defend and promote the framers, fishers, foragers and producers who provide the excellent ingredients they use towards achieving their daily goal of pleasing our palates.” Buying this book and using the ingredients of the recipes helps this organization and, by extension, anyone with a love of local food.

As can be expected, food from the sea plays a large role in this book with such delicious-looking recipes as Porcini Crusted Halibut (Dwayne MacIsaac) and Thai-Flavoured Spot Prawn Bisque (Bill Jones). Someone who likes to get finicky with food will enjoy making Pumpkin and Side Stripe Shrimp Stuffed Phyllo Parcels (Cosmo Meens), but the time-challenged will find many possibilities in this volume. The very first recipe, Cosmo Meens’ Crab and Rockfish Cakes with Caper, Red Onion and Preserved Lemon Aioli, will set taste buds aflutter, and Meens’s precise directions makes this recipe doable for a variety of home chefs.

Cory Pelan’s Braised Pork Cheeks with Potato Gnocchi is another complex but meticulously explained dish that looks terrific, and the book includes relatively easy recipes such as James McClellan’s Meatloaf that clearly depends on specific ingredients such as Moonstruck Beddis Blue cheese and Quist Farms lean ground beef for its impact. Heidi Fink’s Roasted Green Bean Crostini is easy and shows the genius of roasting a vegetable for maximum flavour. Some recipes need a bit more precision. Anna Hunt’s Kale and Bacon Pie looks yummy, but how much kale is “two bunches” Fortunately, the picture of this pie gives a sense of what it should like when finished.

The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of food, but many of the pictures are of the ingredients in the before state or have nothing to do with the recipes. If a recipe book has pictures, it’s helpful if they are of the finished dish or a complicated step. The photos are decorative rather than practical.

It’s critical to remember that Vancouver Island is an island. It’s huge, and it has abundant food sources. But we must nurture and protect those sources, and the Island Chefs’ Collaborative is certainly doing its part to draw attention to nutritious and delicious local food.

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