Our Family Table by Masterchef winner Julie Goodwin
Be inspired to discover your own family table
By Kerry Scambler
On the first episode of Masterchef, contestant Julie Goodwin told the viewing audience of her dream for a cookbook – one that would be a celebration of family, friends and sharing food. In early April 2010, Julie’s dream came true with the release of Our Family Table. True to her word it’s a collection of her recipes and family memories with the blank chapter at the end for the reader to start creating their own family table.
But before diving into this review there is a confession to be made by the author: I am coming to this review as one of the very few who escaped the first Masterchef TV phenomenon. In fact the only episode I saw any part of was the finale – and that was only the last 10-15 minutes. At that point it seemed that this smiling family woman from the Central Coast of NSW was about to see her dream come true.
Julie Goodwin’s now famous beaming smile on the cover of her newly released book, Our Family Table, is just as friendly and genuine in person. Her public image, generated by the hugely successful TV series Masterchef, is that of a woman dedicated to her family and friends with a down-to-earth joy of cooking and sharing meals.
After watching Julie spend nearly two hours at a recent book signing, it seemed to me that it wasn’t just an image dreamt up for the show and new career but the real person. She laughed and joked with people, was interested in what they said and loved all the kids who turned up. Her eyes also glanced frequently to her family who sat patiently in the crowd.
And so to Our Family Table. After a foreword by Margaret Fulton, who was instrumental in bringing the kitchen to television, the introduction by Julie is important in setting the scene for the book. It’s not about cutting edge, bright new ingredients done in spectacular fashion (there is a myriad of these in the market and new ones published almost daily). It’s a 'simple cookbook with simple recipes, a wander through the old and the familiar with my family and my friends.' And this to me, apart from it’s simplicity, is its beauty - that it prompts thoughts of one’s own family, friends and the cooking traditions, be they not so grand or historical.
Our Family Table works on both these claims. One of the features is that the recipes are titled after their 'inventors' - her family and friends, reflecting their importance in her life. The accompanying text, stories and quotes throughout the book are also simple in content and message and add to the overall theme.
Then there’s the ease of the book: overheard at the book signing was the comment by a young woman 'I love this book – I can understand the recipes and have cooked heaps already'. Whilst the celebrity status and blanket publicity of Masterchef may not be to everyone’s liking, it seems that Australia's first Masterchef Julie has inspired a whole new group of younger (and some us older ones as well) to get back to basics and master those. From then, anything’s possible.
In the book
Along with logical compartments of meals – breakfast, feeding many, special occasions, desserts etc – there are a couple of extra sections which hold some great recipes.
Given camping is a favourite pastime of the Goodwin clan, it’s not surprising then that there’s a chapter appropriately named, Wide open spaces, just on campfire cooking. Along with Wayne’s camp fire risotto and Steve’s barbequed lamb leg are recipes and tips for sides including frog’s eyes and damper on a stick. One of the recipes that does seem so aptly named is the Camp fire train smash, a vegetable dinner concoction.
For the greater majority of the Australian population these days, week nights seem to be spent recovering from the working day and preparing for the next. Weekends can also rush by, but these can be the best times for gathering excess produce, either home or locally produced and spending some time in the kitchen, especially if the weather’s not that great. The section called Rainy day cooking has simple recipes for jams, relishes, chutneys, sauces and more and will soon have you saving up those empty jars and dreaming up your own label design.
Julie’s wine (and beer) suggestions:
I asked Julie if she likes wine - 'oh yes!' was her answer. Prefacing her suggestions by the assertion that she doesn’t profess to be any sort of wine and food matching expert, Julie suggested trying the following wines with these recipes:
Roasted lamb rump with garlic and rosemary (p98) with a mellow shiraz
Stuffed chicken thighs with prosciutto (p92) with a 'honeyed' chardonnay
Baked ocean trout with seafood (p200) with a semillon
To complement her beef and broccoli stir fry Julie suggests a beer so perhaps try a Byron Bay Premium Lager or a Moo Brew Hefeweizen.
From start to finish, this is a down-to-earth, family cookbook that’s been put together from the heart. With honest memories, tasty and easy to follow recipes with interesting names, peppered with quotes from family and friends, it somehow feels genuine, and I'll certainly give them a go – this when there are so many cookbooks in the market hoping to inspire us to try many different things in the kitchen that we never find the time for. This was perhaps a surprise to someone slightly cynical of big media and given the fever pitch of publicity and commercialisation around everything Masterchef.
The corn fritters, battered fish and tartare sauce have already passed the home kitchen test with others marked for upcoming dinner dates. Whilst the cooking is successful, perhaps the most significant and salient messages for this writer come when Julie talks of the close family she lost whilst writing the book and of the importance of enjoying every moment with family and friends. 'Talk while we have the chance to record memories'. Collect photos, recipes, old letters and stories while we can she urges.
Somehow I think the last chapter in the book is just starting, perhaps with a story from my Mum about something I shared with Julie – a tendency to be just a little messy when starting out in the kitchen. A trait, so my partner tells me, that has persisted with one of us.
Footnote: Mothers' Day for Julie Goodwin and her family
Mothers' Day falls in the middle of Julie’s hectic national book-signing tour but there was never any doubt where she would spend the day. Her boys, Joe, Paddy and Tom, will team up to make her breakfast in bed – one cooking the bacon and eggs, one on the toast and one 'making great coffee with Dad’s coffee machine'. When lunch time comes around, the other man in her life, husband Mick, will heat up the barbeque, perhaps with a roast for the family to enjoy. Meantime, Julie dreams of laying back on the couch and being fed champagne – and I for one believe she’s earnt it!
Our Family Table by Julie Goodwin published by Random House (April 2010) is RRP A$49.95. VisitVineyards.com/Winepros Archive Subscribers can purchase this book at 12.5% discount from our book partners, Seekbooks (postage extra).
- Central Coast (NSW)
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