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Book Review: 'Sugarcane' by Arlyn Osborn

By Leigh O’Connor.

There aren’t many cookbooks that feature Filipino flavours in the Australian market, a void that is now being filled by authors such as Arlyn Osborne, who inspires home cooks to feel more confident and creative in the kitchen.

Her latest book ‘Sugarcane’ is an iconic collection of recipes that offers extraordinary flavour combinations with treats that are as striking to behold as they are delicious to eat. Drawing on her mixed-race upbringing and bolstered by her years of professional recipe developing, Arlyn pairs classic Filipino flavours with Western techniques.

Book Review: 'Sugarcane' by Arlyn Osborn
The recipes introduce home cooks to a new world of ingredients like star fruit, rambutan and calamansi, along with essays about the history of the Philippines and the effects of colonialism, which add a further dimension and relevance to the book.

As a recipe developer, Arlyn knows what works and she ensures that everything used is accessible to the home cook; a charismatic presence on camera, she has also created TikToks and Instagram reels to showcase some of her recipes.

We serve up three dishes for you to try at home from chilli crisp chocolate chunk cookies to a bourbon brown butter cashew tart.
Book Review: 'Sugarcane' by Arlyn Osborn

Fellow members of the chilli crisp fan club will revel in these umami-packed cookies where sweet and savoury battle deliciously for attention. These are gooey, mottled with melty pools of dark chocolate and wrinkled with crunchy golden ridges.

Brown butter makes them toasty, nutty and extra chewy, but it’s the chilli crisp that really gives these cookies that ‘je ne sais quoi’. 

In Southeast Asia, pandan cake might be as generic as vanilla cake in the States. Each country has its own variation and in the Philippines, instead of being served plain, it’s always adorned with cream and coconut strips - either buko (young coconut meat from standard coconut trees) or macapuno (coconut meat from dwarf mutant coconut trees).

Book Review: 'Sugarcane' by Arlyn Osborn
Both have a soft, jelly-like texture and although buko can be sourced fresh or frozen, macapuno is often purchased in preserved, jarred form.

The cake, a chiffon, is bouncy and delicate and painted an herbal shade of green, courtesy of the pandan, whose rich natural pigments are as pronounced as its flavour. This tropical shrub tastes like sweet grassy vanilla, with nutty and floral undertones.

The Philippines meets the American South in this recipe for bourbon brown butter cashew tart, where cashew boat tarts (named for their tiny ship shape) embrace the appearance of bourbon pecan pie.

"Nutty and rich with caramel, I could easily throw back three or four boat tarts in one sitting as a kid,” Arlyn recalls. "This is probably the equivalent of a slice of pie, which is, apparently, what I was really after.”
Book Review: 'Sugarcane' by Arlyn Osborn

Here, browned butter deepens all the flavours at play, while sticky golden syrup adds a luscious buttery sweetness unmatched by honey or corn syrup. 

Photographed in mouth-watering colour by Linda Xiao, ‘Sugarcane’ brings the vibrant food and culture of the beautiful Philippines to your home kitchen.

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