Book Review: Supernormal by Andrew McConnell.
Based on the activities of renowned Melbourne restaurant, Supernormal, owner and head chef Andrew McConnell delivers his quirky cookbook of the same name into the hands of the everyday cook.
Just this once we say: judge a book by its cover. In many ways, Supernormal steps away from conforming, both in the restaurant and book. From cover to cover it presents a neat and tidy appearance, yet continuously provokes ones curiosity. The varying photography styles of Earl Carter interchange. At times they may be soft and grainy and then a page flip finds them polished and sharp, so that trying to assume what follows consecutive pages becomes far from easy. Perhaps cartoon eyeballs have been drawn onto grilled lamb ribs or a whole flounder goes unnoticed for a second, camouflaged among a snow-like dusting of flour. It is with this constant change, this quirkiness and unpredictability that Andrew McConnell introduces the reader to all that is Supernormal.
Tuna, Avocado, Wakame and Pickled Cucumber, p. 72.
For an idea of what’s inside, think cooking in cities that never sleep, like Hong Kong and Shanghai, or imagine the confident simplicity of cold Japanese dishes like Tuna, Avocado, Wakame and Pickled Cucumber. In eight chapters, Andrew shares a total of 89 mouth-watering recipes, both savoury and sweet, snacks and feasts that will excite tastebuds and have you scanning Asian supermarket isles for ingredients like toasted nori, fresh ramen, yuzu kosho and Chinese black vinegar paste.
If the thought of pan-Asian cuisine has you salivating, then pick a simple dish and begin – warm introductions to each meal encourage the reader to do their best and careful paragraphed instructions guide the way. Once simple bites are mastered, dishes requiring dedication, more interaction and considerable pre-thought await, like the Twice-Cooked Duck Legs with Plum Sauce and Steamed Bread. Feel the energy bubble out from photographs of talented chefs as they work with precision in Supernormal’s open kitchen. Follow along at home, reveling in the satisfaction of creating more than just a meal, but a piece of art with a touch of personal flair.
Learn from the insights given into running a commercial kitchen and understand a little more about what it takes to turn food preparation and smooth service into seemingly effortless magic. Recreate Supernormal’s most addictive dishes – even the ever-popular Lobster Roll – for midnight snacking and lunchtime feasts. Sense harmony when international flavours dance together and celebrate over a shared table culture.
No matter your limitations, the buzz that radiates from Supernatural is infectious. Experiment and find what works for you and the flavours that entice you to try it again. Personalise any dish as much as you like, because whatever you create, it will be supernormal.
By Annabel Rainsford.
This is an edited extract from Supernormal by Andrew McConnell, photography by Earl Carter, published by Hardie Grant, RRP $60 and is available in all good bookstores and online here.