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Food

Rick Stein's Mediterranean tales

Rick Stein tells of an amazing but dangerous fishing adventure during the shooting of his latest BBC food series, From Venice to Istanbul. It finds him bobbing about in the middle of the Bosphorus in a tiny dinghy dodging massive tankers all for the sake of some fresh blue fish.

“It was one of those times where you have to see food through the eyes of the locals,” Rick says when we sit down for a chat about the series and the book of the same title at Bondi Icebergs on a sunny afternoon.

“I was with Mesut, a retired fisherman and a great character and he had taken me to catch blue fish, which is the fish in Istanbul. But it wasn’t any old fishing trip – it was right in the middle of the Bosphorus, which, as you know, is the strip of water between Asia and Europe.

“There is so much shipping going through there. There is a container ship every minute passing you and we are in this tiny little boat, right in the middle of the shipping lanes – there are bloody great tankers going either way.

“The photography for it was fantastic because the cameraman was so far away on land with a telephoto lens, so it looks like we are about to be split in half!

“We went back to this little fishing harbour just on the edge of the Bosphorus and it was just Mesut and his mates, just hanging down there; it is like they might just get up and go down there as if they are going to work. And he made this amazing fish stew with the blue fish.”

A charmed life

This is just one of the colourful stories behind the 100-plus delectable recipes featured in the latest book, and the way Rick tells it, bringing such life, charisma and energy to the tale is one of the reasons the affable English chef has been so popular as a television presenter.

Alongside his TV adventures, he has published a pile of best-selling cook books, as well as run six acclaimed UK restaurants, plus Rick Stein at Bannisters on the New South Wales south coast. 

Despite all this, he is polite, generous with his time and almost apologetic for living such an enviable life.

“I feel so privileged,” he says of his food presenter role. “I keep saying to people – you think I’m really enjoying this all the time – and I am, but it’s not like I’m on holiday, we still have to work.”

Byzantine discoveries

For his latest adventure he has tackled a veritable encyclopaedia of produce and ingredients beginning in Venice, travelling through the mystical heart of Hellenic cuisine, wading into the beguiling flavours of Croatia and on to the exotic food of Turkey. It is almost too much for one book.

“I have to confess to just dabbling really, it is just the flavours of the area,” says Rick. Looking through the vast array of dishes, though, you get the feeling that he is being overly modest; garlic shrimps with soft polenta, Albanian baked lamb, Dalmatian fresh fig tart. Yum.

“I have spent plenty of time in Greece and Italy over the years so this trip taught me a lot about the food and flavours of Croatia and Turkey, so I hope I have given a delicious enthusiast’s view of the food and flavours of the area.”

From Venice to Istanbul is out now (Random House, RRP $55).

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Life
Poh Ling Yeow
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 8 May 2018
Last time we spoke to Poh Ling Yeow, she was on the verge of launching the second series of her television show, Poh & Co., and had just opened her café, Jamface. This time, we’re catching up with her to talk about her baking book, Poh Bakes 100 Greats.  TV presenter, cook, baker, author, artist, café owner – a better cover star for our diversity issue would have been tough to find!  Not many people know Poh as a baker, a point she makes in the introduction to her book. But, in actual fact, it was her first great cooking love. So, this book was a long time coming.  “I’m really excited about it because I feel like it’s a book I would have written first if I’d had my own way,” she explains. “But everyone knew me for my South-East Asian food, so I had to buy a bit of time and come out as a baker before I could effectively sell a book about baking!”  Poh ‘came out’ by opening Jamface, her café in Adelaide’s Central Market at the end of 2015. While Jamface offers other eats, the main attractions are Poh’s great passion – cakes and pastries made from scratch on site. 

I just don't think I"m out ot impress anyone anymore. I've shed all of that self-consciousness and I literaly cook food I would put on my table at home. 

- Poh Ling Yeow
  Childhood inspiration Poh’s love of baking started when she was a child, she explains. “I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen much as a kid, but baking was one thing I was allowed to do because my mum and great aunty Kim deemed it safe.” Poh’s mum, Christina, was also a great source of inspiration. “I grew up watching my mum bake madly all through my childhood,” she recalls.  For Christina, home economics was the highlight of her school days, and when they arrived in Australia, she took to baking with gusto.  One of the things Christina really instilled in her daughter is the power of persistence.  “If she doesn’t get something right,” Poh says, “she’ll just make it every day for five days in a row until she perfects it. I have definitely inherited that obsessiveness to get things right.” While many authentic Malaysian desserts are fried, steamed or frozen, baked treats are common too. One that Poh was particularly fond of growing up was pineapple tarts, the recipe for which features in her book.  “They’re a really popular little Malaysian snack with really short crust pastry and a super caramelised jam on top,” she describes.  Another of her childhood favourites in the book is coconut love letters. “They always remind me of Chinese New Year. They’re actually really easy to make, with a similar texture to tuille, but a lovely coconutty flavour,” Poh says.  The legend of these treats is that young Peranakan women, who weren’t allowed to meet their loves unattended, would write love letters, hide them inside folded biscuits, and throw them over the wall to their boyfriends. 
Get Poh's easy mixed mushrooms and hazelnut tart recipe here . For more recipes and the full story with Poh, pickup a copy of Selector  from all good newsagents, subscribe or look inside your next Wine Selectors delivery.  OUT NOW: Poh bakes 100 Greats by Poh Ling Yeow, RRP $39.99. 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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