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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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