Book Review – Eat Up New Zealand, The Bach Edition

Words Vicki Ravlich-Horan

Peter Gordon describes Al Brown’s book Eat Up New Zealand – The Bach Edition as “a gem of a cookbook, full of childhood memories and insights into our culinary future”. I have to agree with Peter that it is a cookbook full of nostalgic recipes. It is, in fact, these recipes (cinnamon oysters, Aunt Edna’s bran muffins, and sultana cake) that had me take the book off the shelf for a more thorough peruse.

Every bach, crib, or caravan should have at least one cookbook that has those recipes we crave when on holiday, often quintessential Kiwi dishes that evoke wonderful memories. This book ticks that box while adding some cheffy dishes to stretch your repertoire.

If I had one criticism, it is that it gets a little too cheffy – but I guess Al Brown is a chef! Some of the recipes are really long, and I don’t think fit the ‘Bach Edition’ remit, Duck Shepherd Pie being one.

Known for his love of seafood, the Kaimoana sections are inspirational and go beyond the prized snapper catch.

Often, my favourite sections are at the back, and in this case there’s a section on preserves and garnishes. These recipes turn even the simplest ham sammy or BBQ dish into something memorable.

Al says, “The two main drivers when I cook are generosity and fun.” Surely this is the same for all of us when we are on holiday, so eat up, New Zealand!

Al Brown’s Eggplant Kasundi

I learned this recipe from a great friend and extraordinarily talented cook, Pippa Lee. It has been on our menu at Depot Eatery since day one—we serve it as a condiment with our wood-roasted hāpuka belly. Everyone loves this relish: it’s got a bit of heat, but has terrific depth and a wonderful balance of spice, sweetness and acidity. The recipe seems slightly convoluted in its process, where a number of ingredients are repeated in different stages, but just follow the steps—it’s actually child’s play.

Makes 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz)

1⅓ cups canola oil

1½ cups finely diced onion

½ cup finely diced ginger, plus ½ cup roughly chopped ginger

¼ cup finely diced garlic, plus ½ cup roughly chopped garlic

6 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

2 tablespoons ground turmeric

1 cup malt vinegar

1¾ cups sugar

2 tablespoons salt

1 kg eggplant, cut into 1 cm dice

85 g chillies, roughly chopped


Place a medium-large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add ⅓ cup (80 ml) of the oil and the onion. Cook for 10–15 minutes, until the onion is soft, then add the finely diced ginger and garlic. Cook down, stirring occasionally, until golden.

In a frying pan, dry roast 3 tablespoons of the cumin seeds, and the fenugreek and mustard seeds. Grind and set aside.

Next, place the roughly chopped ginger, garlic, turmeric and remaining 3 tablespoons of whole cumin seeds, along with a splash of the vinegar, into a food processor and blitz to a paste. Set aside.

Once the diced onion, ginger and garlic are golden, add the dry-roasted ground spices, along with the wet spice paste. Cook out over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Now add the remaining vinegar, the sugar and the salt, and mix through to combine. Add the eggplant and chillies and cook down, stirring occasionally, and adding the remaining 1 cup of oil as you go. (You may not need all of the oil.)

The cooking down should take about 40 minutes. The kasundi is ready when it has a soft, jam-like consistency.

Remove from the heat and let cool before refrigerating until required, or preserve in hot sterilised jars.

Recipes extracted from Eat Up New Zealand: The Bach Edition by Al Brown, photography by Josh Griggs, published by Allen & Unwin NZ, RRP $49.99.

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