New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon made his name with his "Sugar Club" restaurants in Wellington and London. Since then he has co-owned several other very successful restaurants in London, and he has produced two prior cookbooks: The Sugar Club Cookbook and Cook at Home.
In his introduction to Peter Gordon's World Kitchen, Gordon declares that "There are many chefs cooking beautiful, authentic regional food, but I'm not interested in such a pursuit-I love to eat it, but I don't want to cook it. I cook what excites me, and the world as a whole excites me more than a region defined by political boundaries." I guess I'd always thought that culinary regions were designated by their soil and climate rather than their county lines, their produce rather than their politics. He goes on to say that he seeks out food without pesticides or genetic modifications-a subject that can get very political. But no matter. Gordon pulls tastes and textures from all over the world and combines them in an original way, producing a kind of global fusion.
Although not entirely clear, it seems that most if not all of these recipes first appeared in the magazine New Zealand House & Garden. And some of the ingredients are indeed local (lamb dominates the meat section), but he does suggest alternatives for the more difficult to find such as sweet potato or yam for the native kumara. In general, while some recipes call for mascarpone or chorizo or hummus, the emphasis is on tastes from the Pacific Rim.
Two elements stand out in the majority of the recipes:
1. A substantial use of fruits and other sweet tastes in starters, pastas, and main courses as well as in deserts.
2. The combination or "fusion" of an international array of herbs, spices and other ingredients.
Mangoes or melons turn up in many of the savory dishes like: "Whiskey-Crumbed Turkey Breast with Bean, Mango, and Peanut Salad" and "Melon, Nut, Green Bean, and Parmesan Salad." A few other sweetened savories are "Lamb Chops with Apple Glaze and Warm Kumara Salad," "Braised Lamb Shanks with Tamarind and Dates," and "Salmon Baked with Tomato, Ginger, Chile, and Pineapple Salsa" Actually, one of the stand-out sections of the book is the section on "Sauces, Salsas and Relishes" which includes chutneys and some salad dressings.
Although very inventive, the fusion aspect in some recipes can take a little getting-used to. "Twice-Cooked Pork and Olives on Pesto Mash" includes raisins, golden syrup and a very rich (2 sticks of butter and 2/3 cup cream) basil pesto. Just the description left me a little queasy. And although I love tongue, "Grilled Tongue with Wasabi Salsa Verde and Potato Salad" just sounds upsetting. However, the equally strange-sounding "Chicken, Spiced Quince, and Hummus Burger" rather intrigues me. The Gordon-novice either needs to take each recipe on trust or go with whichever combinations appeal to one's fancy. In fact, what this cookbook does quite well is to introduce the home cook to fusion cooking without preconceptions. One not only gets permission to combine Thai fish sauce with pine nuts, one gets a blueprint.