Marion Grasby was my favourite contestant from series 1 of Masterchef Australia, so when I received a copy of her new cookbook I was more than a little excited. I am also just a little bit, OK a lot, obsessed with Thai food and love seeking out new recipes to try (even though they never taste as good as at my local Thai restaurant!).
Her cookbook is exactly how I expected it; equals parts quirky and stylised. Kind of like Marion. It has gorgeous typography with interesting fonts, colours and cute line drawings in my favourite colour – pink! Fluro pink, no less. It is divided up into easy to navigate sections with short names like ‘Mornings’, ‘Sweetness’ and ‘Big Plates’ and each recipe has a little story to go with it, written in Marion’s friendly voice.
The photography of the food and the street/countryside shots of Thailand are so evocative you can practically smell and taste the scenes and characters they capture. I particularly love the matte paper and the way the rich-coloured ink sinks into the page – it reminds me of my favourite cookbooks by Nigel Slater (Kitchen Diaries, Tender).
Since the photography is so lovely, I wanted to choose a recipe that didn’t have a photo, and the Kai Palo (Five-spice port and egg stew) caught my eye. I have been wanting to cook with pork belly for quite a while but have been nervous about doing so until I found a good recipe that could do it justice. Marion to the rescue!
I can’t believe how easy this was to make and the aromatic marinade was absolutely nose-tingling – I think I’ll use it just for ordinary pork chops from now on. I have to admit that I didn’t have any white peppercorns handy so I used a few schezuan ones instead and it tasted great. Photo of my creation is above – not bad, huh?
Marion is touring across Australia during July. Tomorrow she is having lunch at the Primo Estate Winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia. If you want to try and catch her, you can see her full schedule here.
Five-spice pork and egg stew recipe
Recipe by Marion Grasby
6 coriander roots with 4cm stem attached, cleaned
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1.5kg pork belly, skin on, cut into 5cm x 3.5cm chunks
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup kecap manis
6 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup white sugar
150g fried tofu
1/4 cup roughly chopped coriander leaves
Steamed rice, to serve
1. Pound the coriander roots, garlic and peppercorns to a rough paste using a mortar and pestle. Place the pork in a large bowl, add the coriander paste, five-spice and salt and mix well to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the pork and cook for about a minute, or until just browned all over. Add the soy sauce, kecap manis, star anise, cinnamon, sugar, and 1.25 litres of water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and leave to gently bubble away for about 1 hour, or until the pork is tender.
3. Meanwhile, put the eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water and place over high heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 8 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel.
4. When the pork is tender, add the eggs and tofu and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, scatter with the coriander and serve with the steamed rice.