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Food, Inside Story

Melbourne Cookbook "Must Have" - The Atlantic At Home

For lovers of seafood Melbourne excels but in only the hands of a few. In terms of the best seafood chefs Donovan Cooke has been an icon for decades and we have followed his journey to The Atlantic in Crown Melbourne. Donovan Cooke has perfected the art of cooking and presenting seafood to customers with technique in spades, while keeping the main ingredient of fish the "hero" of the dish. We have visited The Atlantic on several occasions with rave reviews each time.

With his fourth book, The Atlantic At Home, Donovan Cooke is forthcoming with proven recipes, tips on cooking seafood, and pantry and equipment pointers. Written by Hilary McNevin, Melbourne foodie icon from The Age, Winestate and Broadsheet to name a few, this is the complete cookbook with Donovan revealing many of his seafood secrets. Perfect as a gift for the home cook (also noting Mother's Day), this book is attractively presented and will inspire you to grab a heavy iron pan and journey to your local fish market to create stunning seafood dishes.

The Atlantic At Home is filled with tips and recipes with Donovan Cooke passionate about seafood and determined to help even the most reluctant seafood cook get into the kitchen and gain confidence handling seafood. Profiles on seafood producers, lists of pantry staples and equipment lists, as well as an alternative seafood species chart, support the 70 recipes that the chef has amassed in his over 30 years of cooking and prepares regularly  in the award-winning restaurant.

The World Loves Melbourne considers this to be a highly impressive cookbook with compelling recipes, material from Donovan Cooke to transform the home cook into a seafood sensation, high quality photos of dishes, and verve of Hilary McNevin's literary contribution that compliments Donovan Cooke's culinary prowess.


The World Loves Melbourne is privileged to review Donovan's book and we interviewed Donovan Cooke about the cookbook and his philosophy on cooking:

The World Loves Melbourne: Are the recipes of The Atlantic At Home "accessible" for the home cook?

Donovan Cooke: Definitely. In Australia, as with many countries, there is a fear of cooking seafood at home. People are afraid to overcook or undercook seafood. A survey shows Australians on average only cook seafood at home once a month. This book seeks to break this mindset to show that seafood is one of the easiest things to cook at home. It's quick, easy and efficient. The Atlantic At Home also gives people loads of tips to make cooking seafood easier. For example, you can visit one of Melbourne's premium markets and engage the staff to clean and fillet the fish for you, ready for cooking. You can then explore more varied fish varieties without being nervous about preparation.

The World Loves Melbourne: What is the key to cooking with seafood?

Donovan Cooke: A key is to cook with a heavy pan otherwise you end up boiling the seafood rather than cooking it pan fried. Of course it's critical not to undercook or overcook seafood. Having the right equipment and pantry items is also important. Quality fresh produce is a must when cooking seafood. A simple method of pre heating a heavy cast iron pan goes a long way in the cooking process. In the book I give people useful tips such as drying scallops on paper overnight to get the desirable golden colouring when cooked.

The World Loves Melbourne: Marco Pierre White says in his Foreword to the book that you are a "master classicist" French style. How important is it to prepare dishes with the right foundation and detail, versus "creative license"?

Donovan Cooke: Every culture has its methods. French cuisine is known for its technique and precision in cutting, boning, and treating meat, as well as meticulous processes in preparing dishes. I was brought up as a cook in "high pressure" kitchen environments where technique was demanded and I honed my skills in these environments. At restaurants like Est Est Est where there was only a small kitchen I needed to prepare meticulously the night before for the next day's service. I have simplified some of the recipes in this book to help home cooks. The truth is that great cooking comes from excellent preparation.

The World Loves Melbourne: Are the recipes in The Atlantic At Home "proven" recipes over many years?

Donovan Cooke: Yes these are recipes I have cooked in kitchens over the years. With the home cook in mind we went through and cooked the recipes as they feature in The Atlantic At Home and myself and Hilary McNevin made any changes necessary to both  ingredients and technique. So in terms of the historical and in terms of practicality for home cooks, these are "proven" recipes. In this book there are recipes and techniques from across my 32 years in cooking. For example there is a sauce I first made in The Savoy when I was 18 years old!

The World Loves Melbourne: The Atlantic At Home contains recipes but also "much more". Are you making it easier for home cooks to excel in the kitchen?

Donovan Cooke: I have a lifetime passion for home cooks to excel in the kitchen. I was raised in the north of England at one of the biggest fishing ports in Europe. My Grandmother cooked fish and chips in a fryer for 50 years but couldn't really cook. My family weren't great cooks so I learned to cook seafood myself. I have intentionally provided tips on cooking throughout the book, as well as educate people on the seasonality of fish. Fish is not just for hot weather contrary to popular belief, but is suited to colder weather. I also help people when it comes to the high cost of fish, in that you can use the whole fish in cooking. For example you can put aside the trimmings from fish and use them later, when say making Thai Fish Cakes (recipe in the book). Or when pulling the heads of prawns, you can use them for a shellfish oil. If you have too much squid with risotto, you can store the extra in the fridge to later produce arancini balls. I'm passionate about achieving the maximum yield for fish by using the trimmings.

Thank you Donovan!

Highlights in The Atlantic At Home include Olive Oil Confit Ocean Trout, a famous dish of Donovan's which has been inspiration for other chefs. 

Grab your copy of The Atlantic At Home online, from The Atlantic restaurant, and cookbook stockists such as -

Readings – Carlton, Hawthorn, St Kilda & Malvern 

Books for Cooks – Fitzroy 

Essential Ingredient – Prahran 

The Avenue – Albert Park 

Chefs Hat – South Melbourne 

Cedar Hospitality – Brunswick 

The World Loves Melbourne loves the revealing insights Donovan offers concerning the dishes. Of the Pan fried scallops with confit mushrooms, cassoulet of white beans, saffron and chorizo he says, "I love scallops. They're versatile and quick to cook and their sweetness holds up to the big flavours and textures. Each flavour here leads into the other; the sweetness from the scallops, paired with the rich duck fat confit mushrooms and cassoulet with the smokiness from the chorizo."

The World Loves Melbourne highly recommends The Atlantic At Home as one of Melbourne's best ever cookbooks.