I’ve been a fan of Serge Dansereau’s ever since I ate at his iconic Sydney restaurant, The Bather’s Pavillion, about ten years ago and was struck by the freshness and vibrancy of his food. A Canadian by birth and now an Australian citizen who has been a leader on our culinary scene for over 30 years, Serge has been called ‘the father of the fresh food movement’. His long-held conviction that great food needs quality ingredients led him to be one of our first chefs to seek out and encourage the production of new and emerging varieties of fresh produce, blazing the trail for all those who value the diverse, high-quality, seasonal produce that is found so much more easily today.
Serge’s “Seasonal Kitchen” is his most recent book and is another lovely hard-backed edition from ABC Books and Harper Collins Australia. It features beautiful images from William Meppem (who has worked on several of Dansereau’s previous books) and focuses on the seasonal Australian produce which inspires him, with recipes grounded in his classical cooking techniques, but which embrace the wider world. Under the influence of the cuisines of China, India, Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia Serge shows us how to take a modern-day dish and turn it from a good recipe to a great one, no matter the season. Following a tried-and-true format, Serge takes us through each of the seasons in turn, highlighting the best produce of each and using his skills to help us make the most of them. He does this course by course, including a selection of the necessary basics and his chef’s notes at the end of the book.
The techniques he uses are well within the reach of even a basic cook, and with seasonal stunners such as artichoke & steamed lettuce with thyme and anchovy butter sauce for spring, apricot and ricotta lemon slice for summer, mushroom soup with ricotta and sorrel dumplings for autumn and roast pork shoulder with fennel and cumquat and ginger sauce for winter, there’s no reason why any of us can’t be wowing everyone who sits down at our table all year round. I think what I love best about this book is that Serge takes a few simple, fresh ingredients which we can all find relatively easily and, with a little imagination and skill, turns them into a sophisticated dish that anyone can be proud of.
The recipe I’ve chosen to share with you is a prime example of just that principle – fresh, quality ingredients, simply, but thoughtfully prepared to show them off to their best advantage. We had this roast salmon with green beans, pancetta and saba for our family dinner last night, but I’d be just as happy to offer this to dinner guests. Don’t be put off if you can’t get hold of saba – just substitute vincotto or a very good balsamic reduction. As you can see from my photo, I added some fresh asparagus I bought from the farmers market, so don’t be afraid to play with this a bit.