Sepia – The Cuisine of Martin Benn
Murdoch Books – 2014
Photography: Gary Heery & Jennifer Soo
In the introduction, Benn sets up the basic ideas of Sepia, the restaurant and the ethos. Benn explains that it’s meant to lend ideas as much as be a strict roadmap. And indeed, the recipes are amazing and inspiring. There are concepts and flavour combinations that you’ll want to try – techniques and tastes that beg to be tested.
The writing in Sepia is a little heavy. There are very long biographical sections which are interesting, if a little long. Alongside the recipes there is a lot of food writing following Benn’s way into food and the restaurant business through to the restaurant and it is full of anecdote and personality. I love reading about food and the whole industry but I know (people often tell me when I talk about cookbooks) that it’s not for everyone.
Recipes in Sepia are arranged in Menus and they are designed for servings of eight so there’s a bit of maths involved in scaling them down. All of the dishes have wine pairings and each separate aspect is broken down and worked through in detail so that you can see each part clearly.
The images and styling is beyond beautiful. Sepia has a sense of art running through the whole book. The dishes are gorgeous and aspirational and the portraits of chefs and restaurant are full of life.
My favourite recipes are the Mango and Vanilla with Sesame Brittle, Yuzu Sherbet and Nasturtiums; the Goat’s Milk Chevre with Beetroot Butter, Rhubarb, Beetroot Rye and Dried Goat’s Milk; and the Saint Agur and Mascarpone Cheese with Crystallised Macadamias, Celery Cress and Roasted Endive Granita.
Sepia is a book full of ideas, like Benn and the restaurant. It’s a book about food more than a cookery book, and would work just as well on a coffee table to keep dipping into and reading as on the kitchen counter to cook from.
It made me think about food. More than anything it made me want to visit Sepia!