Tuesday, October 08, 2013


Just home from a very happy book launch at La Cigale, Parnell's always popular bistro & market. What a superb and appropriate location for a cook book launch.

The occasion was the launch of Julie Biuso's 16th book, JULIE BIUSO at HOME, the 10th published with New Holland Publishers, and what a happy event it was over a lunch at this great bistro. I chose the Ricotta-stuffed chicken breast with verjuice for my main and then enjoyed Apricot and almond tart with frangipane for dessert, both dishes from the new book.
All  accompanied by a most delicious Rose -  Les Ribes due Vallat from Chateau Jevenal.

I was at the media table with a very pleasant bunch of lunch companions including:
Leanne Moore   Your Home & Garden
Mary de Ruyter  North & South
Anna Murray      Yahoo.co.nz
Claire Aldous    Dish magazine
Grant Allen         Herald on Sunday
Barb Rogers      Freelance writer (previously with NZ Gardener), Julie’s ex-editor at Viva)
Lindsey Dawson Let's Chat host, Face TV.
Liz Lindt   co-owner La Cigale.
And our charming host - Belinda Cooke, Managing Director of New Holland Publishing NZ

Julie was in fine form and spoke warmly and most personally about her new book of which she is clearly very proud. And so she should be, it is a handsome, attractive and substantial hardback book with stunning full colour photographs throughout by Aaron McLean, one of NZ's leading food and lifestyle photographers. A truly appealing publication running to 300 pages and filled with delicious recipes.

Here is the beginning of her Introduction:

Welcome to our place, a slice of city living filled with cats and chooks, family and friends, where we cook, eat, socialise and share our lives. We’re a family of four and our food at home is a mix of things derived from our Kiwi, Italian, Irish and English heritages, sharpened by eclectic tastes developed through extensive travelling and shaped by the seasons, and what is growing in our garden.

We all love food and there’s no shame in announcing that. I’m the one who wears the apron most of the time, but collective taste buds have shaped the recipes in this book. We’re probably not dissimilar to many families around us. Most of the time there’s a budget to consider, a roster in our heads to ensure dishes get done and that someone feeds the pets, waters the garden and takes out the rubbish.

But still, our culinary DNA is unique to us. No doubt I can thank my Irish ancestors for my love of potatoes, my mother for the ability to make light pastry and scones and my father for an appreciation of homegrown vegetables. I married a Sicilian who spent part of his childhood there, and the rest in Tuscany and Liguria, and whose siblings married into Emilian, Roman and Tuscan families. That’s a yummy little culinary pot to fish about in. 

Photo of Julie above right -  - Nicola Topping -Real Image Ltd

The publishers have kindly allowed me to reproduce the chicken dish I enjoyed (understatement, it was divine) at the launch:

ricotta-stuffed chicken breasts with verjuice

Recipe extracted with permission from Julie Biuso at Home, with photography by Aaron McLean, published by New Holland, $65.00.

Everyone in my family loves this moist and tasty chicken. And it looks glamorous, too, though it’s not that much work. Just be sure to buy chicken breasts with the skin still on. I love drinking an unoaked chardonnay with this, or a mid-weight, dryer style pinot gris.

200g ricotta
3 Tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary, plus 4 sprigs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 free-range boned chicken breasts, skin on, rinsed and patted dry
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup white verjuice

1 In a bowl mix ricotta, breadcrumbs, garlic, chopped rosemary, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

2 Slip a finger between skin and meat of chicken to make a pocket. Spread ricotta mixture over meat, then pull skin over ricotta to cover it. Tie with string, enclosing a rosemary sprig with each breast. The chicken breasts can be prepared ahead of time but bring to room temperature before cooking, or the timing of the cooking will be out.

3 Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and drop in 2 tablespoons of butter. Once it is sizzling, add chicken breasts, skin side down. Cook for 5–7 minutes, until a good golden brown, then turn them over and lower heat. Cook for 10 minutes until browned and nearly cooked through (the centre of the breasts will still be tinged with pink).

4 Pour verjuice around chicken breasts and cover pan with a lid (or use tin foil or a large plate). Cook for a further 5 minutes, or until breasts are barely tinged with pink in the centre (they will finish cooking as they stand). Transfer chicken breasts to a heated platter.

5 Add remaining butter to pan and swirl it in by shaking the pan. Pour contents of pan over chicken breasts and serve immediately.

Recipe extracted with permission from Julie Biuso at Home, with photography by Aaron McLean, published by New Holland, $65.00.

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