Sunday, October 21, 2012

Another spectacular New Zealand cookbook

The Engine Room Eatery
Natalia Schamroth & Carl Koppenhagen
RRP: $70.00
Published: 19 October 2012
Hardack -Godwit

In 2006, in a vacant Post Office on Auckland’s charming Northcote Point, Natalia Schamroth and Carl Koppenhagen opened The Engine Room Eatery. Both were experienced chefs, but this was the first restaurant they had opened together. They had long dreamt of the sort of place it would be: an informal local eatery, where people would go on a regular basis for food they craved. It would have a menu based on their extensive travels, and while it was informal everything would be of superb quality.

In its first year of opening it was awarded Metro’s Best New Restaurant and Best Local Restaurant. In its second, Metro’s Supreme Winner and since opening has gone onto win Best Local/Upmarket Bistro seven years in a row.

A dynamic duo, Natalia and Carl worked together in their early chef careers at the well-known Metropole, in Parnell, and then at the famous Reuben cafe in the Auckland Art Gallery where they were renowned for innovative food, packed with flavour. For many years Natalia was one of Cuisine magazine’s most popular food writers so it is no surprise when food-lovers flocked to the North Shore to see what The Engine Room was all about.

The buzz around The Engine Room has remained strong and it’s easy to see why, the food is fabulous, the wine list superb, the service snappy and the entire experience exemplary. Simply put, it’s some of this country’s best food.

Fans have wanted The Engine Room cookbook for years, and now their wishes have finally been answered.  As the pair explain, ‘The Engine Room Eatery cookbook continues this belief in sharing everything — our recipes, our approach, our inspiration and our journey. It provides a glimpse into how our place works and what makes it work. For us The Engine Room has always been about serving good damn honest food and cooking with heart and soul’.

Wonderfully designed by Alt Group, the book includes gorgeous black and white photography by Keiran Scott capturing the daily hum of the restaurant and the inner workings of the kitchen. There are full-colour food shots of over 100 of The Engine Room’s best recipes (see examples below) — the secrets that have made it hard to get a table for the last seven years, and includes meals that Carl cooks for staff dinners. I am sure this superb book will delight and inspire many and I have no doubt that may diners at The Engine Room will leave clutching a copy of the book.
Natalia and Carl were both born in Auckland, both attended Auckland’s AUT Cooking School and are both hugely influenced in their cooking by growing up in European-based home kitchens and by their extensive world travels. Their parents, siblings, brothers and sisters are all great cooks, so it seems it runs in the families.

Natalia spent many school holidays in Melbourne with her maternal grandparents, self-made Polish Holocaust survivors who wanted only the best for their daughters and grandchildren. They spent many hours cooking together, discovering all sorts of exotic ingredients and eating out in restaurants from an early age.

‘My two sisters and I loved cooking with Mum,’ shares Natalia. ‘It was often our job to make the salad dressing for dinner, stand on a chair and stir the orange Le Creuset pan full of butter and bread crumbs to crisp perfection to serve on brussels sprouts. We never ate pre-packaged foods, everything was homemade, Dad had a great vegetable garden and we would drive to “the Country” on the weekends and stock up on vegetables that we didn’t grow, coming home for a cook-up.’
Carl’s parents ran a Four Square in small town Northland, where Carl enjoyed a country childhood. Carl’s father had migrated from Holland and still craved European specialties, so the Four Square had a well-stocked delicatessen counter, with pickled herrings, cured meats and lots of cheese.

Eventually the family moved back to Auckland and bought a delicatessen on the North Shore. Carl worked in the deli after school where he remembers the counter full of cheese, salami, prosciutto, olives, terrines, pates etc. ‘There was a rotisserie full of chickens going round and round, baskets full of baguettes and a cabinet full of all Mum’s home baking, pies, cake, sandwiches as well as shelves stocked full of imported chocolates, oils, vinegars, pasta etc.

This, coupled with his Mother’s passion for cooking meant a natural progression into food for Carl.  While at school he started working as a kitchen-hand and, like Natalia, became addicted to the mad, passionate environment of a commercial kitchen. He has never looked back.

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