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The Capital Cookbook II

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Years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing  Zorana Grbic, who had just published a cookbook featuring stories, photos and recipes from some of Canberra’s best chefs. She was trembling with excitement at having opened the doors to the kitchens of some of the capital’s finest restaurants.

Zorana described the project as a ‘dream’ and told me how lucky she was to call this fabulous city her home.

The Capital Cookbook was the first publication produced by Zorana’s small, family-run publishing company, which she established in 2004. It sold out quickly, with readers savouring the opportunity to flip through its pages and see sprinkled throughout the faces of the chefs of many restaurants who had served them personally and recipes of dishes they had devoured over time.

Zorana passed away in 2009, losing her life to ovarian cancer. She would be proud of her son Stefan Posthuma-Grbic, who is now the Director of Quicksand Publishing and who has just released The Capital Cookbook II.


Stefan Posthuma-Grbic

Like a sensational recipe, The Capital Cookbook II is a careful mix of ingredients. There are stories, insightful quotes from insightful chefs, super photos of produce, dishes and landscapes, and last, but certainly not least, 47 recipes.

It was recently reported that many of Canberra eating establishments fail within their first four years of operation. The selection of restaurants in this cookbook, many multiple award-winning, have stood the test of time.

Unlike Zorana’s book, which was divided by seasons, Stefan’s edition is divided by vegetarian, seafood, poultry, meat and dessert. A common ingredient throughout the recipes is the wonderful local produce of our loveable bush capital, many of which are grown, produced and packed right here or just a stone’s throw away. This is the stuff chef’s love to dish up.


The Capital Cookbook II

The recipes have not been tested, although Stefan tells me the creative chefs showcased were asked to adapt them so they are easy to cook at home. Still, they vary in their degree of difficulty and the number of ingredients, with some as few as five ingredients and others many more.

A special touch is the recipe by Zorana, who is so much part of this story. Zorana was famous for her osso bucco with pappardelle and gremolata—a beautifully rich and warming dish. Stefan says his mum used to cook it for friends and family: ‘We all share fond memories of sitting together at our big teak table; talking, laughing and sucking the marrow from the osso bucco bones.’

And even if you never try any of the recipes featured, you will be inspired by reading them and poring over the mouth-watering images taken by Canberra’s Tess Godkin, who operates themunchandcrunch food and photography blog, and the landscape photography shot by Stefan.

parfairSheep’s milk yoghurt parfait from Waters Edge 

I’ve been a food reviewer in Canberra for a long, long time, and I’m often asked what my favourite restaurant is. My favourite changes, and sometimes with the seasons. But many that make my taste buds dance are in this book, including Waters Edge, where Head Chef Clement Chauvin creates artwork on the plate. Also on my list is the innovative Soju Girl, where Head Chef Derek Brown executes dishes that combine tradition and modern with tremendous technical capability.  The Artisan is up there too, with Sam McGeechan and David Black all about balance, presentation and exceptional service. And Rubicon, which I don’t get to often enough. Head Chef Owen Kenyon has been whipping up combinations of flavours in this cozy little spot at Griffith Shops forever and a day.


The Artisan’s Smoked Quail

Truth be told, I could go on and on about my favourites, because Canberra is—in my view—up there with the best, highly capable of producing food with flair.

So what’s in store for Stefan now that the book is on the shelves? Likely edition II of the South Coast Cookbook his mother published. He’s hoping this will be a collaboration with his sister who now lives down that way.


Soju Girl’s Cashew Salmon

Capital Cookbook II is a tribute to Zorana and also dedicated to Stefan’s little five-month old neice, Lilah. Donations from the restaurants involved in the book amount to more than $10,000, which will go directly to Ovarian Cancer Research. So too will $2 from the sale of each book and any funds raised this Thursday night (17 October) at the official launch at the National Library’s Bookplate (a perfect fit).

This open event will be held at the Terrace at 5pm, with Canberra foodies invited to attend. The book will be officially launched by Gai Brodtmann MP, who has been a Bosom Buddies ACT Ambassador since 2011.


Rubicon’s Quince Frangipane

The Capital Cookbook II is a great Christmas gift. It’s available at selected Canberra cookbooks and online: www.quicksandpublishing.com.au

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