Book Review: Food of the Southern Forests


Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of Food of the Southern Forests

So … cookbooks … something I need more of like a hole in the head but also something I can’t resist. Like wine glasses. Only I’m banned from buying wine glasses, whereas with books I feel bad because the shelves are groaning. But a review copy? Why, that’s a different thing altogether!

I did double check before accepting this book, as it is about the food of Western Australia’s Southern Forests and I was concerned that the recipes would require some foraging on the other side of the Nullarbor. Fortunately, that was not the case and this weighty, beautiful book duly arrived on my doorstep.

It turned up just before we went on holiday and so I set to picking a relatively simple recipe (despite desperately wanting to try out the semolina, almond and olive oil cake with lavender and rosemary sugar). Sadly, that diligence hasn’t actually translated into a swift review …

These days it almost goes without saying that a cookbook is beautiful and Food of the Southern Forests does not disappoint on that front. It’s a big book, with a solid cover, lovely thick pages and lots of space. Sophie Zalokar, the book’s author, is a chef based in Pemberton and has translated her passion for the region and its produce into a cookbook that champions local producers. This means that rather than being divided in sections based around courses, the book is divided by ingredients. Each chapter begins with an exploration of one or two producers of the product and I found that I learnt all sorts of interesting snippets. For example, did you know that avocado trees can require up to 150 litres of water per tree per day in summer? I am immensely grateful I decided against planting one in my own garden! The breadth of primary produce grown in the Southern Forests is also impressive. I had no idea we even grew green tea in Australia AND that we export it to Japan.

Of course, each chapter features at least one recipe which showcases the product and the photos are (predictably!) mouthwatering. Aside from the aforementioned cake, I’m also very keen to try the marron and avocado ceviche with fingerlimes and the Swiss Engadine walnut tart – and that’s just for starters …

However, with time very much not on my side I opted for something relatively simple – a cauliflower cheese. However, in Zalokar’s recipe, the cheese sauce is enhanced with caraway seeds (one of my personal favourites) and the cauliflower is cooked whole, rather than broken into florets. Of course, this means you do need to ensure you have an oven proof pot or dish large enough to contain your cauliflower!

As Andy does not like cauliflower I am always on the lookout for recipes to try to convert him. Sadly, this one failed (apparently he doesn’t really like caraway either …) but I enjoyed it. If you like caraway this is a recipe definitely worth giving a go.

The book can be purchased (with free postage) from University of Western Australia Publishing, for $59.99. A little thing called Christmas is just around the corner …


Cauliflower Cheese with Caraway


  • olive oil
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 500mL milk
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • salt & pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Remove the ribs and leaves from the cauliflower and cut out the thickest part of its core, but leave it whole. Steam until a knife can cut into the thickest part of the cauliflower. This may take up to 20 minutes. I did this in the microwave but you may find it easier to do on the stove, perhaps using a bamboo steamer.
  3. Once steamed, place the cauliflower in a baking dish in which it fits reasonably snugly.
  4. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in saucepan, add the caraway seeds and then stir in the flour. Cook the flour out thoroughly - the butter will absorb the flour and the mix will start to appear crumbly.
  5. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring all the time to ensure there are no lumps. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes to thicken. Stir through the cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Adjust the seasoning.
  6. Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden and bubbling. You may want to finish off under the grill.
  7. Serve piping hot.

Spiced Cauliflower

spiced cauliflower

My newest cookbook is The Hairy Bikers’ Best-Loved Recipes. I’ve read through it (yes, I do do that) a couple of times and noted lots of recipes I’m keen to try.

The cooler weather in Adelaide has meant we’ve started thinking about stews, so later in the week you will be able to read all about Dave and Si’s sausage and bean stew.  But let’s start with what we served as a side to it – spiced cauliflower.

I love all brassicas (broccoli and brussel sprouts are two of my all time favourite vegetables) but Andy finds cauliflower really boring. He doesn’t even really like cauliflower cheese! We had a small piece in the fridge that I was keen to use up and this recipe, although for a whole head, is easy enough to shrink to fit.

Begin by heating some oil in a frying pan or (in my case) wok. Add some chilli flakes (or ground chilli), ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and freshly ground black pepper. For a whole head, the recipe calls for 2tsp of each spice – but really it’s a case of using however much you like.

Fry the spices for a few moments then add your cauliflower florets and stir fry, ensuring the florets are well coated with the spice mix. You can buy your spices from this website. 

If you have some tamarind paste, stir it into some boiling water (as a rough guide, you’ll need at 250mL for one head of cauliflower) and pour this into the pan.  If you don’t, just use the boiling water.  Add a splash of vinegar and a pinch of salt and then pop on a lid and cook until the cauliflower is tender.  Remove the lid when it’s almost done so any excess liquid can evaporate off.

Don’t be tempted to skip the vinegar – particularly if you don’t have tamarind.  With this dish, it’s really important you have the sour, acidic component to set up the spices.  And yes – this is spicy, but you can always cut out or reduce the amount of chilli you put in.

Delicious and too easy!