Annie's Farmhouse Kitchen is a window on the bucolic world of acclaimed Victorian chef Annie Smithers. The book includes a best-of selection of three and four-course menus collected by Annie over the three years of her restaurant, du Fermier, in Trentham. While part of du Fermier's appeal is undeniably its charming central Victorian location, this farmhouse-style eatery is the sort of place intrepid food lovers might equally stumble across in rural France or Dorset or California.
Annie's food is classic French Provincial, presented with a distinct pared back, accessible aesthetic (no fuss, with preparation, anyone can do this!), and determined very much by whatever is thriving in her rambling home vegetable garden in Malmsbury. As well as being fully illustrated with delightful watercolours by Robin Cowcher - meet the cat 'Kitten', meet the geese, meet the dog Tommy - Annie's Farmhouse Kitchen also includes photographs that offer another valuable visual dimension to this compelling package.
In addition to seasonal recipes (four menus per season), Annie's Farmhouse Kitchen presents readers with four standout feasts: deep mid-winter; summer solstice; spring bounty; and autumn harvest. Annie's distinct voice features throughout - both guiding readers with advice about getting the best results from her recipes (what went wrong? what about leftovers? why, exactly, is this pastry so good?), and via occasional entertaining vignettes that tell the story of the daily challenges and victories inevitably associated with running a successful small restaurant in a country town - solo.
Annie Smithers is one of Australia's best-regarded female chefs. She has built a distinguished career in the restaurant world since apprenticing with Stephanie Alexander back in 1984 at Alexander's acclaimed eponymous Melbourne restaurant. In the past decade, she has worked in regional Victoria, first at Annie Smithers' Bistrot in Kyneton and, since 2013, at du Fermier ('From the Farmhouse'), her charming, perfectly formed little restaurant in nearby Trentham (central Victoria). Here, she has garnered even more acclaim as a one-woman band, turning out rustic French provincial-style food that is dictated very much by the seasons. As well, she has established a thriving vegetable garden on her home property in Malmsbury. This garden (chooks, geese, apple trees, and about an acre of vegetables) is about both feeding restaurant guests, and her broader goal to be, where possible, self sustaining. Annie's work has been called out for excellence by the country's foremost food guide (awarded one hat), is regularly identified as a favourite of leading national critic John Lethlean, and has been named as one of The Financial Review's top restaurants nationally. Robin Cowcher is an illustrator, art director and designer with more than three decades' experience in books, magazines and newspapers. She is both a painter and drawer, and her work in Annie's Farmhouse Kitchen will bring these talents together in evocative watercolours that capture the essence of Annie Smithers' world. Robin's relationship with Annie dates back to her days illustrating a regular column Annie wrote for The Age newspaper, and to that end, Robin is perfectly placed to bring an artist's eye and perspective to the book. Robin's recent successes include several children's books, perhaps most notably Little Dog and The Christmas Wish, which was recreated for Myer's iconic Christmas windows in Bourke Street, central Melbourne.