‘Tenderheart’ tells one Chinese language-Australian chef’s tales of household, meals, loss and pleasure – fadiart

‘Tenderheart’ tells one Chinese language-Australian chef’s tales of household, meals, loss and pleasure

Hetty Lui McKinnon’s upbringing was deeply rooted in her father’s legacy as a Chinese immigrant working in Australia’s wholesale produce trade. Memories of her childhood are painted with the vibrant colors and flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tragedy struck McKinnon’s life at the tender age of 15 when her father passed away. For years, she found herself avoiding the overwhelming pain of his loss. However, through the act of cooking dishes reminiscent of her father, she discovered a path towards healing.

“The pain of losing someone never truly fades. It becomes a part of you,” she reflects. “But through food, I found the courage to celebrate his life and legacy.”

In 2021, McKinnon authored the widely acclaimed cookbook “To Asia, With Love.” Recently, she released her newest book, “Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds.” McKinnon credits “Tenderheart” with compelling her to confront the emotions surrounding her father’s passing as she penned its pages.

Within the pages of “Tenderheart,” McKinnon intricately weaves together recipes inspired by her Cantonese upbringing, with a particular focus on dishes highlighting the beauty of vegetables. Cooking these recipes not only connects her to her heritage but also serves as a way to pass on a piece of her family history to her children.

“We’re living in the West, where generational traditions often get lost,” McKinnon observes. “I wanted this book to serve as a small reminder of their grandfather.”

Here are a few recipes from “Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds”:

Fennel and Gnocchi Salad with Fennel Frond Pesto: This delightful salad showcases the versatility of fennel, combining crunchy shaved fennel with a fragrant fennel frond pesto and crispy pan-fried gnocchi. McKinnon encourages experimentation with additional ingredients like roasted broccoli or cauliflower, or even swapping gnocchi for other pasta varieties.

Miso-Maple Sugar Snap Pea, Turnip, and Strawberry Salad: A symphony of flavors and textures, this salad balances the crispiness of sugar snap peas with the earthy sweetness of turnips, complemented by the fruity acidity of strawberries. The miso-maple dressing ties it all together, creating a dish that’s both vibrant and satisfying.

Ginger and Cilantro Noodle Pancake: Born out of necessity during lockdown, this inventive dish transforms instant noodles into a crispy pancake infused with the lively flavors of ginger and cilantro. Serve it alongside stir-fried lettuce, ginger jook, or a simple green salad for a delightful snack or light meal.

McKinnon’s recipes not only tantalize the taste buds but also serve as a homage to her family’s heritage, preserving traditions and memories for generations to come.

(Recipes and excerpt from “Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds” by Hetty Lui McKinnon. Copyright © 2023 by Hetty Lui McKinnon. Reproduced with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.)

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