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Impress your Valentine with recipes from Poh Ling Yeow

Impress your Valentine with recipes from Poh Ling Yeow
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“There’s something to be said about cooking from the heart and cooking with a certain intent,” says Poh Ling Yeow. “And it’s not always to be clever. It’s really cooking to nurture someone or touch some kind of feeling as well.”

One of Australia’s best-loved cooking stars, Yeow’s culinary career began a decade ago as a MasterChef finalist. She’s a painter , author and co-owner of Jamface , a café and bakery in Adelaide that specializes in merging classic French pastry with Australiana.

Garnish Poh Ling Yeow’s Persian love cake with bright green pistachios and edible rose petals. Alan Benson

“Because we’re a migrant culture, we have that beautiful thing of not being hedged down by tradition. And that makes it really exciting,” she says. “We have very interesting climates that have us being able to produce a lot of really diverse ingredients. And because we’re a multi-culture, as (Canada is), it just enables us to really shamelessly experiment and put our twist on things.”

In her latest cookbook, Poh Bakes 100 Greats (Murdoch Books, 2019), Yeow showcases her “minimum effort, maximum flavour” approach. From savoury treats (mini sausage rolls) to French fundamentals (perfect brioche buns) and retro favourites (chewy apricot and almond Anzacs) to bake-sale beauties (orange yogurt hearts), her recipes suit bakers of all skill levels.

“We all own so many (cookbooks) and we usually only cook one or two recipes out of each one. I really don’t want my cookbooks to be like that,” she says. “That’s why there’s always such a range in terms of flavour profiles and techniques, and levels of difficulty because I want people to be able to evolve with them, and be able to really use it wholeheartedly. Not just for a few recipes.”

Yeow is a self-described pragmatic cook. Rather than focusing on elaborate plating and garnishing for the sake of it, her style is uncomplicated and natural. Every element has a purpose; there’s nothing superfluous on the plate. She prefers to use botanical ingredients from her garden to decorate baked goods, but they aren’t there just to add colour. First and foremost, she uses garnishes to enhance flavour.

Poh Ling Yeow’s heart-shaped mini cakes are perfect for Valentine’s Day. Alan Benson

“People have lost the art of flavour,” she says. “There’s such a tendency to focus on how things look and I’m beginning to resent it more and more as someone who really loves flavour, and as somebody who comes from a home-cooking background.”

The recipes she shares in Poh Bakes 100 Greats, as with the baked goods she serves at Jamface, are intended to evoke memories, Yeow adds. The type of baked goods that tap into cravings rather than elicit dispassionate appreciation for their ingenuity.

“The main thing is to get baking. People that have always been a little afraid of baking to maybe face their fears and just be inspired to have a go. And also have that mentality of knowing it’s something they can’t harness overnight. It’s something they have to learn to love and keep working on, like all good things in life.”

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