Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 3, 2017

Food to Feed the Family (2017), by Matthew Hopcraft

Matthew Hopcraft, at the book launch. (Photo by LH)

As regular readers know, I am a Masterchef Tragic, and watch the program  avidly throughout the season, following my favourite cooks on Facebook and trying out some of their recipes (if they’re not too ambitious).  It was via Facebook I came to know about the launch of Matthew Hopcraft’s new cookbook, Food to Feed the Family, and today I went to the North Melbourne library to pick up my long-anticipated copy.

Food to Feed the FamilyThe book showcases more than 70 recipes, from basics like fresh egg pasta, through to Matthew’s famous beef and pepperberry pie and lasagne.  The beef and pepperberry pie (which I have cooked using the recipe at the Masterchef website), is the dish that saved Matthew from elimination, and no wonder because it is divine. It is worth buying the cookbook for this recipe alone!

His lasagne – cheekily featured on the front cover – is the dish that turfed him out of the competition because Marco Pierre White didn’t like it.  (My answer to that is, shoot me if I ever cook any recipe from Pierre White: his use of processed foods in jars, cans and bottles is a ruinous approach to food and cooking because IMO fresh ingredients are the basis of flavour). Food to Feed the Family also includes a recipe for risotto: the ‘death dish’ – a dish responsible for eliminating so many Masterchef contestants that few people are prepared to try it on the show now.  Matthew’s risotto is a creamy mushroom risotto and it comes with advice that it needs a cup of white wine – for the cook to enjoy while stirring the pot…

Despite its Masterchef origins, this is a cookbook full of easy, everyday recipes.  The contents includes

  • Tips and suggestions
  • Small things (i.e. salads, entrees, soups)
  • Big things (i.e. main courses so lots of pasta dishes, roasts etc)
  • Sweet Things
  • Kids Things (kid-friendly food like pizza, and biscuits)
  • Basic Things (secrets of a smooth mash, how to make mayo and so on).

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Confit Fennel (image from the book, courtesy of Matthew Hopcraft)

A word about the Sweet Things chapter.  Matthew is a dentist, so on his Facebook page he’s a bit evangelical about reducing sugar in the diet.  But I’m with him on this: I find that all the cakes and biscuits I bake at home are much nicer than store-bought because they are not so nauseatingly sweet.  But in the cookbook he makes the point that while he has reduced the sugar content of some recipes, of course his family eats desserts as special occasion treats and so there is a recipe for a Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart which is to die for.  The Caramelised White Chocolate Mousse looks scrumptious, and then there’s the intriguing Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and Confit Fennel.  Fennel?  Yes, fennel, and I’m going to try this because we quite often have leftover fennel and it looks like a very nice way to use it up!

Amongst the Basic Things, there’s also a recipe for Chocolate Soil … I’ve been wondering how to make that for a while.  It looks like a very easy way to jazz up a simple dessert and there are some interesting suggestions for experimenting with different flavours too.  But to start with,  I’m thinking that a clever do-ahead for a dinner party would be poached pears on a basic chocolate soil with some of my homemade lemon ice cream, maybe with some toasted flaked almonds as a garnish?

The book is a good A4 size, 136 pages, and a nice big font for easy reading.  There are plenty of full page colour illustrations – though not every recipe is illustrated, probably to keep printing costs down so that the book can be sold at a reasonable price. What’s missing is an index, which is a pity, and I picked up one small proof-reading error, which is easily fixed with a biro: the recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks on p.61 refers to honey roasted cauliflower on p.122 as a delicious accompaniment but the page reference is wrong, it should be p128.

Beef and Pepperberry Pie (image from the book, courtesy of Matthew Hopcraft)

Though I would urge every cook to source the pepperberries rather than use ordinary black pepper for that signature pie, I like the way that Matthew has suggested alternatives if some ingredients are hard-to-get, and he also tempts the home cook to be ambitious where possible.  He says in the Introduction that Masterchef taught him to experiment more:

Masterchef taught me a lot about cooking.  I used to be very reliant on recipes – it was probably the scientist in me, cooking like it was an experiment.  Follow the recipe to the letter, and a delicious meal will appear.  However, on Masterchef I learnt very quickly how to create new dishes, balance flavour and to constantly taste my food.  I had never really paid too much attention to flavour profiles – sweet, salty, acidity, bitterness and umami.  Sure, I remembered them from high school cooking and science classes (although umami didn’t exist back then, at least not where I went to school).  Now I’m much more conscious of how a dish needs to be constructed, and what needs to be added or adjusted to improve the overall balance of the meal.  I would strongly encourage anyone reading this to be more experimental and creative with your cooking.  Use the recipes as a guide, or for the basic building blocks and concepts of a dish, and see how you can incorporate your own combination of flavours and textures. (p.6)

You can find out more about Matthew and check out some of his recipes at his website.

PS I nearly forgot!  We got to sample the recipe for Chocolate Brownies at the launch – and they were delicious:)

20170604_140730Update (the next day) Today I experimented with Matthew’s Anzac biscuits, which are made with a whole half-cup less sugar than my usual recipe from my trusty 1970 edition of the Women’s Weekly Cookbook.   Not only are they delicious, but The Supreme Taste Tester (a.k.a. The Spouse) says he can taste the golden syrup flavour more than usual.   Dead easy to whip up on a Sunday afternoon: five minutes to mix and fifteen minutes in the oven.  And since they’re made using a jam spoon to drop the mix onto the baking pan so that they are a bit smaller than store-bought…  we can happily justify having two with a nice cup of tea!

Update: more recipes from my adventures with this cookbook:

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Author: Matthew Hopcraft
Title: Food to Feed the Family
Publisher: Matthew Hopcraft, produced using BookWright and printed by Blurb Books
ISBN: 9781364200183
Source: Personal copy, purchased at the launch.

For Australian buyers (shipping to Australia only):
The book costs AU$40 including postage to anywhere in Australia.
For an order form & payment details, send an email to:

For international (non-Australian) buyers only:
The book is AU$30 (+ 10% GST), and Blurb will calculate postage to your country. The cookbook is now available for purchase directly from the publisher website (Blurb):


  1. Reblogged this on The Logical Place.


  2. Thanks for the heads up, Lisa. Matt Hopcraft did some consulting work with my company. He’s a top bloke and it sounds like a top book! I’ll buy a copy for my colleague who worked with Matt.


    • Wonderful!
      I do hope the book does well. The hard part with any book is the selling of it in a crowded market, but I reckon at the end of the day it’s word of mouth that works best. (Even when the word of mouth is via a blog not person-to-person).


  3. I’d better get a copy for upcoming 40th birthday daughter who’s a Masterchef fan.


    • Good idea:) Matthew autographs Australian orders!


  4. He was such a lovely man. It was great that he made it so far in the house. He had dignity and confidence, without being stuffy. Sounds like an excellent book.


    • I usually find that the older contestants are the most interesting, though this year young Callan is a great contestant!


      • Yes, he is, though we haven’t seen a huge lot of him yet. It’s a very interesting group this year.


  5. […] Hopcraft’s beef and pepperberry pie.  (The recipe is in Food to Feed the Family (see here), and it is to die for.  For no other pie will your friends drop what they were doing to come […]


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