September 28, 2016 | Reviews of various cookbooks (from a variety of publishers), available now from any good bookseller.
It is no secret to the people who know me that I love to cook. We eat hardly any takeaway food and not a lot of processed snacks. I’m not a chef, nutritionist, personal trainer, food blogger or an aspiring Masterchef contestant. I don’t follow any particular eating plan. I’m an ordinary person, we are an ordinary family, and we just like good food.
My shelves are bursting with incredible cookbooks. I can’t help myself, I am addicted to buying them! But I have a secret… I hardly ever follow a full recipe. I used to with baking, but even that has become a little flexible over time, and tested when specific ingredients weren’t available in my pantry. This is a trait that used to frustrate me about my Nan, who produced delicious food with her eyes closed, and now annoys my children as they learn to cook on their own.
Nan, having grown up experiencing a world in wartime, constantly baffled me with wishy washy quantities (a handful of this, a sprinkle of that) and substitute ingredients. What I’ve learned over time is that this is a SKILL and it comes from experience, otherwise known as cooking a lot, and also, by problem solving those inevitable times when the pantry is bare of the ingredient on the list.
What cookbooks bring, the thing I am addicted to, is inspiration. And in this pile of cookbooks there is plenty of inspiration, loads to get those tastebuds salivating. They are also great for teenagers starting to skill up, before they fly the nest (and to counteract the wishy washy instructions called out by their Mum).
Here we go… from the bottom to the top.
SIMPLICIOUS by Sarah Wilson (Pan Macmillan Australia), is full of beautifully presented recipes with an earthy, hipster feel. The focus is on eliminating food waste and also using the slow cooker. We have enjoyed the jelly recipes and dressings, the salad bowls and preserved garlic.
EVERYDAY SUPER FOOD by Jamie Oliver (Penguin). This is the cookbook that you can’t go wrong with. Packed full of fresh recipes that are great for the family and easy to prepare (trademark Jamie Oliver), this one also has some nifty frozen yoghurt recipes lovely energy balls and a philosophy of ‘the balanced plate’. Never had a bad word from the family about recipes in this book AND when recommended to friends, they have come back with similarly high praise (even from fussy eaters).
WHAT’S FOR DINNER? by My Food Bag & Nadia Lim (Allen & Unwin), is a book of 80 weeknight recipes based on the ‘Nude Food Philosophy’ which is about stripping food back to basics and ignoring fads and media hype (my kind of book). Recipes have been tried and tested, with feedback from customers provided within the pages. Check out www.myfoodbag.com.au for more information.
RIVER COTTAGE: LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury). Even if you aren’t a fan of River Cottage there is so much to love in this book. It has a homey, ecological feel, in line with the show where self sustainability is key. The recipes are delicious and easy to follow. The key philosophy here – don’t waste food, be creative and be satisfied when you create something delicious from what seems like nothing (a great book to encourage experimentation and build cooking techniques).
THERMO-STRUCK by Kim McCosker (Turntable Enterprises). I got this book to try and fall in love with my Thermo cooker. And while I do see the benefits of thermocookers, I think this style of cooking is more for people without much in the way of cooking experience (quite a lot of people these days it seems). It is absolutely the best for making warm spice mixes, custards and sauces. The book itself is not attractive, but the recipes work, even if you use more conventional means to make them. I have hardly used it, preferring nearly any other book. (Feel free to change my mind anytime).
SUPER GREEN SMOOTHIES by Sally Obermeder & Maya Koraiem (Allen and Unwin), is a pretty great little smoothie book for novices, with some ridiculously delicious flavoured smoothies. We love Coconut Ice, Liver Cleanser, The Original Skinny, Choc Cherry and Espresso Yourself.
Finally, THE HAPPY COOKBOOK by Lola Berry (Pan Macmillan Australia). This is a funky little hipster cookbook that would appeal to teenagers as well as adults. The recipes are yum, nutritionally balanced (Lola is a nutritionist), and all recipes are sugar and gluten free (don’t let this put you off). It is a vibrant little cookbook and quite inspiring!
So that’s it folks. Any (or all) of these books would make a great addition to your inspiration shelf and might offer some ideas for dinner tonight!