This book was provided by Allen&Unwin at no cost. Available from April 2016; RRP $34.99.
The book itself
This is a book produced out of recipes from the website My Food Bag, which I hadn’t come across before receiving the book – so it is kinda one big ad. Despite that, I have come down in favour of the book.
The recipes are all designed for weeknight cooking, so there’s generally a minimum of fuss involved. The recipes come from a range of cuisines (harissa to haloumi to coconut rice to steak); there’s a variety of meat, seafood and vego dishes; they’re divided into seasons to help you figure out fruit and veg availability. Every recipe comes with a little circle indicating whether it will take less, medium, or more time, and also whether the recipe is gluten and/or dairy free (or how to make it so; the index also lists all dishes that are GF or DF, as a distinct category). Plus, each recipe also lists the amount of energy, carb, protein and fat in it (… if you follow the recipe…).
Each double page is nicely laid out with the recipe on one side and a picture of the dish on the other. The pictures aren’t too overwhelming – they’re mostly trying to look like they’re on the dinner table – although mine tended not to look like the perfectly plated dishes. Of course. Each dish that I have made was straightforward; I didn’t have to puzzle out any instructions.
One quibble: although this is an Australian book, it refers to kumara (sweet potato) and courgettes (zucchini). I find this really bizarre.
To be honest, this isn’t the sort of book that I buy any more; I’ve become more of a fan of the single-cuisine cookbook that I fall pretty hard for. That said, I know exactly the sort of person I would give it to: someone who is straight out of home, and/or someone who is just starting to cook for themselves. The recipes aren’t intimidating and they do offer a variety of tastes, spices, and skill levels. If you know someone in that category, or want to revamp your own weekday cooking, this could be a good addition to your repertoire of recipes.
I treat this sort of cookbook a bit cavalierly. Sometimes I will follow a recipe to the letter, other times I will pick and choose bits to go together.
Thai pork patties with coconut rice: friends, I have now boiled rice FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. I followed the instructions in the book about how to do it with coconut milk (3/4 coconut and 3/4 water to 1 cup water), valiantly resisted the urge to lift the lid, and it was excellent. These pork patties (with ginger, sesame oil, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and coriander) are also very tasty.
Herb-crusted lamb: unexpectedly good, and I didn’t even have the Dijon mustard to act as the initial layer.
Tomato and bean salad: meant to go with steak but I used it with something else; toss cherry tomatoes for a minute or so in a pan, add cannellini beans and add some chimchurri – or, if you’re me, a handful of herbs. DELISH.
Open lasagne of courgette (!), artichokes, goat’s cheese and pesto: OMG. This is green and fresh and so, so tasty. If you were intimidated by the idea of trying to stack everything you could easily just use pasta and use this as a stir-through sauce. Will be making again.
Haloumi in filo: where have you been all my life turns out there is something else you can do with haloumi HALOUMI IN FILO.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised and am happy to have this on my shelf.
It’s available from Fishpond.