Growing up I was surrounded by good cooks. My Grandma was amazing at traditional home cooked meals and any kind of baking, and when my mom put her mind to it she could cook the most fantastic specialty food ever. So needless to say, I grew up cooking. But somewhere along the way, probably in University, I got way too busy to deal with making food, forgot most of what I knew and crabbed that all I was looking for in "the perfect" guy was a great cook. I hated the effort and the mess involved.
Then I graduated. I was hopelessly unemployed, and broke. I was bored, hungry and had oodles of time on my hands to figure out cooking again. And I was really sick of spaghetti, toast and popcorn. So the future hubby and I went questing for the quintessential cookbook. We wanted something with simple, basic recipes (we cooked minute rice because we had no idea how to cook the real stuff), and we wanted a picture for everything. Sounds easy right? Well now a days it is, but ten years ago there was almost no such thing. Except for Donna Hay.
Which is how I became a dedicated Donna Hay fan, and eventually, a really great cook. And *GASP* I now love cooking. Since I'm such a die hard for the culinary arts, it stands to reason that cookery presents landed under the tree, and Donna Hay's latest (in Canada and the States, it's been out ages in Australia) Fast, Fresh, Simple was one of them.
I've tried three recipes from it so far and I'm pretty happy with both how simple and how fast they all have been. I started out with the baked risotto with prawns. Now I have to preface this by saying I was a doubter when it came to baked risottos. I wasn't sure how it could possibly be the right consistency baked so I'd never tried one before, sticking instead to doing it the hardcore- stove top way.
The recipe was super fast, arborio rice, chicken broth, chopped leaks and some lemon rind, thrown in a pot and baked for a brief amount of time, then you throw in the prawns and parsley for the last bit of time.
All that's needed to finish it off is a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
I had a bunch of spinach in the fridge so I mixed parsley with the spinach and omitted the salt to keep it a bit healthier.
I was really impressed with the results, it was a super simple and fast recipe that tasted every bit as delicious as risotto laboriously done on the stove top. The main difference being I got to spend 20 minutes reading instead of stirring!
The next recipe I made was a cheats chicken schnitzel. It was tasty but not quite as successful. You chopped up thyme, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and butter in a food processor, topped some flattened boneless chicken breasts with the mixture and broiled it for 7-8 minutes. It was the broiling that wasn't really ideal for this recipe. In the future I would pan sear the chicken, then top it with the bread crumbs and broil it a bit higher for a shorter time. To full on broil was to get some pasty looking chicken, a bit pink anywhere it touched the other chicken breast and with an uneven crisping of the bread crumbs (burnt in places).
Since the cookbook is broken into sections with desserts at the end of each, I thought it pretty imperative I make something sugary too. You know, in the interest of being thorough. So yesterday I made the chocolate cherry cakes.
They were uber simple, melt the chocolate and butter together, then stir together all the ingredients and pour into greased muffin tins. Top each one with a cherry and cook!
The batter had almond meal, brandy, flour, a small amount of sugar, three eggs and some baking powder, and once you stirred in the chocolate mixture it had a thick almost gummy consistency to it. Since cherries are wildly out of season I bought a mixed bag of frozen fruit and topped my cakes with blackberries and cherries.
I was leery about the texture of these little guys, but they were delicious. Heavy, with an almost fudgy texture but not too sweet, and a nice kick from the brandy. Plus they're a great serving size! I served mine with vanilla ice cream instead of the whip cream suggested.
So far I'm really happy with Fast, Fresh and Simple. It has provided recipes that are every bit as quick and delicious as promised with only one slight hitch. I'd highly recommend it for those of you looking for some good weekday ideas or for those who think they don't have time to cook during the week.
Fast, Fresh, Simple, By Donna Hay
Published by December 2010 by Harper Collins
Having a Foodie kind of weekend? Think about stopping by Beth Fish Reads for more foodie posts! Every weekend she hosts Weekend Cooking (I'm always stalking and never commenting or participating! Bad me), and it's full of lots of yummy reviews.