All Day Café: Café- Style Food to Make At Home by Stuart McKenzie
Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 4.5 stars
Publisher: Murdoch Books/ Allen & Unwin
You know a cook book is good when you’re meandering through it before bed, and feel the sudden, mad urge to get up and cook something from it. ‘All Day Café’ is the brainchild of Melbourne café owner and Chef Stuart McKenzie, an ode to the local café scene, but also a bit of a love letter to Australian produce and the flavours we love.
I went into this expecting an indulgent array of dishes that wouldn’t cope with time or cash restrictions, but I was pleasantly surprised. What’s good about ‘All Day Café’ is that, though the recipes sound tasty and look like the sorts of things you’d pay richly for at cafés, for the most part they’re affordable to cook, and don’t use hard to source ingredients. There are a few decadences, of course, but the majority of dishes can be made with a trip to the local shops, rather than more boutique markets.
These aren’t your bare basic, instant fix meals: they’re a little more finicky than that, but surprisingly, not by much. There are a few recipes that might fall into the ‘too hard’ basket, depending on your culinary confidence, but for the most part, these are the sorts of recipes that you can’t help looking at and thinking you can make them work.
These aren’t necessarily the healthiest dishes known to mankind, but they’re healthy-ish enough to not feel overly guilty for trying. And given most of the recipes include ideas for substitutions, it’s easy enough to make a version to suit dietary requirements, or to put your own spin on McKenzie’s flavour combinations.
‘All Day Café’ isn’t just a cook book, it’s also a teensy bit style guide. McKenzie, apparently, is quite a lover of interior design, and is more than happy to sprinkle this foodie guide with advice on how to pretty up your space. Look, there are probably a few moments you’ll mentally shout ‘hipster’, and McKenzie is pretty much the posterboy for that lifestyle. If you’re severely anti-hipster, that might be an issue. But, honestly? Try and ignore that anti-hipster rage, because the recipes look really, really good.
There are a few moments where McKenzie forgets himself, and gives instructions that won’t necessarily make sense without a Google search if you’re not overly kitchen savvy, but overall, he’s kept it simple and straightforward, with as few simple steps per recipe as possible. Maybe it’s a trick of the book formatting, but he’s made sure the recipes look easy, with enough white space on the page to make you think you won’t spend your night slaving over a stove if you try these recipes. They might not be the top pick if you’re incredibly time poor (though some do seem quick enough to risk trying if you’re rushed), but they also aren’t the sort of recipes that need hours and hours of prep to get right.
If you’re looking for some fresh, indulgent new meal ideas, this is a pretty good starting point.
‘All Day Café’ is published through Murdoch Books/ Allen and Unwin, and is available at selected retailers nationally.