Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 2.5 stars
Publisher: Murdoch Books
‘Spiralise Your Vegetables’ had the potential to be a really useful, interesting cookbook. I had high hopes. But let’s get it out of the way: most of us see the word ‘spiralise’ and think ‘hipster’. There’s just a hint of righteousness to using what amounts to elongated grated bits of veg as if it’s a new and fantastical kitchen discovery, and that hipster connotation can be enough to put a lot of readers off. It doesn’t help that the Aussie eye is rarely fond of using ‘corgette’ in place of ‘zucchini’, or that there’s a dessert of sweet potato waffles: this is a cookbook that feels just a little bit pompous. If you’re okay with that, then you’re probably going to love it. If you’re still ranting that sweet potato isn’t a dessert food, then I’d probably give this one a miss.
There are recipes that sound delicious, if a little hard work. For the most part, though, these seem to be the sort of meals that will leave rather a lot of us hungry again soon after. And while the author argues that kids will love these recipes, it really does depend on the kid. Fussy eaters might not be too thrilled with worm looking things poking out of their burgers (though this is true for eaters of all ages, really).
Another problem is that there are points in certain recipes where using the spiraliser actually makes more work than using another method of preparation, or where using it will make eating the dish more difficult. That… kinda defeats the purpose, really. Having food look beautiful is wonderful, but when your dinner guests have to pause to ponder how to eat something that really shouldn’t require that kind of contemplation, they might not be as impressed as you’d hope.
For me, the killing blow arrived in the introduction (this is why I read the introductions last). As soon as a recipe writer starts talking about that all-important ‘healthy figure’ and ‘healthy glow’, my brain assumes the food is going to suck, and I lose interest. Oh, sure, talk about eating well, talk about adding more veg into your diet in new and fun ways, and I’m there. But as soon as the focus shifts to cultivating a certain kind of body shape, my care factor plummets. I could deal with the assumption that kale and quinoa would make a cameo (I was right). I could even grit my teeth through the author calling their own work ‘fresh and innovative’, but really? The most important element you could choose to focus on is cultivating a body shape?
What’s sad is that there are actually some amazing sounding- and tasting- recipes out there which feature spiralised vegetables- there’s even one I use semi-regularly that I love. There’s more than enough scope for vegetable based cookery such as this to feel indulgent and even a little gleefully hedonistic while actually being incredibly healthy. But while I was really excited to see where Armbruster took her recipe theme, precious few of the dishes made me want to grab some ingredients and get cooking.
‘Spiralise Your Vegetables’ isn’t really the cookbook for the time poor chef, given the prep required, and if you’re looking to smuggle veg into the kid’s diets, these recipes aren’t what you’re looking for. Ribbons of zuchinni in your chocolate muffins are more than a little obvious, after all. But if you’re okay with food that might be a little more complicated to eat, but that looks fabulous, it’s pretty much a certainty there’ll be something in here you’ll like the look of.
‘Spiralise Your Vegetables’ is published by Murdoch Books, and is available at discerning retailers around the country.