Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 3 stars
Publisher: Smith Street Books/ Simon & Schuster
‘Fast Ed’ Halmagyi has a reputation as a TV chef with a love of simple, fresh cooking that gets you in and out of the kitchen quickly. If readers (or viewers) are intimidated by the complexity of his recipes, Fast Ed considers it failing at his mission to make restaurant worthy food achievable by all. This is a man who wants to make cooking accessible, no matter how baffled you are in a kitchen. In his first cookbook in 5 years, ‘The Everyday Kitchen’, Fast Ed is out to prove that uncomplicated cooking doesn’t mean living on the same tired recipes.
The ideology behind ‘The Everyday Kitchen’ is summed up pretty well by Fast Ed’s opening words: relax. Take a deep breath. It’s just food. This isn’t the sort of book that treats cooking as a sacred act or an art form, and if you’re looking for the Masterchef™ style of fanfare, where each step of a dish has a dozen processes, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking for quick, easy, and café or restaurant ready, you might just love ‘The Everyday Kitchen’.
‘The Everyday Kitchen’ sets readers a challenge: once a week for a year, try one of the ‘recipes’. Each recipe is a set of four simple elements that work together to create a meal (or, in the case of desserts, a multi-layered indulgence). Each element has the bare minimum number of processes, keeping the overall meal quick and easy to prepare.
Though the processes are simple, this isn’t bare basics, no frills cooking, and if you’re on a very strict budget, it might not be the recipe collection you’re hoping for. This isn’t the sort of cooking just needing a quick stop at Coles or Woolies: quite a few of the recipes require more specialised ingredients. Generally, it’s deli fare, but if you’re time poor, or living somewhere where, say, pine buds aren’t easy to source, there’s probably at least a few recipes that will either need some reinvention, or to be bypassed. There’s not a lot of advice on where to source the less common ingredients, and unless you’re a Masterchef™ contestant, there’s probably a Google quest in your future if you want to try at least a few of these recipes. For those who don’t mind some Google time, it’s a great way to learn new things to bring into the kitchen. For those starting out, it may get a tad frustrating.
I’m working from a preview copy here, so I’m hoping this is remedied in the final version, but a few of the recipes are in need of a read through and edit. There’s a few recipes that ask you to preheat your oven hours earlier than needed, or before you put meat in the fridge to marinate overnight, and a few little niggles that will annoy the daylights out of the pedantic reader. Hopefully it won’t be in final versions, but it is if nothing else a timely reminder to home cooks to always read the recipe through fully before starting to cook.
It’s fair to say that there are a couple of niggling issues at play here. Still, the tastes are fresh, fun, and probably the types of things you could persuade a finicky eater to at least try. If you’re a fan of fancy looking food that doesn’t take a mortal lifetime over a stove to prepare, and are willing to play ‘source the ingredient’, it’s certainly a collection worth checking out.
‘The Everyday Kitchen’ is published through Smith Street Books/ Simon & Schuster, and is available through leading retailers.