Cookbook road test: A Simple Table: Fresh and Fabulous Recipes for Everyday
The book: A Simple Table: Fresh and Fabulous Recipes for Every Day by Michele Cranston (£14.99, Murdoch Books)
If you’re after the kind of cookbook that invites armchair dreaming about exotic locations and ingredients, this is not the book for you.
If, on the other hand, you’re fed up with chefs waffling on about their philosophies, or 20-year-olds enthusing about strict, but transformative, health- giving regimes, you’ll be relieved that this book doesn’t have a chia seed in sight.
Neither will you have to wade through chapters of spurious health advice, or swear off major food groups before getting to the point: the recipes. “This isn’t a book about clever food – there are no culinary gymnastics, no liquid nitrogen party tricks and no mention of the word ‘diet’,” promises Michele. Hurrah to that.
So, want something nice and not too tricksy to put together for a midweek dinner for two? Head for the Two Bowls chapter. Need some new ideas to liven up family meals? See the Four Plates section. There are also chapters for weekend platters, one-pot meals, side dishes, tea-time treats and some stunning-looking desserts.
QUALITY OF THE RECIPES
The author has been a cook and food stylist for more than 25 years. She is currently food-editor-at- large at Australian Women’s Weekly and has written 12 cookbooks in the deservedly popular Marie Claire series. She sure knows how to write an appealing recipe, then hone it down until it’s as concise as can be.
The recipe intros are in a script that I found tricky to read so I looked at the pictures and weighed up the yum factor before settling on two veg-centric dishes: ricotta and cavolo nero ‘gnocchi’ with sage butter (UK cooks would call it gnudi as it’s not potato-based), and a nice-looking buttery potato cake. Once I got stuck into the first recipe, I was a bit concerned that one large egg yolk and 35g flour wouldn’t be enough to hold the gnocchi together when they hit the boiling water. I needn’t have worried – they emerged light, almost fluffy, before being bathed in butter and sprinkled with crisp sage leaves. The dish was decidedly generous for two and eagerly devoured.
Next I launched into the buttery potato cake. It looked pretty fancy but, provided you have a mandoline, it’s dead easy. As with the previous recipe, the instructions were clear. Mine took a bit longer to cook than stated in the recipe, but I did use a high-sided cake tin rather than the frying pan called for so that was my own dumb fault. It looked as good as the picture and didn’t take too long to disappear, courtesy of my dinner guest.
Beautifully lit pictures by Aussie shooter Petrina Tinslay recall the lightness and brightness of southern hemisphere sunshine and give the reader a definite idea about what to aim for. The styling (by the author) is classy and clean, and the clever line drawings (also by the author) give the book individuality.
You don’t need to be a master of technique, have piles of cooking kit or masses of time to give these recipes a whirl – just a good appetite. It’s a book for confident cooks who like to feed people.
STAR RATING ★★★