I really like Michael Van de Elzen and his ‘Food Truck’ series. In theory, I also like the concept of eating healthier and focusing on what we put into our bodies (even if I never manage it quite like I should). Therefore, I was looking forward to his latest cookbook, Fast.
The introduction outlines his philosophy behind the book and he does say that most of the recipes should be able to be prepared in 40 minutes. In what may have been a hasty decision, I decided to give the book a bit of a test run. Disclaimer: maybe the week I chose to cook from it wasn’t the best week. You know how it goes when you’re really busy with work – anything and everything that could go wrong will. But, then again, it is during exactly that type of week that you will appreciate the food from this book: quick to prepare but also healthy and delicious. Given our lifestyles today, we often sacrifice “healthy” for time and these recipes are presented as an antidote to that.
So, I selected some recipes and gave it a go. In the interest of fairness I should point out that a super flash kitchen I do not have. In fact it is very small with an oven that was selected based on what would fit in the tiny space allotted (not much choice – my options stretched to silver or white). It also doesn’t do HOT very well… so it does take a bit of trial and error to get any recipe just right. Overall though, as delicious as the recipes sounded, ultimately what a cookbook should deliver is recipes that do what they say. In this instance I was looking for fast, but maybe my fast isn’t quite up there with Michael’s.
I tried the curry the first night. Can I just say the mango chutney was gorgeous? The bread was a bit of a disaster and the curry was nice but didn’t deliver the huge flavor hits I was hoping for. The next night I tackled the mushroom risotto. Now my track record with risottos is patchy at best, so I may be being a bit unfair here. This was a combination of Arborio and barley and there were a few moments in the recipe where I had to double check the instructions were correct. The results again were a bit mixed: it certainly didn’t look as great as the picture in the book. We did strike gold however the following night with the meatballs and polenta. Yum, yum, yum!
The recipes in Fast are presented as part of a well balanced menu for a dinner (a main, vegetables, accompaniments, and sometimes including a dessert). Each of the meals I cooked had lovely elements and, yes, you can just choose to cook part of it or mix and match. But to actually cook the whole menu on a weeknight definitely took longer than the 40 minutes claimed. And then there were the dishes. Now my partner and I have an agreement that whoever cooks gets to watch the other do the deed. My partner is practically the patron saint of dish washers but even he was defeated by the amount of dishes created (note tiny kitchen leaves no room for a dishwasher).
Overall this is a lovely cookbook to read and the wide variety of recipes and ingredients offer you inspiration on how you can cook things differently. There is also a fabulous section targeted at children’s eating habits. However, I’m not sure if “fast” is quite the impression I came away with. I won’t be defeated – there are too many yummy looking recipes for me not to dive back in on a weekend to cook some more – but I might need to hurry the renovations for the kitchen upgrade a bit first.