Review: The Food Clock by Fast Ed Halmagyi

Another cookbook made it’s way across my desk this week and this one is just a little bit different from the norm.  “The Food Clock”, by Fast Ed Halmagyi (Harper Collins), takes current fondness for the thoroughly sensible trend of eating seasonally and gives it quite a whimsical little twist that I’ve not really seen before.  Using the device of a fictional story featuring his alter-ego Monseuir Henri Petit-Pois whose discovery of a clock which tells what to eat rather than the time, Fast Ed walks us through the four seasons focusing on the peak produce for each one.

Fast Ed Halmagyi is well known in Australia as a chef, TV presenter, radio host and author, with three previous cookbooks under his belt.  The child of Hungarian parents, Fast Ed grew up on Hungarian cuisine, but is well known for his fondness for fresh, seasonal, produce prepared simply and easily.  This new book of his aims to help those of us who are responsible for the family meals move out of our cooking ruts and away from the same meals that we prepare over and over, encouraging us to take advantage of the bounty of each individual season.  At the same time, he wanted to give the whole cookbook format something of a gee-up, hence the novel approach of using a fanciful narrative format.

I’m not really sure that the story aspect of this book does it for me, although it is a pleasant new approach for the genre.  However, what does do it for me are the gorgeous photo’s, illustrations and styling of the book.  It is beautifully presented from the perfectly composed  and lit cover shot of a dapper and slightly brooding Fast Ed, to the delicate story illustrations and the rustic presentation and styling of the food.  And, let’s be honest, the food is what we’re really after.

Divided into Hot, Cool, Cold and Warm O’Clocks and the quarter-hour graduations, each of the “The Food Clock” sections features a selection of the seasonal produce available, but not quite in the order you might expect.  This can make specific recipes difficult to find, but that is what the index is for.  By setting the book out in this way, the reader (and cook) is encouraged to wander around the sections and is much more likely to be tempted to try something new to them, than if they were to head straight for the dish they wanted.  I think this is a gentle, but clever way to nudge us out of our staid cooking routines, opening our eyes to other meal-time  possibilities.

The recipes themselves are fresh, simple and delicious, featuring dishes such as Pan Roasted Duck  with (dried) Figs, Orange and Dandelion greens, Warm Camembert with Fricassee of  Mushrooms, Crispy Quail with Mandarin Salt and Apricot Stuffing, Cherry Pie and Honey Petit Pots de Creme – all of them just a teensy bit special, but well within the reach of any home cook and not requiring the purchase of ingredients which may never otherwise see the light of day.

There are also quite few baking recipes, including several breads.  I’ve been a little slack with my baking efforts of late so I decided to give one of Fast Ed’s bread recipes a whirl, knowing how much my family loves to come home on a cold evening to house smelling of fresh-baked bread.  I was a little sceptical as to how this recipe for the traditional French fougasse would turn out, but the end result was one of the most delicious and fluffiest breads I have made in ages – largely due, I suspect, to the long proving times.

Olive and Rosemary Fougasse

Recipe type: Bread

Author: Fast Ed Halmagyi

  • 500 gms strong bread flour (not ordinary plain flour)
  • 3/4 (5.5gms) sachet of dried yeast
  • 300 mls water
  • 50 gms rye flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 150 gms pitted green olives, chopped
  • 150 gms pitted black olives, chopped
  • leaves from 6 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine 150 gms of the bread flour with half the yeast & 150 mls of the water in bowl of an electric mixer & beat with dough hook until smooth & elastic. Cover with plastic wrap & leave for 3 hours, until dough has risen then collapsed.
  2. Add the remaining bread flour, yeast & water, the rye flour & salt – mix on slow for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth.
  3. Turn on to a floured surface and knead in the olives, rosemary and half the olive oil until well distributed. Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap again and leave for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 240C.
  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, then stretch out to form rough triangles on paper lined baking trays. Slash deeply, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Place immediately on wire racks and brush with remaining oil.

Buy the book here…

Amanda McInerney blogs at Lambs’ Ears and Honey

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Amanda McInerney

Happily nestled on a small farm in the Adelaide Hills, I'm author/publisher of Lambs’ Ears and Honey, a food blog with a strong focus on seasonal, local, regional food and food security/politics. I've worked widely with regional South Australian food and wine groups, iconic South Australian food producers and their various marketing arms, the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market and national food production groups (e.g Meat & Livestock Association, Australian Mushroom Growers).

2 thoughts on “Review: The Food Clock by Fast Ed Halmagyi”

  1. Recipe for corned beef in orange and cardamon featured in
    Sun Herald Sunday Life magazine 2nd September 2012.
    Is it correct to add semolina cream and parmesan with the meat were there any more instructions with this recipe.

  2. Sylvia – I would have :-
    1) combined the cream and the chicken stock in a pot
    2) bought liquid to the almost boil
    3) turned down temp and added semolina slowly, whisking to prevent lumps
    4) adjust temp and bring to slow boil for about 3-5 minutes or until semolina comes away from sides of pot
    5) add parmesan, (salt and pepper to taste)

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