Review – A Curry for Murray

A Curry for Murray It is no secret; I am a glutton for a great plate of nosh. I love looking at it. I love preparing it. I love sharing it. And, I love reading about it. This is why I could gobble up A Curry for Murray by sensational new picture book team, Kate Hunter and Lucia Masciullo again and again. It simply is delicious!

Murray, Maureen, and Molly are neighbours. One day, Murray has some bad news. And what does one do when neighbours are in need? Why, they cook for them, of course.

With all the spirit and zeal of a junior Master Chef, Molly cooks up a storm, beginning with a curry for Murray. Her repertoire quickly expands into a mouth-watering menu of kindness with dishes for her best friends, family, pets, and even royalty. Until one day, an accident forces Molly to hang up her apron and accept kindness in return from her neighbours.

Curry for Murray illo spreadA Curry for Murray is a veritable feast for the senses. Clever word play and some incongruous combinations of dishes, exotic locations and occupations, brilliantly blends the concepts of being kind unto others and exercising charity together while introducing young palettes to many varied styles of cuisine. It’s fantastic to see the Toad in the Hole represented alongside Singapore Noodles!

Kate HunterHunter’s luscious and eclectic narrative not only tickles the tastebuds with its cute rhyming rhythm but also takes readers on a gastronomic tour that far exceeds Molly’s neighbourhood. However, we all know, we eat with our eyes, so it’s little wonder that the utterly delectable illustrations of Lucia Masciullo will have you drooling all over the place.

Masciullo’s watercolour and pencilled drawings ingeniously breaks down each concoction into its core components. Children are able to identify each ingredient of the dish and may even be inspired to recreate it themselves. What better way to encourage clean, healthy living.

Lucia Masciullo 2Masciullo defines herself as a ‘visual explorer’. A Curry for Murray takes this description to the nth level of satisfaction for me. Details such as a scattering of herbs, pinches of cayenne pepper and pasta glistening with olive oil are inspired and leave me salivating for more.

Fun, thought provoking and sumptuous. A Curry for Murray is a picture book with three Michelin star appeal.

Consume your copy here!

UQP  April 2015

 

 

The I Can’t Cook Cookbook

The Cook's CompanionI both agreed and disagreed with a friend recently when they marvelled at the sheer volume of cookbooks available and decreed that the market couldn’t possibly support such numbers. Agreed, because I too wonder how there could possibly be so many incarnations of said books, particularly given how expensive the production costs and subsequent shelf prices are. But disagreed—or perhaps despaired—because regardless of how many there are or how sustainable the market may or may not be, I still can’t find a cookbook for me.

My cooking problems are myriad, and I recognise that my needs are less niche than, well, tricky and a little odd. But I’m putting out my cookbook issues and wish list lest anyone know such a book exists.

I can’t cook.

And I really mean that I can’t cook. In fact, I think any cookbook I create could and should be—to paraphrase from the similarly titled one already around—The I Can’t Cook Cookbook.

Jamie OliverI haven’t the time for cooking.

By the time I’m ferreting around in the pantry, there’s only one thing I want to do: find food and get it in me. I’ve neither the patience nor the blood sugar levels to sustain a two-hour food prep time. In actuality, any food prep time is spent snacking on ingredients so: a) there’s not much left for the actual meal I’m attempting to prepare; and b) I’m no longer hungry by the time said food is ready and it goes to waste. And no, I can’t start earlier. I’m busy.

I lose patience with fiddly, time-consuming steps.

In spite of the fact that I can’t cook, I invariably get part of the way through cooking something and decide that some of the steps and/or ingredients are superfluous. So I skip them. Because clearly, in despite my complete lack of culinary training, I know better. If a recipe’s got more than about five steps, it’s all over.

I only like plain food or sweet food.

This one’s self-explanatory. I need a cookbook that skips anything that could be remotely considered a spice or a distant relative of a spice, and that instead hones in on anything plain or sugar-filled. Yes, this means that I lean towards cake cookbooks. Given my penchant for eating while I cook, cake mixture and I are old friends.

Moosewood CookbookI only eat one food at a time, so I need to be able to prepare it in bulk.

There are some things you don’t really want to be famous (read: infamous) for, but it’s well known among friends that I tend only to eat one food at a time, eat it until its death, and then never eat it again. There was the blueberry muffin phase. There was the sushi phase. There was the vegetable cannelloni phase. I can now neither eat nor even stomach the smell of all three. Regardless, when I was eating them, I needed them to be easy and quick to prep and able to be prepped and stored in bulk. I’m currently auditioning new foods to fill their places.

I can’t cook if I can’t see what I’m cooking.

No, I don’t need glasses—my eyesight’s fine. I need glossy, expensive-to-produce, food stylist-created pictures. For every single recipe. Because if I haven’t got something visual and salivation-inspiring to aspire to, I’m not interested.

MasterchefI’m a vegetarian.

Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, but I tend to forget that this isn’t how everyone operates. I’m reminded of that the hard way when I forget to order myself ‘special’ meals on long-haul flights. Either way, I don’t eat any animals—that includes chicken and fish (don’t get me started on those faux vegetarians); in short, anything with a face—and things like eggs or dairy only in the smallest amounts, and only then if they’re part of the bigger food picture. Think cheese on a pizza or eggs in a cake, but never on their own or as the primary part of the meal.

I’ve found that the problem with most vegetarian cookbooks is that they assume you live on a commune, grow your own vegies, run your own health food store, have limitless time for preparing things like lentils, which take days upon days to cook, and that you have a fully stocked pantry of specialised vegetarian ingredients. Where are the vego cookbooks for time-poor, inner city-dwelling writers, I ask?

I’m after low fat.

Isn’t everyone? After all, our diets are so saturated with artery-clogging, thigh-expanding fat that if we’re not after low fat, we’re probably in health trouble.

I hate capsicum, eggplant, and herbs.

Particularly herbs. Particularly rosemary, the all-powerful, all-tainting herb that recipe books always seem to contain and that restaurants not-so-conveniently forget to include on their list of potential meal selection ingredients. All three are deal breakers for me, at both cafes and in cookbooks. I realise that I could omit them from recipes, but it’s the principle that matters here. Vegetarian cookbooks are always loaded up with eggplant- and capsicum-featuring recipes with serious helpings of herbs to ‘add flavour’. Purchasing such a cookbook would be like giving the publisher a thumbs up for creating such a horror.

Skinny Bitch in the KitchI haven’t the interest or the inclination to chase all over town for quirky ingredients.

The moment you say ‘vegetarian’, recipe books say ‘expensive, almost-impossible-to-find ingredients’ that you’ll spend days trying to source, will only need a pinch of, and that will spend the rest of its shelf life attracting weevils to your cupboard. Case in point, the Skinny Bitch in the Kitch vegan cookbook. Add in the fact that the hard-to-find ingredients have American names and you have to use Google translation to decipher what they’d be called in Australia and where precisely on this continent you might find them, and you can understand why the book ended up gathering dust on my shelf and I ended up eating rice crackers for dinner.

Sigh.

I realise that this is an eclectic and entirely embarrassing list of needs and tastes and that the word ‘fussy’ springs to mind. Either way, it’s incredible how difficult it is for someone with my tastes to find a suitable cookbook.

I say vegetarian. They say impossible, specialist ingredients + herbs.

I say vegetarian. They say bland, cheaply produced cookbook without pictures.

I say low fat. They say spicy to get your metabolism going and bucket loads of protein, i.e. meat…

Nigella LawsonI mean, forget Masterchef cookbooks—they’re too over the top and too meat-filled. Forget The Cook’s Companion—alluring as it is with its new stripy cover, it’s much too large and overwhelmingly intimidating for a newbie to cooking like me. Forget anything Jamie Oliver-ish—he’s cute and his books are beautifully produced, but they include far too much meat replete with pictures about how to kill it [the cute farmyard animal pictured just a few pages before] and carve it. Forget anything Nigella Lawson-themed. We all know that’s just gastroporn. And forget Moosewood Vegetarian Cookbook—it lacks glossy pictures and is chock filled with tricky-to-find ingredients with American names.

The question is, is there a low fat, plain + sweet, herb-, capsicum-, and eggplant-free, quick-and-easy cookbook for people who can’t cook out there in the market? And if so, can you please tell me its name?

Tastes Better, Sits Better.

It Tastes BetterAs someone who’s infamous for going through phases of eating only one food at a time and then never being able to eat them again—ah sushi, how I miss you—and as someone who finds constant, blatant, viewer-assaulting advertising masquerading as entertainment—ala Masterchef—equally as difficult to stomach, I’m afraid the fascination with the celebrity chef and the suburban wannabe chef has largely passed me by.

Couple that with a sizeable concern about the ethics and environmental impact of our food choices and food production practices and I’m, well, perhaps not cooking shows’ and cookbooks’ target market.

How I recently signed up to go see chef turned author turned presenter Kylie Kwong (about whom I had only the vaguest of notions) speak about her new book, It Tastes Better, I’ll never know. But I’m very glad I did—it turns out that Kwong is not your ordinary celebrity chef and her and my thinking are quite closely aligned.

Ahead of the it’s-cool-to-be-seen-to-be-green fad, Kwong, who trained with Rockpool’s Neil Perry before opening her own restaurant with Bill Granger, implemented some seriously, not-just-for-show green measures way back in 2004.

Among its thumbs-up practices, her restaurant uses only sustainable, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal produce and serves filtered tap water instead of the bottled variety. In fact, the restaurant’s so groundbreaking and green it was awarded The Sydney Morning Herald’s inaugural Sustainability Award in 2009.

Kwong possesses the energy of someone who’s living their dream. She’s passionate, she’s compelling, and she’s incredibly, infectiously funny. It Tastes Better is the print realisation and recognition of her beliefs. It’s also a tribute, if you like, to the producers who provide food for her restaurant and their willingness to stick to their principles and pursue their dreams when there are other more efficient but ultimately ethically or environmentally unsound production alternatives. In this tome, Kwong pairs over 100 salivation-worthy recipes with stories of, and interviews with, the producers themselves.

Then there are the spectacular, hearty, textured photographs. The book is good enough to eat, and the rich images and text give me hope that we’re starting to move in the right direction for food production. It helps that we’re being led by someone as knowledgeable, down to earth, committed, and downright likeable as Kwong.

Will I be buying a copy of It Tastes Better? Yep. Will I be visiting her restaurant next time I’m in Sydney. Of course. Any chef/author/presenter who can almost turn a non-foodie environmentalist like me into a foodie must be very, very good at her job. The food might taste better, but the philosophies and practices behind it also sit better with me.

If Anne Rice Says It, It’s Gospel

Firstly, guys, apologies for deserting the blog for over a week…put it down to an incredibly hectic College of Law schedule. In case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure I passed everything so I guess the sleepless nights, lack of socialisation and the mountainloads of chewed-up printer paper must have somehow been worth it (won’t someone please think of the TREES??)!

We should be back to our regular programme broadcasting now – I’ve been itching to discuss a bit more about angels, devils, and their current plan for world domination. And what better person to ask “Are Angels the New Vampires?” than the undisputed queen of contemporary vampire fiction – Anne Rice.

If you’ve just fainted in your chair with excitement, I hate to disappoint you, but I didn’t actually score an interview with Anne Rice (I mean, I’m good, but I ain’t THAT good). I did, however, notice that she’s been cornered by various journalists to give her point of view on the angels versus vampires debate.

Most of us who can stomach such bloodsucking stuff have seen that classic movie adaptation of Rice’s first book in the vampire series – Interview with the Vampire. Even now, I still can’t fathom the fact that they somehow managed to get Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas to all have a go at donning fangs on the same movie set. The mind boggles.

Being the trendsetter that she is, Rice created The Vampire Chronicles’ most fashionable character, the vampire Lestat, as a golden-maned Don Juan with a love of cravats that could rival Masterchef’s Matt Preston. Early in the series, Lestat has a go at the 80s rock scene, and many fans love him for the devil-may-care attitude he displays during these first couple of books. But my personal favourite, which shows early signs of what would be a massively new direction for Anne Rice’s writings later on, is Memnoch the Devil, published 1997. The novel represented the holy dilemma vampires face: how can vampires be a product of God? Are they naturally forsaken, or can they be saved?

Lestat meets a man in a suit, who introduces himself as Memnoch the Devil and spins a yarn Paradise Lost-style. Turns out there are two sides to every story and the Devil’s an angel who’s been misunderstood all this time. Lestat rides on Memnoch’s coattails (or should that be forked tail?) through Heaven, Hell and History, all the while experiencing inner conflict, as he struggles with his sympathy for the Devil versus the possible chance for redemption with a God he had never believed existed. The story of Memnoch the Devil can also be said to have reflected Rice’s own inner religious turmoil at the time (she ended up rejoining the Catholic church in 1998 after years of atheism).

So why did Rice continue writing books for The Vampire Chronicles, and why did she end them when she did (in 2004)?
She told Wall Street Journal:

“Vampires for me were always like feeling grief for my lost childhood faith, being cut off from that life. I reached the point where I didn’t have any more stories to tell from that point of view.”

At the conclusion of the Chronicles, Rice seemed to have made a decision to leave the doomed vampires behind and embark on a writing pilgrimage. Her last two books were spiritual stories about Jesus Christ, and while interesting, they didn’t seem to have the same passion of her earlier works. Imagine my excitement in late 2009 when she released Angel Time, a story of an assassin who is offered redemption by an angel for his sins (sound familiar?)… I haven’t got around to reading it yet: if any of you have, what did you think?

And whether you liked Angel Time or didn’t like it, I also want to know: what does Anne Rice think of her new direction ?

Being on the side of the angels, it feels much better than being on the side of the vampires. Vampires were tortured, tragic figures.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

VIDEO POST: Masterchef Julie Goodwin on her new cookbook

Julie Goodwin, Masterchef 2009 winner, chats to Random House about her brand new cookbook.

Our Family Table by Julie Goodwin
Since taking out the coveted title of Australia’s first MasterChef, Julie Goodwin has been cooking, testing and writing away like mad, preparing to publish her first cookbook. Full of lovely stories and recipes and feasts, with a strong focus on good old-fashioned tucker.