Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 5, 2017

Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook (2017)

JUlie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook Well, I’ve barely had time to try more than a few recipes from Wow! It’s Italian when lo! into my PO box came Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook today.

Masterchef aficionados will recognise the author as the winner of the very first Australian Masterchef season in 2009.  Julie Goodwin is proof that this TV reality program changes lives.  Formerly an IT professional, she now writes a regular food column for a magazine, she’s on radio, she runs a cooking school and she is the author of six cookbooks:

This Essential Cookbook isn’t the glossy coffee table type: it’s under $40 for the paperback version, and it’s not lavishly illustrated like many cookbooks are.  It’s more the sort of cookbook that makes an ideal gift for young people starting out in their own kitchens or for someone who’s just never learned to cook.  It’s very like the cookbook that my colleague at the State Film Centre, Mrs Mac, gave me as a wedding present long, long ago, inscribed with the now somewhat quaint message that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’

Well, the world has changed and now it’s not just women who are expected to do their share in the kitchen.  But many families live on takeaway and reheated meals from the supermarket freezer, and so there are people of all ages who don’t know how to cook at all.  Sometimes it’s when the two-income family drops to one that the cost of this lifestyle becomes unsustainable.  Sometimes there’s a need to learn to cook because of health issues.  Whatever the reason there’s a need for sensible cookbooks with family recipes, and that’s the purpose of this Essential Cookbook.

The 250-odd recipes are everyday basics, made with everyday and mostly inexpensive ingredients.  In the Introduction Julie explains that this is because it was written for her newly adult children:

I want them to have these recipes not just so that they can cook well but so they can cook for the people in their lives and, through that act of love, draw them closer and make they feel valued.  So they can create new memories of their own, and by doing that be truly connected to the patchwork of our family through generations.  So they can have family meals like we have – gathered around a table, appreciating the food, laughing and talking about the day.  So their children might develop their own passion for cooking and pay it forward to their children.

The book is set out in sections:

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Sauces, soups and dips
  • Vegetables and preserves
  • Baking
  • Desserts.

There are some blank pages to add your own recipes or notes, and a comprehensive index, set out alphabetically, the way I like it.

I’m certainly not a beginner in the kitchen so the recipes in the savoury sections were almost all familiar to me, though there were some dips and sauces I like the sound of:

  • Roast beetroot dip
  • Blue cheese and almond dip
  • Caramelised onion jam
  • Baileys and white chocolate dipping sauce!

But my repertoire is only now in my retirement extending to baking.  My father is in aged care, and he loves sweet things.  But for ease of swallowing, the daily treats I bring him have to be moist, not crisp, and so I headed straight for the baking section, where I found a good selection of new things to try.

  • Little carrot cakes (I’ll make some, for us, with the candied walnuts, and leave them off for my dad)
  • Lime coconut cupcakes (the lime tree is in season now, yay!)
  • a Zucchini cake for when we are drowning in next summer’s zucchinis) – and also the Pea, Zucchini and Feta Muffins
  • an inexpensive Chocolate cake (many recipes these days call for luxury chocolate as an ingredient, this one just uses cocoa powder and the choc bits you buy in the supermarket)
  • Lemon scented scones with lemon curd
  • Tiny mud cakes

There’s a good selection of flourless cakes too:

  • Flourless chocolate cake
  • Flourless citrus syrup cake (which takes 3 hours cooking time, but with lime, lemon and oranges, it sounds divine).
  • Flourless almond and pistachio syrup cake

The desserts include crumbles and steamed puddings which, once learned, become adaptable to other fruits than the ones in the recipes.  There’s also the infamous Banoffee Pavlova Roulade, not one I will ever make but I’m sure many people will.   There’s two trifle recipes, an old-fashioned sherry trifle and a delicious chocolate one with Frangelico and raspberries.  There’s a stunning Christmas wreath (if I ever master the art of making choux pastry) and six different cheesecakes, including the New York style version.  But the star of this section is, with Easter approaching, the Hot Cross Bun and Butter pudding, which is basically HCBs in a custard – what a clever idea!

Update: 9/4/17 Well, I did say that I was a novice in the baking department.  The chocolate cake was not a success.  I followed the recipe exactly, as you do when you are making a recipe for the first time, except for one thing.  I didn’t have a cake tin that measured 30 x 40, and I didn’t buy one because I didn’t think I would ever want to make a cake as big as that (30cm is the size of a ruler, and 40cm is one-third bigger again.  It wouldn’t have fitted in my cake storer either).   So I used the largest round pan I had.  I don’t have a photo of the mixture oozing out of the sides of it all over the oven, nor do I have a picture of my dismay as I kept putting it back in ‘for another five minutes’ until over an hour later it was finally cooked in the middle. I am not sure that I will put a ganache on the top of it, because although it tastes quite nice, I think the crispy side bits that are a bit dry are better chopped off and made into a chocolate trifle, maybe with the Frangelico and raspberries as suggested in the book.  BTW I would be very careful if doing this recipe with small children: the cocoa powder has to be mixed with boiling water and then set aside till it cools so there’s a potential for burns.

Julie Goodwin cake, icedUpdate, the next day: I recovered my equanimity and decided to try the chocolate ganache.  I think it must be fool-proof because it turned out perfectly and although I dripped some of it onto the work surface, that was my fault and not because it was too runny.  I put crispy choc balls on top instead of the suggested peanuts.  Yum:)

BTW One point I forgot to note in my review is that the text for the ingredients is a hard-on-the-eyes pale blue or other pastel colour.  Anyone with colour blindness of the grey/green/blue variety would probably not be able to see it.

2017 Julie Goodwin's Hot Cross Bun and Butter puddingUpdate: after Easter

My Hot Cross Bun and Butter pudding doesn’t look as neat and tidy as Julie’s does (slightly different sized pan and maybe bigger HCBs)  but the recipe is dead easy, not messy or time-consuming to make, and it tastes delicious.  We had it for pudding for Easter Sunday lunch with friends.

PD Just in case you’re wondering, that beautiful hand-made lazy-Susan made with Meakin bone china comes from a craft shop in the Huon Valley in Tassie.

Author Julie Goodwin
Title: Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook
Publisher: Hachette, 2017
ISBN: 9780733637117
Review copy courtesy of Hachette

Available postage free in Australian and New Zealand from Fishpond Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook – but if you want it for Mother’s Day you might need to order it promptly.


  1. Might have to have a look at this one! Haven’t bought a cookbook i can cook fromregularly recently.


    • Hi Marg, thanks for dropping by:)
      One thing it’s missing, (that it could easily have had) is any nutritional or calorie info. That’s one of the things I really like about the Women’s Weekly Cookery Books, they always had that info as part of the recipe.


  2. I’m sure you didn’t expect me to comment on a cook book (is it well written?), but there’s a lot of wheat intolerance in our family so I’m forwarding your review to the cooking members of the family in the hope I’ll get to try flourless citrus cake and roast beetroot dip.


    • Yes, it’s interesting, it’s become the norm to include some wheat free recipes in many cookbooks.


  3. I know Julie Goodwin of course but I had no idea she’d written that many books.

    Your comment about lack of cooking skills and knowledge reminded me of something Mr Gums overheard today in the supermarket. We were in one of the aisles that had canned food. He didn’t hear what the ingredient was but he heard a person telling his partner/friend that the shop had fresh whatever it was, and she apparently said she didn’t know how to cook the fresh ones. Hmm, we thought. I’d love to know what it was. I’d like to think it was something a bit time-consuming like sauerkraut.

    And the other comment you made that struck me was regarding your father and food needing to be moist. My dad is having trouble with swallowing too and looks for moist food that’s easy to slide down.

    Oh, and I do like the sound of the Flourless Almond and Pistachio Cake!


    • I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t know how to cook fresh beetroot until about 20 years ago. I always thought I didn’t like them!
      A speech therapist can diagnose whether your dad has dysphagia. It may only be mild like my father’s and just means choosing foods wisely – but if he coughs after drinking liquids it can result in fluid in the lungs which leads to an infection. There is a powder that is used to thicken drinks – it’s easy to use, you just stir in a spoonful and you can take some in a little Tupperware container for when you’re out at coffee shops and restaurants.


      • Thanks Lisa. I think he was checked for that in hospital some time ago – the name rings a bell. He has had speech therapist check in the last few years. I don’t think it’s that, but will check. I think it’s more a combination of dry mouth and tension, as it seems to come and go a bit.

        Oh no, I didn’t cook fresh beetroot until then either, but I think we probably had an excuse in that it wasn’t much done then – at least not in anglo families! We did just have tinned beetroot didn’t we? I rather liked them, as I like vinegary things, but fresh beetroot – that really is something, and I feel gypped if a restaurant puts beetroot on the menu and I realise it’s not fresh-cooked by them but probably tinned that’s been drained and rinsed!!


        • I don’t think I could eat tinned beetroot no, but we do sometimes have those ones that are vacuum packed, they roast up quite nicely and they are yummy with Greek yoghurt and herbs!


          • No I don’t eat them now – at least not by choice – but they are what introduced me to beetroot. I’ve wondered about those vacuum-packed ones though. You’ve convinced me to give them a try.


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