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:
- Our Family Table (2010)
- The Heart of the Home (2011)
- Gather: Delicious Recipes, Beautiful Gatherings (2013)
- Julie Goodwin’s 20/20 Meals: Feed Your Family for $20 in 20 Minutes (2015)
- Homemade Takeaway (2015) and now
- Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook (2017).
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:
- Sauces, soups and dips
- Vegetables and preserves
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.
Update, 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.
Update: 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
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.