Reviewed by Jill
Simmone Logue’s fine food company focusses on seasonal produce and beautiful presentation. Her latest venture is In the Kitchen: 120 favourite recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, picnics and parties. It is a personal tour of Logue’s food landscape. The sights along the way are fabulous. There are no calorie counts, so no guilt trips – enjoy the trip.
The book’s arrangement is straightforward – type of meal or style of food – breakfasts, picnics, cocktail parties, and sweet delights. Many of the ‘breakfasts’ would make a wonderful lunch or evening meal, so these designations can be ignored. Sensibly, the book opens with the toolbox, which is more a jewel box. Each item will find a use in the following recipe collections. The sauces, relishes, mayonnaise, dressings, curds, jams and marmalades can all be purchased ready-made, but will not have that same fresh zing. It may be faster and easier to purchase strawberry jam and sourdough breads, but there is no substitute for freshly-made pastry or pesto (made with mint). The toolbox also demystifies the unusual or the seldom encountered. It will occasionally seem a lot of work to produce these items, but many have a use beyond these pages. Labneh, a cheese easily made from yoghurt is versatile and will make the crossover to other dishes. Logue’s Nam jim – a sweet, sour, salty and hot dressing – will keep for weeks under the correct storage conditions, so flavoursome meals can be produced at whim. It is easy so make it as needed.
And on to the test kitchen. Logue’s recipes are a mix of assembly and bake/cook which gives a lot of scope.
The bacon and egg pie was simple – minimal preparation, and then into the oven. This one is generous. Remaining pie reheats nicely for a quick lunch or evening meal. The field mushrooms on sourdough was even simpler. The banana bread, an indulgent breakfast, is also a satisfying morning tea. Top marks to Logue for including a weight measure of banana. Too many otherwise excellent books specify by the number. One cavendish can be two to three times the weight of a lady finger banana, the preferred variety in this household. And quantity does make a difference to the finished product.
The ‘Sunday roasts’ would be acceptable at any time of the week. Whole roasted snapper was ready within the suggested preparation and cooking time frame. There’s time for that pre -dinner drink before a satisfying meal after a day away.
The salads are unusual – novel combinations of ingredients, always colourful, and definitely satisfying as a meal on their own. The soba noodle salad, with its soy sauce-flavoured omelette and pickled ginger dressing is superb. With some adjustments, these salads can be tailored to personal or family tastes, None is complex.
There soups, pastas and braises are a mixed batch of long slow cooking versus assemble-it-quickly and heat. Logue has a light hand in some dishes, but just when you think the meal looks straightforward, she challenges the taste buds The pies and pastries look superb, but this reviewer was guided by a read of the ingredients and the enticing photographs. Likewise the cocktail and party food ideas. Some require a bit of preparation, Others are surprisingly simple, all guaranteed to please the crowds.
The cakes and other sweet delights could be a little more of a challenge. The caramel kisses are an easy twist on the basic caramel tart. It’s the golden syrup in the biscuit base and the chocolate ganache topping that make these truly special. Designed for mini-muffin tins, each one is perfectly-sized for a wicked treat. If your bread and butter pudding experience is a pallid, bland sweet, try this one. It combines a sourdough bread with poached pears and a rich custard. And it is simple to prepare. There are many standards amongst the cakes and tarts, though Logue’s touch is slightly different. All require easily-found ingredients and the sort of bakeware that is part of most kitchen arsenals.
The small print, on a light buff background is often a challenge, but the text is well-laid out. Directions are straightforward, with substitutions and omissions indicated. My test kitchen efforts mostly resembled the recipe’s accompanying photographs. True – no nutrition guides. You do know exactly what is going into each dish, and we all have to break out sometime. There is always the option of a smaller serving!
Logue imparts some of the hints she has picked up during her cooking career – how to turn out fresh and light salads, baking hints, the value of resting roasts and steaks – all seemingly small practices, but they do make a difference. Do pay attention to her thoughts on fresh versus dried herbs.
The verdict – a lovely book with a mixed bag of recipes – simple, complex, quick, more leisurely, but tending to party and entertainer food. Confident cooks will go straight in and please the diners. The novice and the timid will find fewer opportunities. For them it may be more a coffee-and-dream experience, something for the future – or maybe they should just step into Logue’s Cammeray or Double Bay stores. That’s what I would do.
By Simmone Logue