Reviewed by Amy Welsh
The title of Jean-François Mallet’s wonderful new cookbook, Simplissime Light – The Easiest Cookbook in the World, does not lie; it is perhaps the clearest, most user-friendly, cookbook currently available.
The graphic layout of Simplissime Light makes every aspect of the contents abundantly clear at a glance. Each recipe is clearly detailed on one page, in large typeface, including the calorie count per serve, along with a description of the type of dish i.e. vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/steam. The ingredients, no more than three to five, appears with a photograph. The instructions for preparation are between three to five points. A photo of the finished dish appears on the opposite page. A ten-year old child could follow the steps in many of these recipes with ease, while acquiring good eating habits. The recipes are designed for healthy living, combating expanding waistlines, as well as being tasty and varied.
Jean-François begins with a ‘How to use this book’ section, listing the equipment needed and basic pantry ingredients. He suggests buying a steamer if necessary, other pieces of equipment are fairly standard to a modern kitchen. He emphasises the advantages of steaming, dismissing ideas that this technique produces dull insipid food. A few helpful techniques are listed, e.g. when beating egg whites, he suggests adding a pinch of salt, using electric beaters gradually increasing speed and keeping in one direction to prevent whites from becoming grainy.
A Contents list appears at the back of the book, grouped as: appetizers, salads, soups and bouillons, sauces, fish, vegetarian etc. Following this list with an Index, Jean-Francois continues his practice of providing page numbers for every item mentioned in the book.
I might mention that an ingredient needed for some recipes, ‘fromage frais’, is not readily found in Australia. It is a fresh low-fat curd cheese made from cows’ milk, similar to cottage cheese. It is used to add a creamy texture and taste to dishes, a healthier alternative to sour cream. The nearest commercial alternative is a product called ‘quarq’. Or, use equal parts cottage cheese blended with plain yoghurt until smooth. Or, use thick, unsweetened Greek yoghurt.
As for the recipes, Jean- François refers to them as ‘everyday dishes’, but they are also perfect for special occasions. And, so very delicious, some quite unique! Jean- François is a talented man.
There are so many recipes, (one hundred and eighty-three or thereabouts), so many choices, that it becomes difficult to choose which might be of most interest to readers. I might try to limit myself and sample one from each section.
Well, the first recipe is for bread sticks, and that’s the last you’ll hear of bread. These are made from buckwheat and ground almonds. Such a lovely flavour! Served with avocados…if they make it to the table! In the same section, yes I know I said one from each, but seriously, parsnip hummus with coriander, cannot go without mention. This is a distinctive flavour for a hommus, and, I suspect, healthier, especially for those who can’t tolerate chick peas.
Warm carrots with saffron sauce…a lovely take on mayonnaise…the easiest chicken and prawn terrine possible…veal with blueberries…iced dessert with berries..cherry clafoutis.
Thank you Jean-François Mallet! Your book is highly recommended!
By Jean-François Mallet