For those of us who don’t want to spend forty-five minutes slicing a carrot into needles or four hours kneading, whipping, layering and begging ingredients to perform culinary acrobatics chefs spend decades training for, Bill’s Basics is like a shining beacon glinting from the farthest shore of Celebrity Chef Island.
The ever down-to-earth and totally amiable Granger has delivered the goods of simplicity in this new book, just released by Harper Collins this week. Bill’s Basics essentially takes 100 classic recipes and takes out the fuss, bother, endless ingredient lists and carrot-needling – and instead presents us with fresh, healthy, quick recipes with a modern twist.
And yes, basic recipes are a good thing, for those of you who are expecting to open the pages of this book and find Larousse Gastronomique. Similar to the fact that we wear 5 per cent of our clothing 95 per cent of the time, great cooking is steeped in the basics – and mastering these simple recipes allows us to elaborate and evolve – if we so wish.
The book’s design is as elementally simple as its contents – white, clean, monochromatic with basic fonts, silver highlights and striking photos with few additivies, making it as lovely to look at as it is to cook from.
The contents are similarly simplistic in their division – we start with Breakfast (where better to start?) – pancakes, hash browns, baked porridge (oh yum!), eggs Benedict (yes, you too can make your own hollandaise sauce), no-knead bread, muffins and more. Next is Baking with choc chip and pecan cookies, brown sugar shortbread, lemon drizzle loaf studded with blueberries and zinged with citrusy tang, brownies, tarts, cakes, scones – just to name a few. And oh my, there’s even vanilla slice using – hallelujah! – ready-rolled puff pastry.
Soup takes us through a gamut of influences from Thai to French and Italian. The spiced pumpkin and lentil soup is on my agenda next week, along with the beetroot soup – the colour of poster paint, swirled with horseradish cream.
In Salads, the classics are lined up dutifully in the most modern of settings – Salade Niçoise is comprised of seared chunks of tuna steak, soft boiled egg halves scattered with black olives and herbs, and the addition of fresh radishes is pungently hot and sweet, even through the smoothness of the printed page. We’re taken to Vietnam (noodle salad with prawns, cashews and mint), the Middle East (lentil, beetroot and celery fattoush with labna), and Germany (potato salad) – and it’s all so fresh, clean and simple, your heart will pine for warmer weather, tout de suite.
Granger doesn’t compromise on style in Rice, Pasta and Bread – there’s recipes that include lobster, saffron, scallops, preserved lemon and plenty of exotic spice (Nasi goreng, Singapore fried noodles and a heavenly spaghetti carbonara with chilli flakes, for example).
The ensuing chapters are divided by proteins. Chicken, Meat and Seafood offer an endless assortment of divine temptation from lemon chicken to roast lamb shoulder, and in Vegetables, we’re once again made aware of the enormous cooking pot of multicultural influence in Australia with adapted recipes from all over the world – palak paneer, stir-fried tofu with chilli and basil, and lasagne. I mean, aren’t you just gagging to know how Bill Granger cooks lasagne? Other standouts in Vegetables include caramelised onion dip, chickpea burgers and double-baked soufflés with goat’s cheese and leek.
Finishing with a little something sweet, sugar-coated readers will love Desserts, which plates up such classics as crêpes, tiramisu, crème caramel (so quick! so easy!), lemon tart, banana split and pavlova with brown sugar and strawberries. Yes, sweeties, there’s also baked cheesecake and tarte tatin; don’t worry yourself for a moment. Oh – and chocolate mousse cake. Ahhhh…
Warm, fresh, clean, inspiring, gorgeous – Bill’s Basics may look and taste beautiful but it’s also accessible and not in the least bit scary. And for everyday cooks wanting just a teensy shred of chefdom in their lives, a lack of scary is a tasty thing indeed.