Cookbook Review: Fast, Fresh, Simple by Donna Hay

by Cookie McBookie

My rating: 3 1/2 stars.

Donna Hay is one of The Chosen. Yes, she was hand picked to cater for Oprah Winfrey‘s party in Sydney.

Source: Adelaide Now

Source: Adelaide Now

And yet, she seems to cop a lot of flack from “foodie types” in Oz?!! Yes she started a food stylist but so what?! The question is can she write cookbooks that you want to cook from and does she write recipes that work. Lets test whether this book lives up to her reputation.

(As an aside, the title – “Fast, Fresh, Simple”, sounds like the high school bad girl or Jessica Simpson…  This is not a good gift for girls who are a bit loose, a bit sassy or a bit too thick.) Then again, they probably can’t read anyway…

With Fast, Fresh, Simple, Donna promises “160+ fast recipes, fresh flavours and simple standbys for every day and any occasion.” The Donna Hay food styling (that has been imitated all over the world) is immaculate.

 

Clinical white upon icy whitey blue, photographed under white lights so that the beauty of the food that really shines. But, for the haters it may seem to look a little oppressively clean or like the output of some Nordic spaceship kitchen.

Test Kitchen Time…

To get into the spirit of things, I’ve slipped on a Country Road chambray shirt, poured a glass of white wine and invited my bffs “Miffy” and “Bethany” over to chat…

The book is supposed to be give simple, fast and occasionally fresh takes on favourite Australian foods. Donna says she’s giving us all her time saving (but not flavour killing) hints and tips. Here is a fast recipe which attracted my attention as I’m trying to do low carbs (for at least a day).

FAST: CHORIZO, SPINACH AND RICOTTA FRITTATA (adapted from Donna Hay)

  • 2 chorizo, sliced
  • 1 tbl sage leaves
  • 80g baby spinach leaves
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup single cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 150 g ricotta

Heat 22cm non stick pan over med-high heat. Add chorizo and sage, cook till crisp (4-5min). Add spinach and toss until wilted. Whisk egg, cream, salt pepper and pour into pan. Spoon ricotta round the pan, reduce heat to low and cook for 3 minutes. Place frittata under preheated hot grill and cook till golden (2 mins). Serve with toast, serves 2.

Ok, I am a little annoyed because it’s very hard to find a 22cm frypan in Australia. I couldn’t even get one online at www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au .  22 cm is a more of a UK sized pan.  Instead I used a 20 cm pan, 3.5 cm deep and found the recipe fit just fine.

I couldn’t get this to cook through, perhaps because I couldn’t find a 22cm pan! I ended up finishing this in a 180C oven for 15 mins.

OMG this tastes fantastic. The pockets of ricotta make delicious chunks of creamy goodness. The spicy chorizo and the sage go really well together. I am going to make this everytime I do a low carb diet. Frickin amazing… mmmmm……

SIMPLE: CHEAT’S CHOCOLATE FONDANT (adapted from Donna Hay)

  • 1/4 cup (50g) cup plain flour sifted
  • 1/2 cup (55g) confectioners icing sugar sifted
  • 3/4 cup (90g) almond meal
  • 2 eggwhites
  • 100g butter
  • 160 g dark chocolate* melted
  • 4 small squares of dark chocolate, extra

Preheat oven to 150C. Place the flour, sugar, almond meal, eggwhites, butter, melted chocolate in a bowl and mix well to combing.  Spoon half the mixture into 4×1/2 cup capacity dariole moulds. Divide the extra chocolate squares between the moulds and top with the remaining mixture. Bake for 20-25 mins or until cooked but soft in the middle. Stand in tins for 5-7 mins before turning out. Serves 4.

I AM SHOCKED. This is a recipe for the cover dish AND there are editing mistakes in it!!!!! 1/2 cup of icing sugar is not 55g. The “measurement” section IN THE BOOK (p 199) says it should be 80g. Also Dark chocolate is asterisked throughout the book indicating there should be a little blurb about it in the back of the book.  I am kinda shocked to see that the reference is missing!!!

Donna?! My dear sweet friend??!! What happened here… OMG I feel my world spinning, spinning… first, Brad and Jen split up and now Donna Hay makes mistakes?? WTF!!!

I cannot be farked making this stupid fondant recipe now. I don’t know whether to use 1/2 cup or 55gms.

CHOCOLATE AND CINNAMON WONTONS

  • 16 wonton wrappers
  • 40g butter, melted
  • 16 small squares dark chocolate (120g)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbls caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Brush edges of wrappers with butter. Place chocolate square on half. Fold over wrapper and press to seal. Place on lined baking tray. Brush with butter, sprinkle with combined cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 8 mins or till golden. Serve warm, serves 4.

These were really easy to make, a really great idea but tasted a little bit like cardboard. I think wonton wrappers taste nicest when fried or boiled… like as in a wonton. I reckon double dose these with butter or fry them.

 

Who should buy this book?

 The book is best for the working girl, working boy or couple, as most recipes serve only 2 people and really are simple and very quick to prepare as promised. Whilst they offer nothing really new, Donna says in her FRESH preface that the recipes are given a fresh edged makeover without time consuming preparation eg Pasta with Mint Pesto (p 74).

I really like the ideas in this book but I am really disappointed that some of the measurements are off or a bit awkward. The visuals of the book are really beautiful though and the recipes are fairly simple and easy to shop for.  I had to take off some points for the editing errors though.

My rating is 3 1/2 stars.

Shopping

Always shop around. I bought my copy from Borders bookstore (now closed down). At time of post I found good online prices for the 2010 edition at www.thenile.com.au  Also at fishpond.com.au/Fast, Fresh, Simple


The Nile -Australia's Largest Online Bookstore


Return to Home Page

7 Comments

  • June 2, 2011 - 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey. Totally agree. The book looks great but some of the recipes simply don’t work. The one for the chocolate fondant in particular. We tried it at home and one night and were amazed to find that chocolate + cream + sugar managed to end up being completely inedible!!

    • Editor
      June 2, 2011 - 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the comment “inspiredbycoffee”! I feel validated

  • Rhiarne
    September 26, 2011 - 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I was cooking the chocolate fondant for my mother-in-law so I practiced it once at home and they were perfect. But, when I went to cook them on the night they turned out dry and hard and without any gooey chocolate in the middle. It was a real disappointment.

    I also just bought the ingredients for the frittata, so it was good to read about your experience.

  • Rhiarne
    September 26, 2011 - 4:10 pm | Permalink

    PS: I still love her!

    • admin
      September 26, 2011 - 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Hi Rhiarne!
      Thanks for your comments. I absolutely love Donna as well. Often these errors are a problem with the editors not our Donna dearest. I can’t wait till her next book comes out. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
      Best
      Cookie
      x

  • Lizzy
    January 26, 2012 - 11:11 am | Permalink

    I agree the mistakes are annoying. Donna’s books are riddled with errors. I was cooking the chicken schnitzel from the TV show and when reading the book realised the butter was supposed to be melted. There are also several errors with cooking times. After a while you get used to tweaking everything. I find it quite irritating and also surprising considering she is supposed to be an absolute perfectionist.

  • Julia
    July 24, 2015 - 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Her lemon chicken recipe has no mention of what to do with the lemons? Pretty critical mistake.
    Made a chocolate cake twice and it didn’t work. My mother tried it too and she’s a baking queen and it failed for her too.
    her recipes are rubbish.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *