Thanks to Food 24 and Kalahari.net, I got the opportunity to review Bill Granger’s new cook book, Bill’s basics.
This cookery book is a collection of Bill’s favourite recipes that he enjoys preparing at home. He has taken classics and reinvented them for everyday cooking.
I was thrilled when Kalahari.net sent me Bill’s Basics because it is right up my alley. Below are four key elements that sum up this book:
- Simplicity: Bill keeps it simple with cleverly thought recipes with useful shortcuts.
- The healthier approach: I love Bill’s healthy versions of classic family favourites; check out his “fried chicken” and “lasagne”.
- “Eat me” photographs: need I say more?
- Unpretentious: recipes are easy going, trendy and inspiring.
The book itself has a stunning hard cover with a loose cardboard sleeve of Bill sitting on the countertop just for you to oogle over and when you’re bored of his grin, simply slip the sleeve off(use it as a book mark) and see the actual cover pic, a simple bowl of melted chocolate. I think they had to cover it with Bill, because that is food porn right there! Melted chocolate? Who can resist licking that pic? So it’s your choice, Bill or chocolate? Mmm… tough one!
The content of the book contains Bill’s signature simplistic and ever so clinical styling and photography. I enjoy Bill’s and Donna Hay’s photography – they truly understand the concept of making the actual dish the star of the show and not the props. Some may think boring, I say clever. I also appreciate the fact that there is a full page photograph for each main recipe. Recipes without photographs, for me, is a waste of time, I like to see what the end result may look like.
“Tomato, Burrata and basil oil salad” & “Cake for a crowd”
Bill’s Basics is divided into 10 typical chapters: These are the dishes in each chapter that had me drooling just by reading them!
Breakfast: “Baked French toast with raspberries” p 25
Baking: “Lemon drizzle loaf” baked with gorgeous blueberries p 41, ALSO “cake for a crowd” p 57
Soup: “Tomato soup with cashew nut and coconut sambal” p 65
Salads: “Tomato salad with burrata and basil oil” p 98, ooh and his scrummy “thai beef salad” p 97
Rice, pasta, bread: “polenta bolognese gratin” p 122 – comfort food at its best!
Chicken: “fried chicken” p 141
Meat: “sweet and sour pork with pineapple and basil” p 162
Seafood: Bill’s version of “fish and chips” p 201
Vegetables: Tomato, ricotta and basil pesto “lasagna” – OMG p 222
Desserts: “banana split” Bills grills (ha ha, that rhymes!) the banana and serves it with coconut chocolate sauce!
I can only recollect 5 recipes out of 100 that I would never attempt, namely Madeleines. These little biscuits are a serious pet peeve of mine and I think that those shell moulded baking tins should be banished! However, I acknowledge and appreciate that these are Bill’s favourite classics. Who knows? This recipe may come in handy one day J
It is a delightful read reminiscing over classic recipes with Bill, he writes endearing little notes for each recipe and in a way, you connect with him and understand why he has chosen these dishes for the book. One of my favourite quotes is to do with his chocolate mousse cake p249, “It’s funny how you grow to like dark chocolate as you get older. I only got the bittersweet attraction, along with marmalade and slippers when I hit forty; I’m expecting to develop a taste for marzipan and macramé when I reach seventy.” I can just picture Bill saying that with his cheesy grin! Ha Ha! I also love that his writing is short and to the point, sometimes you just want a beautifully illustrated cookery book with well indexed recipes without long-windedness and arbitrary pictures.
I enjoy Bill’s books, we can relate to his dishes and flavours because the Australian seasons are so similar to South Africa’s. Fresh, seasonal and flavourful food is what we are after and Bill is “bang on!”
If you want 100 all time classic recipes with a twist or two, then this is definitely the book for you. Already own Bill’s previous books? You’ll still want this one, trust me! Don’t let the word “basics” discourage you from getting this book, I’ve learned quite a few tricks and clever ideas - it definitely will not gather dust on the kitchen shelf to say the least!
Bill’s basics was a pleasure to read and cook out of (see my lasagne and “fried chicken” attempt- will do the banana split this week! J). I personally think everyone should have Bill in their kitchen over the holidays!(No, I did not get paid to say that!)
Once again, thanks to resident foodie and ed Aletta @ food 24 and Kalahari.net .
Now for the recipes, below are two that I have tried, the ingredients are written exactly how Bill wrote it, but I shortened the wording in the methods. Also, there are comments for each from Hubby and myself.
Bill’s Lasagne on p 222
3 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.2 kg tinned chopped tomatoes
Pinch of caster sugar
275 g lasagne sheets
750 g ricotta cheese
250 g mozzarella, sliced
25 g grated parmesan
125 g pine nuts (I used 100 g almonds)
2 garlic cloves
50 g grated parmesan cheese
Bunch of basil
+- 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add garlic, tomatoes and sugar and season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes until slightly reduced.
Preheat oven to 200°C ( I did it at 180°C).
For the pesto:
Whiz the pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and basil in a food processor. With the motor running slowly add the oil until smooth. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. This pesto can be kept in an airtight container and be refrigerated for a week.
In a large ovenproof dish, spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce at the base, top with pasta sheets, half the ricotta then some mozzarella slices. Drizzle with pesto, then top with pasta sheets. Spread another 1/3 of the tomato sauce, remaining ricotta and some mozzarella, drizzle with pesto and top with more pasta sheets. Top with remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes , uncover and bake for a further 20 minutes. ( I just baked it at 180 for 40 minutes uncovered and it came it perfectly!)
Dollop with some more pesto or serve on the side.
My cup of tea, a caprese – style lasagne! Simple fresh flavours.
Easy to prepare.
Quite expensive - 3 tubs ricotta, pesto ingredients and 3 tins of tomato
Result is delicious! Will definitely make this again!
Hubby: “what is in this?”
Me: “ricotta, basil pesto, tomatoes…”
Hubby: “f&*! Me, that’s nice!”
Hubby goes off to have 3rds.
This was the end result! Drooling?
Bill’s fried chicken on p 141:
375 ml buttermilk or yoghurt
1t sea salt
1 t ground ginger
1 t turmeric
2 t ground coriander
2 t paprika
6 chicken drumsticks
6 chicken thighs
200 g fresh white bread crumbs
Mix the buttermilk, salt, ginger, turmeric, ½ coriander and ½ of the paprika together. Coat the chicken pieces well, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours( I could only manage 2 hrs!)
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Add the remaining coriander and paprika to the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper.
Evenly coat the chicken pieces and place on a roasting rack.
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve with sliced cucumber and red onion, flat leaf parsley and lime wedges.
I just served it with freshly cut lemon wedges.
Quick and easy, using everyday ingredients.
Result is perfect: well seasoned, crispy on the outside and tender meat.
It really does resemble the flavours of traditional Southern fried chicken without the grease!
Delicious delicious delicious!
“Wow! It’s so crispy and not fried?”
“Not oily at all!”
“I’m getting spoilt today”
“When are you making this again?”
Another fabulous end result!
Lastly, all I can say is, Bill can cook some mean stuff – not just scrambled eggs and damn, he looks good for his age!
Have a fabulous week all!