Publisher: Murdoch Books
Date Published: 2009
’30 Minute Meals’ is the newest in the Commonsense Guide cookery line from Murdoch Books. I was a little surprised to see it on the shelf, given that they have already covered the basics of cookery and baking. However, the choice to create a book that specialises in fast meals seems obvious now. It reflects the modern need for quick nutritious meals following working hours. Obviously, even food lovers may have extremely busy lives.
The book is an interesting reflection of the increasingly multinational diet of Australia, and indeed most western countries such as England and America. The average household tends to eat a mixed bag of cherry picked favorites of the major cuisines. Pasta and stir fries in particular have become a staple of the weekday meal. Previously unheard of ingrediants and spice blends are becoming easy to purchase and part of the Australian cooking vocabulary.
’30 Minute meals is divided into the following chapters:
- Rice & Noodles
- Fish & Seafood
’30 Minute Meals’ is dominated by Asian (particularly Thai and Chinese) and Italian dishes, but also features Indian, Persian, Moroccan, Spanish, French and a dabbling of English. Most dishes are not strictly traditional representations and have been modified to suit the cooking time or the cooking utensils of the average Australian households. Some are wholly modern creations that tend to use the seasonings and spices of different cuisines on readily available Australian cuts of meat (for instance Moroccan marinades on beef and pork etc). The pasta dishes in particular have been exposed to a lot of improvisation, allowing some interesting flavouring combinations that wouldn’t exist in traditional Italian.
Given the time constraint certain methods of cooking and ingrediants are favoured – for instance pasta, noodles, pan frying and barbecuing fish and meat cutlets. Obviously, this is not a book for casseroles and roast recipes.
’30 Minute Meals’ is not without its faults. Under scrutiny some recipes feature nearly identical ingredients. (‘Chicken With Thai Basil, Chilli And Cashews’ Pg 165, ‘Chicken With Ginger And Cashews’ Pg 167, ‘Chicken With Chilli Jam And Cashews’ Pg 170. Also, ‘Stir Fried Lamb With Mint And Chilli’ Pg 298, ‘Lamb, Mint And Chilli Stir-Fry’ Pg 306, ‘Chilli Mint Lamb’ Pg 310). Some ingredient combinations are repeated with the meat being the only major difference, for instance ‘Chilli Pork With Cashews’ on Pg 272. They could have simply made a note on the oodles of chicken cashew recipes, stating that pork could be used as a substitute. A few of the recipes have been recycled from other Murdoch cooking books, even the pictures (‘Cardomom Chicken’ from ‘Food of the world’ also appears in ’30 Minute Meals’).
It is devoid of a vegetarian section (though some vegetarian meals are featured amongst the pasta, noodles and rice recipes). It could have also used a section for salads and soups.
The book features modern photography and a simplistic and apt layout, with the food image taking up most of the page. Instructions are easy to follow and clearly marked. As with the other Commonsense Guide books, a good amount of background information is offered to assist the user. This includes glossaries, kitchen equipment and ‘basics’ before each section (for instance, pictures of the different types of pasta are shown before the pasta recipes).
Although this is not of the epic quality of the other Commonsense Guide books, it is still a worthy of being part of the line. The recipes themselves have robust flavours, are easy to accomplish and healthy. ’30 Minute Meals’ is aimed at weekday dinners, but the meals are tasty enough for weekends and lunches. It is well suited for beginners as well as more advanced cooks who may feel the need for a separate compendium for hasty dinners.
♥♥♥½ – 3½/5