A Review of Gabriel Gate’s Weekend on a Plate
Gaté has a very delicate prose style, which is both casual and sophisticated, evoking clean white tableclothes, fresh coffee, crusty breads, quality wines, and herb rich meat dishes prepared with care. He makes his very French love of fine food seem like the most natural, healthy, and appropriate response to the exquisite array of foods available, from the most simple of fresh salads, to the most decadent of desserts.
Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Weekend on a Plate
By Gabriel Gaté
Published by Allen & Unwin
October, 2001, AUD $35.00
Gabriel Gaté is an Australian celebrity. His boyish good looks, and gallic style have appeared for 20 years on a range of television cookery shows, and his 14 cookbooks have all been bestsellers. He is a food writer for a range of lifestyle magazines and newspapers, and has regular radio spots. His food is known for its fusion of French and Asian influences, its emphasis on fresh, high quality ingredients, and its simplicity and family appeal. Weekend on a Plate was originally published in 1999 as a hardcover with the title Indulgences. Its recent reissue in paperback form, with a new title is part of Gaté’s celebration of the sale of over 1 million copies of his cookbooks. Weekend on a Plate is a nice looking cookbook, in large (good for gift giving) format, with evocative pictures by noted food photographer John Hay. The book is broken up into chapters based on the sequence of a day, from breakfasts and brunches to lunches and barbecues, dinner parties, treats for two, family favourites, sweet endings, and a chapter on cooking basics such as pastries, stocks, sauces, and custards.
Gaté has a very delicate prose style, which is both casual and sophisticated, evoking clean white tableclothes, fresh coffee, crusty breads, quality wines, and herb rich meat dishes prepared with care. He makes his very French love of fine food seem like the most natural, healthy, and appropriate response to the exquisite array of foods available, from the most simple of fresh salads, to the most decadent of desserts. As an old New Yorker and morning person, I love fancy breakfasts much more than fancy dinners, and Gaté’s breakfast chapter is one of my favourites in the book, including some delicious, simple, but still classy and fancy dishes like the gruyere and chive souffle, masala omelette, spicy compote, french eggs en cocotte, tortilla, and potato pancakes, along with a range of fresh fruit juices. For lunch (or light dinners), there are fast risottos, pizzas, and a nice selection of fish and meat dishes, including my favourites rainbow trout with a lemon and caper salsa, and mediterranean barbecued quail. Dinner includes richer baked meats such as the roast pheasant in pastry, baked quail with honey and ginger, boeuf a la ficelle, and a range of polentas, gratins, grilled vegetables, and salads.
The Treats for Two section emphasises foods of very fine quality like truffles, preserved lemons, crayfish, smoked salmon and oysters, but all of recipes are relatively easy, and fast to put together, and all of them contain healthy vitamin rich ingredients. Family favourites like minestrone or vegetable soups, beef casseroles, and chicken dishes are all hearty, simple fare. The desserts are rich ones, like the heavenly, and hedonistic chocolate dacquoise with its layers of meringue, chocolate, and hazelnuts, or the chocolate crème caramel, the inventive frozen cappucino souffle, or the range of luscious home made ice creams. Gaté’s philosophy is that everyone deserves to indulge themselves with simple, beautiful food, and the personal health and well being he radiates, along with those of his equally attractive wife and children are a testimony to the benefits of this approach to good eating. While the recipes in Weekend on a Plate are generally not original, relying more on a lighter, more modern, slightly Asianised versions of French and Italian classics, but the book is nonetheless inspiring in its handsome layout, and in the selection of recipes which are both easy, and appealing.