A Review of Belinda Jeffery’s Tried-and-True Recipes

This isn’t really a book to read. The prose is brief, although it is friendly and warm. However, these are recipes which really do seem to work. Aside from a fairly regular use of smoked paprika, which really does add a nice rich depth to the foods in which it is used, most of the ingredients are simple and readily available.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Belinda Jeffery’s Tried-and-True Recipes
Photography by Rodney Weidland
Viking
Oct 2002, Paperback
ISBN: 0-670-04028-2
rrp $A35.00

Belinda Jeffery doesn’t really fit the profile of a television chef. Her style is low-keyed, down to earth, quiet, and although she has worked in several well known Sydney restaurants and run her own cafe, her style is much more the friendly camaraderie of a friendly family woman. Her food is fairly simple and easy to make too. Tried-and-True Recipes is her second book, and contains recipes built around a range of foods which Jeffery “can’t live without.” Rather than the usual breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert format, the book is broken into chapters based on each food type, which includes potatoes, chicken, cheese, lentils, beans and chickpeas, tomatoes, herbs and greens, eggs, bread, fruit and chocolate. There is also a section on basics and suppliers.

If you’ve seen Jeffery on television, the little explanatory paragraphs at the start of each page will really conjure up her careful, thoughtful approach. They also provide a few tips for improving on the recipe, variations and a bit of history. The recipes are really focused on family eating, and include things like “crispy cumin and paprika wedges,” “sticky honey chicken wings,” “salmon ‘pie’ in a crisp cheese crust” (which has an extremely food processor cheese pastry crust worth knowing about), hummus, “basil, mascarpone and ricotta tart,” a gorgeous apple and hazelnut tea bread, and lots of heady chocolate desserts like “cooee’s incredible rum balls,” jaffa mousse and biscotti. There are 100 recipes in all, in a large format with beautifully presented photos.

This isn’t really a book to read. The prose is brief, although it is friendly and warm. However, these are recipes which really do seem to work. Aside from a fairly regular use of smoked paprika, which really does add a nice rich depth to the foods in which it is used, most of the ingredients are simple and readily available. Although there are a few classics like Pavlova and Spaghetti Carbonara, most of the recipes are surprisingly innovative for their simplicity, and the emphasis is always on taste and unusual but enjoyable flavour combinations over presentation, something which I appreciate (not being very keen on fiddling with garnishes and fancy “plate ups.”). Kumara (a type of sweet potato) is combined with Tandoori chicken. Chocolate is mixed with orange and mint. Cherry is mixed with star anise, eggplant is mixed with tuna and ricotta, and lime is used in almost everything.

The format is fairly handy, since you can build a meal around whatever ingredient you are looking to use, and the large format makes the one page recipes simple to follow. The basics section is also quite handy, containing classics like roasted red peppers, stock, homemade mayonnaise, pastry, jam, pizza bases and pralines. The cheese section is particularly nice, relying on a range of different cheeses for flavouring, including my favourite, that little French packet of Boursin cream cheese. If you are looking for a simple family cookbook with a wide range of reasonably interesting recipes, Jeffrey’s latest book is a good one. If you are already a fan of her work on the television show Better Homes and Gardens or in their magazine or Vogue Entertaining & Travel which she now works for, you’ll like this book even more and recognise the style. The main thing is that these recipes really do tend to work, and taste really good.

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