A Review of Huey’s Greatest Hits by Iain Hewitson

This nicely presented book isn’t really about innovation though, or even about impressing your friends, and a quick glance on the top ten most requested recipes at the start of the book will show that its the classics like “Warm Chicken Salad,” “Chocolate Mud Cake,” “Sticky Date Pudding,” “Smoked Code Pie,” and “Lasagne” which are the most popular with his viewers. This is a book which is solely about good home cooking using very readily available and substitutable ingredients, prepared quickly and simply. The little bit of extra entertainment is icing on the (mud) cake.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball 

Huey’s Greatest Hits
by Iain Hewitson
Photography by Greg Elms
Allen & Unwin
November 2002, paperback, 304 pages
RRP A$39.95
ISBN 1865088609

Like many television chefs Iain Hewitson has become larger than life. From his effusive presentation, his down to earth almost Okker style of irreverance, to his food laced braces/suspenders, Hewitson is colourful and fun. His television personality is well known in Australia, where he has his own range of spicy sauces, advertises a major chain of supermarket (“Bi-Lo”), and is also known for his rather extensive weight loss, which is featured in another of his books, The Huey Diet. Hewitson’s latest cookbook, Huey’s Top Ten features 200 recipes chosen from Hewitson’s most requested, a set of viewer’s favourites. The recipes are simple, generally classic, and like Hewitson, without pretension. This material is not aimed at the restaurant chef, or even the gourmet home cook, but rather, the enthusiastic amateur, men and women who want to cook real and generally healthy food for their families. Throughout the book in little one page “Hi Hewy Baby!” segments are excerpts from letters written to Hewitson – some are fan letters and some aren’t, some are from children, some from very old folk, some complementing him and some criticising him – there are requests for recipes, reader tips, and even a few job requests. Most of the letters are very funny and add a real human note to the book, some even including hand drawn pictures of Hewitson. There are also small amounts of text attached to each recipe, explaining its origin, little handy hints, quotes, etc.

The book is segmented into chapters on “Great Beginnings” which contains starters or light meals, “Super Soups” which includes a very versatile “Four Soups in One” which creates 4 soups (plus another 6 variations) based on a single Potato, Leek & Onion Soup recipe. There are also sections on “Birds of a Feather” which contains mainly chicken and couple of turkey and duck recipes, “Dishes of Fishes,” “Make Mine Meat, which contains beef, lamb, mince, veal and sausage recipes, “Perfect Pasta & Noodles,” “Vegie Magic,” which contains some very innovative vegetarian dishes, including some mock meats, burgers and sausages, curries and pancakes, “Odds & Sods” including uncategorisable foods like snacks, breakfasts, infused oils, preserved lemons and drinks (the “Microwave Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes and Crispy Pancetta is as delicious as it is easy). “On the Side” contains side dishes, including things like salads, potatoes, vegetables, rices and gratins (the “Beetroot Chips” are wonderful). In the “Sweet Tooth” section, there are a range of desserts, nearly all very easy – some just for children like “Coconut Ice”, “Rice Bubble & Coco Pop Slice,” and some more sophisticated like “Quince & Apple Cobbler” or “White Chocolate Moussecake” which is very dramatic with its dried fruit and nuts, but actually extremely easy. The very easy to make (using bought vanilla ice cream) “Xmas Ice-Cream Pudding” may well start a new tradition as it replaces the very unpopular baked one this year on our own holiday table. Each section has at least a page of “Further Thoughts” which provide information and variations on the recipes, tips on things like keeping your knives sharp and dealing with specific ingredients.

Part of Hewitson’s charm is that he isn’t proud. Many of these recipes come from other chefs like Charmaine Soloman, Davinder Bedi, Madhur Jaffrey, Kylie Kwong, Stephanie Alexander, Newspaper columns and his grandmother. He always gives credit where credit is due. Most of the recipes are pretty well known classics like meatloaf (credited to “Happy Days”), spaghetti and meatballs, chicken chow main, moussaka, tuna mournay, pavlova and even a fried egg sandwich, there are also some innovative ones like “Red Cabbage Pancake with Asian Flavours,” “Mustard-Crusted Fillet of Beef with Minted Green Pea Puree” (surprisingly nice) or “A Parcel of Salmon & Fennel.” This nicely presented book isn’t really about innovation though, or even about impressing your friends, and a quick glance on the top ten most requested recipes at the start of the book will show that its the classics like “Warm Chicken Salad,” “Chocolate Mud Cake,” “Sticky Date Pudding,” “Smoked Code Pie,” and “Lasagne” which are the most popular with his viewers. This is a book which is solely about good home cooking using very readily available and substitutable ingredients, prepared quickly and simply. The little bit of extra entertainment is icing on the (mud) cake.

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