Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Feed Your Family for $20 in 20 Minutes
By Julie Goodwin
ISBN: 9780733631986, Hardcover, $45, Oct 2014
For the most part, our evening meals are simple, family favourites that I know I can cook quickly and that I’ve planned for in advance. Lately however, my family and I have been getting a little tired of the same old standards and hankering after something new. Enter Julie Goodwin. Her down-to-earth presentation targets the common cook – generally parents who want easy meals that don’t take fancy skills, but who still like to cook from scratch, using high quality, healthy, but inexpensive ingredients available in any supermarket. I’m pretty sure that would be my demographic, so I jumped at a chance to have a closer look at her 20/20 Meals – dishes meant to be able to be created, from start to finish, in 20 minutes for twenty dollars or under.
The book is an attractively presented hardback with slipcover and lots of vibrant pictures, and would make a very nice gift. 20/20 Meals begins with suggestions on how organize your kitchen and meals for maximum efficiency and how to save money, primarily by reducing waste and planning. There is a slight Asian flavor, with lots of stir-fries, curries, and Satays though there are also lots of Mexican, Greek and Italian dishes too, giving the book quite an international flavor. The book opens with pasta – a great base for anyone looking to make quick, cheap meals. The recipes, like Pesto Pasta, Smoked Salmon Spaghetti, and Tuna Mornay. Rice dishes actually use rice as the base but have the star of the meal as something else, such as mince in Chile Con Carne and Mexican Beef and Beans or chicken, as in Chilli Plum Chicken. Though this is not a vegetarian cookbook there are a number of meat-free dishes such as Eggplant, Zucchini and Chickpea Curry or Pea and Lemon Chat’s Risotto, which will work very well for meat-free days or if you have a couple of vegetarians in the house. There’s a chapter devoted to sandwiches, pizzas, wraps and burgers – all very easy and spiced up with herbs and garnishes. Frittatas, Tacos, soups and salads as well as reworked dishes like Sang Choy Bow and Chicken pie all work for easy family meals that won’t destroy the budget, or get thrown out.
Few of the dishes in the book are innovative – most are well-known recipes followed reasonably closely, albeit with a few very helpful shortcuts. The cheat’s Risottos work so well, I’m not sure I’ll ever spend 40 minutes stirring my Risotto again. But they are crowd-friendly, easy to follow, well structured, and for the target audience, perfect for meal planning. All of the recipes contain storage and reheating tips, and include information on the equipment you need and how to progress for maximum efficiency. The book concludes with a list of fruit, herbs and vegetables in season (in Australia) to help with meal planning. There are no desserts, and all the meals are designed for people who eat most everything – if that’s not you, you will probably only get a handful of workable recipes from the book. If, however, you lead a busy life, and want some very easy to make, inexpensive and fast meals to add to the regular repertoire, 20/20 Meals is a very good choice. I would particularly recommend this book as a gift for someone who is just starting a family or setting up a new home – maybe a university student, looking to entertain and cook more. Because the recipes are so clearly set out, and assume no special skills or prior knowledge, they are very friendly to beginner cooks. More experienced (but inexpert) cooks will also enjoy the clear, easy-to-follow guidelines and the ideas Goodwin provides for streamlining the cooking process. Goodwin fans will particularly enjoy the non-pretentious and warm presentation of good home cooking. Goodwin makes it clear that you don’t need to study for years to be able to cook high quality food for your family. Anyone can, and should do it, and the recipes and tips in this book will certain encourage that.