Friday, December 02, 2011

Bill's Everyday Asian ~ Bill Granger

Billl’s Everyday Asian
Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780732291686

I’m not going to include the price, because wherever you are in the world, it could vary.

There’s a marked difference between the cook book that has grown out of a restaurant and the book which have the definite authorship of a person. This was thrown into sharp focus when I sat down with my cup of Japanese tea (well, it is an Asian cookbook) to thumb my way through Bill Granger’s latest offering. I read somewhere the other day that Bill is being touted as the new Jamie Oliver. Bill’s got a few years on Jamie, and has been around probably longer. And Bill is Bill, he’s a not new anybody. His food to date has been simple, achievable and bloody delicious. Let’s see what his foray into a book devoted to Asian food is going to be like, shall we? His scrambled egg recipe is sublime. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Takes scrambled eggs to a whole new plain. And his coconut bread is iconic.

The first thing I notice in this book is Bill’s voice. It’s reassuring, interested and helpful. He’s starting to sound like my pin-up boy, Nigel Slater. Maybe it's because he's not a chef, he's a self taught cook. So he gets how we want to, and need to cook... every day.

Design: Very pretty styling. Swathes of Asian pastels, celadon, duck egg blue, pinks, red lacquer. Mikkel Vang’s photography is clean and zingy like the food.

Typeface: Clear, if not a point or two too small.

Bookmarks: None. It’s not a huge tome, so not really necessary.

Country of origin/Travelability:
Australian, metric only. No alternative ingredient names given for US market. No special ingredients required. Just your basic Asian flavours. Get yourself a bottle of fish sauce, some ginger, coriander, soy sauce (both light & dark), lash out on a wok, and you’re good to go. I live in the country, but there’s not a basic ingredient I can’t find in my local supermarket. As Bill says, approach Asian food in the same way as Italian food. They’re similar. And we don’t think twice about cooking Italian these days.

Text: Delightful. Welcoming, encouraging, confidence inspiring, and downright chatty. Simple clear directions that won’t frighten a novice cook.

Yum factor: High.

Degree of difficulty: Low.

Recipe test:

Meatballs with tamarind glaze ~ easy, delicious, and the kiddies will like love ‘em. They’re a little bit sweet and sour. And the tamarind glaze lifts the slight bitterness of the bok choy. In fact, I’d make up the glaze just to have on bok choy instead of oyster sauce. And you could make the meatballs with pork, or even chicken. And if you’re in entertaining mode, make up two or three times the amount and serve them with drinks.

Banana batter cake with caramel sauce ~ Bill calls it an ‘Asian variation on sticky toffee pudding.’ Ooh, yeah. I have to say we had it with cream rather than coconut milk, but the coconut milk would make it ever so tropical. And a great recipe to tinker with… Palm sugar instead of brown, some pineapple on the top with the bananas. That sort of thing.

And in both of these recipes, you’re not going to kill it by substituting a little bit here or there. That’s the thing about Bill. He wants us to cook, not slavishly replicate. So I suppose he is a little like Jamie in that regard.

There’ll definitely be more recipe tests from this volume.


What I learnt: Bill predicts Korean food will be ‘the next big thing’. I actually predict it will be Peruvian food. Want a wager, Bill?

There’s no cutlet in the Japanese pork cutlet
There’s no soy in the Asparagus, chilli, garlic & soy,
And for crying out loud… There’s no salt in the Salt & pepper whiting. This recipe is also on the Lifestyle Food website, and still no one’s told us how much salt we need. Or am I missing something?

This is a welcome addition to Bill’s oeuvre. It’s a lively, joyful collection. I’m filing it under B for Bill, rather than the more anonymous A for Asian on my bookshelves. It’s that personable a book. A place to turn for bold Asian flavours that won’t send your carbon emissions skyrocketing trying to find ingredients.

Bring on Bill’s Tasty Weekends book please.

And just to get you started, although it’s not in this book, here’s the recipe for the aforementioned coconut bread:

Coconut Bread Recipe
Recipe from Sydney Food by Bill Granger
2 eggs
300ml of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 1/2 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 cup of caster sugar
150g of shredded coconut
75g of unsalted butter, melted
To serve: butter and icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease and flour a loaf tin.
2. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl and add the cinnamon, sugar and coconut. Stir to combine and make a well in the centre.
3. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together and pour into the flour mixture and mix until just combined before adding the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is smooth, being careful not to overmix.
4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Leave in the pan to cool for 5 minutes before removing and placing onto a wire rack to cool.
And my word on it: It freezes beautifully. Slice and wrap in foil and pop her in the freezer, then toast or put in a café press thinking

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