Matt Preston is excited. Very excited.
He comes bursting through the door, phone in hand and shows me a picture of some food. Not just any food, it was the previous night’s dinner at the Daniel O’Connell: fried udder. He didn’t mind it. I’m not sure I could share his enthusiasm.
Matt had come into my work to talk about his new book, Cook Book: 187 recipes that will make you incredibly popular. I told him I was reviewing his book for my blog and explained I had been cooking some of his recipes. I had a copy of it with me – and would he be so kind as to sign it for me?
Without drawing a breath he asked, “Have you tried this?” and opened his book.
“No. I’ve only made five things so far,” I said – he had 182 uncooked recipes to choose from.
“Can I turn down the corners of some recipes you really MUST try?”
Who was I to say no to Matt Preston? And so the defacing began…
“This salad is a bit weird but beautiful,” he began.
“Do you like peanut butter… you’ve got to try this…
“And this dough… it’s so easy…
“And this, the chocolate sauce is just like ice magic!
“This bread takes no time…”
He rattled off several of his favourites without any effort. I was at once grateful for the turned-down corners because there was no way I’d be able to keep up!
And then we got into a discussion about kale. I explained I had tried to make kale chips but they tasted like dirt. But Matt does have a recipe for kale pesto, so we agreed it would be another good recipe to try.
And before I knew it, he’s turned down the corners of 10 more recipes!
Matt Preston is not a chef. He’s a food critic, journalist and judge on MasterChef Australia, and arguably has one of the best jobs in the world.
So why would he write a cook book?
Because he knows food – intimately – and can sell it to us.
- The recipe must be simple
- The ingredients must be readily available from a local supermarket
- There can never be a pasta salad in the book
Matt is a skilled storyteller and what I really like about his book are the stories behind the recipes. They make each recipe just a bit more interesting! Like the time he teamed marmalade with sausages to make airline food a little more palatable – that’s how ‘Dad’s marmalade and sausage sandwiches’ for breakfast came about. Or trying peanut butter and jam with semolina porridge in Botswana ‘Botswana breakfast’. And Matt’s love affair with peanut butter, dating back to when he was a kid: ‘Ice cream peanut butter sandwich’ – that’s one recipe Matt says I really MUST try!
I decided from the moment I received this book to make as many recipes as I could that I wouldn’t normally make.
Occasionally I’ve enjoyed an espresso martini while out with the girls, so Matt’s ‘Espresso Martini and a hot bloke’ appealed to me – it’s actually in the breakfast section of this book. Matt, what kind of breakfasts are you used to!? It was simple enough to make, and the coffee flavour was nice and strong with the combination of the cold espresso and the Kahlua. My hot bloke and I really enjoyed this, although not for breakfast – a late afternoon cocktail! Delicious.
Another recipe in the breakfast section we enjoyed was ‘Savoury mince that isn’t grey’, although not for breakfast – we had it as a Sunday night meal when (in our house anyway) it’s occasionally OK to have breakfast as dinner. It certainly wasn’t grey! The mince was a rich brown with a slightly salty, tomato flavour and bright green peas. The sprinkling of white salty feta over the top and fresh parsley added another texture to the meat, spilling over the edges of the multigrain toast. A quick Sunday night meal full of flavour.
Matt didn’t suggest any more recipes from this section, but I would like to try the ‘Botswana breakfast’ and ‘Middle Eastern rice pudding’.
Next up was the ‘Smoked chicken, with grapes, lemon, apple, iceberg, tarragon and a blue cheese dressing’, from the Ubersalads chapter. We all loved the freshness of this salad, the sweetness of the grapes and tartness of the apple. And the blue cheese dressing (a mild blue cheese, not overpowering) was so moreish. Definitely a recipe to keep handy with Australia’s upcoming warm weather and Christmas festivities.
Then there was the ‘Aussie carbonara’. I don’t know how many versions of this recipe exist in the world but there must be a few! I have my own carbonara recipe that I make for the family so thought it would be nice to try someone else’s for once. Matt’s version didn’t have too much cream in it which I liked, and the addition of the raw egg yolk on the top at the end was bright and dramatic!
And finally a dessert. ‘Lucy’s Granny’s lemon mouse’. Just like eating lemony clouds. So fluffy and light. This recipe had a wonderful story attached to it, taking us back to Matt’s childhood memories.
Cook Book is broken down into 11 chapters including breakfast, soup, salads, mains (by protein type) and two chapters on desserts and cakes. The Introduction also covers cooking, manners and hosting the perfect dinner party.
You can see throughout that Matt has had a lot of fun with this book. His writing style is light and engaging, and it’s peppered with fun anecdotes.
There are photos for the majority of the recipes. The index is in alphabetical order and cross referenced under separate main headings also, which is very handy.
I really enjoyed Matt Preston’s Cook Book: 187 recipes that will make you incredibly popular. You can tell he enjoys food and wants to share that enjoyment with fun, interesting, quirky and enjoyable recipes.
And after all that, I forgot to get Matt to sign my copy!
* I received a copy of this book via my work.
** Image of Cook Book with thanks to Pan Macmillan