I’m a real sucker for things that look nice. Ashamed as I am to admit it, text-heavy cookery books just don’t do it for me. It’s the mouthwatering, tantalising imagery that ignites my enthusiasm to try whatever Nigel, Nigella or Jamie has effortlessly thrown together in a rustic yet refined fashion. So when Amazon alerted me to the fact that the debut cookbook of Katie Quinn Davies – author of stunning blog What Katie Ate – was available for pre-order, my restraint didn’t stand a chance.
This is genuinely one of the most beautiful cookery books I’ve ever laid eyes upon. A designer and photographer turned food stylist and blogger, Katie has created a bohemian, laid-back and aspirational aesthetic throughout her book and I’m very pleased to say it combines style with substance.
As a Dubliner living in Sydney, she has adapted very well to the Aussie great outdoors and the pages are strewn with luscious images of barbecue-ready shellfish and vibrant garden party salads. I’m praying this weekend’s weather brings an abundance of sunshine and warmth to Glasgow so that I can get tucked into the sizzling prawns, barbecued peppercorn beef fillet with chilli and herb gremolata and chorizo and potato salad with rocket and manchego shavings. This food is intended for open-air consumption with charcoal and drinks and friends and family.
Dotted throughout the book, however, are lucid references to her stubborn Irish roots. It doesn’t get any more homely than Katie’s fish pie with crunchy bacon and leek topping, Mick’s pork and red wine lasagne and roast pork with apple, apricot and pistachio stuffing. So when I’m craving stodgy, oozing and tummy-pleasing comfort food, I’ll be reaching for this all-encompassing tome all over again.
Here’s a rough critique of the recipes I’ve tested so far:
Raspberry friands: These eye-catching little delicacies made the front cover of the book and were my first stop as a result. Very simply thrown together, the recipe calls for egg whites and ground almonds affording them a deliciously light texture and grown-up, sophisticated flavour. They make an excellent alternative to standard fairy cakes when the occasion calls for something with a bit of elegance. I also threw caution to the wind and used frozen raspberries – knowing full well I was risking soggy bottom syndrome due to the excess liquid they hold – but the friands came out just fine.
Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli: In the introductory paragraph to this recipe, Katie says “This is a great mid-week, easy-peasy, ‘throw-it-all-in-the-baking-dish’ meal. Even though the list of ingredients looks long, I’m willing to bet you’ll find 99% of them in your fridge or store cupboard already”. Aside from being a girl after my own heart with her excessive use of hyphens, she was right: all I needed to pick up were the chicken drumsticks and wings and the sesame seeds for sprinkling over when serving. Honey, wholegrain mustard, ketchup, balsalmic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, red onion, sugar, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper bubble down deliciously to create a very tasty dinner with very little effort involved; until you go to clean the pan, that is!
Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce: Do not eat these prior to spending time with anyone who hasn’t had them too. The prik nam pla dipping sauce requires a strong hit of raw garlic which rather outstays its welcome. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t try them. With very little cooking required, this dish offers an explosion of hot, zingy and tongue-twisting flavour which can be adapted to suit your own tastes: my generous addition of chopped chillies almost blew the head off Craig’s unsuspecting mother when she had a taste.
And that’s as far as I’ve got with What Katie Ate at present. Aside from being drop dead gorgeous, the Australian fusion cuisine it offers makes a very welcome and distinctive addition to my ever-expanding foodie bookshelf. In a nutshell, I’m a happy customer!