I'm starting to think I should stop buying 'healthy' cookbooks, because all I do is criticise them! (although, in my defense I didn't actually buy this one...) A couple of weeks ago I bagged out another so-called health conscious cookbook and I have even been known to throw a cookbook in the bin after it came up for my cookbook challenge. My current cookbook challenge book, 'Real Family Food' by Antony Worrall Thompson, managed to enrage me as well. Don't get me wrong, the recipes look tasty (which is by far the most important thing about a cookbook), but when a cookbook tries to portray an image of health and fails it can take away from the enjoyment for me.
Although I really like the premise of this cookbook, I don't think it is executed properly. Each recipe is rated on a traffic light kind of system with 'green' meaning eat as much of this as you want and at least one a day, 'amber' meaning don't eat more than 3 times a day and 'red' meaning treats that should be eaten once a day at most. I have a couple of problems with the use of this system in this book. Firstly of all three classifications, 'green' or healthy recipes feature least often in the book, you think there would be more of them since you are meant to eat them the most.
Secondly, I don't know what crazy criteria they used to classify the recipes but there are more than a few that I raised an eyebrow at. For example, there is a sandwhich that is classified as amber, yet it contains THREE different meats, two of which are overly processed rubbish which hold little to no nutritional value. Yet according to the amber classification, you could eat this sandwhich 3 times a day!?! Or, how about a Welsh Rarebit (a toasted sandwhich filled with a very cheesy, buttery, eggy, beer mixture) that you can eat unlimited amounts of, with it being classified green and all! And my favourite of them all is that on two of the recipes that are classified as red (ie. do not eat more than once per day) he mentions the fact that it is so good everyone will go back for seconds!? There are probably even more recipes that are misclassified, but it is difficult to ascertain the real nutritional value of them at a glance because there is no nutritional information listed. I know this was probably done on purpose as they wanted to simplify it with the traffic light system, but it makes my blood curdle that other people reading this book would just take the traffic light system at face value and not question it at all.
To make it even worse, the author shares their views on different types of food and their nutritional value to your family. As he is writing a cookbook most people would probably just take his word as authority. But with statements such as "Bacon is brainfood" (which I would LOVE to be able to agree with, but as much as I love it I can't even begin to fool myself into thinking it is actually good for me... by ANY stretch) and the fact that he talks down two of the biggest dietary issues of the current time - overconsumption of saturated fat & overconsumption of salt, I can't help but get a little agitated that he is influencing those who think he knows what he is talking about.
With all that said, I did find a fair few recipes in his cookbook that I would like to make, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Mediterranean Carrot Rolls (rated green) that we had for dinner last week. They used a long list of ingredients which don't look like they are going to mesh too well at first, but once you taste them you will agree that they are delicious. I just wish that people that don't know a thing about nutrition would stay out of it and not confuse the general public or pollute their minds with rubbish like "bacon is brainfood"!!
I found the salad we served with these carrot rolls on the cover of the November issue of Healthy Food Guide. Now here is a publication that knows it stuff when it comes to healthy recipes (& tips, news and products), it is written by people in the industry and is always full of tasty recipes. I made the salad exactly as written except my can of chickpeas was a bit larger than the recipe. It was super ultra simple to make and full of flavour and vitamins and minerals. I cooked all the vegies while I made the carrot rolls and fried them and tossed it all together at the last minute.
Mediterranean Carrot Rolls Makes 12
Peel 10 medium carrots and cook in boiling water until soft. Drain & mash carrots in a large bowl and add 3 slices multigrain bread, rubbed into crumbs, 6 finely diced dried apricots, 2Tbsp chopped sultanas, 4 finely chopped spring onions, 3Tbsp chopped pine nuts, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1tsp chilli flakes, 2tsp finely grated orange zest, 1 lightly beaten egg, 2Tbsp chopped parsley, 2Tbsp chopped mint & 2Tbsp chopped dill. Knead together with hands and season with salt & pepper. If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs, the mixture should be soft and slightly damp.
Coat your hands with a little flour and mould the mixture into 12 cylinders about 5cm long (you could also make them into patties). Roll each cylinder in plain flour to coat and then shallow-fry in batches in vegetable oil until brown on all sides. Drain well on kitchen paper and serve with salad.
Mediterranean Roast Vegetable & Chickpea Salad Serves 6
Preheat the oven to 200C and line a couple of baking dishes with baking paper. Peel 800g pumpkin and cut into 2cm cubes. Deseed 1 large red capsicum and cut into 2cm wide strips. Cut 2 red onions into wedges and place in baking dishes in a single layer along with pumpkin and capsicum. Spray with olive oil spray and season with salt & pepper. Roast in oven, turning once, for 30 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile mix together 1/2C low fat natural greek yoghurt & 1tsp sumac and set aside. In a large bowl combine 100g baby spinach leaves, 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained & roasted vegetables. Toss to combine and drizzle with yoghurt dressing.
My next Cookbook Challenge book (#18) is 'Oriental Banquets' by Charmaine Solomon. We have a few of these books which are from the Asian Cooking Library collection and I am pretty sure I got them off a lady on freecycle. I've never cooked from this one before (I don't even think I have looked through it), so it will be good to crack open its pages! And best of all, it isn't wearing a thin veil of healthiness, so you won't be getting another ranting post from me next time, which I'm sure you will all be very grateful for!!