A ‘Food Hack’ is defined as an inexpensive recipe that takes under an hour, using familiar equipment in original ways. With a by-line proclaiming it’s “clever cooking for busy people”, Food Hacker delivers on every promise with fast, healthy meals that require minimum preparation and skill.
The bright colours of Rosie Mansfield’s magnificent cookbook are the first thing you notice with its glossy, coloured pages and full-page photos. It’s easy to keep the page open to the recipe and there’s a fun sense of adventure in the overall design.
The layout of the book encourages speed and ease with recipes broken down by the main cooking utensil you’ll need – a mug, a bowl, a jar, a muffin tin, skewers, a blender and so on. The Table of Contents up front is complemented by two indexes at the back, breaking the recipes down by meal type or by equipment.
Mansfield is a nutritionist who, with this book, has successfully achieved her aim of helping people succeed in the kitchen. Her recipes are varied, practical and cater for individuals and groups. She includes great tips about habits we need to stop or start, easy food swaps and information about organics and vegetarianism. She uses lots of white space and lists to make the text easy to follow and find, while the recipes themselves also include an extra food hack to mix things up a bit.
It’s about time being hacked turned out to be a good thing.
Rice Pudding (page 28)
I have fond memories of creamy rice custard from when I was a kid so this pudding was the first recipe in the book to grab my attention. Having never made a pudding of any kind before, I was more than a little excited at how ridiculously easy it was to make. It takes only a few minutes once your rice is cooked – so get that going as early as possible. I got caught out assuming the rice would be cooked as one of the steps, only to find the recipe refers to ‘cooked rice’.
The recipe is for one serve but it’s a big one. I couldn’t get through all of mine, which was a cruel twist of fate after tasting the creamy cinnamon goodness of it. You may want to consider serving this as two small desserts instead of one gluttonous serve.
The dessert is made in a large mug but a bowl would also do the trick – my extra-large mugs were not big enough for the suggested amount of rice. There are lots of topping suggestions so I improvised with what I had on hand, using crushed nuts and raisins for added excitement! If you’re a fan of rice pudding, this recipe should sit at the top of your To-Do list.
5-Minute Tomato Soup (page 164)
Mansfield threw down the gauntlet with this 5-minute challenge and I’m pleased to say she won the bet. Perhaps 10 minutes is more accurate but her tomato soup for one person has a nice tang to it, balanced by the taste of basil and served, as suggested, with a savoury cheesy toastie. The surprise ingredient in this gem of a recipe is crushed cashews. They add a nice texture to the soup but their taste is subtle against the other ingredients so I would add more next time to increase their presence.
This recipe is made with a blender and a microwave. That’s it. It’s an ingenious time saver with plenty of bite, especially on these winter nights. Slurping on Mansfield’s 5-minute tomato soup is one of those times when you can’t believe you’d never thought of making it this way before.
Spicy Pad Thai (page 72)
Thai is my favourite cuisine and I judge all new Thai restaurants on the quality of their Pad Thai. Filled with vegetables, this version is deliciously healthy and, I again stretched myself by attempting to make a dish for the first time. The recipe was easy to follow with a commendable result. It serves 2 but they’re ridiculously large serves again so I’d suggest the serving size is for 3 or 4, depending on your appetite.
Described as “gluten free, vegetarian and hangover friendly”, there is the option to add meat. I stuck with the basic vegetarian dish, sans chilli flakes, and the whole thing was prepped, cooked and eaten with the dishes washed in less than an hour. Mansfield’s Spicy Pad Thai looks good and tastes good, taking around 30 minutes from the time you open the fridge door to the time you sit down to eat. I would have liked a nuttier flavour to it, but that’s something I can easily adjust next time. Without meat, I’d also go lighter on the lime.
Between the Rice Pudding and the Pad Thai – two of my all-time favourite classic dishes – I was in 7th Heaven learning how to make them so quickly and easily. Despite the healthy menu, Food Hacker is bound to make me stack on the weight as I start to overeat again.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 10
Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: July 2018
RRP: $22.99 paperback, $16.99 eBook