It’s the every day, practical approach that makes this accessible and relatable to everyone.
Sally O’Neil, AKA The Fit Foodie, is a recipe developer and food stylist. She refers to this recipe book as an Un-cookbook because its focus is on preparing parts of meals in advance and then putting them together through the week to create endless meal options.
Like many, I’m a lazy cook and the thought of food prep for the week bores me to tears but O’Neil sells the concept on needing only 2 hours or less per week to be able to create countless varieties of dishes that will save money, time and calories. Her food hacks follow one method: prep it, batch it, store it, assemble it.
With a down-to-earth style, O’Neil explains the process and benefits of food preparation to aid in healthy eating and shorter cooking times through the week. Her text and photos are as bright and bubbly as she seems to be as she delves into the idea of food preparation, supermarket cheats and proper food storage so the bits can be thrown together for great tasting meals.
Her advice is very simple and she keeps it basic and practical: start small, keep it simple, multitask, etc. It’s complemented by advice on nutrition, the herbs and spices to keep on hand for “flavour bombs”, foods to snack on and, most conveniently, supermarket saviours.
The pre-preparation of foods varies from simply chopping up vegetables ready to use, through to making fish cakes and roasting chicken.
There’s lots of additional tips throughout the book, including throughout the comprehensive introductory pages. The book then takes you through preparing your proteins (meat, fish, poultry and veges), and how to ‘batch and stash’, with the final section offering more than 75 combination ideas to mix and match the pre-prepared food you have in storage.
Food preparation is often the focus of body builders and those on a strict regime. While healthy eating and portion control is a benefit of O’Neil’s meal prep plan, it opens up the idea to everyone, focussing on time saving more than getting ripped for a competition. It’s that every day, practical approach that makes it accessible and relatable to everyone.
Foolproof Oven-Baked Salmon (page 42)
This recipe gets right back to basics and is especially good for beginners. O’Neil steps through the process of baking a salmon steak right down to which side up it should be. With just olive oil, salt, pepper and some basil or dill as flavouring, it’s still a surprisingly tasty dish, especially if served with accompaniments like vegetables and a mashed potato. My own way of cooking salmon normally involves a sprinkle of turmeric, dukkha and perhaps some other mixed spices, but this simple option was just as satisfying. The recipe comes with an optional sugar-free teriyaki glaze recipe which I didn’t notice initially as it sits on the opposite page to the recipe and my bookmark was covering it. I might try the glaze next time.
DIY Hummus (page 86)
I’m a fan of making my own chickpea-based hummus and sadly this one didn’t compare to my own favourite recipe. In fact, with no cumin included in the recipe, this hummus tasted more like a peanut butter spread. It was also incredibly thick, like a dough. After sampling it, I added a teaspoon of hummus and four tablespoons of water which fixed the taste and softened the mixture to my liking. On the positive side, O’Neil offers four variations for this hummus (using lentils, white beans, chickpeas or blackbeans). It’s a ridiculously easy recipe that can then be adjusted for your own taste, just as I did. Again, for beginners in particular, this recipe is a superb introduction to how easy it is to make your own hummus.
There are many more recipes in this book that I’m keen to try, including a one-bowl nutty Paleo bread (page 90), zucchini fritters (page 98), a cauliflower pizza base (page 112), a raspberry and peanut butter mud slice (page 136), and four-ingredient chocolate chip cookies (page 148). There’s a good index at the back to be able to find these recipes again in the future, although I dare say the copious number of post-it notes I’ve used to highlight many recipes may also do the trick.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: September 2019