Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: The Heart Health Guide, by Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos

COOKBOOK: Australia’s leading expert on the Mediterranean Diet shows us how to improve our heart health.

An informative, readable, and very convincing induction into the Mediterranean Diet.

Over 90% of heart disease is preventable through diet and lifestyle factors, according to author Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos. She has spent almost 30 years researching the Mediterranean Diet and its effects on heart disease, diabetes, depression, and other conditions.

From a Greek background, her particular focus has been on that version of the generic Mediterranean Diet label, noting that the diet varies between cultures and locations. The compelling introduction to her third book on the subject goes into the history and principles of the diet, along with research into the effects of our intake on heart disease.

The material is highly readable and a fascinating start to an excellent cookbook. It continues for over 70 pages, so is no passing introduction. Dr Itsiopoulos delves right into the subject, from how inflammation and gut dysbiosis affect the body to risk factors and practical tips on Translating the Mediterranean Diet for Everyone. Meal plans provide additional practical advice. For those who don’t like to read, photographic comparisons between regular dishes and comparable calorie-dense dishes on the diet are enough to convince anyone of the value.

Each of the 80 recipes comes with a nutritional breakdown and bold timer block outlining the cooking time and number of serves. Chapters include First meal of the day, From the garden, From the sea, and Sweets for special occasions. The recipes themselves include how to make yoghurt, lentil pilaf, pies, salads, soups, pasta dishes, and meat burgers. The soft cover of the book makes it relatively easy to balance the pages open and, for the most part, the colour contrast is good, with a few notable exceptions in the introductory pages.

The Heart Health Guide is informative, readable, and offers a tempting buffet of dishes to try. Due to the extensive research offered in the first third of the book, it also acts as a very convincing induction into the Mediterranean Diet.

Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Tomato and Fried Potato (page 82)

As tasty as this dish is, it falls into my category of brunch rather than breakfast. It’s rare I would have 40 minutes to dedicate to making breakfast, and the potatoes make it a starchier meal than I would prefer first thing in the morning. Overall, it’s a straight-forward omelette, simple to make, with the combination of feta cheese and red onion adding to the texture and taste. The recipe is vague on the herbs (“Fresh herbs, if on hand”) so it requires a basic knowledge of what to add into the mix. Get it right, though, and this is a satiating light meal for four.

Salmon and Orange Salad with Caramelised Walnuts (page 155)

As the recipe suggests, it really does just take 10 minutes to whip up this amazing salad. The salmon flavour does get lost, so I will add an extra tin next time–and there will be a next time–but the freshness of the oranges, the sweetness of the walnuts, and the bite of the tomatoes create a taste sensation that lingers on the tongue and mind long after eating it. Be prepared to go back for seconds. You’ll also want to keep this recipe handy to impress at your next dinner party.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: November 2020
RRP: $34.99

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