It’s almost a guilty pleasure browsing through celebrity chef Manu Feidel’s (My Kitchen Rules) newest cookbook which presents his family’s favourite recipes from around the world.
Co-written with his partner Clarissa Weerasena, More Please! My Family Recipes You’ll LOVE to Cook and Share is filled with lots of large photos of food and family and is far less frightening than it first appears. At over 200 pages, it’s a thick volume that is surprisingly text-heavy, broken up by the welcoming images.
Each recipe is presented into two columns, one for ingredients and one for the cooking instructions and, while the list of foods may seem long for some recipes and the instructions onerous, timid chefs need not be put off. Once you start reading, you quickly realise that the instructions are clear and easy to follow, with a chatty style that takes away the fear. In fact, all the recipes I tried were deceptively simple to make, even for a novice like myself. Manu is very personable, introducing each recipe with a paragraph about why he likes it or why he included it.
More Please! offers a good variety of recipes but a surprising lack of vegetarian options or any suggestions for gluten-free alternatives. I require neither, but many friends do. There are a few vegetarian meals included, but they’re hard to find without examining each recipe individually. This is not a vegetarian-friendly cookbook.
Like mum’s family recipe collection, More Please! uses some generic headings, then tosses relevant recipes under each haphazardly. The three soup recipes, for example, are located on pages 50, 88 and 90. The section headings, which include Starters, Weeknight Meals, Noodles and Rice, For When Friends Come Over, Sides, and Desserts do not offer a list of recipes within each section, while the Index at the back is comprehensive but not always helpful. Looking for the few vegetarian options, for example, the Index only offers a heading of “Vegetables” which points to 5 meat and fish dishes only.
Flicking through the tome, the recipes tell you at a glance how many people it will serve but not how long it will take, if it’s vegetarian or gluten-free, nor if it’s an easy or complicated recipe. The layout of More Please! is most definitely aimed at those more comfortable and experienced in the kitchen, even though anyone can follow his easy instructions. That said, Manu and Clarissa have included a wonderfully useful glossary and a ‘basics’ section to make your own kitchen basics like stock and salad dressings.
As a bound book printed on thick, protective paper, it has to be weighed down to keep it open to a page. This didn’t dampen my enthusiasm to try several of the recipes however, with the greatest difficulty choosing which ones to attempt.
Beef Cheek and Pearly Barley Soup – page 50
Of the three soup recipes in the book, this one appealed to me the most but I made 3 significant changes. Firstly, two of my dinner guests were gluten intolerant, so I swapped the barley for brown rice, which I cooked separately to add later. The rice wasn’t necessary however, because the soup was so thick and delicious that it can be served with or without.
A red wine allergy amongst the diners made me select a sensational South Australian organic Cabernet Merlot from Temple Bruer for the red wine ingredient because organic reds seem to be fine for those with such an allergy (never assume however, always check with your guest!). It was a great choice of wine, not only to add that extra depth of flavour to the soup, but to keep me company while I cooked!
Due to time constraints, I spent less than an hour prepping the ingredients, then threw it all into a slow cooker overnight instead of spending 3+ hours by a stove top. The aroma permeating the house when I woke the next morning was divine! Best yet, the soup tasted as good as it smelled. I can see how the barley would enhance the flavour of this fantastic soup even more, but as a gluten-free alternative, what my guests didn’t know, didn’t hurt them. The compliments over dinner were plentiful.
Pumpkin and Lemon Thyme Risotto – page 82
I can’t tell you the horror stories I’ve heard about how hard it is to make a risotto, so why I picked this particular recipe to try can only be put down to one of two things – insanity or the need for a vegetarian main course. This particular recipe takes a long time to make because you need to roast pumpkin for an hour then puree it before you even touch the rice. The bonus was that, while the pumpkin was in the oven, I could start preparing for the ratatouille that was also on my menu. Once again, Manu’s instructions were so easy to follow that the whole, long process was a simple affair and there was more than enough to meet the demands for seconds. I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe (other than getting someone else to cook it for me next time!! Haha)
Oven-baked Ratatouille – page 150
You couldn’t hope to have an easier recipe than this. While leaning more towards a roast vegetable dish than what I would consider to be a ratatouille recipe, the onion and garlic base, and the herb combination on top made a scrumptious side dish to the Risotto. It was quick, easy, healthy and satisfying. And yes, my guests went back for seconds of this dish too.
Thin Apple and Almond Tarts – page 183
Cinnamon would be the only thing I would add to this recipe to meet my personal tastes. It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve made any serious attempt to make a dessert that doesn’t come out of a packet so I was most nervous about having to deal with puff pastry and fancy decoration. My worry was unnecessary however. Manu’s straight forward instructions made the experience fun and embarrassingly easy. The end result was a sweet apple dessert that everyone enjoyed before heading home and leaving me with the washing up!
So what’s the verdict? I like Manu’s personable style and the four recipes I sampled were all incredibly easy to make – which says something when you consider that my own son has been known to order take out after tasting some of my cooking! Every recipe was a success. Unfortunately, the presentation of the book is poorly thought out, making it hard to find the recipe you want and harder to keep the book open to the page you need. These are all easily worked around however, and the proof of any cookbook is in the tasting and More Please! is good enough to eat!
Our copy of More Please! was kindly supplied by Matilda Bookshop, 8 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 7
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Release Date: 5 November 2016