Cookbook review: Bill’s Basics

Front cover of Bill's Basics

Ever have one of those books that grows on you?  At first, you think, Wow, this is all really simple, I don’t know what I’m going to get out of this.  Then you look a little deeper, and you see the idea: laying the groundwork for people to love cooking.  And the easiest way to do that is give them some simple recipes, without long ingredient lists or crazy manipulations, and then say “Play away”.

Bill Granger is going there with his latest book, Bill’s Basics.  When I first opened it, I thought, well, fine, bran muffins.  Steamed fish.  Bit of chicken.  But starting to cook from it, you see the simplicity that he intended.  This isn’t Delia, darling, this is how to cook with no fuss and no muss.  I use every implement in the kitchen when I cook, and with these recipes I only used 2 cooking spoons (that’s a record for me.)

Bill is known for his breakfasts; his scrambled eggs make people line up around the block in Sydney.  The breakfast section, the first one in the book (makes sense, let’s start out right!), has your simple recipes: bran muffins, how to make coffee in a cafetiere.  But on the same page as the coffee is a recipe for scrummy homemade chai tea, which has come closest to the style I’ve been searching for!  White hot chocolate?  Okay!

He’s a fan of No-Knead Bread, and pairs it with apricot jam…both recipes included.  American hash browns are in there too, along with brown sugar bacon (really, try this.  Sweet/salty heaven.)

In the baking section, there seems to be a recipe that everyone focuses on: the lemon drizzle loaf with blueberries and polenta.  Maybe cause it’s delish?  I think so.

Interestingly, his comfort food seems to be a lot of Asian cooking.  I haven’t been to Oz yet, but knowing how Americans are about their Mexican food, the parallel is clear.  And really, if you want to go basic, I think Asian is the way to go: stir fries, soups, they’re fast, easy, and very satisfying.

I made the spiced butternut squash soup for a friend who doesn’t like butternut squash (yes, I told her what it was before giving it to her, I’m not a monster.)  This was the first squash soup she liked.  So much that she had another bowl before going home.  Baking the squash and tomatoes in the soup pot in the oven first, them mooshing them and adding the broth really made a huge difference.  The kids ate it up.

Tonight’s meal is going to be the Coq au Vin, which uses white wine instead of red and pan-fries the mushrooms so you get “non-flabby mushrooms”.  I like that.

Butternut, lentil and spice pasties

There’s all types of food in here: fish, seafood, lamb and beef.  I like in the vegetables section it’s not just sides: there’s some great veg*n recipes in there like chickpea burgers and butternut squash, lentil and spice pasties.

Did I mention the deconstructed banana split?  No?  In a dairy-free household, we adapt much.  This one?  The chocolate sauce is made with coconut milk.  Why I didn’t think of that before I don’t know.  I don’t care.  The kids are eating it up with spoons straight from the pan.  Must get some bananas so that there’s *some* nutrition going into them!

The book itself is laid out simply: great photos (more than most books, I think, seems to be a pic with every recipe, which is extraordinary in a good way), simple, clear directions and ingredients you really can find just at the supermarket up the road.  I like Bill’s intros to the recipes as well…slightly chatty, but also giving a bit of direction.

If you’re looking for how to make fish roe foam, this isn’t the book for you.  If you’re looking for some new tried-and-tested dishes?  This is the way to go.  I really feel that you can take this down off the shelf, cook straight out of it, and it will all go brilliantly the first time.  This is high praise from me, since most cookbooks DON’T do that (I’m looking at you, Nigella).

With Christmas coming up, this is a great book to give to someone moving out on their own for the first time (or someone you want to move out on their own for the first time…)  It’s clear, concise, and really, I don’t think you can go wrong with this book.

Book: Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger

ISBN: 978-1-84400-843-8

Available from The Book Depository

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for the review copy.


No better place

Really, is there a better place than this to be knitting?  I don’t think so.

beach knitting

Big Tree Beach.  We have been here most days of July and August.  Water isn’t as cold as last year, and there are lots of crabs for catching!

That is the All Seasons Cardi (yes, I know I’m still working on it, thanks) in Hyacinth I mentioned.  I tried it on a couple days ago because I got to the end of my ball of wool….on the cast-off row.  SERIOUSLY?!  So I’m adding two rows of garter stitch to it, then casting off.  It fits great, won’t need too much blocking.  SO excited…I wish I had it on Saturday when the weather was cold!  I had to put on SOCKS.  I haven’t worn socks in 5 weeks!!  (See that there?  That’s how I say the weather has been fab without actually saying the weather has been fab.)

Plans for today: cast off.  Make shopping list (I’m going off-island tomorrow and will hit up the big grocery store and the cheapie tourist shop for trinkets!).  Make list of recipes for the next two and a half weeks…cause then I’m coming back!  w00t!  Back to Dublin, getting the boys ready for school, trying to remember where things are and what we eat, lol.  It’s always a little confusing the first week :D.

Oh, I got a Knit Picks order!  I placed it with two other friends, and OMG, the WOOL.  OMG.  Did I say OMG yet?  Wooly wooly LOVELY wooly!  Can’t wait to do something with that too!  I got this great red DK that is screaming Christmas gifts to me.  Yes, I know I still need to do my Owls (hey, R, we need to Owl-a-long together!).

Right, back to doing all the stuff I can.  I’m at the town library who has a big fat Internet pipe and I’m uploading and downloading like mad.

Old skool

We had a power outage last night (the whole neighbourhood), and then when we got power back, part of the house was still tripping the breaker. This morning we narrowed it down to the dishwasher. Now I’m waiting to hear from people who know these things what we can do to fix it.

Lol, my phone just rang, a good friend calling. I pick it up and say “Hey there!” and all I hear is snuffling sounds, and then “JANE! GIVE MOMMY THE PHONE!” /cracks up laughing. She gets on and says “Oh, who is this?” and I”m laughing almost too hard to say. We both crack up and chat for a mo and then hang up. Was quite nice, actually….

Traveling with kids

The best way to stay on top of things for kids to do while traveling is when you see something, get it. Actually, that works for birthdays and Christmas too. But for kids, we signed up for Dover’s Weekly Sampler, and we get 2 pages from a selection of books. I’ve found some great books in the past few months, and we’re able to print out the pages. So there’s enough to keep them occupied, but not all the same thing. I have a folder on the desktop that is where all this stuff goes, and it will all get printed out and put into an A5 binder a few days before travelling, with a box of pencils or crayons. Easy peasy.


Really, did it come in like a lion?  I don’t think so.  A friend yesterday said that this time of year is tiring, because we’re almost out of winter…but not quite…then it gets warm and people get happy…then it’s cold and dreary again.  It takes a toll on the psyche, you do get more tired.  Maybe also cause the sun is rising earlier, so we all get woken up sooner.

But I’m loving the warmer weather.  Looking past the grey clouds, and looking forward to April, which I call Sunshower Month.  Oh yes, it should be capitalized.  Sunshower Month.  Cause the grey rain is exhausting, but the sunshowers just make me so damn happy.  They’re so pretty!