I’m a sucker for cookbooks, especially if they are on sale or at a great price. Even if they are the weirdest of titles, like Pooh’s Yummy Cookbook (I actually own this. I bought it ages ago, before my son was born, hoping to cook from it together when he was old enough.)
Some cookbooks you buy for the novelty factor- like the Momofuku MIlk Bar or Roberta’s cookbooks. Some cookbooks are for the purpose of learning and understanding more about a cuisine, like Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking or Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. And some you pick up because they’re on sale. Like I said, I love a great bargain. And when I come across a nice cookbook at a steal, it’ kind of hard to walk away. Which is how I ended up adding Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals to my collection.
The first time I ever saw Rachel Allen was when her show Bake! aired on TLC India. I (kind of) assumed that she was solely a baker and pastry chef, and sweet treats and breads were all she did. It’s only later when I watched her Home Cooking and Easy Meals shows that I realized she is an all-round cook.
I enjoy her shows- especially the segments where she visits patisseries, bread makers, chocolatiers, farms & suppliers and interacts with them. I quite like her approach to food- it’s not scary or dicatorial, it’s not too complicated, and it’s not appallingly semi-homemade like Sandra Lee (who, I agree with Anthony Bourdain, is going to kill people with her food.)
I saw this book at a clearance sale and it was in great condition, and available at a really, really good price. There aren’t as many pictures as Bake! and All Things Sweet, but the recipes do stand up to their promise: they are easy, uncomplicated and from what I’ve tried so far, pretty flavourful.
The book is split into sections, with one dedicated to store-cupboard meals (using a lot of lentils, beans, pasta and chickpeas,) another called Fast & Fabulous dedicated to very very quick meals; another section with 5 ingredients or less; as well as a no-cook section (which has a great beetroot gazpacho recipe and a bunch of salads and tartines.)
I’m a fan of pared-down cooking. Just a few quality ingredients and bright seasoning that shines through. Since I’m all about salads these days, I made the chickpea and roasted aubergine salad. This one is from the Fast & Fabulous section of the book, recipes which take under 30 mins to prepare. The original recipe calls for rocket leaves, but I tore in some basil because I didn’t have any. I think cilantro would work really well, too.
CHICKPEA & AUBERGINE SALAD (From Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals.)
- 2 red onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 large or 2 medium aubergines, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 400g cooked and drained chickpeas
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- A handful of basil leaves, torn
- 200 ml yoghurt (a little less than 1 cup of yogurt)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 220 C, set aside a shallow baking dish for the vegetables.
- In a bowl, toss the onion wedges and aubergines with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
- Tip the vegetables into a shallow baking dish and bake in the oven at 220 C for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned.
- To make the dressing, whisk together the yogurt, paprika and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- Once the vegetables are done cooking, assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, add the chickpeas and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the onions+aubergines, and mix well. Drizzle over the yogurt dressing, then scatter the torn basil leaves on top.