Random House sent me a complimentary copy of this book, however all opinions are my own.
I know I’m not alone when I say Curtis Stone can cook for me anytime. With his rugged good looks, broad Aussie accent, natural charm and mad kitchen skills, the accomplished chef, restaurateur and family man has got it all going on. So what a joy it is to receive a copy of his latest (and sixth!) cookbook, Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You’ll Love to Make and Eat. With easy-to-follow instructions and stunning photography, the book is a compelling celebration of food, family and the joy to be had when both are brought together.
Stone covers all the bases: light meals, dinners, sides, sweets, breakfasts, snacks and drinks. Each chapter opens with a family anecdote or two, told in an inviting, casual style that gives readers a glimpse into the chef’s childhood and life at home. Light meals are best enjoyed “barefoot and almost horizontal on the sofa”; sides prepared with help from family and friends so “when we sit down to our delicious little spread, everyone is proud of the food in front of us” and breakfasts with his favourite sous-chef, his three-year-old son, Hudson. “When he dips his little fingers in the muffin batter and says, with a nod of approval, ‘Yep, it’s good, Dada,” or asks me for the ‘honey honey’ to spread over a crumpet, there’s no better start to my day.”
Photographer Ray Kachatorian has done an outstanding job with the imagery, making the book as pleasurable to read as it is to cook from. The bright and airy treatment gives each dish a fresh and nutritious feel — even the most decadent desserts (Awesome Brownies, Cherry-Amaretto Lattice Pie) look good for you (if “good” is measured by the sheer pleasure from eating them).
Potato and Zuchinni Enchiladas with Habanero Salsa
Grilled Rib-Eye Steak with Mouth-on-Fire Salsa
Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion-Caper Relish
Cheddar-And-Corn Cream Biscuits
Cherry-Amaretto Lattice Pie
Stone’s son features prominently throughout, cooking and tasting at his father’s side. We’re also treated to a few photos of his then-pregnant wife, Lindsay (loved her in Lipstick Jungle!). Below we see father and son making carrot cupcakes adapted from the recipe Stone used to make his wedding cake. “Lindsay’s favourite cake is carrot cake, so I baked her a big, beautiful one for our wedding … Not only did it make her swoon, but it tasted bloody delicious too.”
Awww, doesn’t that make you want to pick him up and stick him in your pocket? (You can, too! Download your own pocket Curtis to go!)
I tried three recipes from the book: Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (p. 51), Spaghettini with Lemon and Ricotta (p. 104-105) and Ricotta Fritters with Quick Mixed Berry Jam (p. 164-165). I followed each one to the letter and was delighted not only with how well they turned out, but how easy they were to do. I took a little bit longer than the estimated prep time, but not overly so as sometimes happens with other supposedly simple recipes.
The Spaghettini with Lemon and Riccotta came together in minutes and was a light and tasty alternative to our usual pasta with tomato sauce. The lemon zest made it feel fresh and Spring-like, and the ricotta (which we rarely buy) clung well to the spaghettini so there was a creaminess with every bite. Curtis includes a recipe for homemade ricotta that I didn’t try this time, but I will the next time we make it.
The Chicken and Broccoli Casserole wasn’t nearly as photogenic — ‘tho it was delicious! — so I haven’t included a picture here.
And the Ricotta Fritters! Easily one of my favourite recipes evs. I’ve made them a couple of times for my kids and their friends and they often ask me to make them again. (“They’re like giant Timbits,” says my son’s little buddy. Only maybe about 3,000 times better.) As luck would have it, it’s the one recipe in the book with permission to share. Make them and you’ll want your own copy of Good Food, Good Life. I know it.
Makes: about 20 fritters
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
Make-ahead: The fritter batter can be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Canola oil, for deep-frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup homemade ricotta (see Good Food, Good Life for the recipe) or good-quality fresh whole-milk ricotta
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Quick mixed berry jam (recipe follows)
1. Pour 3 inches of oil into a large wide heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, eggs, milk and orange zest to blend, then whisk in the flour mixture.
3. Working in batches, fill a 1 and 1/4-ounce ice cream scoop with batter, lower the scoop into the hot oil, and release the batter while the scoop is submerged in the oil, to achieve a circular shape; repeat to make more fritters without crowding the pan. Fry the fritters, turning occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are deep golden brown and cooked through. Using a slotted spoons, transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain. Return the oil to 350 degrees F between batches.
4. Dust the warm fritters with powdered sugar and serve with the jam alongside, or fill the fritters with the jam.
FRITTERS FOUR WAYS
- Make “churros” by rolling fritters in cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup granulated sugar to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon) instead of dusting them with powdered sugar, and serve with warm bittersweet chocolate sabayon (see p. 154 in the book).
- Dust the fritters with Chamomile Sugar (see p. 168) and serve with Caramel Sauce (p. 160).
- Split the fritters and spoons passion fruit curd (p. 155) into the centers.
- Make jam-filled fritters: Strain the jam through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Fill a flavour injector with the strained jam. Insert the flavor injector needle into the center of each fritter and pipe the jam into the fritter. Dust the fritters with powdered sugar and serve.
Quick Mixed Berry Jam
This summer jam will keep up to 1 week, stored airtight in the refrigerator.
Makes: about 2 cups
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. In a medium heavy skillet, combine the berries, sugar, and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, mashing the berries with a fork. Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens slightly, into a very loose jam consistency.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and set the jam aside to cool to room temperature for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.