Stew a Cockatoo, by Ruthie May

This is a book for the whole family – kids and oldies alike. It’s full of old-time Aussie recipes, with a few new ones added in. Some you will have heard of, like Damper and Lamingtons – others are brand-spanking-new versions of golden oldies, like Edna Split and Roo Doo in a Patty Case. Some of the recipes have come all the way Down Under from faraway places like Italy and Mexico, but here they are given a you-beaut Aussie twist. All the recipes celebrate the grub that Aussies love to eat – from barbies with the rellies to fine dining with mates beside the pool.

When a recipe book is titled, Stew a Cockatoo there is a frisson of anxiety about the contents. And there is a recipe for Cockatoo Stew in amongst the other offerings. It may not ever become your favourite meal. But Stew a Cockatoo is more than a recipe book. It does have a list of the bits and bobs you might need in a kitchen, but there’s more. Like a late night tv advertisement that always promises more, ‘Stew a Cockatoo’ delivers Aussie-isms and an entertaining dollop of history. Some recipes, like that for damper, may see familiar, but can you guess what a ‘Redback Spider’ is and how you might make it? Each double page spread features an Australian saying, a bite of history and perhaps a definition or two, as well as a recipe or three. Leigh Hobbs’ fans will recognise his illustrations, and trademark humour. And with recipes for You-Beaut Snapper and Banana Benders, you’ll not go away hungry.

Stew a Cockatoo is both hilarious and serious, sometimes simultaneously. The recipes (mostly) can be made in any kitchen, or over any campfire. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Readers will take several journeys through Stew a Cockatoo . Firstly they’ll giggle at page titles like ‘Horse Doovers’ and ‘Whacko the Chook!’, then they’ll try to imagine the taste of recipes like ‘Roo Doo in a Patty Case’ and ‘Echidna Delight’. Finally they’ll return, again and again, to the recipes. Recipes are written in plain language, with easy to find ingredients (well…mostly). The target audience is pre-teens and it is suggested that children seek assistance and company in the kitchen. Sure to become a kid’s kitchen favourite, Stew a Cockatoo would also make a great gift for overseas visitors.

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook, Ruthie May, ill Leigh Hobbs
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541513

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Slow Cooker, by Sally Wise

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

If you ask me every home should have at least one crock pot or slow cooker, but some cook books I’ve seen for crock pots have been down right boring. This one is anything but. Just reading through the recipes in this book is enough to make you hungry.

The dishes in this cookbook make the mouth water, with recipes for Lamb and Quince Hotpot and Middle Eastern Lamb Stew to name just a couple. It has recipes for standards like Stroganoff and Lasagne, as well as Lemon Roast Chicken or Spicy Roast Chicken made in a crock pot. And there are the old favourite Hedgehogs which are always popular with adult and child alike.

When it comes to desserts, who could resist Clafoutis made with blueberries and raspberries, Summer Fruits Cobbler and the richly beautiful Black Forest Self Saucing Pudding?

As well as myriad recipes designed to please the palate, Sally Wise gives helpful hints about using the slow cooker or slow cookers. She has several which give you some indication of how much they get used. I know other people who have several.

I liked the way she gave hints of other ingredients that could be substituted for those in the recipe

The other advantage is the recipes are not complicated, which for no fuss cooks like me is ideal. The book doesn’t have colour photos, but to me this is no disadvantage. I’d rather just have great recipes than an elaborately photographic book. If you have a crock pot or slow cooker, this book is a must.

Slow Cookerby Sally Wise
*** ABC Books- HarperCollinsPublishers $24.99
Reviewed By Dale Harcombe

Delicious, by Valli Little

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

If you like your cook book to show the finished product you might appreciate this book. It is beautifully presented with a colour picture on the opposite page to each recipe.

Personally I found many of the breakfast recipes not to my taste but others may well have other ideas.

It has an interesting collection of starters and salads. Anyone who likes couscous will like the Tomato, Couscous and Salami Salad. Vietnamese Chicken Salad is another good one.,p> Spanish Soup which can be served chilled or hot would be a useful addition to any cook’s repertoire, as would Thai-Style Tomato soup.

Where ingredients in some recipes are less familiar, Valli Little directs the reader to the right place to find them.

According to Valli, when she had a gourmet food shop one dish (DPS- Daily Pasta Special) was so popular customers wouldn’t let her ever take it off the menu. The great advantage for the busy person is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare.

On the whole this book is not one for those on a tight budget, as some ingredients are expensive. That is counterbalanced by others like Vegetarian Chilli in Avocado and White Bean and Coconut Curry which are tasty, inexpensive and dead easy. What more could the busy cook want?

I immediately thought of someone I know, when I came across the Kumara Galettes as she is a sucker for anything using pumpkin or kumara. And who could resist Roast Chicken with Pan-Roasted Romesco (a Spanish sauce) or Moroccan Chicken with Olives? Moroccan Cottage Pie is a new twist on an old favourite.

Of course there are also simple desserts, cakes, and low fat recipes. Most people should find several particular favourites the will use in this book. Having said that, it’s not one I’d buy myself as I wasn’t that enamoured of some of the recipes or found others used ingredients too expensive for our budget. But I’m prepared to concede others may end up with a different idea.

Delicious: Quick, Smart Cook

Delicious: Quick, Smart Cook, by Valli Little
***ABC books RRP $39.99

This book can be purchased online from Aussiereviews. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Allergy Safe Family Food, by Suzanna Paxton

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Food allergies, particularly in children can present a nightmare for parents. Given what seems to be an increasing number of children and adults that have allergies these days, it is good to see a book that has recipes clearly labelled for people with allergies that is easy to use.

The book is divided into Starters, Soups and Salads, then Main Meal. Deserts, Cakes and Treats follow before going on to Snacks and Lunchbox Ideas, Allergy Management, Shopping Guide etc. An important feature of the book is that ingredients are readily available at supermarkets, so it doesn’t require special trips to health food shops which can be more expensive.

In the shopping list I did wonder though how Kellogg’s cornflake crumbs are listed as WF and GF (wheat and gluten free) when Kellogg’s Cornflakes are not listed among the Cereals. Readers will find this a useful guide though Suzanna Paxton does stress to always check the labels as ingredients change. I found this. When the packaging of cranberry, raspberry and strawberry tea changed, so did the ingredients. What had previously been wheat free, suddenly included wheat which meant it went off my shopping list.

This book is also useful in that it has quick dishes to prepare like Honey Baked Chicken as well as those like Lamb and Cauliflower Stew which require minimal washing up – always a plus.

I thought it was a shame Suzanna didn’t give a recipe for Tabouli that was wheat and gluten free which is what I make myself, rather than using a packet mix that contains wheat and gluten. Also I would have expected it should have been stated in the Baba Ghanoush recipe that the eggplants need to have slits cut in them so they do not explode. But possibly spraying oil on the skin alleviates this danger. I admit I haven’t tried it.

I liked the suggestion of using golden syrup in Crunchy Fruit bars for those who are allergic to honey. I loved the way she included child friendly recipes like Chocolate Fudge Slice with Chocolate Icing. And Quick Fizzy Scones, which kids can easily make with a parent. Maybe even this klutz could make decent scones. I couldn’t help but wonder whether it would work as well using gluten free self raising flour rather than that suggested. Perhaps I’ll try it one day.

Parents of children and other family members with allergies will find a good range of recipes in this book that is so easy to use.

Allergy Safe Family Food, by Suzanna Paxton
HarperCollinsPublishers, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe.
Dale is a NSW writer and reviewer. You can visit her blog here.

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Modern Classics Book 2, by Donna Hay

If you have a sweet tooth, or love to impress your friends and family with delectable treats, then you will adore this volume.Following on from the delights of Modern Classics 1, Donna Hay shares the secrets to making perfect biscuits, slices, cakes and desserts.

As with the first book, Hay presents old favourites, such as sponge cakes and gingerbread men, along with delightful modern offerings such as her Summer Pudding. As she says in her introduction, these are the sweet treats that everyone wants to know how to make. With her straightforward instructions and accessible ingredient lists, Hay ensures anyone CAN make these delights.

Modern Classics 2, with its focus on deserts and sweet snacks is an excellent stand-alone volume. It is also, however, an excellent complement to the first volume.


Modern Classics Book 2, by Donna Hay
Harper Collins, 2003

Modern Classics Book 1, by Donna Hay

Times may have changed in the kitchen (as elsewhere), but that doesn’t mean modern cooks want to reinvent the wheel. They still want to make soups and salads, roasts and pasta, pies and puddings.

In Modern Classics renowned food writer Donna Hay takes these traditional numbers and combines them with the best of modern ingredients and techniques to give them a fresh new life.

Old and new are wonderfully intermingled so that as well as explaining how to roast a leg of lamb and make gravy, Hay also shows to make Pad Thai and risotto. Dishes such as risotto, she explains, will be as commonplace to the next generation of home cooks as macaroni cheese has been to the current one.

These delicious and easy recipes are mostly made with ingredients that can be sourced at the local supermarket, a boon for busy shoppers or country residents like this reviewer.

The book is gorgeously illustrated by the photography of Con Poulos, whose images seem so real they make the reader’s taste buds tingle.

The presentation of the book is beautiful. It seems almost too good to live in the kitchen – seeming to deserve to be shown off.


Modern Classics Book 1, by Donna Hay
Harper Collins, 2002

Gabriel Gate Guide to Everyday Cooking

More than just another cook book, Gabriel Gate Guide to Everyday Cookinglives up to its name. Alongside over 200 recipes are loads of tips, hints and information backed by Gate’s lifetime in the kitchen. Gate gives suggestions for shopping better, cooking quicker and generally reducing stress in the kitchen.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow, well set out and generally use common ingredients. They include soups, vegetable dishes, light meals, desserts and more.

This is a book you will use over and over, and would be ideal for the nervous novice.

Gabriel Gate is one of Australia’s favourite chefs, recognisable by his French accent and known for his delicious recipes and sound advice.

Gabriel Gate Guide to Everyday Cooking
Allen & Unwin, 2003

How to Teach Kids to Cook, by Gabriel Gate

Yes, having kids in the kitchen can be messy and time consuming, but it can also be fun and extremely beneficial. Teaching kids to cook not only teaches them important skills for independence, but also encourages creativity, an awareness of healthy eating, and allows time for family togetherness.

In How to Teach Kids to Cook, society chef and author of fourteen acclaimed cookbooks, Gabriel Gate, offers sound advice on how to introduce chidlren to the kitchen. There are over sixty yummy recipes for beginner cooks, as well as plenty of tips and hints for parents.

Beautifully presented with clear instructions and appealing photographs, this book is an essential addition to every young family’s kitchen>

How to Teach Kids to Cook, by Gabriel Gate
Allen & Unwin, 2002