A Food & Travel Blog

Cookbook review – Olive & Rosemary Fougasse & Fast Ed Halmagyi’s “The Food Clock”

17/08/2012 | By

Another cookbook made it’s way across my desk this week and this one is just a little bit different from the norm.  “The Food Clock”, by Fast Ed Halmagyi (Harper Collins), takes current fondness for the thoroughly sensible trend of eating seasonally and gives it quite a whimsical little twist that I’ve not really seen before.  Using the device of a fictional story featuring his alter-ego Monseuir Henri Petit-Pois whose discovery of a clock which tells what to eat rather than the time, Fast Ed walks us through the four seasons focusing on the peak produce for each one.

Fast Ed Halmagyi is well known in Australia as a chef, TV presenter, radio host and author, with three previous cookbooks under his belt.  The child of Hungarian parents, Fast Ed grew up on Hungarian cuisine, but is well known for his fondness for fresh, seasonal, produce prepared simply and easily.  This new book of his aims to help those of us who are responsible for the family meals move out of our cooking ruts and away from the same meals that we prepare over and over, encouraging us to take advantage of the bounty of each individual season.  At the same time, he wanted to give the whole cookbook format something of a gee-up, hence the novel approach of using a fanciful narrative format.

I’m not really sure that the story aspect of this book does it for me, although it is a pleasant new approach for the genre.  However, what does do it for me are the gorgeous photo’s, illustrations and styling of the book.  It is beautifully presented from the perfectly composed  and lit cover shot of a dapper and slightly brooding Fast Ed, to the delicate story illustrations and the rustic presentation and styling of the food.  And, let’s be honest, the food is what we’re really after.

Divided into Hot, Cool, Cold and Warm O’Clocks and the quarter-hour graduations, each of the “The Food Clock” sections features a selection of the seasonal produce available, but not quite in the order you might expect.  This can make specific recipes difficult to find, but that is what the index is for.  By setting the book out in this way, the reader (and cook) is encouraged to wander around the sections and is much more likely to be tempted to try something new to them, than if they were to head straight for the dish they wanted.  I think this is a gentle, but clever way to nudge us out of our staid cooking routines, opening our eyes to other meal-time  possibilities.

The recipes themselves are fresh, simple and delicious, featuring dishes such as Pan Roasted Duck  with (dried) Figs, Orange and Dandelion greens, Warm Camembert with Fricassee of  Mushrooms, Crispy Quail with Mandarin Salt and Apricot Stuffing, Cherry Pie and Honey Petit Pots de Creme – all of them just a teensy bit special, but well within the reach of any home cook and not requiring the purchase of ingredients which may never otherwise see the light of day.

There are also quite few baking recipes, including several breads.  I’ve been a little slack with my baking efforts of late so I decided to give one of Fast Ed’s bread recipes a whirl, knowing how much my family loves to come home on a cold evening to house smelling of fresh-baked bread.  I was a little sceptical as to how this recipe for the traditional French fougasse would turn out, but the end result was one of the most delicious and fluffiest breads I have made in ages – largely due, I suspect, to the long proving times.

Olive & Rosemary Fougasse

Author: Fast Ed Halmagyi


  • 500 gms strong bread flour not ordinary plain flour
  • 3/4 5.5gms sachet of dried yeast
  • 300 mls water
  • 50 gms rye flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 150 gms pitted green olives chopped
  • 150 gms pitted black olives chopped
  • leaves from 6 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • Combine 150 gms of the bread flour with half the yeast & 150 mls of the water in bowl of an electric mixer & beat with dough hook until smooth & elastic. Cover with plastic wrap & leave for 3 hours, until dough has risen then collapsed.
  • Add the remaining bread flour, yeast & water, the rye flour & salt - mix on slow for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth.
  • Turn on to a floured surface and knead in the olives, rosemary and half the olive oil until well distributed. Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap again and leave for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 240C.
  • Divide the dough into two equal pieces, then stretch out to form rough triangles on paper lined baking trays. Slash deeply, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Place immediately on wire racks and brush with remaining oil.




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  1. celia

    Amanda, what an unusual approach – to weave recipes into a fictional tale. That is indeed unique – I’m going to take a peek at this one if I come across it at the bookstores. Thanks!

  2. Hotly Spiced

    The bread certainly looks delicious. I love the seasonal approach of the cookbook because I always find it handy but I’m not so sure about the narrative business. I’ll take a look at it in a bookshop xx

  3. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    The author looks pretty cute and the bread looks amazing; you know that ‘over here’ someone might say, ‘Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner’ right?

    That being said…uh oh. Strong flour – what if mine is weak? Sachet of yeast; sounds ADORABLE but I have no idea how much that is. Gms…well I didn’t buy that conversion scale for no reason! I do know I have a whole counter of olives sent to me to sample…wouldn’t this be perfect?

  4. Amanda

    Barb – updated the recipe just for you! Bread flour is special bread-baking flour and has a higher amount of gluten in it than ordinary cake-baking flour. Given your altitude, you might need to adjust this recipe a little, too.

  5. judy

    I like watching Ed on the odd occasion I actually sit down in front of the TV. I was wondering how some of the recipes would convert for the TMX Amanda?

  6. tania@mykitchenstories.com.au

    Sounds like a really nice idea with great recipes. I am not into something like this ( narrative) personally but good on him hes really good at what he does

  7. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

    This is a great review. I love how you tell it as you see it and leave it up to us whether it suits us or not. I too have watched him on TV and I have mixed feelings about his food. Some of his dishes don’t seem finished to me. The concept of his book matches his quirky personality.

  8. Kelsey Towicz

    This bread looks so good!

  9. InTolerant Chef

    It certainly sounds like a novel approach, but if all the recipes look as good as this one, he should be onto a winner 🙂

  10. Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy

    It sounds like an interesting book and this is a great review. The fougasse looks so light and fluffy. I imagine I would have to keep this away from myself for fear of devouring the lot!

  11. Jamie

    Sounds like quite an intriguing book! But although I love a cookbook for its photos and recipes, I do love a good story that can bring those recipes to life and make me want to make them. But this does sound like a pretty cool cookbook and the fougasse looks out of this world!

  12. Jennifer @ Delicieux

    Your fougasse looks delicious Amanda. Is there anything better than fresh bread? I don’t think so.

    Thanks for your review of Fast Ed’s book. I’m not sure I’d like the story format either. Although I do love a good cookbook with great photos and illustrations.

  13. Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul

    The fougasse looks beautiful Amanda. As for the book…I will def have to check it out. I’m intrigued how they managed to weave a tale into a cook book!

  14. Jacqui Clark

    I bought this book a couple of months ago and I LOVE it. Love Ed’s aproach to cooking, fast simple honest. Love the format of the book, unique with its story telling aproach, and love the recipes. (Have tried quite a few to rave reviews).
    As I see it, you sit and read the book for its story first. This really asks for you to turn each page instead if ‘skimming’ Is this not what we should do with books???? read them??? As you read you will pass by the recipes, each one giving you a glimpse into what is to come, what delights are in store.
    Ofcourse you will want to go back just to look at the recipes and hopefully try a few!!!!!!

  15. Frances Powell

    I actually love this book. The recipes are easily do-able, although sometimes I’ve found them a little on the pricey side – to balance that, though, they’re easily adjustable for more than four (I’m always cooking for more than four!) and I’ve had no drama’s replacing some ingredients with others.

    What I’d love to know, really truly, is if Henri and Sabine got married in the end and spent the rest of their lives following the clock.