A Food & Travel Blog

New Cookbook Reviews

13/11/2015 | By

Too many cookbooks? No such thing. Here are my cookbook reviews on three new additions to my culinary library.

A Simple Table cookbook reviews

When we arrived home from our recent holiday I found a delicious pile of cookbooks from Murdoch Books (whose Australian cookbook selection is getting more and more impressive) waiting in the post for me. I was very keen to get my hands on two of them, Summer on Fat Pig Farm, by Matthew Evans, and Special Delivery, by Annabel Crabb,  and the third – A Simple Table, by Michele Cranston, came as a very welcome and pleasant surprise.

Michele Cranston is no novice to the food scene and has been cooking and styling for 25 years. She was food editor at Marie Clare Magazine, wrote 12 cookbooks in the bestselling Marie Claire cookbook series and is currently Food Editor at Large at the Australian Women’s Weekly – so a big canon of food knowledge to fall back on there.

A Simple Table is the kind of cookbook which always appeals to me. It is full of vibrant recipes using simple techniques to make the most of the freshest of produce. There’s nothing too intimidating here, no culinary hoops to jump through and lots to inspire  the experienced cook or encourage a tentative tenderfoot. The recipes cover everything from cooking for one or two, a family or a crowd with all the information and tips necessary to make your efforts a success every time. Michele makes it all look easy, she’s not afraid to add punch with some big flavours and delivers with recipes like her Smashed Potatoes and Kale with Anchovy-Herb Sauce, the Pineapple with Ginger and Cardamom Syrup or her gorgeous Sesame Salt. Buy this book for anyone who loves fabulous fresh and simple food.

Summer on Fat Pig Farm cookbook

Matthew Evans needs no introduction to many of us – especially those who have been following him on SBS TV’s Gourmet Farmers and his recent efforts to address some of the nagging issues with Australian seafood in the documentary What’s The Catch?. He’s the author of 11 books and is Australia’s favourite tree-changer. His latest, Summer on Fat Pig Farm, celebrates the time of year that many of us hold dearest, the season “where the garden prospers, the berries ripen and the aroma of fresh herbs lingers in the air” –  and when cooking is more likely to mean ‘assembling’ and kitchen prep in general becomes shorter and simpler.

There’s not one thing in this book that I don’t want to cook – or eat – and it absolutely oozes summer. Think Char-grilled veggies and fresh snacks (Flathead Tacos), lots of luscious summer fruit and berry recipes, light, bright and intense salads (I can’t wait to try his Cucumber and Sesame Oil Salad with Sichuan peppercorns) and delicious barbecue dishes. And what’s not to love about a book that has so many bacon recipes – hello Bacon & Baked Bean Jaffles! Buy this one for the keen seasonal cook (and bacon lover).

(Matthew is currently travelling around the country launching his new book – check the press for events near you!)

Special Delivery cookbook

Image from Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe (Murdoch Books).

Author and political journalist Annabel Crabb has craftily inveigled her way into the kitchens of Australian politicians through five series of her television show Kitchen Cabinet. She slips in the back door, offering her subjects dessert and us the chance to view them in their natural surroundings, as she burrows through their thick political skin to find out what makes them tick.

For many years she has also been involved in a food-sharing exchange with best friend Wendy Sharpe (recipe consultant on Kitchen Cabinet) and Special Delivery is their recipe collaboration. It is a selection of many of the dishes they have taken to each others houses over the years, plus others that speak of the affection, cheer and care inherent in a gift of food. As you’d expect, there is a large selection of deliciously desirable sweet treats and baked goods, as well as recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner deliveries – all of which come with transport and serving instructions. This is food which talks of love, friendship and fun with recipes for dishes like Winters Consolation Soup, Persian Love Cake and Portable Pizza. From the fancy to the simple, there’s something for everyone – why not try Annabel and Wendy’s delicious Banana and Date Mini Pancakes?

Date & Banana Mini Pancakes

Recipe and Image from Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe (Murdoch Books).

Date and Banana Mini Pancakes

A simple recipe that will always please. As there is no added sugar in this recipe, Annabel thinks they are probably a health food. πŸ˜‰
Author: From Annabel Crabb & Wendy Sharpe's new book "Special Delivery"


  • 2-3 ripe squishy bananas
  • 5 dates pitted and finely diced
  • 200 gms 7oz/1 1/3 cups self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml 7fl oz milk - or use 170 ml (5 1/2 fl oz/2/3 cup) of milk and 2 Tbsp plain yoghurt for extra rise
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • butter to serve


  • In a large bowl, smash the bananas into a sloppy mess, then sprinkle in the dates, mixing as you go. the main challenge here is to have the dates evenly distributed instead of clumped together.
  • Now sift in the flour, alternating with the eggs and milk here and there, until you have one big bowl of lumpy batter.
  • Heat a lick of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Drop tablespoonsful of the batter into the pan: you should be able to cook 3 or 4 pancakes at a time. When the edges start to bubble, turn them over and cook for a minute on the other side: you are looking for a light to golden brown colour.
  • Serve with butter - and lashings of tea.
  • For an off-site breakfast, pack up the cooked pancakes in an open topped basket with your smartest, cleanest tea towel over the top. Or, if you know the person well enough, take the jug of batter along and elbow your way into the kitchen.


(Annabel Crabb is also touring to launch her book – look out for her in your local book shop.)




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  1. Anna @ shenANNAgans

    Yay! Early Christmas presents. πŸ™‚
    Matthew spoke at the Eat.Drink.Blog conference last month, really cool to hear his story. Can’t wait to get my copy of his book too.

  2. Liz Posmyk (Good Things)

    Great books you’ve reviewed there, Amanda! Interestingly, I didn’t receive any of them. Matthew spoke at a literary dinner at the ANU. Thoroughly enjoyable. Borrowed his book from the library. Going to a literary dinner with Annabel in a week or two. Looking forward to it. Thanks for your great reviews!

  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    It is definitely cookbook season! I can’t keep up with them at the moment and my pile is growing so high!

  4. Hotly Spiced

    A great selection and how lovely to come home and find these waiting for you. I think I’d like the Matthew Evans book but Annabelle’s looks good too xx

  5. Mel @ The cook's notebook

    Love Michelle Cranston’s books – will have to check out her new one. Love Annabelle too – cannot believe we are up to S5 of Kitchen Cabinet!

  6. Beck @ goldenpudding

    Lovely sounding trio Amanda, and there are a couple of places round Canberra with signed copies which is always a nice bonus πŸ™‚