Simple Food by Jill Dupleix

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Simple Food by Jill Dupleix

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Category: Cookery
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A refreshing approach to food with some novel combinations of flavours which really work. Techniques are simple and clearly explained. It's not a recipe book which covers your every need, but it will give you inspiration.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2003
Publisher: Quadrille Publishing
ISBN: 1844000168

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One of the things I used to enjoy most about Saturday mornings was reading the Weekend section of The Times. It was a mixture of articles which are probably classed as 'Lifestyle' - there was gardening, food, wine, a vet answering questions and a gentleman who answered questions about etiquette. For years The Times cook was Frances Bissell.

I loved to read her but I can only once recollect using one of her recipes, for a summer fruit cake of the type that would not have disgraced a house party at a rather grand establishment. I read, but not so much for the food as for the atmosphere of good living which the writing purveyed.

In 2000 she retired, to be replaced by Jill Dupleix. 'Jill who?' we all said. Well, she's Australian, she's young, sickeningly attractive and rather more photogenic than Nigella Lawson. This was going to be no good, now was it? I mean, what could this slip of a girl from down there tell us about food? Mentally I reviewed the other papers available on Saturdays for a better alternative but apathy left me with The Times.

I read, but without great hope of enjoyment. Then I started to notice my husband saying things like 'This tastes good. What is it?' 'Oh, I got the idea from that girl in The Times. Jill Someoneorother.' I found that the bundle of recipes in the kitchen drawer 'that I'm going to try out one day' was almost exclusively a collection of Jill Dupleix articles. So when her book "Simple Food" was published I decided to indulge myself.

Jill's mission statement is on the back cover: "I love to cook, but not when I could be eating and drinking". The book is all about taking simple, high-quality ingredients, doing as little as possible to them and producing wonderful food. Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it isn't!

The first recipe I tried was Sweet Onion Crostini: onions and rosemary cooked in butter, olive oil and white wine and served on sourdough toast with prosciutto. It's a brunch recipe but I've served it as a light lunch with a salad on a warm day and as a starter at dinner. The taste is fresh with the onions and Parma Ham that I used complimenting each other well.

Last Saturday we had Chicken Caesar for lunch: grilled chicken breasts with a Caesar Salad. The taste was sharp and far better than anything I've ever had in a restaurant and the effort required was minimal. I served it with Crash Hot Potatoes: new potatoes, still in their skins, boiled until they're just about cooked, then smashed flat and baked in the oven with olive oil, salt and fennel seeds until they are, as Ms Dupleix says "terminally crisp". Ordinary roast potatoes seem boring after that!

We had Espresso Prunes a couple of weeks ago. The prunes are cooked in espresso coffee, sugar and brandy. The recommendation is that they should be served with yoghurt, but I served them with vanilla ice cream. I would never have imagined that the combination of prunes and coffee could work so well, but then it's a long time since I read a cookery book which introduced me to new flavours, as this book does, rather than simply reworking old ideas.

I know I shouldn't have done, but I did try a couple of the simple treats. After I'd made my usual ice cream I had some egg whites left over, so I made some coconut macaroons - egg white, sugar and coconut. The result was far moister and much tastier than the macaroons I recollect from my childhood. The real indulgence, though, was the chocolate bourbon balls which are bitter-sweet rather than sickly-sweet and are the perfect accompaniment to an after-dinner coffee.

Ms Dupleix is a woman of many talents. She has done the photography for the book herself (and she also does the photography for her articles in The Times). The results are sumptuous, perfectly complimenting the recipes.

If I had to make a criticism (and I'm forcing myself here!) it's that I'm not over-keen on the modern fashion of having parts of the book in "in-case-you've-forgotten-your-reading-glasses large print". It always smacks to me of being a cheap way of filling pages, but the device isn't over-used and it certainly doesn't spoil an excellent book and one that hasn't been off the kitchen working-surface since it came into the house.

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Buy Simple Food by Jill Dupleix at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Simple Food by Jill Dupleix at


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