Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review: 4 Ingredients 1, 2 & Fast, Fresh & Healthy

I know I am late jumping onto the 4 Ingredients bandwagon, but I recently saw the new 4 Ingredients book, Fast, Fresh & Healthy, on sale and decided to review the whole series. For those of you who haven't heard of 4 Ingredients, this series of cookbooks and recent TV series is a huge phenomenon. Originally self-published by two working mums from Queensland, the original book went on to become Australia's bestselling book, selling over 2 million copies. Based on the premise of every recipe containing 4 ingredients or less, and using simple measurements, the book appealed to busy cooks of all persuasions, from young mums getting food on the table for healthy kids to students cooking for the first time.

4 Ingredients: over 340 quick, easy & delicious recipes using 4 or less ingredients

This book was very hit and miss for me. I was originally impressed with one of the opening chapters that stressed using healthy real foods as substitutes in their recipes, such as raw milk, rapadura, organic products and butter instead of margarine. However, this pleasant surprise was soon diminished when I saw recipes like their recipe for Asparagus Soup (which consisted boiling together a tin of asparagus tips and a tin of condensed asparagus soup with some water) and Profiteroles (1 pkt White Wings Profiteroles mix, milk, cream, eggs) that even went so far in their instructions to say "five simple steps as per the packet". This to me is not a 4 ingredient healthy recipe!

However, despite a few recipes like this that are over reliant on over processed packaged foods, the remainder of the recipes are quick, easy and look delicious. A little tweaking of flavours, and I have been impressed with the recipes I have tried. I particularly like the snack, sweet and kids section as there are plenty of healthy recipes that are very quick to pull together, since I like making treats and snacks for the kids but don't usually don't want to spend hours doing so.

4 Ingredients 2: over 400 fast, fabulous & flavoursome recipes using 4 or fewer ingredients

This was my favourite book out of the series. While there are still a few condensed soups as a key ingredient, there seemed to be less reliance on packaged/convenience foods, and those that are used tend to be healthier options like tinned fish or rotisserie chicken. Again, the recipes for snacks, sweets and kids were my favourites. I just really think that recipes for mains only involving 4 ingredients tend to be too "simple" for our family's taste. But as a jumping off point, the recipes are a great simple base that can be built on to your family's liking.

4 Ingredients Fast, Fresh & Healthy: over 400 sensational new recipe using 4 ingredients or less for a healthier mind and body

Their last book has been written in conjunction with Deepak Chopra, but other than a very superficial overview of Ayurvedic principles, I really can't see what his input was. The recipes are along the same vein as in the previous two books, although my impression was of a lot of curry recipes. I was glad to see almost no processed/convenience foods used, other than items like mayonnaise and curry paste, which could easily be substituted with homemade. Unfortunately, the recipes in this book just didn't appeal to me or DH that much. There was really nothing in here that I was inspired to cook.

Overall, I think these books are great for those who are really time pressed, or those just starting out with cooking. For cooks with more experience, I think most of the recipes are better used as the starting inspiration for a quick and easy meal to be tweaked rather than followed directly.

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