If you didn’t know Curtis Stone was Australian – you might easily guess it from his cookbook, Good Food, Good Life(Ballantine 2015). It shares the simple, straightforward appeal of some of his home country’s best cookbooks – those of Bill Granger in particular.
It also resembles many Californian cookbooks with similar recipes and ingredients popular on the West Coast. Without the references to his kids and his wife, this might also be a cookbook of many other Food Network celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay or more likely fellow transplanted Californian, Tyler Florence. This is a celebrity chef cookbook, so it is larded with photographs of Curtis and his photogenic sidekick, three-year old son Hudson. The photographs by Ray Kachatorian bring the ingredients, kitchen scenes and finished dishes to life, making them look colorful, approachable, and very, very edible.
Good Food, Good Life promises to be a personal cookbook, and it does deliver with heaps of charm and sincerity that good food is part of living a good life.
I do my best to fill their bellies with as much jay and goodness as I can. Hence, a few of our secret family recipes divulged in each chapter, even a scaled-back cupcake interpretation of he carrot cake with brown sugar cream frosting that I whipped up for Linds on our wedding day. (p. xii)
The first chapter of Light Meals is full of recipes that would be good for either lunch or a light dinner or brunch. Make the Roasted Beet and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese, Fennel, and Pecans (p. 7) for the vibrant taste of tarragon in the vinaigrette and pair it with the more rib-sticking Posole (p. 23) the pork and hominy stew that combines pork shoulder with chiles and prepared hominy. Curtis like chiles, which are used in the Chicken Chile Verde (p. 52) a thick tomatillo and pepitas sauce topped with simmered chicken. Both dishes are made lighter with the addition of chunks of avocado, shredded veggies and cheese, and even some chips on the Posole.
Curtis lives in California with access to great seafood for his Seafood Stew with Cream and Fennel (p. 26) with plenty of mussels, halibut and Manila clams. One of the most interesting recipes in this chapter is for Pork Burger with Spicy Ginger Pickles (p. 37). Curtis writes: “You’re not gonna find this Hawaiian-style burger with kimchi mayonnaise and ginger pickles on any drive-thru menu. Mix up a little extra kimchi mayo for a flavorful dipping sauce if you’re serving the burger with fries.” The pickles are made with rice vinegar, jalapenos and chopped ginger. They are ready in an hour, but keep for two weeks in the refrigerator.
Throughout the book, Curtis adds extra vegetables or leaves out the meat – in his Potato and Zucchini Enchiladas with Habanero Salsa on p. 101 for instance – or vegetarian main dishes like Almond Falafel (p. 94). Dinner for him doesn’t always mean plenty of meat, although there are beef, lamb, fish, and chicken recipes, too. Underscoring the Good Life is a healthy life – topped off with a dessert.
If you are a fan of Australian/Californian/Healthy/Comfort/Celebrity home cooking, then Curtis has written you a very good cookbook. If you haven’t seen him on TV or eaten at his restaurant, Maude in Beverly Hills, you can catch him hosting HSN‘ 24 Hour Cooks Event with fellow celebrity chefs on March 15th.