Australia comfortably identifies with both Eastern and Western cultures. It has been fascinating to visit the – to my initial mind “Western” cities of Sydney and Melbourne, only to find Japanese noodle shops on every block, Thai food every other and reliably authentic bowls of pho a short walk away from just about anywhere in these cities. I find that both refreshing and, as a 13 year resident of Thailand, comforting.
It should be no surprise, then, that a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free cookbook by an Aussie chef would appeal to my adopted Asian sensibilities. Chef Pete Evans’, Paleo Every Day, is filled with paleo versions of both Asian and Western recipes that I imagine would be familiar to many an Aussie. They are also familiar to me, in large part due to my time spent here in The Kingdom.
CHAPTERS AND ORGANIZATION
The overall theme of the cookbook is lightened up paleo, Aussie style. The chapter titles are a mix of meals, courses and main ingredient. There is also a Cultured Kitchen chapter that I will surely study when I am finally ready to ferment on my own, as well as a Basics chapter that includes sauces, dressings and even cauliflower rice, which is indeed a new basic in my household.
A health nut chef, Pete can and does casually incorporate a Malaysian Fish Head Curry, Kingfish Sashimi with Yuzu Dressing and Spiced Chicken in Banana Leaves into a cookbook that also offers Lamb Osso Bucco, Activated Nuts and a healthier (avocado-infused) version of Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries. He incorporates Asian ingredients I have learned to love such as nori, fresh coconut milk and fresh ginger root (as well as many I have not yet tried) into his recipes. And then, for a uniquely Aussie touch, there are the Moroccan Spiced Kangaroo Meatballs.
At the end of the day, Pete Evans is a simply an energetic healthy food ambassador, and his recipes are creative, tasty and (Kangaroo Meatballs notwithstanding) largely accessible to anyone comfortable with basic Western and Southeast Asian ingredients.
- the Watermelon and Radish Salad was really very good, and I look forward to making it again. I especially appreciated the addition of lusty truffle oil in the dressing which came through deliciously in the the finished salad. although to be perfectly honest, I had to substitute the truffle balsamic vinegar for some of the apple cider vinegar called for instead, as I didn’t have any truffle oil on hand. Anyways, point is, the flavors worked.
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Gremolata is an ideal side dish that gussies up spicy chicken avocado burgers, which tend to end up on my dinner table fairly often.
- the Grilled Prawns with Chilli and Oregano recipe came in handy right after I purchased this book. I happened to have some frozen king prawns from a Paleo Robbie order languishing in the freezer. Having not really understood what I was ordering at the time, when these two bags of giant frozen prawns appeared I just stuck them in the freezer until I could figure something out. This simple, tasty recipe was timely, and it took the mystery out of what to do with those king prawns.
- Nic’s Ceviche with the Works solved another problem I encountered with a Paleo Robbie order. An entire snapper, head, guts and scales included, ordered by accident. (Apparently I don’t really know what I’m doing on the Paleo Robbie website…) This recipe motivated me to get the fish de-scaled and de-boned, and turn it into this ceviche dish, which is really a meal, ideal for a hot April evening in Thailand. I cannot say this was the best version of ceviche I have tried, but I’m admittedly a bit of a Mexican ceviche purist. The dish was really good though, made enough for wonderful leftovers the next day for a “not-sad” desk lunch at work, and I really love the creativity involved, and ability to turn ceviche into a complete one dish meal.
- The Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad is so far the only recipe from this cookbook I’ve tried that was greeted with mixed results in my family,. I think that was due to the boiled leeks, which weren’t a great hit due to texture – which may have been my fault. The beets, on the other hand, were infused with cumin powder while baking were, which I thought were amazing. I was surprised that even after peeling the cooked beets, the cumin remained in tact. I’d definitely use this technique again.
TECHNIQUES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Dairy-free cashew cheese, which Pete prefers, can be easily traded out for real cheese, as I prefer. Thus, my version of his Watermelon and Radish Salad was garnished with real feta, thank you very much.
And while his recipes are all paleo and gluten free, they are not grain free. So, since I am Plant Paradoxing these days, I opt out of his frequent use of quinoa (in, for example Nic’s Ceviche with the Works) and instead sub in one of the two Plant Paradox friendly grains, millet or sorghum (most likely millet though as I have yet to find sorghum anywhere in Thailand). Again, easy enough to do.
About the recipes, I will also say that in general the ingredient lists lean toward long. Nic’s Ceviche with the Works clocked in a 21 items, and that is not unusual in this book. Since the recipes tend to be vegetable forward, there is also quite some washing and chopping involved. While this does not turn me off, and in fact I’m really impressed with this guy’s ambition, I can imagine it may not be what every paleo person wants. Then again, you don’t need a cookbook to show paleo people how to fry an egg or pan grill a steak.
You can get a good feel for the Pete Evans style of cooking and grab some free recipes on his website. In fact, that reminds me I need to try his version of butter chicken, 18 ingredients and all.
The photos are lovely. I have a strong bias for cookbooks heavy on food porn, and this one’s got it. There is a full page attractive color photo of every recipe opposite the recipe text – just the way I like it!
Overall I am really satisfied with this cookbook. The recipes are creative, heavy on the veggies, light, healthy, Asian and Western inspired and easily adaptable. The collection as a whole is very ambitious,”healthy” cookbook or not, and I appreciate that Pete Evans just put it out there. I find myself reaching for this cookbook often lately. It cant help but remind me how lucky I am to be living (and eating) in Southeast Asia.