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Book Review: Fast Ed’s Dinner in 10 by Ed Halmagyi

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If you were to ask me to come up with one word to characterise ‘modernity’ or the world we now live in, I’d probably say "fast". Life is fast. We want to do everything quickly and often, we’re doing multiple things at one time. Dinner is no exception.

Ed Halmagyi is well aware of that – they don’t call him Fast Ed for nothing. The popular, down-to-earth and funny Australian television presenter has become well known for his television spots on Better Homes and Gardens TV, his own show, Fast Ed's Fast Food, on Channel Seven each afternoon and his guest appearances on The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie, and Discover Tasmania.

The principle that has made him famous is basically, that you don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking to create a good meal. Fast food doesn’t have to mean bad, unhealthy food. Fast Ed’s second cookbook Dinner in 10 is an elegant offering, and despite its casual paperback feel, it’s nicely stylised, with fresh-looking line drawings, and large, attractive images of most of the recipes.

The book contains chapters on soups, small bites, lamb, beef, port, chicken and poultry, pasta, shellfish, fish, vegetarian dishes, and desserts. All of the meals really do take 10 minutes from start to finish, and without fail, all of the dishes are nice-looking and fancy enough to serve up to guests (though I have to admit that none have been a visiting chef).

Some of the dishes I tried and really liked included the "Borscht on the Run," (appropriately named) which my kids wouldn’t eat but were fascinated by (my husband and I ended up eating the lot – all four servings, which made all of our secretions pink – it was worth it), the cheap and wonderful "Skirt steak with Salted apples and Dukkah" (my Dukkah loving kids ate that, though I left out the watercress), the "Salmon Cutlets with a Simple Mornay Sauce", and the "Instant Mocha Mousse with Almond Biscuits and Dessert Wine." The latter was served to guests, who praised me to the moon while I nodded sagely and didn’t give anything away about the speed of preparation (managed to work on my next novel while I was supposed to be slaving away over a stove).

For the time challenged, this would be a terrific book, but country dwellers without access to really good supermarkets might be frustrated. I tend to make the most outrageous substitutions when I cook, but those who follow recipes slavishly might suffer if they try to find, among other things, fior de latte mozzarella, pipis, pistachio dukkah, zucchini flowers, swordfish steaks, ginger marmalade, artichoke hearts, or cleaned baby octopus to name a few of the more esoteric ingredients.

Though we're lucky enough to have a source for dukkah, I struggled to find gorgonzola, rhubarb, or even lychees in the local supermarket. Like all good fast recipes, the basis for most of these meals is their high quality ingredients. You can just forget the whole shellfish section if you don’t have a decent fishmonger nearby (my local Coles definitely doesn't count).

Also, many of these recipes aren’t really designed to be enticing for children – they’re just too fancy, too out of the ordinary, and too spiced up to appeal to your average six year old fusspot. That's part of why this is such a nice book, and it isn’t hard to cook up a few plain options for them, but you’ll need to add that to your 10 mins.

For those who are time-poor but still want to cook up a good looking, and really delicious meal, especially if you’ve got a decent greengrocer, fishmonger, or deli nearby, this is an excellent cookbook which you’ll turn to often. It will certainly improve your reputation at dinner parties, and might also improve your life in general if it enables you to get more of other stuff done faster.

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About Magdalena Ball

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.