Laura Santini won the Guild of Food Writers’ Jeremy Round Award for Best First Book in 2010. She describes herself as a Cognitive Cook because her work explores links between flavours and feelings recognising ingredients that flavour life in and outside of the kitchen. I’m really inspired by all the things she has done in her life. She started her professional cooking career at the National Gallery restaurant in London. She then trained with Lynne Franks at her PR firm after which she was invited by MTV Europe to launch their Pan European and Middle East Special Events division. She left MTV to work as a freelance event producer and then in 2002 Laura returned to London to replace her retired father at Santini. She moved back to TV, food and writing in 2008. The following quote seems to sum her up.
“I have made the journey from boardroom to cold room and back several times in the last twenty years, turning life’s ifs and ands into pots and pans. Kitchens are about invention and the bubble and squeak of reinvention. That is the alchemy of cooking”
Flash Cooking is about turning ordinary food into extraordinary food. Laura wants to bring together healthy, nutritious meals that are easy to prepare and full of flavour. Indeed it’s subtitle is Fit Fast Flavours for Busy People. That would be me!
Before you get to any of the main recipes there is a section on Flash Flavours covering seasonings, glazes, pastes, salts and yoghurts and dressings. I think you need to review this and make the ones you like ready for the fridge or freezer. They are quick to make but some of the ingredients are not what some people may have on the shelf. Mine is pretty well stocked but I did top up with Sichuan peppercorns, furikake seeds, dried herbs like savoury and tarragon as I usually use fresh ones, dried rose and marigold petals and edible gold leaf. See – not standard store cupboard but wonderful to get the chance to use.
Flash Recipes are then split into Fish, Flesh (meat), Dairy including tofu, Comfort, Veg and Salads, Starters and Desserts (together), Breakfasts, snacks and juices and then finally Flash Transformations.
The fish section is brilliant. If you have some of the rubinades and yoghurts dressings made up, the dishes literally take minutes to prep and are done as soon as the fish is. We enjoyed the Cumin Spiced Fish Steaks with Mango Salsa, Maple Glazed Salmon and the Oven Roasted Monkfish with Cherry Tomatoes with the whole family and I’m looking forward to trying the Lapsang Souchong or Jasmine Tea Steamed Seabass with Vanilla Star Anise Olive Oil for our next ‘grown up’ dinner party. As adventurous as my lovely girls are, I don’t think they are quite ready for tea smoked fish!
I loved the comfort food section too as it gave us new twists on our weekly lunchbox foods. Hummus but with Crumbled Feta and Pomegranate. Baked Sweet Potatoes but with Green Tea Guacamole , Quinoa but with Thai Curry Paste and Coconut Milk. Why didn’t I think of these?
It’s easy to see her vegetable recipes matched with so many different main courses or just on their own. We had the Sumac Roasted Tomatoes and Glazed Cauliflower Steaks and Lemon Halloumi with some crusty white bread and red wine for supper last week. It all baked as we put the girls to bed and filled the kitchen with aromas fit for a chilly Friday evening.
As a working mother I love the use of frozen and tinned vegetables in this book and the speed at which healthy family meals can be made. As a foodie I love the easy blending of flavours from all my travels with seasonal ingredients I can get on offer at the supermarket. As an experimental home cook, I love the way this book makes me hunt out those ingredients I have bought at food fairs and forgotten about. This is a must have book if you are in any of those categories.
If you’re still not convinced watch this!
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30670894 w=400&h=225]
Flash Cooking: Fit, Fast Flavours for Busy People from Laura Santtini on Vimeo.
Hardcover: ISBN: 9781844009954: £20
Published by Quadrille