Title: The Fast 800 Keto Recipe Book (Australian and New Zealand edition)
Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2022; RRP $39.99
Why choose to review a cookbook? Those who cook will not be asking that question and since you have started reading this then you already know. Some cookbooks are like another pair of hands in the kitchen, some not. It’s good to know in advance.
I chose this book to review because I wanted to know more about the keto diet. I am not reviewing the diet itself as I am not a medical professional. When I judge cookbooks for purchase I consider whether they contain something I want to know, and how easy they are to work with as a longtime but unqualified cook in an average to small home kitchen.
My approach is based on awareness that all cooks will vary hugely on the specifics but, generally, we all tend to want roughly the same thing concerning cookbooks: recipes and how we find and put them to use.
Because many cooks, including me, google recipes too, I need to get that out of the way. Googling is great for finding recipes from simple to complex, and also exploring such things as substitutes or what to do with a sausage, half a cabbage and a packet of chips in twenty minutes. But my phone screen cuts out too quickly and laptops do not belong on kitchen benches. Neither cope with sticky fingers or inevitable spills. Keeping successful recipes found on Google is a whole new task in itself, often requiring a print out which must then itself be kept somewhere since it’s more user friendly in non-digital form.
‘A ketogenic (or ‘keto’) diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.read more at health direct
I wanted to know more about the keto diet itself as the little I knew sounded healthy, and I wanted simple recipes that used most of what I already have in my home kitchen, with a few interesting new ones and hopefully new ways of cooking food I already like.
After that, what matters is how easy the book is to use. Though important, this is always secondary. Cookbooks have a distinct role and even a battered op shop cookbook minus its cover is going to be the right one if it contains new ways of cooking mince or the recipe for a Black Forest cake that we are searching for. Some cookbooks are things of beauty but useless in our kitchens if they are not a catalyst for joy on a plate.
For this work – the basic requirement was that the keto diet be clearly and simply explained, by writers I could trust.
Both Dr Michael Mosley, who wrote both the forward to this volume and Fast 800 Keto, to which this is a companion volume, and his wife, Dr Clare Bailey, are trained and practising medical scientists. Dr Mosley is the scientific and PR backbone of the pair, and Dr Bailey also an enthusiastic cook. She, along with recipe writer, developer and food stylist Kathryn Bruton, are responsible for the recipes.
Both doctors are passionate about the diet and the work does involve a lot of information spruiking its benefits, though that is to be expected. This is offset by a section ‘Exclusions and Cautions’, which lists conditions for which the diet would not be suitable, and also advising anyone considering the diet to always consult their doctor first about pre-existing conditions. There is also helpful advice for a flexible approach allowing for different levels of commitment.
This information is set out clearly at the beginning before the recipe pages so encouraging a fully informed approach before the cooking starts.
The rest of the book contains the recipes themselves interspersed with information listing protein content and calories as these are basic to the keto diet.
I just wanted to know if the recipes looked good, at this stage having read enough to decide not to follow the diet. Not because I didn’t agree with it but because I don’t like regimented eating. But I did like the recipes and I do like healthy food.
What remains then for potential users is how easy it is to use the physical book in the kitchen environment.
First, how well is the information ordered and laid out? I found the index and contents easy to read, and thorough. The Contents are in bold, and not fussy, separating the book into eight main groups from breakfast through to treats, followed by others under headings like ‘counting carbs’, ‘no fuss dressings’, ‘protein alternatives’.
The index is by ingredient, individual recipes, and recipe groups, for example pancakes, dressings, etc, which makes it particularly useful for searching for recipes according to different needs.
Secondly, can it sit upright or lie open on a flat surface at the relevant page? Many can’t and this unfortunately is no exception. This is always a pain when having to check details mid recipe, or find the next step.
Thirdly, is there space for notes? And yes, there is. This is necessary for comments around or near the recipe once attempted. There doesn’t need to be an allocated space. Things like emergency substitutes for missing ingredients, suggestions for changing things around, or just ‘Yum!’
This book is roughly 19cm by 24cm with a bright cover, so easy to find on a cluttered bench. The pages are shiny and a little stiff, so able to cope well with fingerprints, etc. The illustrations are attractive, simple shots of the dish with nothing around it to distract, nice to look at, and useful so we get an idea of what the end result should look like.
I would recommend it to anyone curious about the keto diet, or who likes reading about food generally. A strength is that most of the recipes are really simple and inviting, using easily found ingredients, and also that it is written in a concise, no-fuss style suited to a busy cooking environment.
Reviewed by: Rhonda Cotsell
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group
Review copy provided by the publisher
- I am a qualified librarian, and have completed a PG in Professional Writing. I read widely, nonstop, and have all my life. My librarian self thinks about who would like to read this book. My writer self clarifies my response, tries to identify where a book succeeds, and where it fails. As a writer I also explore different sorts of writing in order to write better and to fully explore the power of the written word in all our lives.