Review: Terry Memory – The Smart Veggie Patch

The Smart Veggie Patch
Terry Memory

“Terry Memory built his veggie patch for his family of eight after surviving the Black Saturday bushfires. Determined to become more self-reliant in this era of unpredictable weather events and worsening health caused by highly processed food, he designed a system that combines ancient agrarian traditions with the latest in science and technology to deliver massively increased yields while radically reducing workload. Terry’s overview of the deteriorating state of our food supply will inspire you to take a step towards self-reliance, while his practical tips and how to’s offer the tools you need to get going.”

I was really excited for this book because we have just installed nine raised gardenbeds in our front yard instead of lawn! They all have dirt in them, and are just waiting for compost to be created and summer to come. I thought that the Smart Veggie Patch would tell me how to best plant them. It does, sort of, but I guess I expected more growing guides rather than infrastructure.

I think this book is supposed to make gardening seem accessible to everyone, but I found it to do the opposite. I felt demoralised that I’d already filled my beds with dirt. Then, I felt a bit ashamed that I hadn’t immediately built them a cover or any sort of inbuilt and responsible watering system. I hadn’t planned! I hadn’t put enough effort in! I’d never get fantastic crops!

I am determined to continue gardening because I like the thought of growing my own produce. I think I need to be realistic however, and the garden I create will take years to get to a point where I only need to check it for 2 hours a week. You need to be extremely handy or have funds to set up the garden in the way Terry suggests. The step-by-step process seems foolproof… as long as you don’t have anything done yet.

This is a potentially great book for people who have no idea how to garden, but have the room to grow one. It could be the great starter for people who have just moved into a home with a lawn and want to turn it into something good! Unfortunately, more and more land is being turned into townhomes and apartments, so I don’t know how many people this book will suit. I remain hopeful however that everyone will be just a little bit more conscious of their food waste after reading.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Luke Hines – Guilt-Free Snacks

Guilt-Free Snacks
Luke Hines

“Snacks are where many of us fall down when it comes to healthy eating. We are often too busy, too tired or just too plain uninspired to have an array of healthy options at the ready. Luke Hines comes to the rescue with Guilt-free Snacks, a delicious collection of 60 sweet and savoury snacks and simple ideas for eating well… Snack on, friends!”

Yum! I have to say that the cover image just says ‘eat me’, right? It’s Luke’s version of a Mars bar which is healthy. I haven’t made it yet, but I think I will, with a couple of substitutions.

I followed one of the ‘base’ recipes and created a delicious date/cocoa/peanutbutter ball. However, Luke makes sure to mention that you should restrain yourself while snacking… um, not possible? The food comes into my house, and then I eat it all at once. It’s just safer for me to not have it at all.

I read my way through this book, as much as can be said for a recipe book. I even was going to attempt some recipes! Unfortunately, the recipes in here contain two major components that add to the sweetness and protein content of the snack – monk fruit syrup and unflavoured collagen powder. I’d never heard about monk fruit syrup before this book! It apparently contains no sugar, but I’m not 100% sure what it does contain.

Collagen powder is much more familiar to me, as a replacement to soya protein. I’ve done my time of adding soya protein / whey powder to milkshakes for a protein boost – until I remembered that an egg does a similar role and is considerably cheaper. However, another great tip that Luke shares is that these can be made far in advance and stored, and that’s something that’s just not possible for something with raw egg.

This is the perfect gift for someone healthy if you don’t know what to buy them. They’re gluten free and can be made vegan and nut free very easily. I’ve got a Kris Kringle this year – I’m going to pair this book with some monk fruit syrup and collagen powder for the perfect <$50 gift. Go on, get out there and buy a copy – read it yourself first (make sure it’s guilt-free) and then gift to a person who you know is vegan / otherwise dietarily difficult to cater to.

Pan Macmillan | 7 December 2021 | AU$26.99 | paperback

Review: CWA NSW – Everything I Know About Cooking

Everything I Know About Cooking I learnt from the CWA of NSW

“With tried and true recipes for a perfect sausage roll snack, a succulent Greek-style roast chicken for dinner or honeycomb cheesecake slice for dessert, Everything I know about cooking I learned from CWA is the perfect kitchen companion, in a deceptively small format. Offering a range of tried and tested recipes to suit both the beginner and the expert cook…”

I put off reviewing this book because I wanted to cook some things out of it to really get a feel for its usefulness. In the end though, I didn’t cook anything out of it because I just didn’t have the motivation to go search out the ingredients, and I also don’t eat many of the items in it (like slices or some veggie dishes).

The index in this book is useless. I wanted to make scones (a CWA staple as far as I’m concerned) so I looked under ‘S’ for ‘scone’. Nope, no scones. Oh! But there is a chapter labeled ‘scones’. But then the recipe… When have I ever made scones with no butter, and with powdered sugar?  For me, scones start with the irritating process of using a fork/fingers to work the butter into the flour. I didn’t end up making the recipe.

I’m not sure how many people actually use cookbooks anymore in print format. Why would you go finding a recipe in a cookbook when you can just ‘google it’? I certainly do, unless its a recipe I have use many times, in which case I have a small box of recipe cards. And I have a tome of a recipe book (The Encyclopedia of Cooking) that I use for other popular things I make.

So who would I buy this for? I’m not sure. Its value is probably its nostalgic quality, and it could be a good starter cookbook for a beginner cook just learning on their own.

Murdoch | 1st April 2018 | AU$16.99 | hardback

Review: Lauren Chater – Well Read Cookies

Well Read Cookies
Lauren Chater

‘Beautiful biscuits inspired by great literature’. Blogger and author Lauren Chater has produced a book full of biscuits based on classic novels that have been her favorites across her life. Her mastery of writing and decorating is a true sight to behold!

The photos in this book are enough to make you drool and then go for a hunt in the freezer for a cookie (jam drop or choc chip? Yes please!). The discussion of the literature is also thoughtful and might introduce you to a couple of little known classics that might take your fancy. I only wish I was part of a book club so that I too could bake some amazing cookies in the theme of the book of the month.

I actually hate icing, because it tends to be overdone and too sweet. Icing also is usually on a biscuit that has no flavour of its own. But these cookies look really attractive with their icing and it almost makes me want to eat one. You never knew that so much detail could be put on a cookie!

Just in time for Christmas, this how-to biscuit book would make the perfect present for either someone who likes decorating, or someone who loves literature. I can see it being an excellent KK gift for someone (ok, probably a lady) who you don’t know very well. Who could turn down cookies, or refuse to admit that they hadn’t at least heard of some of the literature within?

Simon & Schuster | 1st November 2018 | AU$24.99 | hardback

Review: Christopher Sidwa – Brew a Batch (S)

Brew of Batch
Christopher Sidwa

This is a complete Beer Book – whether you are a complete beginner who owns no equipment so far, or an advanced brewer who wants a compendium of knowledge.  Bottling and kegging are both covered in detail, so if you are familiar with one but not the other, this book is still going to be useful to you. It is worth keeping and consulting it when you need to fix a problem with your beer or you are ready to try brewing different kinds of beer.

I confess, I’m not a beer drinker, and the closest thing I get to helping with beer is when I turn the hose on to fill the … keg?! (Luckily) my fiancee is a beer maker, so I thought this book would be right up her alley. After her initial reservations of reading a book not about management techniques, she got into this book and willingly read it. She happily chatted to me about it for 10 minutes and explained all the steps to me – she was invigorated by reading this book. Thus this review is written from her perspective.

The author doesn’t want you to rush out and buy new equipment, he gives you the ability to use the things you have already, and gives hints on the practicalities of working with secondhand kegs and so forth. He also wants to make it possible for everyone to brew beer, so he suggests how to make the process more efficient.

The good thing about this book is that it isn’t just a cookbook with the steps and order, it gives little details for when things go awry. That being said, the book walks though through logical steps from types of beer and ingredients through to the actual method part. This way, when you get to brewing you actually know the principles behind the processes.

The author gives a basic, rewarding beer recipe that will still taste ok if you do something wrong. But after that, there are an infinite number of beers that are brewable! The timing at every step can be crucial, and 1 minute at one step and 5 at another can make a significant change to your beer’s flavour. Then the author gets into discussions about fresh yeast vs liquid yeast vs dry yeast. He suggests that you change just one thing at a time, and you will eventually get the perfect beer.

The book gave all the little details on how to fill a keg and put the lid on – don’t worry when the lid doesn’t seal, just wiggle it until it seals! The author’s sense of humour made the non-fiction reading enjoyable, and the deal was sealed with the gorgeous cover. There are lots of pictures inside of beer, and the author looking happy and having fun making beer. Some of the most useful pictures are those that show the different colours of grains and hops – so you know what kinds of ingredients to buy.

The takeaway from this book was: You don’t make beer, you make conditions that the beer is happy to grow in – Just have a good habitat and keep it clean to make delicious beer.

Murdoch | 30th July 2018 | AU$39.99 | hardback