I know that on the cover of Izy Hossack’s newest cookbook The London Times refers to Hossack as “The new Nigella” but as I’ve cooked from The Savvy Cook over the last few weeks I’ve found myself drawing comparisons between Hossack and Julia Child. Where Julia Child sought to bring the enjoyment of cooking back, as she refers to, “the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat”, Izy Hossack looks to entice all homecooks, from the most novice to the very experienced, with her “maximum flavour, minimum effort” recipes. After trying over 18 recipes from this book, I may even be so bold as to suggest that one could even be an equipment-less home cook and be able to create wonderful and delicious dishes to enjoy (aside from a blender, stove/oven I didn’t use any specialized equipment but keep in mind I only sampled a small fraction of what The Savvy Cook has to offer). This is great news to anyone new to cooking who may not have the newest gadgets or those who have recently Kondo’ed their kitchen.
For those not familiar with Izy Hossack she is the creator of the blog Top With Cinnamon and the author of one cookbook already, which she had published before she finished her teens. It was from her first cookbook, Top With Cinnamon, that my daughter tasted her first pancake back in the fall of 2014. What I really enjoy about The Savvy Cook is it is extremely easy to cook from, the ingredients are dead-simple to source and all the recipes are vegetarian with vegan and/or gluten-free adaptations where they apply. She also has provided a useful key in order to quickly understand whether the recipe is vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, low sugar or no added sugar. It’s through the first couple of sections — the Introduction and The Basics — that she outlines a solid base from which anyone can cook her recipes.
It may seem odd but when I travel to visit my family I usually bring recipes or a cookbook with me. I can think of no better activity than cooking for my family because they are the most willing and grateful of any diner I know. So it seemed appropriate to bring along The Savvy Cook so that I could try out recipes on them before writing this review. The first thing I noticed when cooking from this book is that the suggested serving sizes are quite small (2-3 servings), however I was able to quite easily double (or triple) the recipes in order to accommodate the 5 adults and 1 toddler I was cooking for. My dad and sister kindly obliged my request to choose the first recipes I would try. It was the rice noodle salad on the front cover that caught my dad’s attention so that was one of the first dishes I made. The Zingy Carrot and Noodle Rice Salad (p. 155 — pictured right) was amazingly delicious — the ribboned carrot gets “pickled” by the heated dressing and when added to the final dish really add to the overall flavour and texture. The crunchy, tangy carrots paired with the sweet corn, and the chewy, mild rice vermicelli, along with the cilantro and lime really make for a beautiful and non-lettuce based salad that was a clear favourite with my family. But really who am I kidding? They have absolutely loved all the recipes I’ve made from Izy’s book. Even if you’re a “meat eater” (as my dad puts it) you can easily incorporate these recipes into your Meatless Monday routine or even add meat to the dishes if you’re so inclined (or maybe you’re looking to eat less meat). I know my mom, dad, and sis — all non-vegetarians — felt completely satisfied after every meal. Nothing fad-y or strange just great cooking.
As I have been slowly sharing photos of the dishes I’ve made to Instagram (#shipshapeeatworthythesavvycook) or my Facebook page, I’ve had many questions regarding the level of skill required or the range of recipes in the book. The recipes are easy enough that I think any level of cook can find success and there are so many different types of dishes that you’ll be sure to find favourites. I love nothing more than to learn new culinary skills and when I made the pita recipe I was surprised at how simple making pita pockets is (my three year old and I watched through the oven window with rapt attention as the flat dough ovals magically puffed up!). The Ricotta Gnocchi w/ Pesto & Zucchini (pictured below) turned out exactly as the recipe said it would — browned and puffy. Some of you may be thinking that making gnocchi from scratch sound like a huge undertaking but I here to tell you that it’s not. I was able to make it and have it on the dinner table within an hour. As with all these recipes, I found them quick to make (the pitas or galette crust took a bit more time but was worth the extra effort).
Throughout my visit home there were lots of special days to celebrate — birthdays and Father’s Day — and for these special days I turned to The Savvy Cook to help me out. Take, for example, the Pesto, Spinach & Sweet Potato Galette (pictured right) that I made for my dad’s birthday. Perfect because my mom doesn’t have a pie pan so this rustic looking tart looked perfectly charming. I used recipes for homemade pesto and Half-Oat Pie Dough from her DIY section to produce a show-stopping birthday dinner. The mild, textured oat crust went really well with the flavourful pesto and sweet potato. For Father’s Day I made the Quickie Chili (from her Chickpea Stew 3 Ways recipe) and it was so beloved that I’ve made it twice! My family loved that it could be “dressed up” any way they wanted — so I made sure to have a huge selection of add-ons ready. Some were from her DIY section, such as the Quick Pickled Red Onion and Avocado Cream, and some were straight from the fridge, such as chopped cilantro, lime, sour cream, sliced avocado, and shredded cheese.
From breakfast and snacks, to light meals and then bigger meals (let’s not forget those “Cheeky Treats”) I’ve gotten so much enjoyment cooking from this book and I know that my family enjoys all the tasty meals I’ve made. 1200 words seems like a small amount to describe how good this cookbook really is. I find myself thinking that with it’s $22 price tag it would make the perfect gift for a beginning cook, or someone who’s moving out for the first time (like college and uni students) or even those empty-nesters who are tired of cooking but need recipes that are geared to make smaller portions (cooking for two is very different when you’re use to cooking for a family with kids). The Savvy Cook definitely provides budget-conscious recipes that are appropriate (and inspiring) for any cooking level.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mitchell Beazley and Octopus Publishing for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.