(2017) By Matt Okine Echo Publishing, $29.99
My fondest memories of my son’s childhood are the things we did together. During school holidays we’d catch trains, visit parks and playgrounds and spend hours watching big machines on worksites. In between, we’d cook.
Sitting in his high chair at the kitchen bench, my son would help with the cooking – mashing banana to go in a cake, cutting up tomatoes with a plastic knife, grasping tiny handfuls of ingredients to add to a bowl.
Eighteen years later, as he left home to go to university, I presented him with a handwritten ‘cut-and-paste’ recipe book of his favourite dishes, complete with notes, his reminder of the time we spent together in the kitchen.
Leafing through the newly launched Shortcuts to Glory, it’s a published alternative to my handwritten book. The accompanying recipe book to the TV show hosted by comedian Matt Okine, Shortcuts to Glory is “…the ultimate cookbook for anyone leaving home, becoming independent, or just wanting to impress with minimal kitchen stress.”
Over thirty well-known chefs contributed to the cookbook, including Adriana Zumbo, Colin Fassnidge, Neil Perry, Justine Schofield, Christine Manfield, Jill Dupleix, Stefano Manfredi, and Mark LaBrooy (Three Blue Ducks).
Millennial-friendly with its flexible soft cover in a ‘squarish’ manageable size, Shortcuts to Glory is printed on semi-gloss paper with multiple illustrations presenting steps for each of the 43 recipes in the book. Following a 50-page textbook-like introduction to the basics of kitchen, fridge and pantry, recipes are divided into ten sections such as ‘The Basics’, ‘Last Minute Meals’, ‘Date Night’ and ‘Feed an Army’, following the 10-week TV series.
Not just a cookbook, but also a ‘start up’ guide for beginning cooks, there’s a genuine humility borne of Matt Okine’s own experience. Admitting that when he moved out of home his ‘diet consisted almost entirely of packet noodles, canned tuna and toasted cheese’, it didn’t take him long to discover that he had inherited his father’s love of cooking.
“Shortcuts to Glory is all about… getting down to the nitty-gritty: good, healthy meals, prepared quickly, that look amazing and leave you with a bunch of budget remaining in your back pocket.” While beginners will treasure instructions on how to boil an egg, or recipes for pimped-up noodles, spaghetti bolognese and cake in a mug, even as an experienced cook, there are recipes I’ll dig into, such as sticky lamb ribs, a decent chicken soup or slashed roast leg of lamb. My single criticism is that I’d like to see more recipes per section, omitting each recipe’s replicated ‘final photo’.
Above all, it’s the attitude of this book that I most admire. It’s enabling for the beginner cook, encouraging them to look past the takeaway easy fix: “Have fun!…Be brave, take risks and trust your tongue, for not every tastebud is the same,” Okine urges. “Bon appetit, legend!”