Monday, January 17

What do you make of this? Cheating/cooking/serving suggestions ?

I was amused by  this article by Petra Starke - Adelaide's Sunday Mail yesterday (Thank you to Megan and Shell who sent it to me!)

If you've been reading this blog for two years or two minutes I need to tell you something.  I'm not a complete food purist, I do prefer to make things from scratch, sometimes I'll use frozen veges instead of fresh, sometimes I'll use a jar of pesto if my basil plants are looking a bit naked, and I love myself a cheaty recipe for the CBF nights of cooking - but I don't do the packet mix unless totally humanly unavoidable - which oh, probably when I make cheaty french onion dip.  But I don't think cheaty recipes can be a 'lifestyle'.  You can cook from scratch, there is a lot to be said for appreciating the ingredients of your meal - and there are usually more than four.

But you've got to hand it to these ladies they've built an empire with these self-published books, their publicists obviously work hard and they're onto something because they've sold alot of books, and I mean A LOT.

I don't own any of the 4 ingredients books - it never really appealed to me - neither has the TV show -  but I've got to agree with the writer - pesto sauce on lamb chops is not a recipe, it's a serving suggestion!

Do you have the books?  Do you watch the show?  Love/don't love/don't care?
Do you think there are too many TV chefs?

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17 lovely comments:

Barbara on January 17, 2011 at 8:16 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Hate the whole concept. Dislike the show.dumbing down at it's best. Yesterday I looked at the Pioneer Woman blog, for the first time and could not believe a recipe made with a package mix received over 400 comments.

Miss Eagle on January 17, 2011 at 8:19 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Thanks be to God! I'm not the only one to question the 4 Ingredients way of doing things. Dear Frills, if you go to
You will find a post I did on this almost FOUR YEARS AGO. And if you go to the sidebar of my blog, Oz Tucker, you can scroll down to the categories section and select Books. There you will find some REAL cookbooks by some REAL cooks. Like you Frills, I am not against shortcuts - except if one becomes shortcut dependent. If what you want is a quick fix, it's like everything else. Quick fix investments in any category tend, in the main, to be not very great. 4 Ingredients food won't be either. And it's not just the dear ladies doing the 4 Ingredients phenomena. It's the attitude of the cook. If this is as far as your attitude to cooking extends, you will not only not be able to produce good food. You will not know good food when you taste it...which then brings into question your tastebuds.

And as I said in blog, something is badly wrong when you can't prescribe a pinch of salt for the scones.

BTW, love the blog, Frills. As you see, I promote it on mine.

Sophie {Red Dust Love} on January 17, 2011 at 9:03 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I was given a copy of the first ever 4 ingredient cookbook a few years ago and find the recipes a little bland to be honest. I must agree with you that it is definitely rather a "serving suggestion" book than that of a cook book. However, I do know many a Mum who struggle in the kitchen to find ANY inspiration and love being able to flip the book open for convenience sake to whip up something other than spag bog!
I have never seen the show and don't know whether it would honestly appeal to me either.

Whilst this book is definitely not designed for the real "foodies" out there I think it has it's place on the book shelf to those who don't feel the love of cooking from scratch. I think it's important to remember that as Mum's we do what we can and this sometimes means taking shortcuts just to serve a meal at all! This does not make us any less of a mother or cook, perhaps it just highlights that we are over-run as Mums! In a perfect world without work, a husband, kids etc maybe we would rather grown and pick our own fresh basil.

I do also think that there are a few too many cooking shows on t.v. at the moment, they only makes me feel guilty!

Talia on January 17, 2011 at 9:10 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I agree- I hate the four ingredients concept! It's so limiting!!! Particularly when all the food cultures I love (incluind ghte food culture of my home) relies so much on heaps of different herbs and spices for flavours AND health benefits. Some of the herbs in Indian cuisine are there solely because they're good for you!

My husband, who is by NO MEANS a competent cook can make us an omlete for dinner, which, once he's cut up some onion, mushies, cheese, and used eggs and milk in the omlete (plus there's salt and peper), is using 7 ingredients. He's certainly not over-extending himself, or making the job hard! This is an easy recipe!

I've never seen the show (I was given the book for as a present- for a foodie like myself, it's quite embrassing), but imagine it would be boring and laughable!

Corrie on January 17, 2011 at 9:49 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

nope! saw right through the whole thing and then couldn't believe how popular they go! I watched the first episode and thought it was good then the voices were grating on me !


Sandra on January 17, 2011 at 10:18 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Thank you - I always knew we were kindred spirits Liss!

It bothers me on so many levels, because people forget basics - basic cooking processes, a confusion about what's available seasonally and most importantly they forget what foods pair well, or blend well together.

Many is the night I have stood in front of my pantry and said to myself, 'Well I have chicken and some dodgey carrots that need using up, and chicken goes with onion, cream, tarragon, herbs, lemon, asian spices, thai red curry ....' etc and from it a meal is borne.

It's counter-intuitive to think that less is somehow more. Unless we're talking about Fettucine Alfredo.

Christie-Childhood 101 on January 17, 2011 at 11:03 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I loved the article and I completely agree with the author about the 4 ingredients concept. However, I can see why the concept shot to such popularity. Mums want easy options which aren't too expensive and many of the cooking shows and recipe books are just too complicated for everyday cooking, at home, with a whingey toddler pulling at your pants leg. And they are often just too expensive to make.

Lucky we have you, Liss! Your recipes are just right ;)

Helen said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Never read the books or seen the show, have seen it promoted on other 'talk shows' and wondered how it was possible until such secrets as putting pesto on lamb cutlets were revealed--SO very imaginative ;)

Last night I made pasta (eggs, flour and pinch of salt). Imagine if I could have only chosen one ingredient for a topping? Sometimes a limited list of ingredients is OK, as seen when making pasta from scratch, but a whole dish/meal is not one of those times :)

Queen Belicious on January 17, 2011 at 11:36 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I got the first book when it was newly out and was very VERY disappointed. I've tried a few of the recipes, and they were all bland and tasteless.

I did buy 1 and 2 for ex hubby when we split, cause he's a bit of a cooking noob and I thought it might help him fend for himself for a bit till he got the hang of cooking.

I get a bit miffed when I see the authors though.. They don't look real to me, fake blonde hair and really overly made up if you get what I mean?

I know in these days of an oversaturation of food culture in the media and peoples lives that it may seem like we need to step back and remember what simple cooking is like, but these books take it a step too far. It would take the same amount of time to create a 10 ingredient recipe that is healthier, and more flavoursome.

They've taken less is more a step too far!

Mara on January 17, 2011 at 12:31 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

ooo... It's crazy isn't it... I've spoken to many other mums/women who agree its rubbish I'm starting to wonder WHO buys the books!!...

For what its worth - we LOVE devilled sausages here & your recipe for that, Liss, took me the same time it would from a packet!!

Keep at it!


Lauren on January 17, 2011 at 12:49 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Maybe it's simply about bridging the gap between those who cook, and those who don't? While I have carefully thought out meal plans and love trying new things, my sister's idea of cooking is throwing a piece of meat on the barbeque (as is) and putting on some veggies. For people like that, putting some pesto on the chops is probably a bit of a revelation!

I'm not against some cheaty things. I swear by chicken stock powder, love using frozen veggies, and often use the dried herbs when we're out of fresh or just feeling a bit lazy. But I'd really rather cook essentially from scratch, both from a taste and a health point of view. Looking at the preservatives in all of those ready-marinated pieces of meat and other convenient options just make me cringe!

It's horses for courses I suppose, but I know which way I'd rather do things!

vintagemacaroon on January 17, 2011 at 1:43 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I can't bare to watch their show. Their accent, their dishes, it's just too much.

I like you prefer to cook from scratch and to bend a dish to just four ingredients, most of the time, is just plain boring. Australia is better than that.

Australia has a huge foodie population, people who have a very good knowledge of food across many cuisines. Even the general public are well versed in interesting food of different cuisines. To suggest such boring dishes in 2011 is beyond me.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe there is still a place for this type of food promotion in Australia. maybe there are still some people out there that need some help. If that's the case, I'm glad they have a place to help people struggling to cook at home.

Amanda on January 17, 2011 at 3:50 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I confess! I own 2 of the books! Though I have not cooked anything from them I think. My excuse is that I am a complete book junkie and they were on sale! I have looked at them a few times and thought some of the recipes sounded ok. However I did scoff at the recipe for gravy (I never make gravy anyway), as the "recipe" was gravox and water, and mix!

Mammamusing on January 17, 2011 at 10:38 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I think everything I cook has more than 4 vegies and that is before I add anything else.

Suffice to say I don't own a 4 ingredient cookbook.

Are they for lazy cooks? Unimaginative cooks? Cooks that like tv hype? What is their market?

nellbe on January 19, 2011 at 3:41 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

well I like the books, especially the gluten free one. So many people are scared to cook gluten free (clearly probably noone that reads this blog) but if they have a simple book like this then I may actually get a meal cooked for me. One of my favourite baking treats is in the book too.

I understand foodies wouldn't like them but there are many out there that aren't. I think these books are for them.

Miss Rosie on January 25, 2011 at 10:25 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

loath the show with a passion. First time I watched they made pasta, boil pasta, heat garlic in oil, brown chrizto, at pasta sauce, drain pasta & add. If you need a receipe for that you are dumb. Most five years would know how to do that. And they sell books full of stuff like this? Insane!!

FoodMuster on June 22, 2011 at 9:36 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I was also skeptical of this whole idea and I watched one of the shows for about 10mins and was annoyed by the hosts!!! That beings said, they have sold a lot of books as I can only assume it appealed to some as an easy fix. I personally don't like being limited and I don't think you can get a lot of variety from a few ingredients, but it can be done if you are fine with store bought sauces! I'm more adventurous than that, so not my cup of tea.


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