There are some days that get away on me so that it is mealtime and, I am without any concrete plans for supper. I’ve learned to steer myself away from complicated, multi-ingredient recipes and towards recipes that I can pull together using pantry staples in very little time. So, it is cookbooks which offer streamlined ingredient lists and instructions that I find most useful — Yasmin Fahr‘s Keeping It Simple: Easy Weeknight One-Pot Recipes is a recent cookbook that’s come into my kitchen offering not only efficiency and time-saving recipes but also how to feel joy while cooking by, you guessed it, keeping it simple.
Without even discussing the recipes within the book, Fahr’s cookbook was designed in a way to make it useful. At around 20 x 24 cm, with a flexibound cover (the in-between choice — not a paperback or hardcover but a thick, flexible cover), it is a great choice for use in a kitchen. And one of the features I appreciate the most, is that most of the recipes are contained to one page. If I’m using a cookbook for quick meals, I want to see the ingredients and instructions on one page. As for the ingredient lists, Fahr relies on ingredients that are easily sourced at any local shop or market and, her pantry leans heavily towards stocking flavour-boosters such as Dijon mustard, curry powder, Thai curry pastes, miso, sambal, soy sauce, fish sauce, as well as other staples such as coconut milk, passata, and noodles/pasta. Her recipes rely on a variety of protiens — meat, poultry, seafood, as well as beans/legumes. While there are no recipes using tofu, I think home cooks could certainly substitute it into recipes because Fahr’s recipe-style is very fluid (another way in which home cooks can be successful in cooking meals).
In her introduction, Fahr emphasizes what Keeping It Simple is for: “The point of this book is to encourage you to cook more at home and enjoy the process.”(6) So, for home cooks looking to improve their skills she offers sections on: ingredients, helpful culinary words/phrases, kitchen tips, and what types of kitchen equipment you’ll find useful. The recipes are organized into 6 chapters: Oven to Table, Faster than Delivery, Bright Dishes for Cold Days, Gluten, Grains, + Good Stuff, Salad for Dinner, and Look More Impressive Than They Are. With over 60 recipes, I found many that really appealed to my vegetarian family.
A standout favourite in my house is the recipe for Baked Feta w/ Greens and Lemon-Tahini Dressing, where I substitute the feta for halloumi. I love the texture of oven-cooked kale and, I find that the kale in this dish starts to get a little crispy and takes on a rich umami flavour. Paired with the brine-y halloumi and the tangy, rich dressing it really makes a satisfying meal. My daughter loves the cheese-chickpea-greens combo and, I find, baking the kale makes the tough green a bit more succulent and palatable for my 6-year-old. This recipe is also an example of how your oven can become your best friend when making a simple meal. One pan and you’re done!
Another recipe where I found an excellent use for kale is in the Curried Butternut Squash Soup w/ Kale and Quinoa — vegetable-filled and bright, this soup was perfect during the cool early spring days and, even just thinking about it now makes me want a bowl (despite the 30c weather)! Making soups is another way to enjoy one-pot cooking — I really appreciated that I could chop up a bunch of vegetables, put them in a pot, add some liquid and just let it cook up some magic. Not to mention the comfort factor that a warm bowl of soup offers. Part of feeling the joy of cooking and keeping kitchen routines simple is feeling nourished by the result. There’s still a few more soup recipes I’d like to try from this chapter (the Tomato and Bread Soup w/ Spinach is at the top of my list) but I’ll wait until the cooler autumn days return.
In order to really keep it simple, Fahr returns to ingredients and combinations throughout the book — take her Lemon-Tahini Dressing. Perfect drizzled over the bake halloumi dish, even better paired with her recipe for Curried Vegan Quinoa w/ Broccoli. I found it helpful to make a big batch of the dressing to use throughout the week when I would make these different recipes. Instead of having multiple sauces or dressings, to offer the home cook one great dressing is genius because it means you’ll need fewer ingredients in your pantry. How simple is that? (Also, the combination of lemon and tahini is so delightful — bright and tangy but smooth and rich).
I received Keeping It Simple in the mail just prior to the start of quarantine, back in March, and, at the time I felt (as many of us did) so uncertain and anxious about the state of life during the pandemic. It was at the beginning of all this that I really leaned into the things that keep me level and, cooking is that thing for me. While cooking can be lively, unstructured, and spontaneous, I really looked towards the structure that a familiar cookbook can provide. Keeping It Simple offered a straightforward way for me to add structure into my cooking routine without making that routine too complicated. And now that our time at home and quarantine is looking so different from those early days and weeks, I find that Fahr’s recipes are ones that I return to. After cooking from Keeping It Simple, I find that this cookbook really lives up to it’s aims. Recipes that any level of home cook can make and achieve success with.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hardie Grant Books and Raincoast Books 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.