Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The CoffeeBar Kid interviews Nadia Lim

For her fourth and latest book, "Nadia Lim's Fresh Start Cookbook", celebrity chef and co-founder of My Food Bag, Nadia Lim, wanted to take more holistic view to eating.  Playing hooky from her current bookshops/cooking events tour Nadia chatted to me at a Wellington Gastro Pub about her food philosophy and approach to food in general.  "I'm not into diets.  I like to think about changing mind-sets.  As a dietician, I was getting request from people to work out individual weekly diets and these were takes 6-7 hours each.  So I decided to wrap it all into a cookbook which also includes some dietary advice and, with the help of my good friend Michael McCormack, some simple exercise routines as well. Initially it’s for people to lose weight but it could apply to anyone who wants to eat healthier." 


Nadia's approach was originally born out of a concept she developed right back when she was an early teen - 'Food in the Nude' - using fresh ingredients, keeping the processed additives to a minimum.  That concept has always been the backbone of Nadia's recipes. So it's about stripping food back, I ask?  "No.  It’s the complete opposite.  It's about adding more - more vegetables, more fruit more, more fibre."  An example is her range of smoothies which ingredients like spinach, banana, lime and pineapple or Tamarillo, Berry, Vanilla and almond milk.  Yum.  Actually, as part of my research for this interview I got to try out a few smoothies and I can vouch for these recipes, personally.  The banana, berry and peanut butter smoothie is a particular favourite in our house hold.  I also took a crack at Nadia's banana pancakes - a nice alternative to the usual milk-based variety - lighter, and sweeter.  And that's another point Nadia emphasises.  "I you get regular servings of fruit and vegetables through the day (and her book does go into some technical details on this), then you're less likely to binge eat or snack on inappropriate foods like biscuits.  Her delicious version of Chicken Tikka Marsala with Spinach and Spiced Parsnip Soup are also healthy, moreish and simple to make.  My four year old and I both managed to whip these up for weekend lunches with minimal fuss. 
In her intro, Nadia offers some refreshing advice about key nutritional concepts like portion size, when to drink coffee and tea and appropriate levels of water you should drink to keep your kidneys healthy (plenty).  At the core is a series of interchangeable menus that lets you plan your eating for the week, without going to extremes.  Not a single celery leaf to be seen.

All new cookbooks offer some new discovery.  So what's new this time, I ask?  "Cauliflower 'rice' - broken down to the consistency of rice or couscous and steamed.  It's lighter than rice, less stodgy."  Also worth a crack are chia seeds, which Nadia claims "used instead of large quantities of sugar in jams.  The chia seeds have that gelatinous quality, like pectin.  So you don't need as much sugar."  They also work well as an alternative to tapioca in traditional puddings. 

I can't help asking this former Master Chef winner about the whole reality/competitive cookery culture.  After all, according to a New York Times article Americans  are blobbing out in front of the Food Network, choosing to watch rather than participate.  That's not helped by shows like 'Hell's Kitchen" and 'Cake Boss' that are more about personalities and ridiculous culinary goals than practical kitchen skills.  It seems more viewers are turning on, tuning in, and ordering out.  But was this the case here, in New Zealand?  "No," Nadia argues, "In fact, shows like Master Chef have encouraged everyone to get more creative.  And it's expanded their knowledge.  And it's really inspired children.  They want to be in the kitchen.  I know of schools where the kids have their own cooking competitions - like Master Chef."  Nadia also says that she knows of couples that are staging their own dinner parties based on a hybrid of the My Kitchen Rules TV show, where teams set up and operate a 'home' restaurant for a night.   It’s that thirst for food knowledge and participation that Nadia wants to tap into.  And along with a sound philosophy about food, nutrition and exercise she reckons you really can have your desert and eat it too.    

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Block Buster: Fergus Hume & the Mystery of the Hansom Cab by Lucy Sussex, Text Publishing

Before there was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, there was Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab—the biggest, and fastest-selling, detective novel of the 1800s, and Australia’s first literary blockbuster.
Fergus Hume was an aspiring playwright when he moved from Dunedin to Melbourne in 1885. He wrote The Mystery of a Hansom Cab with the humble hope of bringing his name to the attention of theatre managers. The book sold out its first run almost instantly and it became a runaway word-of-mouth phenomenon—but its author sold the copyright for a mere fifty pounds, missing out on a potential fortune.
Blockbuster! is the engrossing story of a book that would help define the genre of crime fiction, and a portrait of a great city in full bloom. Rigorously researched and full of arresting detail, this captivating book is a must-read for all fans of true crime, history and crime fiction alike.

As well as touching on Hume’s own story, Sussex’s meticulous research examines lives, fortunes and ultimate fates of those involved in the writing, publication and marketing of Hanson Cab: readers, reviewers, investors, supporters and publishers, to name a few. The impersonations, scams and fraud that resulted from this publishing phenomenon are unbelievable.  A real Victorian scam to boot! And each chapter is an entre to the next scam with a relevant quote from one of Hume’s later works, showing how incidents in his life became inspiration for these elaborate tales.

And to give us a timeline flavour selection of reviews of the Hansom Cab, four pages of relevant colour plates, an extensive bibliography and comprehensive end-notes and index. She discusses the likely fate and provenance of the few remaining (and very valuable) copies of early editions. This is a book that will appeal to readers who like to get behind the story.

Sussex tells us just how important this book was: “Above all," he says, "the work consolidated detective fiction as a publishing genre, one with a mass readership of avid fans……others had shown that the market existed for tales of crime, but it took the blockbusting success of Hanson Cab, achieved by Trischler’s brilliant marketing, to prove how lucrative crime fiction crime fiction could be. Publishers took note and, over a century later, detective fiction is still a marker leader”. A very, very interesting read.

Rugby – A New Zealand History - Ron Palenski, Auckland University Press

To casual browser this could be yet another Rugby Book.  To me, Alex Veysey wrote the best books on the subject, 'Ebony and Ivory' being the greatest.  After that.  Nothing was as good.  Sure, there's  plenty of photos and many, many anecdotes of the game the administrators and the supporters, the game - the game of All Blacks and first XVs, this is more.  It's actually something of a parallel social history of a country's obsession and love of the game.  Many, this year will write of how WWI shaped NZ, but I wonder how much they think of the game.  Surely that, more than wars and economics shapes us - in small ways, long term ways.  Of course, he's still a geek, responsible for many previous works on the subject, Palenski has striven for details ta wont appear in most books, or on the web - details from the hooker's mouth, so to speak. Light blue pages cleverly utilised to draw the readers’ attention to some of the defining episodes in the evolution and emergence of New Zealand as a dominant rugby nation. The rugby myths and legends that have abounded for decades are given a thorough airing.

From the origins of the game at the legendary Rugby School we're led right through to the professional era of the game, with many insights from the early years of the game. Perhaps an interesting precursor of what was to come from New Zealand teams in later years occurred during the tour by the British team of 1888, who found that their opponents in the match against Wellington were ‘outrageously rugged’. as I learned from my BA Hons History, early Rugby players were a social mix of all classes.  The game was a great leveller.  Rugby was a gentleman’s game in these early times. Of course, the book would be dull with out a few riveting tales of the first New Zealand rugby team to tour overseas, the New Zealand Natives, and the vital role they played in establishing New Zealand as serious competition in the minds of the English.

Many of the periodic controversies that have been associated with the game are examined in detail; the grossly unfair dismissal of Maurice Brownlie in a test match at Twickenham in 1928, the expulsion of Keith Murdoch from the All Black tour of Great Britain in 1972, Colin Meads being ordered off at Murrayfield in 1967, the disastrous Springbok tour of New Zealand in 1981, the very bad decision to send the Cavaliers to tour South Africa in 1986 and of course the enduring ‘did he or didn’t he?’ – Bob Deans scoring the try that would have given the All Blacks victory over Wales in 1905.

Early tours to NZ by overseas rugby teams and by our own sides touring overseas are addressed in the unique Palenski manner. They are never a statistical list of who won what, but a detailed account of some of the personal experiences of the team members, the personalities they encountered, the events they attended and the challenges they faced.

This book is an absolute ‘must’ for serious rugby fans but it's also a great read for social historians, too.   .

Other books by Palenski: