As obesity levels rise, Australian TV chef Janelle Bloom is on a mission to get people to quit fast food and get back into the kitchen.
Bloom’s third cookbook Fast, Fresh and Fabulous, aims to build confidence in the kitchen and show people that home cooking can be foolproof, with cooking skills no longer being passed on from generation to generation.
The chef, who presents a television cooking show Ready Steady Cook, spoke about her career and love of food.
Who was your earliest influence?
I come from a fantastic family of cooks. My grandmother was Hungarian and everything in our house revolved around food. I am one of three girls and we were always in the kitchen with my grandmother and mother and we learned to cook from them.
We ate way too much but at the time you don’t realise how lucky you are. Nutrition is such an important part of what you become.
Did you always want to be a chef?
I always wanted to get into food as that is my passion. I studied as a chef and a home economist. I wanted to teach cooking in schools but I quickly learned that was not something I would be very good at.
I went on to learn more about recipe writing and styling to get into magazines and then worked in an exclusive cooking school where I learned about teaching people.
And the TV part?
I got into TV by accident. I was working at Sharp in microwaves and one of my jobs was to educate people about the appliances. I was invited to be a guest on the show and about nine months later I left my job and started on as a presenter.
Why is it so important to cook?
People need to get some skills back in the kitchen. We are fat and overweight with obesity problems, eating so many preservatives and additives in takeaways and buying prepared foods.
We have to get back to the basics of learning how to make our own salad dressings, cook rice from scratch and so on. It’s not rocket science. It takes a little patience and confidence.
Is this the message of your new book?
Yes, it is about easy cooking. The idea is about getting dinner on the table quickly with not too many ingredients or too much time shopping and as preservative-free as possible.
There is also the fabulous chapter about baking which I love. These recipes are foolproof. I even put an extra chapter in the back called essentials which is all about getting back to the basics – how to boil an egg, make couscous, fried rice and quick, snazzy ideas for carrots and beans to make them more tasty.
What is your favourite ingredient?
To be honest my favourite ingredient would be chocolate because I love cooking with it and I love eating it. On the savoury side I would say olive oil. It is something we should all have in the kitchen as you can use it for so many things from marinades to baking a beautiful fruit cake.
Is there anything you could not do without in your kitchen?
My knives. It is so important to have good, sharp knives as this can cut down preparation time by two-thirds. If you can’t do this at home then take them to your local butcher to sharpen.
Rice paper rolls with hoisin dipping sauce
100g dried rice vermicelli noodles
500g cooked prawns, peeled, divined
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup fresh mint leaves
100g bean sprouts, trimmed
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
1 bunch garlic chives
375g packet round rice paper wrappers
Hoisin dipping sauce:
cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/3 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
1 For the hoisin dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until hot, adding more water if needed (the sauce should be the consistency of thickened cream). Set aside to cool.
2 Soak the noodles, following packet directions. Drain. Refresh in cold water.
3 Split the prawns in half lengthways with a sharp knife. Arrange prawns, noodles, chicken, mint, sprouts, carrot and chives in separate piles on platter.
4 Half fill a shallow dish with lukewarm water. Dip one wrapper into water, then place on bench and stand for 30 seconds or until soft enough to roll without splitting.
5 Place two prawn halves along one edge of the wrapper. Top with a little chicken, noodles, mint, sprouts, carrot and chives (don’t overfill or the rolls will split). Roll up, folding edges in. Cover with a cloth. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
6 Serve rice paper rolls fresh, or deep-fried until golden, with hoisin dipping sauce.