For years, Australians all over the country have been turning to Donna Hay for recipes they can trust. With her signature style and flavours, she’s helped us cook quickly and healthily, transforming old classics into modern day entertaining staples and given us solutions to the weeknight dinner dilemma. Now she’s back to show how mastering the basics can open up a world of new and delicious recipes.
Her new book Basics to Brilliance is as beautifully presented as we’ve come to expect from Donna, and is sorted into three sections: Savory, Need to Know and Sweets. Donna starts with the basic recipe and then leads us into multiple variations on how to make it brilliant. For example, a basic recipe for slow cooked lamb shoulder can easily be transformed into lamb and provolone open sandwiches, crispy lamb, pea and mint fritters, and lamb, goat’s cheese and heirloom tomato salad.
And trust us, these are recipes you’ll be itching to cook. Whether it’s the buttermilk fried chicken, chewy chocolate chip cookies, light and crispy tempura batter or smoky pulled pork – you name it and she has it. This book is a great gift for those just starting out in the kitchen, or home cooks wanting to spice up those classic ingredients and recipes.
We spoke to Donna about the inspiration behind Basics to Brilliance, advice she has for amateur and young cooks, and the food and books she loves. See our interview here.
Excited to cook? Here are two of Donna’s ‘Basic’ recipes and one ‘Brilliant’ suggestion for each – you’ll just have to purchase a copy to find out all the other ways you can turn the simple stuff into your own culinary masterpieces.
The Basic: Perfectly cooked steaks
2 x 4cm-thick rump steaks or boneless sirloin steaks (700g)
2 cups (600g) rock salt
cracked black pepper
step 1 Rub the steaks with the oil.
step 2 Spread half the rock salt over a tray, top with the steaks and cover with the remaining salt. Set aside for 20 minutes.
step 3 Wipe all the salt from the steaks, using paper towel, and sprinkle with pepper.
step 4 Preheat a char-grill pan or barbecue over high heat.
step 5 Cook the steaks, turning every 1 minute, for 2–3 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking.
step 6 Cover gently with aluminium foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4
TIPs Salting the steaks helps to tenderise the beef and adds to its flavour.
Turning the steaks ensures they cook evenly and caramelise on the outside.
Slice the cooked steaks thickly and serve with hand-cut chips and mustard.
The Brilliance: Grilled beef skewers with chimichurri
½ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup oregano leaves
1 long green chilli, chopped
1 clove garlic
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper
To make the chimichurri, place the coriander, parsley, oregano, chilli, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small food processor and process until finely chopped and smooth. Set aside.
Preheat a char-grill pan or barbecue over high heat. Cut the steaks into 5cm pieces. Thread 2–3 pieces of beef onto each metal skewer. Cook, turning every 1–2 minutes, for 6–8 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Serve with the chimichurri. Serves 4
+ This recipe begins with uncooked steak – simply prepare the basic recipe until the end of step 3.
The Basic: No-fail meringue mixture
225ml eggwhite (about 6 eggs)+
1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
1½ teaspoons white vinegar
step 1 Place the eggwhite in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form.
step 2 Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until each addition is dissolved before adding more++.
step 3 Once all the sugar has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk for a further 10–15 minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy+++.
step 4 Place the cornflour and vinegar in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
step 5 Add the cornflour mixture to the eggwhite mixture and whisk for 30 seconds or until well combined++++. Makes 1 quantity
+ Making meringue is a science. Be sure to measure your ingredients carefully, including the eggwhites as egg sizes do vary. Fresh, room temperature eggs work best – when whisked they’ll become fluffy and voluminous, plus they’re more stable during baking.
++ Be patient when gradually adding the sugar to the eggwhite. Each tablespoon of sugar should be dissolved before the next is added.
+++ Take care not to overwhisk the meringue mixture – it’s ready when it’s thick, glossy, smooth and there are no more sugar granules. You can check this by rubbing a little mixture between your thumb and forefinger.
++++ See the recipes that follow for how to bake this meringue mixture.
TIP It’s best to avoid making meringue on humid days. Excess humidity can cause meringue to sink during or after baking
The Brilliance: The perfect pavlova
1 x quantity no-fail meringue mixture (see basic recipe)
raspberries, passionfruit pulp and sliced peaches, to serve
Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Using a pencil, draw a 20cm circle on a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Place the baking paper, pencil-side down, on a lightly greased baking tray+. Spoon the meringue mixture into the circle to make a neat round. Reduce the oven temperature to 120°C (250°F) and bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool completely in the closed oven++.
Place the pavlova on a cake stand or plate and top with the whipped cream, raspberries, passionfruit and peach to serve. Serves 8–10
+ Turn the baking paper so it’s pencil-side down on the tray – no marks will transfer onto the meringue.
++ Allow the meringue to cool gradually in the oven with the door closed – preferably overnight.
At the age of eight, Donna Hay skipped into a kitchen, picked up a mixing bowl and never looked back. She moved to the world of magazine test kitchens and publishing, where she established her trademark style of simple, smart and seasonal recipes all beautifully put together and photographed. It is food for every cook, every food lover, every day and every occasion. Her unique style turned her into an international food-publishing phenomenon as a bestselling author of over 20 cookbooks, publisher of donna hay magazine, newspaper columnist, and creator of a homewares and food range.
To purchase a copy of Basic to Brilliance click here!