The Cooking Chronicles: I Heart Donna Hay

I was lucky enough to receive two Donna Hay cookbooks for Christmas this year – Instant Entertaining and her newest, No Time To Cook. When I first started browsing cookbook shelves a few years ago, her volumes immediately caught my eye – the full-colour photographs were unlike any I had encountered before. Simple, elegant and beautiful, Hay’s food stylist could make anything look good.

I was particularly drawn to No Time To Cook, which focuses on quick meals – whether assembled, thrown together in one pot or baked in a single dish. I’m still working my way through the book (many a recipe are bookmarked), but I’ve had a chance to try two thus far.

Hay’s crunchy parmesan-crumbed chicken recipe was, in Mack’s words, “like Shake and Bake”. Chicken breasts were topped with a mixture of melted butter, dried herbs, parmesan and breadcrumbs, then baked at 390F. We made the mistake of not first filleting the breast in half to reduce the baking time (and further prevent the chicken from drying out), but we know now!

Crunchy Parmesan-Crumbed Chicken, with Rice and Vegetables

Hay’s recipe for baked risotto was chosen as much for convenience as it was to use up the leeks I had in the fridge. As I ran back and forth between the kitchen and the living room (the Canadian Men’s quarter final hockey game was on), once the prep was done, the dish finished itself in the oven. Of course, somewhere in between, I forgot to add the butter, but it didn’t seem to affect the final product too much, after I stirred it in at the end. While there is a definite textural difference between the baked rice and lovingly-stirred, creamy stovetop risotto, with the addition of two crunchy leeks, the rice was decent (and even better served with salty prosciutto, Hay’s suggestion).

Baked Risotto with Roasted Vegetables and Prosciutto

I’ve earmarked several more recipes to try – no doubt this cookbook won’t sit idle on my shelf for long!

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