Lyndey Milan: The Best Collection

Fast, fabulous food from the past decade

By Robyn Lewis
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The Best Collection - Lyndey Milan

The Best Collection - Lyndey Milan [©New Holland]

It’s ironic that in these days of slow food, a return to our culinary roots and gardens, grow your own and preserve it too, that cookbook titles with the words fast, easy, fabulous, quick and simple – in almost every combination – abound. (We even got a ‘no-work’ one the other day, as if.) Perhaps this reflects the dichotomy of many of our lives – we’re often short-order cooks by week, and aspire to be paddock-to-plate creative chefs on the weekend.

Despite its sub-title, Lyndey Milan: The Best Collection – fast, fabulous food spans both (or she has more time than I do on weeknights). I’m no stranger to Milan’s recipe books, having her 1999 fabulous food and 2005 Balance – Matching Food and Wine (2005, with wine expert Colin Corney) and probably others from her prolific output in my large collection. So I’m interested to see what’s new, and what might be relevant to the work-family-life balance of the 2010s.

As the book’s press release says ‘you cannot legitimately talk about influential people in the Australian food industry without including Lyndey Milan…. Lyndey knows not only food, she lives, understands and breathes it. More than this, she presents it in an entertaining and straightforward way’. To make seemingly complicated ideas or dishes appear (or be) easy is indeed a gift.

‘These are Lyndey’s personal recipes, a collection she’s put together during a career that has seen her manage some of Australia’s most respected food media outlets’. (She is currently Associate Food Director and major contributor to the BBC Australian Goof Food Magazine and was Food Director of the Australian Women’s Weekly for nearly nine years, also co-hosting their daily TV show Fresh.)

‘In true Lyndey style, this title is presented differently… recipes feature wine complements, and dishes are broken down into how they are plated … from finger food (no plates) through to small, large and even sweet plates’.

There are around 130 recipes in the 270 page Lyndey Milan: The Best Collection, most illustrated with photographs by long-term collaborator Michael Cook, plus Joe Filshie and Graeme Gillies. However if you have fabulous food you might be disappointed; nearly a third of them are straight from this 1999 title (one or two have an extra ingredient), complete with identical photographs and even the same wine matching suggestions.

Sure, this is a ‘best of’ collection and some of these recipes – which include lots of seafood and several reflecting her travels to Portugal – deserve to be classics and do withstand the test of time, but I can’t say the same about the wine matching notes.

A decade ago we hadn’t even discovered pinot gris/grigio in Australia, and ‘alternative varietals’ were probably something you looked for in a plant nursery in Nimbin, not a bottleshop or vineyard near you. ‘A small glass of sherry’ with an Asian-scented broth (or duck soup with coriander and noodles) doesn’t do it for me any more, although for a wine-food matching novice with no iPhone, these general suggestions might be helpful: pinot noir with mushrooms, semillon with chicken, sauv blanc with green pawpaw salad…

Of the more recent recipes, there are lots of soups, fish and salads, and the Asian influence is far greater, with many Thai and Chinese dishes and also a taste of Morocco. Plenty for every season, too (although not seasonally arranged).

Many are indeed fast and fabulous, and suited to mid-week dining, at least if you don’t have a 6pm lineup of hungry children waiting open-mouthed like demanding sparrow chicks. Certainly they would be great for child-free couples whose response to ‘your turn to cook tonight’ is ‘which restaurant, darling?’

The book is copiously illustrated with photographs of Lyndey, her family, her travels and other well-known food personalities like John Mangos, Matt Moran and Peter Howard. One alarmed reviewer mused that she thought she’d ‘stumbled across her private family photo album’ but I don’t find them offputting and as the same reviewer noted, ‘Milan is never one to let her larger-than-life personality play second fiddle’.

Certainly Milan’s personal stamp on the book and its recipes are evident, and yes she does make the complicated seem simple. It’s a happy book and sure to get some creative juices flowing, whether midweek or for more casual weekends.

Lyndey Milan: The Best Collection – fast, fabulous food is published by New Holland (hb, 272 pp, Sydney, 2009) and is available from all good booksellers at RRP A$49.95. Winepros Archive and subscribers and Members can purchase Lyndey Milan: The Best Collection here at 12.5% discount off RRP (postage extra) from our book partners Seekbooks.


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February 22nd, 2010
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