There’s a certain feeling that leading Australian cookery writer Donna Hay gets from diet food, and it’s not a good one.
It’s “that taste”, as well as “that look”, that the Sydney-based food stylist and bestselling author detests, along with many other things.
“I hate diets,” says the mum-of-two, who regularly appears as a guest judge on MasterChef Australia and previously starred in her own series, Donna Hay: Fast, Fresh, Simple. “I just don’t like all rules and all the fuss that goes with diets. And all the missing out and all the bland-tasting food. Life is too short.”
With this in mind, Hay’s new cookbook, Fresh And Light, focuses on flavoursome but wholesome food designed to appeal to everybody, including those who are health-conscious or watching their weight.
“I call it my Monday to Thursday book, for when you want to fuel your body for a busy week and want to feel good about the things you eat,” she says.
She regularly dishes up her own tasty creations to family and friends who come round for Sunday lunch, especially those who comply to a certain level of etiquette... “I have really great friends who love me cooking for them and always do the washing up,” she says, laughing.
“I always think the best guests do the washing up. They’re the dream guests that bring a nice bottle of wine and stack the dishwasher; and always get invited back!”
When the tables are turned however, and it’s her friends’ turn to cook for Hay, she admits that they often “get in a little spin” about it - but they needn’t worry; she may be a domestic goddess but she’s “happy with anything”, Hay insists, and is more impressed by simplicity than complicated food.
“I see a lot of food during the week, so I just like really fresh flavours and something simple,” she says. “I don’t need really fussy food, I think that’s what restaurants are for. Home cooking is different; it’s about having time to catch up with your friends and having a good laugh and unwinding.
“Keeping the food really simple is really fine with me.”
Recently, however, Hay had a helping hand impressing guests when they came round for a barbecue. Her young son caught a fish, and then shared the spoils of his catch.
“It was one of those perfect afternoons where I had some things to put on the barbeque, and he brought his little fish in,” the proud mum recalls. “One of the other dads gutted it and scaled it, because I can’t stand that, and then he cooked his little fish on the barbecue. It was one of those perfect life moments.”
Freshly-caught fish aside, they key ingredients to a good meal with friends are tasty, simple grub and lovely company, Hay notes.
Fancy whipping up a light summer supper to share with your friends? Here are three recipes from Fresh And Light.