There are certain foodies, authors and chefs we look up to as legends in the food landscape; Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain and James Beard, to name a few. But when it comes to food styling and photography, the only name that comes to mind is Donna Hay. Best-selling author and food editor, Donna Hay presents her food focusing on basic ingredients that are simply prepared and beautifully photographed.
I wanted it to be clean and light. I wanted it to be a celebration of the food, the produce and the beautiful freshness. I didn't want it to be about flowers, napkin rings, glasses and whatever else was in the shot. - Donna Hay, Splendid Table
While I've been called Donna Hay in our on food styling and photos, it's her minimalist styling, colour through food and attention to detail is one we admire. And as the summer months roll in it's only natural we turn to Donna for inspiration as we celebrate the beauty of and natural colour of nature in her 2013 cookbook, Fresh and Light.
What was it like cooking the recipe? In one word: easy. Frittatas are one of our go to recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is super quick to prepare, easy to make and incredibly hearty. We substituted milk for yogurt adding to the creaminess and whipped it in the eggs topping with cheese, dill and zucchini then baked. Donna’s instructions were clear and concise perfect for seasoned cooks and new cooks alike.
What did the dish taste like? It tasted like the best frittata I've ever had in my life. Each bite was moist, fluffy and creamy and the saltiness from the feta made each bite savoury and rich. The dill added volumes of flavour and the while the zucchini was subtle, it’s a great way to incorporate even more veggies into a dish.
Did the finished dish look like the pictures? Our photos looked very similar to Donna’s frittata. We chose to use a skillet with a handle that doesn’t fair well in the oven, so when it came time to broil we held the oven door open and held the pan to the top of the oven. While we don’t recommend this at home, this resulted in a not so consistent broil on the top of our frittata. Definitely, use an oven safe skillet.
Would we make it again? This is officially our newest brunch item. This dish was light, moist and fluffy and used ingredients that elevated a traditional frittata. With the addition of milk (or yogurt like we used) the frittata resembled the closest thing to a French quiche without the crust. Like the granita below, Donna provides 5 frittata options that don’t disappoint and we look forward to creating all of her frittatas dishes, especially her basil and tomato frittata.
Brussel Sprouts and Ricotta Gratin | Fresh and Light Cookbook Review
What was it like cooking the recipe? Seven ingredients, one mixing vessel, and a single pan makes for simple side dish that could really stand on its own as a light lunch. Mix a few ingredients together, cut some brussel sprouts in half and put it together to make a light and creamy casserole taking less than 10 minutes from fridge to oven.
What did the dish taste like? Creamy and smooth, light and airy, the creaminess from the ricotta base pairs well with the subtle crunch in the brussell sprouts. This is a great side dish to a summer meal or celebration.
Did the finished dish look like the pictures? Yes, the simplicity of the preparation made this a winner in the beauty department. You just need to ensure you use the correct size pan so that the brussel sprouts stay above the ricotta mixture. The caramelization of the brussel sprouts was a beautiful contrast to the bubbling ricotta mixture.
Would we make it again? You definitely need to like brussel sprouts to enjoy this dish. But for those who aren’t fans of this vegetable we suggest tossing in a few pan-fried bits of bacon into the ricotta gratin for a salty and meaty addition. This would be a lovely dish to bring to a holiday potluck; it’s easy to make, simple and flavourful and sure to impress your guests.
Watermelon Granita | Fresh and Light Cookbook Review
What was it like cooking the recipe? No cooking involved with this one. This literally took us less than five minutes to make but you have to be patient, as it takes a while to freeze solid.
What did the dish taste like? A grown up version of a snow cone. The texture brought me right back to my childhood, getting snow cones at CNE. The watermelon and honey works in harmony together to compliment the flaked ice melting on your tongue and the explosion of flavour.
Did the finished dish look like the pictures? Definitely. Our granite was as bright and colourful as Donna’s. We suggest serving it in smaller bowls ideal for serving right out of the freezer.
Would we make it again? We’ve made it about 5 times since we initially tested the recipe. Donna not only provides one incredible recipe but provides 4 other flavours with the same prepping technique. This is the perfect dish for an after dinner treat, especially on hot days, or if serving guests this is a wonder palate cleanse.
Toasted Spiced Chickpea Salad | Fresh and Light Cookbook Review
What was it like cooking the recipe? We love recipes that are quick, easy, and accessible; and this salad offers all three. It only takes about 10 minutes of prep and 5 minutes of cooking, and all the ingredients are easy to find. It takes just one skillet and a bowl to make this salad.
What did the dish taste like? Like the cookbook title implies, this salad is definitely fresh and light, and is bright from the moment it hits your palate. You get the splash of lemon and honey with your initial bite and subtle aromatics from the fennel, paprika and mint. It is a perfect compliment to the carrots and chickpeas and the halloumi cheese brings it all together for a nice balance.
Did the finished dish look like the pictures? With some styling finesse the salad did look like the picture, however, it won’t look like that coming from a bowl to the plate. This is a great salad for plated meals as it is absolutely stunning when styled to the book’s aesthetic.
Would we make it again? We would definitely make this recipe again with a couple of adjustments. We found that the julienned carrots were a little too stiff and not easy to pick up with a fork. We suggest peeling the carrots with a peeler to create ribbons that also allow the dressing to absorb more. We would also double the recipe when it comes to the dressing. We found with this simple step the salad was punchier and more flavourful with the addition of herbs. We also suggest grilling the halloumi and dicing it or serving it under the salad instead of grating the cheese.
Donna Hay's cookbook Fresh and Light is one we'll continue to cook out of. It's filled with bright, simple and satisfying dishes that echo the essence of what she stands for as a stylist and cook and we look forward to continuing to cook through this book. As with all her books, Donna consistently finds new and inspiring ways to serve simple ingredients that shine through flavour and beautiful photos.
Chef Sous Chef