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Book review: 4 Ingredients Cookbooks - quick but hardly healthy?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 18 March 2010.
Tagged: convenience, healthy cooking, kitchen organisation, review

Book review: 4 Ingredients Cookbooks - quick but hardly healthy?
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"Fast, fabulous & flavoursome recipes using 4 Ingredients. Written by Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker, these bestselling cookbooks are jam packed full of quick, easy and very delicious recipes that you can easily whip up to WOW your friends and family ..." That's the promise.

Post by Catherine Saxelby and home economist and dietitian Diane Temple

We are WOWED by the initiative and drive and marketing smarts of these two "Queensland Mums" as they describe themselves. They took an idea that's been around for a pretty long time (check the number of 4 ingredient cookbook offerings on Amazon), branded it and made it a best seller three times in Australia and are now making a name for themselves in UK.

We like their

  • Lunchbox ideas (Book 1, pp 199-206).
  • Leftover Ideas (Book 2, pp 215-221). These are always handy when you're stuck with heaps of just ripe fruit or uneaten cooked pasta.
  • Vegetables section (Book 2, pp92 -98) has simple and effective ways to lift the flavour of veggies and get the family to eat more - carrots baked with lemon juice, ginger and butter; or an oven-baked casserole of zucchinis marinated with onion, olive oil and oregano.

What's our beef?

book 4ingredients2 smallApart from the salad and breakfast recipes, healthy recipes are very few and very far between. Cooking Kim and Rachael's 4-ingredient way means depending on ready-prepared ingredients - packet soup mixes, canned condensed soups, stock cubes, ready-made sauces, commercial dressings, commercial meal bases, sour cream, sweetened condensed milk, cans of caramel topping, chocolate biscuits and rice bubbles.

These types of processed foods tend to be high in artery-clogging saturated fat, blood-pressure-raising salt, added sugars, super refined carbs and additives better known by number than name like colours 102, 110, 124, 127 and 133, thickeners, preservatives 212, 220, 221 and 282 and flavour enhancers 621, 622 and 623.

Overall the recipes fall woefully short on the fibre front. Occasionally wholemeal bread is used but mostly it's white.

And all too often when vegetables do make an appearance, they come to the table with lots of added cheese, butter, bacon or cream.

Possibly the worst recipe ever

curry_curls_recipeWe spotted the worst recipe we've ever seen in Book 2 on page 40 (see right). Called Curry Curls, it consists of two layers of puff pastry filled with crushed potato chips and curry powder! A nutritional nightmare of saturated fat and salt!

Isn't anyone else apart from us worried about recipes such as Mozzarella Cubes? You coat chunks of mozzarella cheese in eggs and crumbed Jatz biscuits and then deep-fry them (Book 1, p44). Or Chicken Nuggets made with 1 ½ cups mayonnaise - well at least they are baked, not fried!

With maintaining a healthy weight a significant problem for many children and adults, and with 200 people a day currently being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, we just want to say to Rachael and Kim: "Please turn your talents to creating fabulously healthy 4 ingredient recipes"  ... and give recipes like these the flick!

Please make it healthy next time - here's how

We know you can do it because there are some healthy options in your books.

For instance, Fruit Medley (in Book 2, p96) has chopped nectarines, bananas, blueberries mixed with orange juice; Melon Ice Blocks (Book 2, p199) is made from watermelon and pineapple pureed and frozen; Quick Bircher Muesli (Book 2, p16) and red yoghurt dip (Book 2, p23).

Soooo ....

  • Forget packet onion soup, sour cream, sweetened condensed milk and get creative with canned tomatoes, canned tuna or salmon, frozen or canned corn,  jars of antipasto vegetables, pie-pack apple and frozen spinach. Yes they're 'processed' but we regard these are minimally processed.
  • In the bread and breakfast cereal aisles, start cooking with products that are have plenty of fibre as well as wholegrains such as rolled oats, mueslis, bran cereals, wheat breakfast biscuits, grainy breads, rye breads, rye crispbread, wraps and wholemeal rolls.
  • At the refrigerator cabinet, look for hommous or tzatziki dips, lean ham, reduced-fat cheese, fruit and Greek yoghurts, chilled ready-to-heat soups, fresh tortellini and ravioli, custard and Parmesan cheese.

Fast, fabulous and flavoursome recipes using 4 HEALTHY ingredients - that's the one that will WOW us. 

Downloads / Fact Sheets

Cook up some of our quick but healthy recipes. For instance, our Fusilli pasta with salmon and spinach has only six handy ingredients - but is good for you.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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