Archive for March 2019

Kristen Stewart hangs up her fangs

Kristen Stewart vividly recalls the pain she felt on the last day of filming The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2.
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”We were filming some additional honeymoon footage in St Thomas and the sun was coming up. We knew we had to stop shooting but we didn’t want to let go!” the actress says of the end of the five-film franchise, subconsciously putting her hand over her heart.

”We got to live in this world for so long and then it was like a weight was lifted. The fact that it was all done, that’s when the pain gets you. Suddenly this thing I’d been waiting to relinquish and desperately wanting someone to take off my hands, I wanted it back!”

The 22-year-old has felt plenty of pain lately, after it was revealed she cheated on on- and off-screen partner Robert Pattinson (with her Snow White and the Huntsman married director, Rupert Sanders), prompting her public apology. The pair have reportedly reconciled, but it’s the elephant in the room when she sits down to promote the film in a Beverly Hills hotel and she carefully refuses to address that personal saga directly.

”I have to have a really particular feeling before I can do a movie,” Stewart says when asked why she put herself through the junket. ”You can’t turn your back on it when it’s time for people to see it, so it wasn’t even a decision, it’s just my job.”

In Breaking Dawn, Part 2, Bella (Stewart) awakens transformed; she’s a wife, a mother and finally a vampire, too. But her happiness with Edward (Pattinson) is short-lived. After she discovers her best friend, and werewolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), has ”imprinted” on her toddler daughter Renesmee, which makes them soul mates for life, they rally together to protect their strangely gifted child when the Volturi vampire coven incorrectly hear the child is a vampire and come to destroy them all.

This film marked the first time Stewart played a vampire, and there were surprises. ”I was doing a lot of wire work and in one scene I have to take a lion down so they pluck me off a platform and throw a huge foam rubber thing at me and expect me to tackle it and look really fierce,” she says. ”But the first five times it just sent my stomach into my throat and that’s embarrassing because I’m the one who’s always looked at everyone else doing this stuff and said, ‘come on, put a little back into it!”’

Still, the actress embraced her vampire role with relish. ”I waited so long to do this and it was great to watch her suddenly realise she’s this fantastic version of the girl that you know,” Stewart says. ”But what’s also great is that she doesn’t know how to use the tools that she’s been given, so she’s basically like a 10-year-old getting into a sports car and driving!”

Lautner admits he had his own awkward challenges playing Jacob in love with a toddler. ”When I was 10, I wanted to marry Jessica Alba but nothing as complicated as this age difference!” the 20-year-old jokes.

”I just had to keep telling myself that it’s a lifelong bond with Jacob and Renesmee and nothing more; you can’t look at it in a creepy way because that’s not what it is.”

As far as Stewart is concerned, there will be no more sequels. But Lautner says there are some things about the franchise that will never end.

”The biggest thing I am taking from it are the relationships I’ve made,” he says. ”The entire cast are such good friends and those friendships outside Twilight are just beginning, so that’s the most exciting part for me.”Box-office bonanza

The first Twilight book by Stephenie Meyer was released in 2005 and all four books became instant bestsellers, with more than 250 million copies sold and translation into 37 languages.

Twilight (2008) – In the first film, Bella (Kristen Stewart) moves to Forks, Washington, to live with her dad and falls in love with Edward (Robert Pattinson), unaware he’s a vampire. Worldwide gross: $US392 million.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) – Edward leaves Bella after an attack that nearly claims her life, and she becomes attracted to Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a werewolf. Worldwide gross: $US707 million.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) – Bella must choose between Edward and Jacob. Worldwide gross: $US698 million.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011) – Bella marries Edward and he turns her into a vampire after she almost dies during childbirth. Worldwide gross: $US705 million.

Source: boxofficemojo上海夜网mAfter five years, star loses his enthusiasm

While some may feel the Twilight movies have lived up to their ”Saga” moniker, it has only been five years since the first film. For Robert Pattinson, now immortalised as glittery vampire Edward Cullen, the time may not have exactly flown, but it has certainly moved at a superhuman speed from tree to tree.

”It feels like it’s gone on for a really short time,” he says.

”When I look at clips and things from the first movie, I’m like ‘oh, wow, I was a lot younger then’. I think you kind of, ironically, get stuck. You stop ageing – I think I’ve stopped mentally ageing since I did the first one. My life hasn’t changed.”

Pattinson reflects that Edward’s ageless quality made his job as an actor easier.

”The wonderful thing about it is just doing five movies playing the same character, who doesn’t change, doesn’t age,” he says.

The teen heart-throb, whose career has skyrockete, admits he has lost enthusiasm for the role. As a 26-year-old male, Pattinson isn’t exactly a member of the Twilight target audience, and he admits that he does find the story silly at times. ”A lot of the time, but you kind of get that with every movie,” he says. ”The core story of Twilight is very strange and this book is extremely strange.”

Giles Hardie


GENRE Romantic drama and fantasy.

CRITICAL BUZZ Twilight fans will flock to see the end of the franchise, and the box-office will be huge despite mixed reviews.

STARS Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner.

DIRECTOR Bill Condon.


RELEASE Now screening.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Daniel Craig’s special Bond

‘I never wanted to be James Bond,” Daniel Craig says brusquely. Other people may have had that fantasy growing up, he says; all power to them, but he never did. So there is no point asking him how it feels to be living that dream.
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”I don’t know how that feels. What I do onscreen is a total invention, a totally made-up thing. It’s as far from me as anything is possible to be. That’s the acting challenge: that I have to pretend to be this super-spy, when … I’m a kid from Liverpool.”

Skyfall is Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007. It is also his best, which cements his standing as the best Bond since Sean Connery defined the role in the 1960s. Together with director Sam Mendes, the notable English theatre director – whose last film before Skyfall was the witty indie comedy Away We Go, also about as far from Bond as it’s possible for anything to be – Craig pushed for more lightness this time around than he had been able to play in Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace, with a few more of the flip ripostes and bad puns that used to be Bond’s hallmarks. Mendes has also brought back a version of Q (Ben Wishaw), the ”quartermaster” whose predecessors provided generations of Bonds with fun spying gadgets.

In Skyfall, spymaster M (Judi Dench) is being targeted along with her colleagues at MI6. Cyber-security breaches at the organisation have led to the identity of NATO’s spies (who are embedded in terrorist organisations) falling into the hands of a mysterious and vengeful foe (Javier Bardem).

At the same time, however, Skyfall gives Bond a tragic backstory. He is also more emotionally expressive than in any of the previous 22 official James Bond films. Craig’s Bond already has all of Craig’s own intensity, which means no matter what he’s doing – even when he’s sparring with the geeky new Q (Ben Whishaw) – there is a melancholy about him that no other Bond had. You just know he goes back to his sun-lounger in the Bahamas and broods.

”I don’t analyse the differences between him and Pierce [Brosnan] or him and Sean,” says Mendes, who is a long-standing friend of Craig’s. ”I think those other Bonds were products of their time and were asked to do different things. Pierce could have played it differently. So could Roger Moore. For me, Daniel is exciting because there is a friction between who he is and who Bond is. Two plus two equals five, in a way. It’s a bit of magic.”

One of the emotions Bond experiences this time round is bitterness; he senses that spies are getting a little old in this high-tech world. So is Bond – Craig is now 44. ”Sucks, doesn’t it?” Craig says bluntly. ”But what are you going to do? You can’t stop it. But I’m not going to get defensive about it. Bond’s hurt very badly in this movie and it’s less about the ageing than it is about the clash of worlds. It’s not getting political, but governments are far happier sending in spy satellites and drones than putting people in the field; their excuse is that it’s less dangerous, although I think it’s probably an economic reason as well. Bond’s part of the old school, that you’ve got to go and look people in the eye. He’s like me in that respect, I suppose.”

Craig’s old-school attitude is one reason he never responded to the outpouring of fury when he was announced as the next 007: he doesn’t do social media. ”I don’t blog, I don’t go on Twitter and I’m not on Facebook,” he growls. ”And I never f—ing will be … That’s just not my way.” Nor is it his way to smile for the paparazzi, which has earned him a reputation as permanently angry. ”I challenge anybody to f—ing smile,” he argued recently. ”I’m just not that person. I’m never going to arrive at an airport after a 12-hour flight and go, ‘Oh, hi everyone, it’s so great to see you!’ I can’t do it.”

The Englishman lives in New York with Rachel Weisz, whom he married in June last year. Nothing could prepare you for blockbuster celebrity, he says, but he still manages to meet friends in public: ”People have got more important things to worry about in New York than James Bond being in the bar.”

Still, he is the face now on every billboard; you wonder how often people sidle up to ask if his drink is shaken or stirred. Not that he would give them the opportunity, of course. Kids from Liverpool drink beer.

The top five 007 films

Goldfinger (1964)

The early Bond films didn’t just defy credibility; they shook it, stirred it and put it in a leopard-skin bikini. Guy Hamilton’s first film for the franchise boasts a cracking lesbian Bond girl in Pussy Galore, the iconic golden corpse, henchman Oddjob’s lethal steel-brimmed bowler, and sleek Sean Connery, who wears a diving suit with a plastic duck on his head. Mad, fairly bad and absolutely fab.

Casino Royale (2006)

Rebooting Bond without (many) gadgets or parlour badinage, director Martin Campbell and a ferocious Daniel Craig match other modern thrillers, disguising some of the series’ most bizarre plotting – MI6 and the CIA choosing to defeat their man at poker rather than just take him out – as stylish action.

From Russia with Love (1963)

Memorable for its Cold War atmosphere, the second Bond established much of the template – the title sequence, Q, Blofeld as head of SPECTRE – with the bonus of the scarily neutered Rosa Klebb, played by the great Lotte Lenya. Note: all the best Bonds have a strong whiff of sexual perversion.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby, once dismissed as Connery’s unworthy successor, is undergoing reappraisal among aficionados: he looked like Bond, fought as balletically as any Bond and fell in love with the flawless Diana Rigg, his equal in wit and style.

GoldenEye (1995)

Nobody understands the lethal-satellite-provokes-war plot, but it doesn’t matter: Pierce Brosnan’s first film introduces the most charming of the Bonds as well as Judi Dench’s severe M, the dazzling black-widow villain Xenia Onatopp and the theme of betrayal from inside M’s ranks.


GENRE A James Bond film.

CRITICAL BUZZ Although the Connery Bonds remain enshrined as holy writ, this is universally agreed to be the best Bond anyone can remember: ”a supremely enjoyable 50th-anniversary outing,” to quote one review among many. Skyfall is No.1 at the box office in 25 countries.

STARS Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Berenice Marlohe.

DIRECTOR Sam Mendes.


RELEASE Thursday.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Forrest defends ‘logic’ of ducking royalties

Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has defended attempts by his company, Fortescue Metals Group, to defer more than $200 million in royalty payments to the Western Australian Government, saying the failed attempt was based on “sound logic”.
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In comments that amount to the first time Fortescue has admitted seeking to avoid the payment, Mr Forrest said the deferral was designed to ensure the restart of expansion works at the Kings iron ore project went ahead.

Work on Kings was halted in September when Fortescue lurched into a short-term debt crisis caused when iron ore prices dipped below $US90 per tonne.

Mr Forrest said the WA government would enjoy much bigger, longer term economic benefits from the Kings project going ahead, than from a single royalty payment, and the deferral was designed to ensure the expansion could continue if iron ore prices stayed around $US90 per tonne.

But Mr Forrest said the request became redundant when the iron ore price recovered to $US120 per tonne, where it still rests today.

“We put that logic to the WA Government,” he told ABC Radio.

“They can see the logic absolutely, but with the iron ore price going from $US90 per tonne to $US120 per tonne they said ‘guys you can bring on Kings whenever you like’.” Mr Forrest said the iron ore price would continue to fluctuate but was likely to remain close to $US120 a tonne in the short term at least.

Mr Forrest is now chairman of Fortescue, after spending close to a decade as the company’s chief executive.

Fortescue surprised the market on Thursday when it was revealed to be negotiating an 18 per cent stake in a shale gas exploration company.

Fortescue said the deal, if signed, was designed to help find energy sources to supply its iron ore business.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

YouTube pulls, then reinstates, video of Hamas assassination

Footage of the assassination of a Hamas leader in a missile strike in the Gaza Strip was pulled from YouTube overnight for breaching the popular video-sharing website’s terms of service.
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But just hours later, the 10-second video – which shows the moment Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari’s vehicle exploded as it drove through Gaza city – was reinstated and YouTube said its removal was a mistake.

The battle being waged on the ground continues to be fought fiercely online, as both Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces try to get the upper hand in the propaganda battle and deliver their messages directly to readers.

Israeli military officials live-blogged and live-tweeted their offensive in the Gaza Strip on Thursday (AEST), posting video of the fatal strike on the Hamas military leader’s vehicle within hours, and later re-tweeting the link “in case you missed it”.

That prompted a volley of return tweets from Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigade, which directed one tweet directly to the Israeli Defense Forces Twitter account: “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves).”

But the online stoush has raised questions about what role social media should play in military campaigns.

The 10-second video posted by the IDF showing al-Jabari’s assassination was pulled from YouTube, the world’s largest video website, for overstepping the mark.

It was replaced with the message: “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service. Sorry about that.”

YouTube’s Terms of Service state that “graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.

“YouTube is not a shock site. Don’t post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust.”

However hours later, the video was reinstated and YouTube said its removal was a mistake.

In an email to the technology website All Things Digital, a YouTube spokeswoman said: “With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”

YouTube users were believed to have “flagged” the video, which triggered a review process and a YouTube employee decided to take it down, All Things Digital said. Later, that decision was overturned and the video was put back up.

Overnight both sides continued the propaganda battle in social media.

The IDF tweeted a poster, which also featured on its official Tumblr blog, of a target over a group of people alongside the words: “Israeli civilians are Hamas’ target.”

It also tweeted an image of a baby “wounded today from a rocket attack in #Israel”.

Alqassam Brigades also tweeted an image of a baby purportedly killed in the strikes.

“#Israel’s military kills #Palestinian children in cold blood in #Gaza, shelling civilians & populated areas #Humanrights,” Alqassam Brigades tweeted.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Dinner’s in a minute …

WHEN IT COMES TO MODERN cookbooks, one thing is clear: fast sells. The irrepressible Jamie Oliver may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he and his marketing team are doing something right. Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals was not just the top-selling cookbook in Australia last year, but also the top-selling book. More than 220,000 copies made their way into Australian kitchens. This year’s release, Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals (the title alone might be enough to make you feel exhausted), is expected to give its older, slower sibling a run for its money.
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After 30 Minute Meals, the next three top-selling cookbooks in Australia last year were Simple Dinners and Fast, Fresh, Simple by no-fuss heroine Donna Hay, and 4 Ingredients: Kids by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham (the 4 Ingredients titles have sold more than 4 million copies in Australia).

The growing appeal of fast, simple recipes is clear. Gone are the days when households were structured around the male breadwinner and the stay-at-home mother who had hours to invest in the nightly dinner. We’re far more likely to buy a ready-made dinner, then collapse on the couch and watch someone else cooking dinner on television.

Pamela Clark may have a better perspective on this shift than anyone else in Australia. Now editorial and food director at ACP Books, publisher of The Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks, Clark began her career as a recipe tester for the magazine and associated cookbooks in 1969.

A few things have changed in the ACP test kitchen. ”In the 1970s, we would think nothing of pouring a whole carton of cream into a recipe; now it’s tablespoons, not cartons,” Clark says. ”The other difference is that the person who is cooking also works [and] they don’t want to spend hours shopping and cooking.”

A survey commissioned recently by ACP found that the most-cooked evening meal in Australia in 2012 was steak and salad. Clark says grilled meat and salad ticks all the boxes for the contemporary home cook: it’s healthy, it has minimal ingredients that are easy to source, it’s fast to prepare and cook and it’s acceptable to most members of the family.

But there are only so many times you can eat grilled chicken breast before the appeal begins to wane. Herein lies the success of the fast or simple cookbook, which can help hapless home cooks broaden their repertoire of speedy meals, with a celebrity chef on hand to demonstrate how it’s possible.

But do fast-easy books deserve to sell so well? Or, like weight-loss diets, is it all about selling a fantasy that we can look great or cook a flavour-packed, healthy meal with zero effort? There has to be a catch. We decided to road-test some recent releases that offer a magic solution to the after-work scramble.

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals

Jamie Oliver, Michael Joseph, $49.99. Released October.

Reviewed by Ardyn Bernoth, editor, Sydney. Lives with husband and three children, aged 4, 6 and 8.

Recipe road test Spiced chicken with bacon, asparagus and spinach lentils

Preparation time 13 minutes

Cooking time 16 minutes, 57 seconds

Clean-up time 18 minutes

Tastiness 3/10 (but it’s my fault: I stuff up the recipe)

Overall comment You need to be a good multitasker to pull off this recipe, and most in the book. But there is loads of inspiration for simple, inspired week-night meals. This dish probably would have been tasty if I had followed the recipe properly.

WHAT a load of bollocks. How can you cook a meal – ”delicious and nutritious food that’s a total joy to eat”, no less – in 15 minutes? You need to rest meat longer than that, let alone cook it.

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals is the latest cookbook offering from one of world’s most famous chefs, which will no doubt sell in the millions. There is, of course, a matching TV series, which I dutifully watch before road-testing the recipes.

Oliver beams into my lounge room in full ”cheeky chappy” glory. On steroids. He stirs sauces and pan-fries chicken with one hand, while throwing witlof onto a platter with the other. ”Just scatter those leaves all over the gaff,” he enthuses as he multitasks furiously. His completed finished dish looks, it has to be said, delicious. But can something similar be achieved by a mere mortal?

First, we – my three girls and I – don our ”15 minutes frame of mind” – I have my blender out, kettle boiled and pots and pans required for this spiced chicken with spinach lentils and asparagus dish on the stove at the ready.

I arrange my ingredients, chop the bacon, open the tins of lentils. We set the iPhone stopwatch – we are off and racing. Nothing is complicated, most ingredients are readily available and these are recipes tested to within an inch of their lives.

Except, I don’t know if it is the stopwatch whirring under my nose, the eager ”help” of the girls, or that I am simply trying to do too much at once, but I stuff the recipe. I miss the line in the method about frying off the onions and carrots before throwing in the tinned lentils. I realise my mistake but plough on, throwing the onions into simmering lentils.

We plate up and Willow the four-year-old hits the stop button at 16 minutes, 57 seconds. I am impressed. It seems you can actually execute these in roughly 15 minutes – excluding the prep time and the clean up (add another 30 minutes). However, it tastes awful – the onion is, of course, raw, and my girls refuse to eat it. It’s boiled corn on the cob for dinner.

I test other recipes in the book, this time without such a monumental stuff-up. My conclusion is you need to be a practised cook to pull off the 15-minute promise. You need to be comfortable doing three things at once, to have chicken frying in a pan while blitzing spinach in a processor and stirring lentils in a pot. But I started this process as an unbeliever, quietly snooty about the gimmicky nature of a meal thrown together in 15 minutes, and end up having to admit this is a clever compilation of recipes that may take a while to master but may also persuade people that it’s just as easy and speedy to rattle the pans as it is to dial takeaway.

The Australian Women’s Weekly, Fresh Food Fast

ACP Books, RRP $39.95. Released October.

Reviewed by Simon King, retailer, Melbourne. Lives with partner and three children, aged 2, 3 and 5.

Recipe road test Passionfruit souffles

Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time 12 minutes

Clean-up time 10 minutes

Tastiness 7.5/10

Overall comment The souffles were extremely easy to make. When it hit the table, no one was more surprised than me. How did I make something that looked so good? The taste was a little on the eggy side, but the passionfruit countered this. I’d make them again for the impact, if nothing else.

HANG on, why did I get this cookbook? I’m a man who’s comfortable in the kitchen – I even cut a fine figure in an apron – yet I’m still wondering why they gave me, a bloke, the Women’s Weekly cookbook to road test.

So, the first challenge was to my manhood, the second was to my loose approach to following recipes. This will be the first time I adhere to prescribed measures and methods. Yes, I think I know how to do it better than the book.

Fresh Food Fast is a basic, easy-to-follow book aimed at people with few skills and little time for fussing in the kitchen. The book is divided into starters, mains, sides and desserts. I tried the pumpkin and corn patties, the pan-fried whiting with leek, tomato and green olive salsa for main, and the passionfruit souffles. Each recipe had a time target, and mostly I managed to get pretty close (only two minutes over on the souffles!). On the plus side: the souffles were dead-set easy to make. And when those four puffy, sugar-dusted beauties hit the table, there were stunned faces all round.

On the down-side, is it cheating if a recipe’s ingredients list includes things such as ”cleaned and roughly chopped” potatoes, instant mash and quartered green olives? OK, I should have bought pitted olives, but who sells them quartered? And those dirty little kipflers needed a good scrub down, and I don’t know anywhere that sells them pre-cleaned and chopped. Prep takes time and the recipe’s time allocation precludes prep.

Overall, the book uses ingredients that are easy to find and put together quickly to make some pretty good grub. There are a few recipes I’m keen to have a crack at and maybe add to my repertoire. But, if anyone asks where I got the recipe, I’ll probably lie.


Bill Granger, HarperCollins, RRP $49.99. Released October.

Reviewed by Michael Sibel, sculptor, Melbourne. Lives with wife and son, 4.

Recipe road test Beef, mushroom and snowpea stir-fry

Preparation time 10-15 minutes

Cooking time 8 minutes

Clean-up time 10 minutes (the wok and a couple of bowls: not too bad)

Tastiness 7/10

Overall comment Nice and simple, with clear instructions. All I had to do was chop the vegetables and slice the meat. I cut the meat thicker than recommended. I should have cut it thinner. This was my least favourite of the four dishes that I cooked. I would have used more chilli and spice.

I AM pretty excited by this challenge. I hardly ever cook stir-fries. It is not really my area of expertise. But I am encouraged by how simple it all sounds and after we have picked spring onions and coriander from our vegie patch, I get cracking, with help from my four-year-old, who is keen to assist.

There are quite a lot of ingredients but most I am able to pull out of the cupboard or the vegetable crisper (I had bought the beef that morning). With 10 ingredients laid out on the counter (it has taken me about 10 minutes to prepare), I feel relaxed and ready for my challenge. I pore over Bill’s directions. His time estimates are accurate. I have smoke billowing from a hot wok, throw my beef strips in, give a quick stir, hook them out, and throw in the next half of the beef. Meanwhile, I am also cooking the rice noodles on the stove. (Next time I will do rice instead – the noodles ended up a bit bland.) Within another eight minutes, the dish is done. I add the flourish of coriander on top, and am chuffed that my dish looks so similar to the picture in the book.

I think this book is great; the kind of cookbook I’ll turn to regularly, not just once or twice. I’m the main cook at home and I get bored with my repertoire of family dinners. While I like tasty dishes, the reality is I’m not going to make things such as curry paste from scratch on a weeknight and this book takes such practicalities into account by providing a separate curry paste recipe, but also advising ”shop bought” is fine.

Numerous recipes have a long list of ingredients, but they are mostly familiar and easy to source, and many recipes have an overlap of ingredients.

Granger’s writing style is easy to follow. The most complex dish I made was a Spanish fish stew. I also made the cevapcici with radicchio and lemon and the ginger pear upside-down pudding. Of the four dishes, the simplest – the cevapcici – was the tastiest.

I like the way the chapters revolve around a main ingredient (”piece of chicken” or ”handful of grains”) rather than by courses. This approach is good if you have ingredients you’re not sure what to do with.

Hugh’s Three Good Things… on a Plate

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, RRP $49.99. Released October.

Reviewed by Kirsten Lawson, editor, Canberra. Lives with partner and three children, aged 5, 9 and 11.

Recipe road test Chicken, rocket, redcurrants

Preparation time Less than 15 minutes

Cooking time It was right on eight minutes

Clean-up time Five minutes (no pots, just the dishes to rinse and shove in the dishwasher)

Tastiness 6/10

Overall comment Hardly cooking. But fine for a salad, lifting it from ordinary to mildly interesting. It would have been boring if not the addition of the cranberries, which we used instead of redcurrants. It’s a pretty dish but it didn’t blow me away.

”RIDICULOUSLY simple”, insists the author in his introduction. This book, penned by the BBC’s forerunner to Matthew Evans (Gourmet Farmer), distills recipes to a ”magic pattern” of three key ingredients.

Initially, I was concerned. Had my favourite, bucolic television cook with the singsong voice, the owner of happy pigs and chooks, gone the way of the 4 Ingredients fad? Would all the recipes rely on a contrived formula?

Not exactly. Fearnley-Whittingstall claims most great meals consist of three key ideas or elements: salty, sweet, crunchy; sharp, rich, crumbly; double espresso, shot of brandy and a fag (that’s a joke).

So while a recipe might be called ”liver, onion, spice”, the ingredients list drags in cumin, fennel, coriander, caraway, pepper, paprika and cayenne for the ”spice”.

Not precisely three ingredients, but I’d rather a bit of harmless contrivance than ready-made sauces.

Our first dish is ”chicken, rocket, redcurrants”, and we’re offside from the start. Shredding a roast chicken and throwing a dressing on some greens can’t be described as actual cooking. Hell, it’s barely even dinner. Fast? Yes. Simple? Ludicrously so.

But as to the taste, well, it’s pretty good. The cranberries (which we use instead of the unavailable redcurrants) add just enough excitement, sweetness and tartness to lift this dish from what would be better described as a sandwich without the bread into a mildly exciting salad.

Our second dish, ”rhubarb, champagne, cream”, is a rhubarb jelly. You make the rhubarb into a syrup, add the gelatine, then pour in two-thirds of a bottle of champagne so slowly you don’t lose the bubbles.

The result is elegant and pretty, but not so lovely to taste, with a slight bitterness, which I’m thinking was contributed by the alcohol, or perhaps by our use of a low-alcohol fizz so this dessert could be shared with the kids. Quality fizz is probably required.

It’s when we get to a polenta dish that Fearnley-Whittingstall’s spell works its magic. This is our only successful home-made polenta ever. The milk is steeped in onion, garlic and thyme, adding those flavours to the polenta, which is cooked, cooled as a slab, then fried. Fry and throw on the onions and you have a quick, vegetarian dinner with an edge of sophistication. This I will cook again.

We’ll keep this cookbook on our already over-burdened shelves for its simple, up-to-date ideas. We quickly forgot our irritation at the shoe-horning of every meal into a holy trinity, and earmarked other recipes to try.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.