Master the perfect roast chook, dish up the dreamiest chocolate cake and serve knockout salads – Matt Preston will show you how. In his latest book, The Simple Secrets to Cooking Everything Better, the MasterChef co-host brings together delicious recipes and lessons learned, all delivered with his characteristic wit and warmth.
We had a chat with Matt about summer barbecues, cooking with simplicity and the art of the ultimate spud.
What was the idea behind The Simple Secrets?
It's always been my aim to write recipes with loads of detail, so you can nail the dish and put up something that looks like the picture. Writing a cookbook packed with tips, tricks and step-by-step illustrations to Australia's 31 favourite dishes seemed like an ideal place to start – especially as there is really nothing else like it out there.
This is a book that I think will give the novice cook confidence but also still give the experienced home cook loads of ways to lift their cooking. Needless to say, no book of mine was ever going to have just 31 recipes so we've ended up with well over 100. But they all use readily-available, familiar ingredients, require no fancy kitchen equipment to give you a tasty feed, and are loaded with even more tips and tricks – the simple secrets to cooking everything better!
"If you’re serving lamb, try a double mint salad with a light dressing and fresh and dried mint."
What’s one dish you can’t go past for a Sunday summer lunch?
The book is full of them, as I love both roasting and barbecuing – so then it's just a matter of whether you want to master crispy crackling, feast on the perfect juicy roast chook with golden burnished skin, or a big pile of barbecued corn mounded with way too much decadent and addictive bacon jam. You'd need to finish with the caramel and banana cheesecake or the warm chai chocolate fudge cake though!
When it comes to simple, salt of the earth cooking, who has been most influential to you?
Over the years I have met many inspiring cooks, from my mother-in-law and my grandmothers, to Maggie Beer and my old housemate Jen Ryan (a marvellous country cook). Above all though, I work with two wonderful women on all my books – Kate Quincerot and Marnie Rowe. They rein in my more ridiculous flights of fancy, ensure that everything works and remind me of important factors, such as minimising washing up! They also love to question everything and see if there's an easier way, which I love. That's why I dedicated The Simple Secrets to them.
The Simple Secrets has some pearls of wisdom when it comes to perfecting spuds. What’s your favourite way to cook them in summer?
Mashed or roasted are my favourite, but for a barbecue, it has to be a potato salad. If you’re serving lamb, the double mint salad with a light dressing and fresh and dried mint from The Simple Secrets; or if it’s pork, beef, chook or snags, the recipe of roast sweet potato, sweet/sour confit shallots, bacon, sultanas, pecan nuts and a maple dressing.
If you could jump on a plane for a meal anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I love places with delicious, cheap street food, a great food culture, and a couple of signature places. Right now Mexico City, Lima, Lisbon and Cadiz – to eat at Aponiente – are on my bucket list.
Try some of Matt's delicious recipes, from tender teriyaki salmon to mouthwatering meatloaf.
The Simple Secrets to Cooking Everything Better by Matt Preston is available now from Pan MacMillan Australia.