As popular as Donal Skehan is, I have to admit I had never sampled any of his recipes before the opportunity to review his new book, Eat, Live, Go! arose. The boisterous Howth native undoubtedly imparts an infectious energy into his TV shows Kitchen Hero and Follow Donal, the latter of which was picked up by Food Network UK. Like him or loathe him, you can’t deny he is a roaring success.
First impressions were very positive, with beautiful food styling and photography by Donal himself definitely adding a certain personal dimension to Eat, Live, Go. I felt like the entire book, visually, flowed like one which had been styled as a whole, rather than a collection of singular recipes – a real feast for the eyes before I even got around to sampling the goods.
Swedish food is a cuisine you don’t hear much about in these parts bar perhaps an IKEA meatball/lingon berry concoction, so I was delighted to see this featured in the Go section, a nod to Donal’s wife’s heritage. Books that foster a feeling of taking an adventure abroad without ever leaving your kitchen are my favourite kind, so as soon as I spotted the Korean, Portugese, Polish, Croatian, Greek and Turkish recipes in the Foreign Feasts section I felt like Donal had won me over. Even if I didn’t make a single one of them, reading about them and his experience of stumbling upon them made me feel like I had taken a peek into another culture and cuisine and I loved this element.
For my Eat, Live, Go travels I chose to pop to Vietnam, with a light and zingy Vietnamese Chicken Salad. This was a simple but impressive banquet-style dish which was super straight-forward to whip up. Donal certainly knows how to make the most of inexpensive cuts of meat, as this recipe called for chicken thighs slowly pan-fried in a punchy ginger, lime and coriander marinade. The gentle cooking method ensured the meat was sticky sweet and meltingly soft when tossed with crunchy Chinese leaf. This dish was so fragrant and refreshing, bursting with Asian flavour – one for the lunchbox methinks.
Next I ventured to Mexico with Sweet Potato Nachos. Replacing fried corn tortillas with sweet potato is a fantastic way to lighten up a traditionally heavy cuisine and is something I have toyed with before. I can’t fault the flavours of this tray-bake of sticky paprika roasted sweet potato and red onion, jalapenos, beans (kidney instead of black for me) and quick guacamole. I prefer to cut my sweet potato nachos into thin disks on a mandoline, unlike Donal’s wedge style in this recipe, but other than that I was a big fan of this dish and had to fight others off to ensure I got my fix. A real crowd pleaser of a dish.
As I was tasked with reviewing Eat, Live, Go over the festive period I was so pleased to see three inventive recipes for brussel sprouts, which I would enjoy year round if I could. I settled on sampling Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad, which employed the often vilified sprout chopped finely and tossed with toasted hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and shaved Pecorino – an ostensibly simple combo which I found to be so much more than the sum of its parts. I could eat bowlfuls of this salad and will substitute cabbage or kale when sprouts aren’t available. Dare I say it…Donal has managed to make sprouts sexy!
On to the sweet stuff, no part of me could resist testing out a decadent looking and interesting sounding Chocolate Quinoa Cake. While I’ve worked with all number of alternative flours, including quinoa flour, I was intrigued to see cooked quinoa employed as the bulking ingredient in this cake. Topped with a cacao avocado frosting, this was cake with benefits, but how would it score on the delicious scale? As I am partial to cho-vocado mousse and the like I put this one to a panel of unsuspecting, impartial ladies with a collective sweet tooth.
My thoughts? The cooked quinoa worked a treat to ensure the centre remained squidgy and moist, blended with eggs, milk, cocoa and coconut sugar, which lended a delicious toffee-like sweetness to this deep dark beauty. I would certainly make this again, despite the slightly hefty coconut sugar price tag. Pleasingly, the taste test panel were unable to detect avocado or quinoa, simply noting that it was devilishly dark, rich and torte-like. A healthier take on chocolate cake with no flavour compromise? Genius.
I had planned to stop at four recipes, but when I spotted an old favourite, Instant Banana Ice Cream, I reckoned I deserved one more little treat. Blending frozen bananas is a fantastic way of creating a naturally sweet, dairy-free creamy dessert and Donal takes this to another level adding in peanut butter and chocolate chunks. This is a one step wonder – just blend and go – guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth and allow you to indulge in a healthy way. Winner alright!
While some may think self-help and scrumptious recipes don’t belong in the same book, I found Donal’s entries regarding emotional maintenance and adopting a positive attitude to be well connected in this instance to the importance of eating well. We all know Donal to be an energetic soul and though he admits to being part of the ‘green juice brigade and spirulina squad’, he embraces this lifestyle with an emphasis on producing ‘grub that tastes great’. Personally, I think Eat, Live, Go strikes this balance brilliantly, making it fantastic for both those who are new to “clean” eating or already seasoned green juice chuggers.
What’s more, Eat, Live, Go is a kaleidoscope of culinary cultural diversity, a celebration of the unique flavours which taste like home in different parts of the globe and an invitation to explore them with a passionate and enthusiastic guide in Donal. Donal Skehan is as successful as he is, I now see, because this genuine passion translates to exciting, refreshing recipes which now have me itching to get my hands on his earlier cookbook, Fresh. Donal has nailed it with Eat, Live, Go. No wonder he never stops smiling!
Get your copy of Eat, Live, Go here.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.