Sharon Hearne-Smith has a CV that would turn any kitchen lover into a green-eyed monster. Food stylist to the culinary gods, the face behind the ‘here’s one I made earlier’ on TV cookery shows we all know and love, I have a little life envy over Sharon’s day job. I imagine her twirling around the kitchen like a domestic goddess, immaculately put together in her retro tea-dresses, enjoying every minute she can dedicate to cooking.
With credentials like Sharon’s I was initially very excited to be given the task of road testing her new book and embracing my inner kitchen queen… until I heard the title. I have to be honest, the description of a cookbook which requires no cooking immediately unnerved me. Sharon’s ‘No Cook Cookbook‘ eschews the oven and hob to focus on putting together hassle-free meals and my mind boggled. Lingering over the stove stirring or opening the oven door to plumes of baked aromas is my bread and butter and I insist on cooking from scratch – but I do like a challenge.
I was relieved upon diving into the book to find that there was a lot more than assembly to the many and varied recipes Sharon had designed, many of which were so colourful and funky they nearly jumped off the page. I have to give Sharon major brownie points for the imagination that has gone into creating really original dishes. Watermelon and feta ‘pizza’ and a take on a savoury raw pastry using nuts and sun dried tomatoes which forms the base of several delicious sounding and unique recipes are just some examples of how she thinks outside the box and the oven.
I will admit, I just wasn’t tempted by dishes which called for packaged ready-cooked pulled pork or beef slices so when picking a protein-based recipe I went for one which called for Smoked Mackerel, Celeriac and Hazelnut Salad – hassle free and brimming with omega 3. This slaw-like summer salad salad was never going to look pretty (and I was somewhat relieved not to have to go toe to toe with Sharon on food styling) but it was seriously tasty. Tarragon, celeriac remoulde style slaw and apple with mackerel = easily a lunchbox able winner. Although hand cutting things into matchsticks or operating a mandolin is possibly more taxing than turning on an oven, whip out the food processor and you’ll be laughing.
I am a massive fan of my spiralizer and one thing I really liked about this book was the host of healthy, fresh recipes which replaced starchy pasta with low carb alternatives. From courgette ravioli to no-cook lasagne I was impressed with Sharon’s take on lighter versions of classics. I chose to whip up No Meat-balls with Carrot Spaghetti, which was as simple as popping open a pouch of cooked quinoa and blitzing with spinach and almonds to form balls. Sitting on a bed of vibrant spiralized carrot strings tossed in a more-ish tahini dressing, this may have been designed to get kids to eat their veggies but kept this grown up pretty happy too.
A recipe called Sin-Free Fruit and Nut Triangles caught my eye – seemingly a more nutritious version of rocky road, I anticipated many spoon-licking opportunities so was keen to test it out. While I can attest that they are not sin-free if you hover around the fridge picking at them all day like me, these bars were heavenly – goji berries and pistachios bound in cacao and almond butter could be nothing but amazing. Whipped up in minutes with just some leisurely melting and mixing, devoured even quicker, these were a one-way ticket to gluttony, but worth the sin-spree. I will definitely make these again, and maybe fiddle with the various add-ins.
While I was on a bit of a sweet tooth rampage I decided to whip up Raw Toffee Apple Tart, which is refined sugar-free as it utilises the more natural alternative of dates. Sharon doesn’t specify that the dates which make up the ‘toffee’ with pecans should be soaked, so unless you are using Medjool (and 500g of these would be rather pricey indeed) I would recommend giving them ten minutes in a little hot water bath – kettles are permitted in the No-Cook Cookbook ethos. I also scaled back on the amount of honey added to the toffee as this was extremely sweet already. This is a low maintenance dessert as the food processor does most of the work so it would be great as a last minute dinner party saviour. Packed with gorgeous cinnamon, apple and pecan flavours, this was a refreshing take on sometimes stodgy apple tart which can be made up in record time.
I went in to this review with mixed feelings about shunning my oven and hob but I will put my hands up and admit that I thoroughly enjoyed both preparing and eating every dish I tried. I was really amazed at how quickly I could produce something seriously tasty and unique. Sharon’s years of working as a home economist have left her with a keenly developed eye not only for styling but also for designing fresh and original recipes.
On top of a treasure trove of inventive recipes, Sharon provides loads of helpful time and flavour hacks throughout the book which I will definitely use in my cooking (and no cook creations!) going forward and I definitely got what I look for in a cookbook – inspiration to fuel my own kitchen experiments. As I write this, the weather outside is fantastic and standing over an oven to make dinner would be criminal – watermelon pizza in the sun it is!
Click here to get your copy of The No-Cook Cookbook.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that (and greed) as the ultimate motivators, I quickly realised that home-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, which fuelled my desire to set my focus on food in a serious way. Working with The Taste allows me to satiate this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me as I share my food adventures and hopefully inspire others to indulge their passion for cooking and food in the process!