Scoop Review of Books

Four Square Meals or Meals for Squares?

4 Ingredients by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham
Publiser 4 Ingredientes, $25 Reviewed by KATHRYN HUTCHINSON.

book.gif As one who has idled many hours since childhood happily browsing recipe books, sometimes as a substitute for actually cooking, this book did not readily meet my now finely honed sensory expectations. It is entirely without illustrations and wastes no verbiage on elegant descriptors.
And this is as it should be, as the market for 4 Ingredients is definitely those who have no time for browsing, and those for whom food is a pleasure squeezed between competing and possibly consuming priorities. To meet the needs of this large sector of the community, the authors have simplified all recipes down to you guessed it, just four ingredients.

This has necessitated the elimination of all subtlety of flavour creation, at the same time making every recipe nothing if not achievable. Of course good ingredients are best left to speak for themselves, and in many recipes they do so fulsomely.

So while I consider some of the dishes themselves mean, the book itself is no mean feat. It is a fairly comprehensive guide to fast and effective food to suit a range of palates and cooking proficiencies. The recipe range is wide, from classics such as corned beef, to the more modern pesto stuffed steak. There is a section for children and a particularly pleasing home hints section. The emphasis is on health, more or less, and the limitation on ingredients, while sometimes sending you to the ready-made section of the supermarket, does imply some cost savings.

This is a useful book for the novice thrifty cook, young and old alike. It will also be a gratifying skim and pluck for the time-poor food lover. Here is a tasty sample to try:

Salt and Pepper Calamari (serves 6)

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns and 1 tsp salt
400 g fresh calamari
1 cup corn flour
1 cup vegetable oil

In a dry pan roast the peppercorns until they become fragrant and begin to crackle, transfer to a mortar along with sea salt and grind. Add the corn flour and roll the squid in the mixture, shake off any excess. Deep fry in a hot wok for 1 minute or until cooked. Drain and serve hot.


4 Ingredients Website.


Kathryn Hutchinson is a Wellington teacher and reviewer.


  1. Martin Craig, 20. June 2008, 10:06

    Water, yeast, hops and malt – anyone know a better recipe than that?

  2. Keri Hulme, 22. June 2008, 17:15

    500g ‘bait/1 egg/salt/oil – goes with the beer too!