Yes, The Secret Ingredient is a cookbook but its impact is found not just in its recipes but in the poignant story it tells of one beautiful young woman’s fight for life. It’s thought-provoking and a cautionary tale which, if heeded, could indeed save your life or that of a friend or family member.
This all sounds rather bleak and not the kind of book you might want to read for fun. Not a bit of it. Sally Bee, the aforementioned young woman, has penned this fascinating and practical book to save you confronting the health issues that she has had to face – three heart attacks in quick succession. It was a close call but Sally has changed her lifestyle and eating habits and now looks to a long life shared with husband and kids.
Those of us who are enjoying good health tend to take it for granted. We seem resilient and carefree. Sally is so easily upset by processed foods and even common takeaways because after the heart attacks she is now more sensitive to additives. She was rushed to hospital with a reaction to MSG. Most of us would not be able to tell if it was present in our food or not, but it must surely have an effect on all of us.
However noble the intention, you will still only buy this book if the recipes are tempting and if you feel you might enjoy these health-promoting dishes. Be assured, you will. This isn’t an over-worthy book full of beige grains and knitted yoghurt. The food here is vibrant, tasty and you’ll be happy to eat it every day. It’s not a diet but a habit and a style of long-term eating.
Ratatouille Chicken Tray Bake is colourful and simple and will be enjoyed by every member of the family. It’s a substantial dish and versatile as you can vary the vegetable components to suit your own taste and what looks good and fresh as the seasons change. A quick no-fuss meal.
Perhaps you have a yen for things exotic. The Secret Ingredient offers an authentic Moroccan dish which is simple enough to make during the week but smart enough to feed friends at the weekend. All of the ingredients can be found in your local supermarket, even the preserved lemons – and it’s worth making the effort to find those.
Sally has some inspiring but relatively healthy desserts. Red Berry Meringue Pie doesn’t have a pastry base and is almost fat-free. OK so there is some sugar but this is a treat rather than a regular pud. But if you want a dessert to enjoy almost anytime then Frozen Yogurt Tubs could fit the bill. There is a bit of sugar but a lot of berries to make this a healthy treat for all the family. Use frozen berries when the real ones are out of season.
The Secret Ingredient is a must for food lovers with heart conditions, but don’t wait till you are in that unfortunate state. Consider what you are eating and take advice from Sally Bee. She has firsthand experience. She has a passion for life and practises what she preaches. Great recipes and a fine philosophy.
The Secret Ingredient
Author: Sally Bee
Published by: HarperCollins
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018