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Cookbook Review: The Fast Five

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  For today's What I'm Reading Wednesday post I'm sharing one of the most practical yet unique recipe books ever:  The Fast Five:  shortcuts to deliciousness by Donna Hay.  I've already tried several of her recipes from this book, and we enjoyed them so much.  

About The Fast Five:

Donna Hay, Australia's most trusted and bestselling cookbook author, returns with a book that you'll want to cook and eat from time and time again - the ultimate collection of fast, delicious recipes for busy families.

From bestselling cookbook author Donna Hay comes the recipes you've been waiting for. The Fast Five is all about taking your favorite recipes and reimagining them in faster, more delicious ways.

All-time classics and old stand-bys - lasagne, pasta, tacos and more - are reinvented with midweek twists which focus on cutting down time and upgrading flavor. Weekly go-tos are given a new lease on life, as Donna takes tried-and-tested recipes and gives them a fresh new twist. For example, the weekly taco night moves from straight out-of-the-box ready-made to fresh and delicious fit-for-a-restaurant, with five flavorful variations made inclusive for all tastes and preferences. With fresh salsas and sides, a fully-fledged feast comes fresh to the table in minutes.

Whether you're looking for ways to improve on your favorites or for a total kitchen refresh, The Fast Five will bring you new fast new fabulous flavor combinations - all done without ever straying from your repertoire of go-tos made in ways you've never tried before.

My Review:

Y'all, this is such a practical cookbook because its focus is upgrading recipes you cook every month.  The reason it's entitled The Fast Five is because it takes a fresh look at common recipes and teaches the reader five different ways to upgrade them!  I have not put this cookbook away on my cookbook bookshelf since its arrival:  I keep it out and I've referred to it every week.  

Let's face it:  we are creatures of habit.  We can easily get into a rut when it comes to cooking.  Why not give your family's favorite recipes a makeover?  So far the recipes I've tried are not hard; they are perfect for weekday meals.  The taco ones are fantastic!  Your Taco Tuesdays will never be the same.  Here are a few of the recipes included in the book that are made over five different ways:

  • spaghetti
  • tacos
  • salsas
  • burgers
  • meatballs
  • flourless cakes
  • smoothies

These are my favorites, but there are 32 total categories in the cookbook!  Some are companions, like tacos and salsas, or flourless cakes and frosting.  Another super-cool feature of this book is that some of the recipes have QR codes you can scan and watch Donna make them!  

This is the recipe I want to share with you from the cookbook today:

Caramelized Balsamic Onion Pasta

The reason I chose this one to share with y'all is because Mr, Bookish chose it, and I was a little skeptical because I'm not a fan of the onion like he is.  But goodness gracious me, it is fantastic!

One thing you need to know before you purchase this book is to have your metric converter handy, but that little bit of inconvenience is worth it!


2 T extra virgin olive oil
4 onions, sliced 
1 T chopped tarragon leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c good quality chicken stock
1/4 c caster sugar
14 oz dried spaghetti
5 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 c grated gruyère cheese
fried sage leaves and finely grated parmesan, to serve


Heat a large deep frying pan over medium heat.  (I used one of my Lodge cast iron skillets that's about five inches deep.  This recipe requires a lot of onion, and if your pan isn't large enough, you're in big trouble.  A large cast iron dutch oven should work.)

Add the oil, onion, tarragon, salt, and pepper.  Cover with a lid and cook for 10-12 minutes.  (don't worry: I was concerned the onions on bottom would burn but they didn't.  Put the lid on it and don't mess with it until the timer dings).  

Remove the lid, add the balsamic vinegar, stock, and sugar and cook for 5-7 minutes or until caramelized.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  TIP:  Pasta water should taste like the ocean, so don't skimp on the salt!

Return the pasta to the pan over low heat.  Add the butter, gruyère cheese, pepper, and the reserved pasta water.  Stir through to coat.

Divide the pasta between serving bowls and top with the balsamic onion, fried sage leaves, and parmesan.

Serves 4....4 very hungry men.  I think it serves closer to 6-7 people.

TIP for frying sage leaves: 

Fry sage leaves in grapeseed oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat until crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.  These crisp-up REALLY FAST!  In seconds!  Don't skip this step because the fried sage leaves truly complement the onion and cheeses.

Full disclosure:  I added the magical sparkles in Canva, but I do feel that this recipe *is* magical! 

The next recipe I'm trying this week is also a pasta recipe:  Silky Parmesan Pasta with Crispy Crumb.  You can also try it HERE on Donna Hay's website.  I just subscribed to it, by the way.  

So what do you think?  Are you interested in learning new techniques for weekday stand-by recipes?  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Fast Five from publisher Harper Collins (4th Estate Books) in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Thank-you!

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What's for dinner at your house tonight?

Until next time...

Bon appétit!
Ricki Jill


  1. This sounds like a super terrific cookbook and if it's anything like what that recipe sounds like -- well, it IS a great book. Love the idea. Thanks for the introduction.

  2. You've got me hooked. I am going to look for this. I love new and different ways to prepare old recipes. Thanks! xo Diana

  3. Thanks for sharing! This one sounds perfect. Might have to ask Santa to put it in my stockings. We get so bored with the same old stuff, but I am not an adventurous chef. This sounds like the instructional manual for me!! Hahaha!

  4. YUM, sounds delish - and looks delish in that MC dish!!

  5. This sounds like a great cookbook, I am all about fast and easy in the kitchen! The pasta sounds wonderful, and I love fried sage, yum!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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