The Chronicle

Easy does it in the kitchen



Doyenne of home cooking, pared-back styling and all things pale blue, Donna Hay has three words for the new wave of Covid-inspired home cooks ... “stay with me”.

As Australia opens up and the pace of life accelerate­s, Hay hopes the nation’s most prolific lockdown hobby will segue into a lifetime love of cooking, and stand strong against the temptation­s of takeaway and convenienc­e foods.


“Lockdowns saw an incredible amount of people with previously no motivation to cook, embark on hectic projects like sourdough starters,” says Hay, describing these kombuchabr­ewing, bread-baking, meat-smoking culinary newcomers as the “zero to sourdough tribe”.

Now, with the release of her new cookbook, One Pan Perfect, Hay hopes to fill the gaps, helping people make the shift from cooking as an experiment­al hobby, to an enduring life skill.

“There’s a lot of ground left in the middle – that’s where I felt like I needed to come in and help out,” she says.

Cooked up in the midst of the pandemic, the book embraces the world’s new-found penchant for QR codes. It’s peppered with links to videos of Hay making the recipes in her own kitchen.

“With everyone so used to using QR codes, it made it simple,” says the 26-cookbook veteran.

“You scan, and I’m your cooking coach in the kitchen.”


Living in Sydney with sons Tom, 16, and Angus, 18, Hay’s lockdown experience involved being a non-stop home caterer.

Batch cooking and freezing became key to managing their perpetuall­y hungry, hovering presence. “My two boys eat like four normal people,” she remarks. “I had the same challenges as everyone – home school, home uni and boys that didn’t want to get out of bed. It was all about big breakfasts, healthy muffins and protein ball snacks. They are constantly starving.”

Returning to a life of social engagement­s, sports runs and afterschoo­l activities can be equally taxing, and Hay presents one-pan cooking as a coping strategy.

“I’ve had friends say ‘I’m trying to take it easy’ – it’s not excitement, it’s apprehensi­on,” she says. “We’ve got to figure out how to do this all again. One-pan dinners are saviours you can throw in the oven while you run to do pick-up from sports training.”


Less washing-up is a cherry that comes atop the likes of one-pan Hainanese-inspired ginger chicken, rainbow chard-topped pies, and buttery miso pasta in One Pan Perfect.

Cakes are conjured in frying pans, the traditiona­l pavlova is literally turned upside-down, and flavour-bomb pastes are detonated with Hay’s signature simplicity. “When you get creative, one-pan cooking can be incredibly versatile,” she says.

“All the flavours bubble and simmer. The way they lift together is quite magical.

“I want to see people continue to enjoy baking out of lockdown, but not to the level where you’re doing it all day.

“Making a cake can be as simple as melting butter in a frying pan, and stirring in the rest of the ingredient­s.”


As freedoms return, Hay is eager to reinstate one of her great loves – cooking dinner for friends. Seeing her boys return to their normal lives is another boon. There are, however, aspects for which she’s deeply grateful. High among them is the proliferat­ion of the home chef. Hay’s weekly kids’ cooking classes notched up more than 11,000 registrati­ons through the latest lockdowns, and queries to her team skyrockete­d.

“My social media was flooded and I was blown away by all the emails,” she says. “There have been so many positives – people are discoverin­g cooking, people who didn’t think they liked it, never wanted to do it, or didn’t have time to do it.

“They’re buying fresh ingredient­s, finding joy and developing a life skill that I think is so important.”

My two boys eat like four normal people ... One-pan dinners are saviours

 ?? ?? Donna Hay is bringing simplicity to the kitchen with recipes from her new book, One Pan Perfect.
Donna Hay is bringing simplicity to the kitchen with recipes from her new book, One Pan Perfect.

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