Sarah Bowman wakes up thinking about what she is going to cook for dinner ... because she loves it. A busy mother of four, Sarah has collected her favourite family recipes, which are big on impact with minimum fuss: perfect for other busy mums. COLLEEN THORPE talks to Sarah about her new book and love of cooking

What is the key to creating good meals each night when we live such busy lives?

Keep the house well stocked with basics. Have a handful of "go to" recipes that the family loves.

A glass of wine and a smile help, too!


What are your go-to pantry and freezer essentials that will ensure a delicious and nutritious meal?

Pantry essentials: Dried goods - rice (large bag from the Asian supermarket), pasta, beans, grains, seeds, nuts etc; flavour boosters (dried herbs, spices, sauces, oils, vinegars); potatoes (large bag), onions (large bag), garlic, ginger.

Freezer essentials: Vogels bread, berries (for smoothies), peas, broad beans, chicken stock.

How did you select the recipes for this book?

They are a collection of our family favourites from the last 20 years. All of them remind me of the friends and family who have either kindly shared their recipes with me or shared happy times around our table.

I love how food has a way of instantly transporting us back in time to past experiences.

What is your favourite recipe?

The muesli is my most constant favourite and the recipe I miss most when overseas.

Who was the major influence in your love of cooking?My mother Zoe was my earliest influence and the latest is our eldest son Will, who has developed into a passionate and skilled cook.

What is your first memory of food?

Eating enormous strawberries warmed from the sun in my grandfather's jungle of a vege garden.

Who is your biggest fan?

My family - they put up with my continuous food antics and reap the rewards of my labours.

What ingredient could you not live without?

Onions, garlic, lemons and fresh herbs would be impossible to live without.

I have been known to saute onions and garlic while I search the fridge and pantry for inspiration. They are the base for so many great dishes. A little lemon and fresh herbs can brighten even a simple dish.

In the cooking world, who do you most admire?

Alice Waters, Stephanie Alexander and Jamie Oliver for their passion for kitchen gardens in schools.

They are my heroes. They were my inspiration for the Soul Food Camps I founded.

What dish do you most love to cook?

Pizza. It's the perfect meal to prepare for family or friends. Make the dough in the morning and the rest can be prepared while you entertain guests from the kitchen bench.

What celebrity would you most like to cook for?

We had the Topp Twins to lunch recently. I can't think of better celebrities to cook for. They are such generous souls and were the perfect guests - devouring their food with gusto and coming back for seconds, not to mention entertaining us with song!

What would be your desert island dish?

Tropical fruit.

What three New Zealand foods are top of your list?

Can I pick four?! Dairy - we make some of the best cheeses and yoghurts in the world. I am particularly partial to Clevedon Buffalo Vanilla Yoghurt. Vanilla pods - Heilala (who thought you could grow vanilla in New Zealand! Nuts (particularly South Island walnuts and Hazelz roasted hazelnuts from Canterbury). Honey (J Friend and Co single variety honeys are amazing. My favourite is Beechwood Honeydew).

Tell us three things about yourself people might not know or be surprised to learn.

I'm not a trained chef. I studied Home Science and then trained as a dietitian. I hope this translates into simple recipes for everyday people just like me.

I had few cooking skills when I started university - too scared even to use a hot oven. Practise, practise, practise is the key to cooking. A love of eating also helps. Taste, taste, taste as you go. At the time of writing this book we had four children living at home. We are now down to two and next year, one! The next book I write will be aimed at cooking for first-time cooks, a gift for my children as they enter the world of surviving on a student budget.


My mother introduced our children to the joys of banana fritters. I have taken them to a new level of deliciousness with the addition of a spiced honey drizzle. They make a lovely inexpensive weekend breakfast treat. Serves 6.

4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 ripe bananas, roughly mashed
pinch of salt
butter, for cooking
6 small bananas, diced, to serve
juice of 1 lemon, to serve

In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, milk, flour, baking powder and vanilla. Fold in the mashed bananas.

Beat egg whites and salt together in another bowl until stiff and fold into the batter.
Heat one tablespoon butter in a heavy-based frying pan and spoon quarter-cup amounts of batter into the pan to create small fritters. Cook until golden on both sides.

Keep fritters warm in an oven on low as you continue to batch-cook the remaining mixture, adding more butter to the pan for each batch.

Toss diced banana in lemon juice to prevent it from browning.

Serve each person a stack of three fritters with a tablespoon of diced banana between each layer. Top with diced banana and serve with a jug of spiced honey drizzle.

6 tbsp dark honey (I use J. Friend and Co Beechwood Honeydew)
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
1 star anise

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla pod.

Pour sauce into a jug.

Cook Simple
by Sarah Bowman, $45