OMG! Lasagna without the pasta, chips minus the potato and pizza on a zucchini base.
It’s comfort food that slashes the kilojoules; buttery, cheesy, carb-laden mouthfuls that go straight to the rear and make us huge.
Just ask comic Jane Kennedy, who’s been on every fad diet known to woman before she hit on the recipe to success that led last year to her first cookbook, Fabulous Food, minus the Boombah, and now, OMG! I Can Eat That?
RECIPE: Boombah-free Zucchini Pizza
“Boombah” is Kennedy-speak for “food that makes your arse huge” and, true to form, her latest book has everyone’s old favourites: chicken parmigiana, beef stroganoff, Caesar salad, even tiramisu, all with plenty of flavour but none of the guilt.
“I love cookbooks and I love cooking and I love magazines about food but now I deconstruct every recipe I see to make it work best for me,” says Kennedy, who’s part of the team behind Melbourne-based small film company Working Dog Productions and is best known for her appearances on the Late show and Frontline in the 90s.
She’s sitting in a tennis centre carpark having just eaten curry beef minus the rice in between shoots for the third Working Dog movie with the working title 25.
How does she do it, juggling work, cookbooks and five children in six years, including four-year-old twins with actor-producer partner Rob Sitch?
“With kids, you get used to being awake a lot in the middle of the night, so I am used to perpetually feeling jetlagged,” she says.
“I find I work much better in the early hours when everyone is in bed and run on whatever sleep I manage to get.”
Her cookbooks are a mix of Australian, Greek, Italian, Moroccan and Asian recipes, all true to the original but with a healthy twist that tweaks the carbs and fats.
“In many of the cookbooks I have, there are wonderful ingredients to make things taste fantastic, but the chefs and restaurateurs who write them don’t tend to wear the consequences of all the butter and fat they put in their recipes.
“For me, the challenge has always been to pull apart a recipe, then put it back together while trying to keep as much taste and flavour as possible.”
Kennedy’s chicken parma is coated in almond meal with lemon zest instead of bread crumbs and Greek yoghurt replaces sour cream in her stroganoff. both the fried “rice” and paella use microwaved cauliflower, blitzed to resemble grains.
“Cauliflower is my standby,” she says.
“My fried rice has all the elements of the dish I love: the spring onion, the ham, a bit of prawn, a bit of egg, some soy sauce, bean sprouts, ginger, garlic and chilli, but without the calories.”
It all stems from a love of food and lust for eating that no fad diet could tame.
Kennedy says she tried everything, from powdered drinks to the low-fat, high-fibre diet, the four foods in eight days Israeli diet, the detox diet, the high-protein Scarsdale diet, the don’t-eat-full-stop diet and the coffee and cigarette diet, which turned her into a “super bitch”.
“It worked,” she says.
“I probably added an apple and some wine but it really did my head in. I fitted into my clothes and just for a while I experienced what it must be to be a really thin actress living on the edge.
“My problem has always been that I ate too much, piling plates way too high. I realised at 40 that nothing was working, though it wasn’t till I had the twins at 42 that I really struggled to get the weight off.”
Kennedy is no mean fat buster. She likes olive oil, avocadoes, good prosciutto, some dairy and a little cheese, but true to her motto, everything in moderation, and battered, deep-fried foods are banned.
The guts of her recipes are fresh herbs such as basil, coriander, kaffir lime leaves and chilli.
There are no packaged sauces apart from tamari or soy and pantry staples include extra-virgin olive and sesame oils, balsamic vinegar, tinned tomatoes and hot English mustard.
“My kids usually come in to see what I’m making and that’s a good thing. whatever you do, don’t serve up steamed broccoli and expect children to eat it. Add slivered almonds, drizzle with good olive oil and finish with sea salt and pepper to make it appetising.”