Simon Bryant, author of Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Simon Bryant

The Booktopia Book Guru

Simon Bryant

author of Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Planted in Exeter UK; seedling in Torquay, Devon, Cornwall; grafted to Adelaide SA; ripened in Melbourne Vic; now and established plant in Adelaide again.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

12: Taller and allowed to stay out after dark.
18: A mechanic (I was one from ages 16 to 20).
30: I had quit cooking briefly and was a push bike courier when that was a thing.

I have always believed it doesn’t matter what you do; do it well and it is precisely what you are meant to be doing at that time. Hence I never really pined for a life I wasn’t living – except when I was short and 12.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That compromise destroyed your soul. Now I believe in various shades of grey, negotiation and win win compromises. There is no point shouting for change if you have no positive alternatives to put in place. Inevitably the void will be filled with something else, possibly worse than before …

Simon Bryant 3

4. What were three big events – in the family circle/on the world stage/ in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Visiting dog farms & abattoirs / Moon Bear bile farms / tiger bone farms/ performance animal operations in China as a guest of Animals Asia about 10 years ago. There is absolutely no justification for a lack of empathy/ exploitation/cruelty for human profit or amusement in food medicine or any arena for that matter.

Reading Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations (fighting and struggling with it for months around 20 years ago and ever since actually). The concept of what is “needed” versus what is a manufactured need – to this day – still resonates with me. My aversion to media food trends, the social and economic constructs and language around food elitism, the disconnect between the world of plants and animals and how they end up on our plates, the marginalisation of agricultural processes, the alienation around losing something as simple as sharing food, all fascinate me. It’s hard to keep it real in your cooking when the lines of our reality have become so blurred.

Being lucky enough to have parents that put a meal – albeit simple but real and fresh – on the table every night despite how busy and tired they may have been. It has sown a seed that I am grateful for, that the table is far greater than the sum of its parts, that food is something to be grateful for and that basic social rituals really do matter.

Simon Bryant

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Absolutely not – in big SHOUTY LETTERS. I may have never written this book if it weren’t for all the “noise” out there around food.

I love the idea of the lack of elitism that electronic media has created. However, I feel that this inherently means there may also be poorly edited recipes that may not work. And my personal pet dislike: an endless procession of manufactured food trends some of which come with fantastical health claims that are simply not founded.

Part of the reason I embarked on the latest book is because there seemed to be so much momentum around anti grain/pulse et al. diets. I personally don’t agree with the logic that the Paleo diet is founded on, but I do agree excess processing of food is a major issue in our diets.

I just feel that by eliminating grains and pulses we are ignoring the wisdom of culture. There is nothing wrong with these foods themselves: there is however something wrong with an excess consumption of a non-diverse and highly refined diet of them.

Simon Bryant 9

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s simply what I eat, at home and what I have served my restaurant customers and friends for years. They are tried and tested recipes. Yes they are “sans meat (fish, poultry)” but I am not keen to label it as a vegetarian book. I am not anti meat (although I am anti intensively farmed animal protein and all the associated ethical, environmental and health issues surrounding it ).

At home I choose to eat tons of fruit and veg, grains, pulses (grasses etc) a little dairy and eggs. I’m not saying it’s the right way for everyone everyday but I simply can’t afford to eat bad food. It is the fuel that you need to get you through the day and you learn pretty young as a line chef that if you are not fuelling up as well as you can, you simply can’t get through the long hours and physical and mental stress of a high-end kitchen. It’s gruelling.

These are dishes that I enjoy eating, that you may find interesting if you don’t know where to start with grains, vegies and other good stuff or think that they are boring.

Simon Bryant 8

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I really think we eat way too much meat in the developed west, with portions that are too large or the wrong type (cuts and farming methods). I would love to think that people could cook just one “minus meat” recipe a week (as a start) and still feel satisfied. I believe that there is a whole world of flavour in properly grown vegies, grains and other good stuff.

I reckon once people eat (for example) well grown local, new season, single origin lentils and cook a recipe that brings out the best in this ingredient, they will be amazed. It all starts with good produce, so I’d say Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff is both sensible, informative and hopefully a little inspiring to people who thought they couldn’t make it a day without the usual dose of animal : )


Simon Bryant 13

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I’ll throw this answer a little left field here and say dogs! They don’t have a filter: if they like you they lick, if they don’t they growl. I just find their honesty refreshing. They wear their heart on their sleeves – when they’re upset they break your heart and they don’t hold grudges. They are loyal beyond any reasonable obligation.

They eat with the gratitude and relish of tired soldiers, they run like maniacs because they can, they wag their tails over the simplest joys and they sleep like logs because their conscious is clear.

It’s a great template for how to conduct your life as a human. I will point out: licking strangers you simply like the look of will possibly end badly!

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I have a real desire to be able to never turn away if I see or hear something that I find distressing, unjust or wrong. I believe in the notion of bearing witness even if your hands are tied and you can’t intervene.

It’s not an easy goal as we find it easier to filter out the distasteful/ disgraceful and despicable or simply turn a blind eye if we feel powerless. I feel “seeing” fuels conviction and will eventually lead to positive and productive action and perhaps some injustices readdressed in the long term. I’m not there yet but I’m definitely getting better.

Simon Bryant 4

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Get a real job ……jees, your grandma would simply not accept that you can make a crust scribbling words down unless you are landed gentry. And if you must write be nice to your editor, they make writers look way better than they really are, god bless these little unsung background geniuses.

Simon, thank you for playing.

Grab your copy of Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff here!

Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff

by Simon Bryant

Simon BryantThe good stuff has moved into the spotlight – vegies, grains and pulses are now the stars of the plate – and there’s no better guide to this veg-led revolution than chef Simon Bryant.

Simon’s recipes are delicious proof that vegies (and co) are never boring. Here, he shares his original takes on everyday dishes – Smoky kale carbonara and Pumpkin, chickpea and tahini soup – as well as recipes for when you’re inspired to take things up a notch: Baked cauliflower fregola with hazelnuts and preserved lemon: Squash, taleggio and quinoa balls: and Salt-baked celeriac with apple remoulade …Read more.


Grab your copy of Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff here!

How many different ways can you say yum? Adam Liaw talks to Booktopia TV about his new book Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School

For those who’d love to cook Asian dishes but don’t know how – no fear, Adam Liaw is here!

Being a former Masterchef winner and now UNICEF Australia’s National Ambassador for Nutrition, he’s the perfect person to guide wok-newbies around Asian cuisine. Recipes are created with clear directions and practical tips; the photography is luscious.

But enough from us, let Adam tell you about his new book, Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School

Grab your copy of Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School and for a limited time receive a signed copy!

Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School

Adam Liaw's Asian Cookery SchoolEven if you’ve never picked up a wok before, Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School is your simple guide to learning Asian cuisine.

More than just a recipe book, it will teach you about the ingredients and techniques of the Asian kitchen for a complete understanding of how you can create authentic Asian flavours.

Each chapter in this beautifully designed and exquisitely photographed cookbook is a lesson that will improve your cooking, with practical recipes designed to try out … Read more.


Grab your copy of Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School and for a limited time receive a signed copy!

Grab your copy of Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School and for a limited time receive a signed copy!

COMING SOON: Donna Hay, author of upcoming Life in Balance answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Donna Hay

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Donna Hay

author of Life in Balance

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you raised?

I grew up on Sydney’s southern beaches.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Ever since I started baking with my grandmother when I was about eight years old, I’ve always had a love for cooking and magazines. After college I was lucky enough to get a job in the Women’s Weekly test kitchen and that was really where things really started. I launched my magazine when I was in my early thirties, so I guess I’ve always been lucky enough to do what I love.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

My Mum always told me, “where there is a will, there is a way!” – I like to think I still believe that, although some things are definitely more difficult than others!

Donna Hay breakfast

4. What big events in your life or the world around you most influenced your philosophies on food?

Becoming a mum and cooking for my two young boys has influenced how I eat at home, plus as I’m so busy all the time I have to I plan ahead! I always try to ensure they have healthy, balanced options for their lunchboxes and plenty of wholesome snacks in the freezer that we can defrost. I often bake a batch of healthy muffins or make up some bliss balls on the weekend, so they can have then during the week. We still always have room for treats, though. The boys love to cook with me, too – food is so much about sharing and eating together.

5. What is a dish you wouldn’t eat as a child that you love now?

I think the eight-year-old me would definitely not be pleased with the green smoothie I have every day! Every morning I make up a smoothie with kale, watercress, coconut water and spinach that I drink throughout the day in the office – I think you’d be hard-pressed to convince any child to drink that!

Donna Hay 3a

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Life In Balance is all about helping people embrace a fresher approach to eating. From power snacks to leaner dinners and meals packed with good grains and proteins, it’s full of inspiring ideas to help you enjoy a wider variety of delicious, nutritious foods and embrace a more balanced lifestyle. I’m really excited about this book, as it’s really how I love to eat and cook.

7. If you had to highlight one recipe from the book, what would it be?

There’s an amazing raw chocolate peanut butter slice that I can’t stop making! It’s made with dates, almond and cacao and has no refined sugar so it’s a better option when you’re looking for a sweet fix.

Donna Hay 5

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Anyone who dares to be different, creative, or make the world a better place.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’m not really much of a goal setter! I’ve been very busy this year as I’ve been working hard on building my brand and there are some exciting projects in the works. I’m always looking towards the next thing. Personally I’m trying to work through a bit of a bucket list – I’d love to do the Sydney to Hobart yacht race one day!

10. What advice do you give aspiring home cooks?

If you need to build your confidence in the kitchen, start simple, pick a classic recipe and go from there. Then, don’t be afraid to try new recipes or experiment with new ingredients. Cooking meals that taste delicious and look great doesn’t have to be tricky!

Donna, thank you for playing.

Donna Hay 4

Grab your copy of Life in Balance here!

Life in Balance

by Donna Hay

Australia’ most trusted home cook is celebrating a fresher approach to eating.

These days we’re bombarded with so many messages about what to eat more of and what to eat less of and what to give up altogether, it can all get a little confusing and, let’s face it, overwhelming. When there are so many passing fads and extreme diets out there, it’s a relief to turn to a voice of reason, Australia’s bestselling … Read more.

Donna Hay

Grab your copy of Life in Balance here!

Australia’s own Secret Garden … Janet Hawley, author of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asksWendy Whiteley

Janet Hawley

author of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden is about Wendy spending over 20 years turning a vast rubbish dump on unused railway land at Lavender Bay on northern Sydney Harbour, into a glorious public garden.

Wendy began the garden in 1992, grief-stricken when her artist husband Brett Whiteley died, followed by the death of their daughter Arkie. The garden, now almost a hectare, has grown into a joyous haven that Wendy has designed like a living painting.

I’ve watched Wendy transform a wasteland into a beautiful sanctuary, and along the way the garden transformed her into a woman with a newfound happiness and a wish to share. She’s paid for the entire garden, and works daily beside her gardeners – truly inspiring.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The sheer pleasure in getting off the grid, finding calm breathing space to be immersed in nature, and re-set your brain. Too long inside the grid is disastrous.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

“Use your eyes. So many people look, but don’t see.” Wendy says this constantly, so did our late artist friend Jeffrey Smart.


4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Writers spend so much time thinking deeply and widely, trying to get inside other people’s heads, understand people and events from every angle. We can get upset with others when we don’t have enough time to think, see issues in black and white, and cannot see the subtle greys.

I work best in daytime and find it useless struggling over the words at night. Better to sleep on it, and hope you wake up in the small hours, with your thoughts unscrambled. I write those flashes down the moment they arrive. Never go back to sleep and think you’ll remember the words in the morning, you never quite recapture it.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I’ve always thought that if you are genuinely curious about the subject – whether you’re exploring the life and world of an artist, or of a honey bee – you will take the reader along with you. I’m always thinking about trying to understand the topic/people, and giving a strong sense of person and place, so the reader feels they’re walking and seeing beside me. Hopefully, some readers will like this approach.


6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

A basic book on nutrition, which clearly explains food – calories, vitamins, minerals – what bodies need and don’t need. We are what we eat.

A beautifully illustrated book of great art works – to inspire creative thoughts in young minds.

A song book, maybe Beatles lyrics, or old fashioned hymns, to bond the twenty kids singing together and make them happy.

A dictionary – actually makes fascinating reading.

A blank page diary each – so they can draw and write their own thoughts.

Janet, thank you for playing.


Grab your copy of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden here

About the Author

Janet Hawley enjoyed a wide readership in her thirty-year career as a senior feature writer on Good Weekend Magazine, published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

She’s renowned for her intimate profiles of artists and creative people, and trusted by her interview subjects to explore their private worlds and mysteries of the creative process. She’s published two books on artists, Artists In Conversations and Encounters With Australian Artists. Her book, A Place on the Coast, co-authored … Read more.

Grab your copy of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden here

Grab your copy of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden here

Richard Glover talks to Booktopia TV about his memoir, Flesh Wounds

Richard Glover talks to us about his new book, Flesh Wounds – part family memoir, part rollicking venture into 1970s Australia. In this poignant read, Glover delves into his past, understanding that he must come to terms with it if he is ever to lay it to rest. That includes accepting his parents’ past indiscretions, from his mother running off with his Tolkien-obsessed English teacher to his alcoholic father …

Grab your copy of Flesh Wounds here.

Flesh Wounds

Richard Glover

Richard Glover

A mother who invented her past, a father who was often absent, a son who wondered if this could really be his family.

Richard Glover’s favourite dinner party game is called ‘Who’s Got the Weirdest Parents?’. It’s a game he always thinks he’ll win. There was his mother, a deluded snob, who made up large swathes of her past and who ran away with Richard’s English teacher, a Tolkien devotee, nudist and stuffed-toy collector. There was his father, a distant alcoholic, who ran through a gamut of wives, yachts and failed dreams. And there was Richard himself, a confused teenager, vulnerable to strange men, trying to find a family he could … Read more.

Grab your copy of Flesh Wounds here.

Did Sylvia Plath’s suicide note reveal a new lover?

Ted hughes biographyThe widespread belief that American poet Sylvia Plath killed herself after Ted Hughes left her for another woman could be…well, false. Jonathan Bate, author of Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life, reveals in The Guardian that Plath’s suicide letter may have mentioned another man, one she was intimate with in the last months of her life.

In countless biographies and Hollywood film adaptations, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughe’s life has been depicted as follows: after six years of marriage and two children, Hughes left Plath for Assia Wevill, a woman who he described in his poem ‘Dreamers’ (Birthday Letters) as “Slightly filthy with erotic mystery – A German Russian Israeli with the gaze of a demon.”

On the fateful day Plath took her own life, she called Hughes incessantly, however was unable to reach him. The birthday-lettersquestion then arises: did she call anyone else? Another man she was intimate with? New discoveries suggest that perhaps she did. In his article, Bate outlines compelling insights as to why this could be the case, the below being one:

“The story I have heard is this … Sinclair is convinced of the story’s truth because the source, who is no longer alive, was a woman of unimpeachable integrity, a much-loved editor named Frances Lindley at the publisher Harper & Row in New York. At a book party in the city, she spoke to someone who said that they had seen Plath’s last letter. It allegedly revealed that she did telephone another man that last weekend, in a desperate bid to renew their brief liaison. He told her that he was now in a relationship with another woman. Yet one more male rejection: this could have been the thing that tipped her over the edge.” (The Guardian)

Sylvia and Ted 2So perhaps it wasn’t Hughes who drove her to her untimely demise, but a new lover. However as evidence is inconclusive at present, we’ll have to wait a little longer for the truth.

Read the full article here.

COMING SOON: Keating by Kerry O’Brien

Paul Keating and Kerry O'Brien

Paul Keating and Kerry O’Brien

The long awaited biography of former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, by influential political interviewer Kerry O’Brien will be available this month.

Keating is a treasure trove of anecdotes, insights, reflections and occasional admissions from one of the most loved and hated political leaders Australia has ever seen – a man who was the driving force through thirteen years of Labor government that changed the face of Australia.

Pre-order your copy of Keating here.


Kerry O’Brien


Paul Keating is widely credited as the chief architect of the most significant period of political and economic reform in Australia’s history. Twenty years on, there is still no story from the horse’s mouth of how it all came about. No autobiography. No memoir. Yet he is the supreme story-teller of politics.

This book of revelations fills the gap. Kerry O’Brien, the consummate interviewer who knew all the players and lived the history, has spent many long hours with Keating, teasing out the stories, testing the memories and the assertions.

Keating, who as prime minister personally negotiated the sale of a quarter of the government-owned Qantas … Read more

Pre-order your copy of Keating here

About the Author

Kerry O’Brien is one of Australia’s most respected journalists, with six Walkley awards including the Gold Walkley and the Walkley for Outstanding Leadership in journalism.

In a 50-year career, Kerry has worked for newspapers, television and wire service, and as a foreign correspondent. Thirty-three of those years have been at the … Read more.

Pre-order your copy of Keating here.

Paul Keating being interviewed by Kerry O'Brien on the documentary Keating: The Interviews.

Paul Keating being interviewed by Kerry O’Brien on the documentary Keating: The Interviews.


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