£20, Sphere

It's All Good', By Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen

 

Was my first thought on agreeing to road-test It's All Good for my inaugural cookbook column, "I wish I'd gone easy on myself by floating that home-tattooing diary instead"?

I couldn't possibly comment – except to say that this book derives from Paltrow's allergy-inspired decision to renounce most dietary elements – cow dairy, gluten, sugar, alcohol etc – while continuing with ingestion. And that I was determined to test her aspiration that, "No matter what you want or need to cut out, mealtimes should always feel happy," by ambushing the notionally very happy occasion of a friend's birthday dinner.

Conscious of the current epidemic of tall Paltrow syndrome, one guest offered a sensible precept: "Go hard on the content, but soft on the person."

This was stuck to for as long as the aperitif lasted: a pear version of the Mexican fruit drink agua fresca, with raw honey replacing bad sugar and, in this instance, lemon zest replacing Gwynnie's choice of lemon verbena. It was a teetotallers' nectar, until someone gave it a prosecco top.

Meanwhile, a Mexican chopped salad featuring corn, tomatoes, avocado, black beans et al, was guzzled equally enthusiastically, thanks to its "Mexican Green Goddess" dressing, a goat's milk yoghurt, chilli, coriander, lime and raw-honey concoction, both light and rich, which confirmed that Paltrow knows her liquids.

But then, to use a metaphor from our author's day job, things went a bit post-Royal Tennebaums. A chicken and white bean chilli, bereft of stock, herbs, heat, coherence or flavour, was chilli only in the sense that the Lib Dems are in power.

Whereas the banana "ice-cream" – that's frozen banana whizzed with vanilla extract, almond milk and maple syrup – at least announced its phoniness with inverted commas. I liked it, though others variously sniffed at its taupe-ness, demanded more vanilla flavour and fantasised about smothering it in salted caramel. The theme of the evening: these recipes would be great if they were different.

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