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Book Review: Snack Hacks by Claudia Christian


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If you asked me to describe the stereotypical gamer diet, I'd settle on a mix of instant ramen, crisps, ready meals and fizzy drinks. Claudia Christian's new cookbook, Snack Hacks, wants to be something else entirely.

Claudia's connection to gaming and general geekery is strong. She has voiced characters in gaming hits like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Guild Wars, Fallout 4, Halo and Skyrim, and starred in over 50 films and hundreds of TV shows including the science fiction series, Babylon 5.

Image Courtesy of Floating World Press

Claudia explains she has a fully-equipped kitchen and experiments with famous recipes, her busy schedule means she has to find ways to make fast, easy and delicious meals. Snack Hacks follows this philosophy. It touts itself as providing "fast, simple and delicious recipes and cooking hacks" for gamers and other time-stretched geeks, so they don't have to compromise between good food and getting in front of their screens.

Image Courtesy of Floating World Press

A word of caution: this is an American cookbook, and it uses American units. Don't be alarmed if your oven won't go to "350°" - temperatures are measured in Fahrenheit, and should be converted where necessary.

Snack Hacks has recipes for the various components of a full meal, from appetiser to dessert. Each recipe is inspired by a game or something related to gaming (like the "Best of Show Watch Party Chili", inspired by E3). Prep and cooking times vary, with some mains requiring up to several hours of prep time or a couple of hours in the oven.

Image Courtesy of Floating World Press

In addition to recipes, though, the book has "hacks" which shave off time and effort, tips (stylised as "In-Game Downloads") to change up certain recipes, behind-the-scenes stories from Claudia's career and interviews with pro gamer Westballz and stars like The Expanse's Cas Anvar.

As a fan of South Asian food, I decided to test out the Freeway Chicken Madras, which was inspired by the game Freeway. I'm an avid home cook, but this was my first time trying to make chicken Madras. There was a bit of fumbling, and I used a little too much water, but eventually, I ended up with a piping hot (if slightly soupy) bowl of Freeway Chicken Madras.

Image Courtesy of Floating World Press

The dish was delicious, but it definitely wasn't the chicken Madras you'd get from your local takeaway. Most chicken Madras goes heavy on the tomato and chilli, but Claudia's recipe has none at all, and also includes zucchini.

The Freeway Chicken Madras, as a result, is nowhere near red and is very mild. I added extra curry powder and chilli powder to bring the heat up to my liking, and a pinch of turmeric powder to liven up the colours.

Image Credit: Robert Liow

The "Sporty California Easy Zucchini Pasta", though, was more my style. Just over an hour in the kitchen (the recipe states 10 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes of cooking) produced a giant pan of cheesy, herby and zucchini-filled goodness. It's meant to serve four, so I thought I'd have leftovers, but I finished the whole thing because it was that good.

One thing I'll definitely be trying again is the homemade basil paste this recipe requires. It's quick, simple, and would go well with bread or even on top of some sunny-side-up eggs.

Image Credit: Robert Liow

Overall, Snack Hacks is a winner. It's fun to read, and the recipes strike the right balance between challenge and reward. Put the instant ramen down - it's time to hack your kitchen.

Lead image credit: courtesy of Floating World Press

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