Low-fat Winfrey

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 1994, 12:00am

ROSIE Daley's cookbook is doing so well that her publicity agent doesn't care whether newspapers want to interview her. Why bother, when she has already had several appearances on her boss' television programme? Her boss is Oprah Winfrey.

In the Kitchen with Rosie is jogging - in this case, out of the bookstores - even faster than Oprah is these days, so fast it is breaking records on everyone's best-seller lists.

Industry estimates place average sales at more than 200,000 a week in the United States for the first five weeks of publication.

It is now climbing toward the half-million mark and has surpassed books by such popular fiction authors as Stephen King and Frederick Forsythe.

Despite the fact that nothing in the title suggests that it is a low-fat, low-calorie cookbook, there is no doubt that the people who are buying it hope they will end up looking as svelte as Oprah currently does.

It will certainly help, but what made the television talk-show host look so good has as much to do with exercise as it does with healthful eating.

And anyone who thinks she can look as good as Oprah by eating Daley's very good food but remaining in the couch potato mode had better think again.

A lot of hard work has gone into the star's once-again-svelte shape. She runs 12 to 16 kilometres a day, every day.

She works on the Stairmaster for 45 minutes, every day. And she does 350 situps, every day.

Most mornings she is out of her house by 5am for her first four-mile jog, and she doesn't go to bed until midnight, long after her afternoon jog, Stairmaster workout and situps.

It's a good thing Oprah doesn't have to cook, clean the house and take care of children along with her full-time job. And it's a good thing she needs only about five hours of sleep a night.

In fact, she never has to go into the kitchen and be tempted by leftovers in the fridge: Daley does all her cooking for her.

And if she is ever inclined to skip a workout, her personal trainer acts as her conscience.

If plain old Rosie Daley - not Rosie Daley, Oprah Winfrey's cook - had written this cookbook, would anyone have bought it, or would it have ended up on the remainder table? Low-fat cookbooks are a dime a dozen.

But with or without Oprah, this is a worthwhile low-fat, low-calorie cookbook because the food tastes good and anyone with moderate cooking skills can cook from it.

Daley knows how to cook, and more important, she knows how to make low-fat food taste good, having learned at a California spa. She knows about substitutions.

She understands textures. She thinks heavy spicing is the secret to low-fat cooking, and she spices a lot.

Perhaps too much for some: four tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper to coat four six-ounce tuna fillets, and two tablespoons of jalapenos for eight crab cakes. Some of the food will be too hot for tenderfoots.

Some of the portion sizes are too small except for dedicated dieters. Eight ounces of pasta is not enough for a main dish for four; eight ounces is enough for two.

And for two, the calorie count is not low: there are 870 calories and 8.2 grams of fat in a four-ounce serving of pasta.

A recipe for potato gratin is said to serve eight, but it serves only six, so the number of calories in a proper serving is 189, with 2.5 grams of fat, not 126 calories with 1.9 grams of fat.

Some of the recipes could use a little salt. Sometimes the pan sizes are not adequate to hold all the ingredients. The most egregious error in the recipes tested by The New York Times was the instruction to rinse fresh crab meat under cold running water before adding it to the crab cakes.

The way to remove the shell fragments and cartilage from crab is not to rinse it but to pick it. The old-fashioned way.

But even with these caveats, most of the food is suffused with flavour and very appealing not only to the taste buds but also to the eye.

Some of them can be prepared quickly; others take more time than most working people want to devote to weekday dinners.

The New York Times tested five recipes from the slender volume and found four that were very good.

The single dessert tested, the sweet-potato pie, had an extremely unappealing orange colour and not much flavour beyond sweet and cinnamon.

It falls into the category ''it's OK for a diet dessert''.

In The Kitchen With Rosie ($120), is available at Hong Kong Book Centres, Swindon Books, Commercial Press and Jumbo Grade bookstores