Jane’s new ‘Delicious’

2010-11-03 00:00

LAST week saw a book launch with a difference at Exclusive Books in the Midlands Mall. As well as the book and the author, there was the delicious food prepared from recipes from the book being launched — Jane’s Delicious Kitchen by Pietermaritzburg-born Jane Griffiths.

If this one does as well as its predecessor, Jane’s Delicious Garden, which came out last year and has already sold almost 10 000 copies — a staggering number for a South African book — it will be flying off the shelves and into kitchens. The garden book told readers how to grow their own vegetables and herbs; now Griffiths is telling us what to do with them, whether as the centrepiece of a meal or an accompaniment.

“But it’s not just for people who grow their own veggies,” she says. “It’s really about using seasonal produce. And there’s so much available from farmers’ markets and co-ops.”

The book is divided into seasons, with ideas for such vegetables as artichokes in spring; chillies and summer squash in summer; parsnips in autumn; and broccoli in winter.

There are also lists of gadgets, useful tips, techniques for bottling and pickling — Griffiths doesn’t want to see her veggies go to waste when she has an oversupply — and the kind of photographs, all taken in their own home by Griffiths and her husband Keith Knowlton, that make you salivate with anticipation.

“One of the changes in South Africa in the last few years is that people are more responsible about seeing where things come from. If you buy asparagus from Peru, how much goodness is there left in it? It ups your carbon footprint, and how much better it tastes fresh from your garden. Right from the beginning, the idea was to make the book seasonal. It’s fun to eat things when they are there, and then look forward to them coming round again.”

Griffiths says that the hardest part of the book for her was following her recipes exactly to test them for the book. “I’m not a recipe follower,” she says, explaining how she adds a bit of this and that, depending on how she feels. But for the book, she had to make sure it was exact. When I ask whether she always planned to follow the garden book up with a cookery book, she laughs.

“I never planned to do the first one! If you had asked my friends, they would have said I would have done a cookbook rather than a gardening book. My gardening came from my cooking. But once the first one was going so well, it made sense to follow it up.”

Griffiths says that you must have fun with your food and experiment on your guests — if it goes really wrong, there’s always take-away. “My mom [Eleanor Griffiths, who still lives in Pietermaritzburg­] taught me not to be afraid of experimenting. And it’s not just with cooking, but with life.”

And talking about life, Griffiths’ books have made big changes to hers. Apart from the time they have taken, she says they turned her into “a veggie agony aunt”, with people asking questions and even stopping her in the street to show her pictures of their vegetables on their cellphones. If she can inspire people to that extent with her gardening, it’s going to be fun to see what she can do with her recipes.

• Jane’s Delicious Kitchen by Jane Griffiths is published by Sunbird Publishers and is available from all leading bookstores.

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