Richly illustrated grow-your-own-food recipe book out of touch

2009-12-22 00:00

Home Food from The Garden


HERE’S yet another passenger on the grow-your-own-food bandwagon of recipe books for the middle­ classes — to make them feel good about their carbon footprint and help them simplify their lives, get back to basics.

If that sounds snippy, it’s because it was meant to. Superb layout and some useful tips on planning a veggie garden aside, many of the recipes in this book from Home magazine have an extremely tenuous link to the book’s title, unless of course, you have a lot of animals­ running around outside your back door, waiting for the chop. Or fruit and nut orchards.

In her introduction, Home magazine­ food editor Sonja Jordt claims magnanimously to be helping Mother Nature by getting us to eat vegetables fresh from the Earth and herbs straight off the bush. She enjoins readers to celebrate the gifts of the seasons and learn how to cook honest and straightforward food.

Well, I can’t see the honesty in calling a meal containing 600 g of lamb neck Vegetable Soup with Barley and suggesting that the meal comes from your garden just because you’ve put five home-grown carrots in it.

Jeez, maybe I’m just a miserable purist, or maybe my garden in Clarendon is smaller than those of everyone else in the middle classes, but where am I going to plant the apple tree to make Apple, Bacon and Blue Cheese Salad in 2015? And where will I put the almond tree, which I’m told grows to a height of six to 12 metres, so that I can make biscotti and Almond Syrup Cake from the garden. (Luckily, almond trees are suited to a Mediterranean climate ... there is a slight Cape bias to this book). So much for Home editor­ Anneke Blaise’s message that says the book is borne out of Home readers’ desire for real food that you can cultivate on a small patch outside your back door.

And what of her other claim that the main ingredients of the dishes are easily grown in your garden and found in most pantries. Call me a stickler for accuracy, but 30 ml of rosewater in the syrup of Coconut Cake with Lime and Rosewater hardly constitutes a main ingredient. And neither does a garnish of cherry tomatoes on One-dish Lamb Casserole.

The pity about my irritation levels is that many of its recipes — on their own — are fabulous. I made Butternut Soup with Coconut Milk and Tomato for friends a couple of weeks ago and it was easy and delicious, even without the chicken stock.

Butternut. Now there’s a hearty vegetable that I can grow in my garden, and I think it’s a good idea to do so. In fact, I’m in total agreement with the book’s editors who say that real quality is seasonally bound and products that are in season will always be healthier and cheaper. The book helps by classifying certain vegetables in seasonal categories.

So when it comes to stock garden favourites such as spinach, butternut, beetroot, potatoes, peas and peppers, this book comes into its own, providing some inspiring recipes­ which do justice to the vegetables­, instead of relegating them to a bit-part of garnishing, flavouring or as a sideshow to a meat dish.

Visually, the book is incredibly appealing, beautiful even, and if its disparate vision doesn’t worry you (it also gives tips on suitable wine — not homegrown — for each meal), it’s probably worth buying as a Christmas present for someone who has everything and might be tempted by the idea of turning the south-eastern flank of their estate over to a grove of olives so as to be able to produce Rack of Lamb with Rosemary and Olive Crust in four to seven years’ time when the first olive harvest can begin.

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