It's beautifully written with more than a passing glance into the reality of life in a large kitchen garden. It has particular relevance now, in the summer, as the garden starts to produce plenty of food for the kitchen but I'd not be unhappy to get this book for a bit of autumn or winter reading, at a time when we're all deciding what to do with our various plots in the following year.
|Propagating geraniums to ensure plenty of plants for making Rose Geranium Panna Cotta with Blackcurrant Sorbet|
|My typed extract from the book|
Putting the end product aside for a moment, I was fascinated to read the methods that the gardeners use to get the best from their gardens and how to get the quantities right. That's real talent, keeping enough seasonal salad leaves on the go to provide for meal after meal. Sounds a nightmare to me but there are golden nuggets of information to be gleaned here.
For gardeners like me, always keen to experiment and get the most from the space I garden, it certainly provides a good read; by choosing restaurant gardens located throughout the UK, from Perthshire to Padstow, there's a range of climates and situations that will surely offer inspiration and insight to a wide range of growers. There's even a map if you want to explore the restaurants and their gardens for real. There are tips throughout from gardeners speaking of their experience, advice on growing specific ingredients and an additional page per chapter devoted to 'kitchen garden secrets'. A good index at the back will take you straight to a featured plant - either gardening or recipe, although the range is limited. (This is not an allotment how-to book.)
By showcasing both the head gardeners and the chefs together, with the restaurant that they work for (or own!), there is a nice continuum from plot to plate. Not all the recipes appealed to me but then I don't cook dinner party fare, just hearty fill-your-boots food for teenagers. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to try raspberry cranachan or rose geranium panna cotta. There's a delicious recipe for a classic summer stew of ratatouille (what to do with that courgette glut!) and I quite fancy the rainbow chard and bean soup as well.
Although my training is taking me towards garden design, I'm plot to plate obsessed and will always be first and foremost a food grower. I'm fascinated by every aspect of it, from foraging to unusual edibles to the benefits of growing your own and hunt out and save recipes using food that I grow. A garden visit is made so much more appealing if there's a kitchen garden included and I'm curious to know how such food growing spaces are managed for effective production. For all of these reasons, I found 'Kitchen Garden Experts' an absorbing read; it's a definite bonus that the book is visually beautiful* and engagingly written. I'm more than pleased to add this to my gardening bookshelf.
Here's a little taster of the 40 recipes to be found within:
Yorkshire pudding with puréed parsnips and roasted vegetables
Scorched onion with crispy rocket and pesto (with details of growing wild rocket)
Baked gooseberries with lemon verbena ice cream and flapjack
Baby courgettes with a garden herb mayo
Poached rhubarb with buttermilk pudding, honeycomb and ginger wine
Rosehip syrup (to serve with cheese and salad leaves)
Plum and almond flan
Two way runner beans
Fig Mozzarella and basil salad
Hopefully, this black box below will work as a slideshow of a few recipe photos to whet your appetites!
There are many more recipes, of the type that you might find on Masterchef, eg Whitby lobster with quail's eggs and garden beans, and all the recipes have detailed instructions on how to prepare the food. An opportunity to brush up on dinner party skills perhaps?
* photos by Jason Ingram who won the Garden Media Guild Photographer of the Year award last year.
Disclaimer: My thanks go to the publisher, Frances Lincoln, who sent me the book to review; it is available through their website or the usual online retailers.