Thursday, 11 February 2016

Growing Delicious Food - The Allotment Cookbook by Pete Lawrence

A friend gave up her high-powered legal job in favour of a simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle. During the first month at home she baked every day, systematically working her way through all the cake recipes in her cookery books. Once completed, she turned her attention to chutney, which was just as well since a cake-based diet, although a marvellous thing, is not without its side effects.

Unlike my friend, I have never tried all the recipes in one chapter of a cookbook. I dip in and out of chapters - and books. There are cookery books on our shelves which have not a spatter of batter glueing their pages together. They are pristine, treasured, and the cause of merciless mockery from those who do not understand the world of the voracious recipe reader.
Given my passion for gardening and reading recipes, I was delighted to receive The Allotment Cookbook by Pete Lawrence. Pete is an award-winning executive producer who has worked with a variety of TV cooks including Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson. For Pete, relaxation from food-related work takes the form of growing food, cooking food and writing about it. Obsessive gardeners will recognise this trait: many professionals spend weekends gardening and writing about plants, so we understand how the day job can also become a wonderful form of relaxation.
The Allotment Cookbook is not simply a collection of recipes, neither is it a gardening manual. Filled with anecdotes involving food and generations of family life, this book verges on becoming a love letter to fresh produce. It is not slushy, with the exception of the lovely rocket seedling proposal to his wife (I shall be discussing this with my other half as a standard to which he might aspire); rather it is an appreciation of the incredible positive transformation which can take place in our lives when we grow, rather than buy, our own fruit and vegetables.

   "Growing veg feels right. When you hum the same tune 
   as nature - get into its rhythm - then you will learn to    
savour produce at its very best."  - Pete Lawrence                

Pete Lawrence’s love for growing food shines through. It is a gentle, enjoyable read with delicious echoes of Nigel Slater’s writing. This book is not just for foodies and wannabe plotters, it is also a great read for experienced growers and voracious recipe readers. 
The Allotment Cookbook will not remain pristine in my house. I promise, in spite of everything stated earlier, that I will have cooked and eaten every dish in the radish and courgette sections by the end of this growing season -  not because I will be wrestling with gluts, but because I want to eat them. Roll on summer!

*Photos feature crops I have grown, picked and enjoyed eating. There would have been more strawberries and raspberries in the first picture, but they are notoriously challenging crops when it comes to picking and not eating.

20 comments:

  1. This is the second positive review I have read about this book. Do I need another gardening/cooking book?
    You have had more success with butternut squash than we have Sarah.

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    1. I am surprised by the butternuts! Having never had much success with them, I tried Sweetmax 2-3 years ago and discovered, to my astonishment, that it likes it here.

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  2. It sounds good as I often search for recipes that make best use of the things that we grow - this time I am on the lookout for squash recipes.

    I'm not sure that I have room for any more books though! Is it special enough?

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    1. That is a good question, Sue. It doesn't take up much room! Like all cookbooks, there are some recipes which will tickle your fancy, and others you wish you could swap. Rhubarb and ginger crumble immediately springs to mind. I eat exquisite rhubarb puds in restaurants during the (ever-extending) rhubarb season, and as a grower and home cook, I really do not need another recipe for crumble! That said, it would be an unusual kitchen gardener who didn't enjoy the stories behind the food and Pete Lawrence's passion for the subject. I enjoyed reading it in the same way as I enjoy reading Nigel Slater - they are comforting reads and I will happily snuggle up and read this book a few more times.

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  3. Hi Sarah, I look forward to your critique on the recipes you try! I, too, am a collector of recipes.....I haven't bought a cookbook in ages. Instead I print them from the internet and have notebooks full of them. Occasionally, I have gone through and purge and you have reminded me it's time to do it again...

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    1. Having a purge? You are a better recipe collector than I will ever be! I cannot part with recipes. I have boxloads of tears from magazines and newspapers. Will I ever cook them all? It's unlikely. Will I ever part with them? That's unlikely too!

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  4. Hello Sarah, with Fruit Avenue gradually being planted up, we're looking forward to years of raspberry pies, plum tarts, blueberry muffins, rhubarb crumble and many other very berry treats! I've lots of pudding recipe books for inspiration.

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    1. Now I'm drooling! I am so pleased you're getting Fruit Avenue planted! Do you have a good custard recipe too?

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  5. This sounds like a lovely book. It is seed sowing time soon, and a good idea to think about what one will do with the catalogue choices they have made. Great inspiration.

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    1. It is inspiring. I was not going to bother chucking in my customary radish seeds, but now I've read this book, I shall be sowing radish with renewed vigour!

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  6. I love to bake/cook and have some of those same pristine cookbooks, always reaching instead for the recipes I know by heart. I need to crack a few of them open. What an excellent excuse to bake more!

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  7. Oh that does sound like a great cookbook! Like you, I have cookbooks that look almost new, some of which I keep for that one good recipe I make in there, while others are falling apart from constant use.

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    1. The pristine books niggle my family. They actually tried to ban me from buying cookbooks a couple of years ago. Within the first few months of the great cookbook embargo, I won two - one in a food quiz (all that cookbook reading must have paid off) and one in a raffle. That'll teach them!

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  8. Excellent review, Sarah. I dip into several cookbooks. When I try a recipe, if we like it, I write its title and page number on the fly leaf of the book. This helps when I'm stuck for something for dinner. P.x

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    1. That's a good idea. Once upon a time (ie before children) I kept a notebook of every meal I served guests to avoid serving the same food to the same people twice. It certainly made me try new recipes. Since becoming a parent, this has gone out of the window, and I suspect that I have narrowed it down to the same 3 meals which are served up to guests - and I bet these are not served in strict rotation.

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  9. Oh heck, I really shouldn't be buying another cookery book. But it sounds delightful...

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    1. You too? Time to assemble another shelf....

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