By Sarah Raven
Bloomsbury Publishing, £25
Sarah Raven is best known as a gardener. Her plant catalogues have supplied about a third of my garden and she has appeared in lots of telly programmes.
One of these programmes centred on her efforts to upgrade the restaurant offering at Sissinghurst Castle. The garden there was the creation of Vita Sackville-West, grandmother to Raven's husband, Adam Nicolson. Quite the gardening pedigree, but she struggled with improving the grub there, despite offering integrity and common sense.
I must declare an interest, or lack of it, here. Books on healthy eating, often with titles to suggest the grub has miraculous qualities to make you glow with health and live forever, aren't my favourite genre. These kind of books are generally the outpourings of very thin young women, coated with cod science about the life-affirming qualities of some seed only found in the Andes. Pleasure and joy seem optional and much of the benefits untested.
This book is better than that, and has recipes as well as advice that are worth exploring. The author knows what she is talking about (Raven was originally a medical doctor) and her strictures on fibre and the body's need for stuff like potassium, antioxidants and electrolytes is approachable.
The advice comes as sub-sections on whatever ingredient is being used, with a rundown on the nutrition, vitamins and trace elements, positive qualities and attributes. These were both interesting and informative. In fact, I would have rather liked a book just on this instead of the combination of info and recipe.
That said, there are some good recipes, and they are well explained. I enjoyed the simpler offerings, such as watercress gazpacho, wild salmon pasta and a gorgeous-sounding pomegranate rice pudding. The more complex dishes need a larger store cupboard, as in the case of an Indonesian monkfish curry with aubergine, jewelled freekeh and a particularly fine recipe for spinach and coriander falafels.
A good book, the best of its sort, but not necessarily my sort.
By Shaun Hill, chef-proprietor, the Walnut tree Inn, Llanddewi Skirrid, near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
If you like this, you may enjoy these
- Plenty Yotam Ottolenghi
- River Café Cookbook Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray
- Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook Sarah Raven and Jonathan Buckley
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