The Art of Cooking with Vegetables
By Alain Passard
Frances Lincoln Ltd Publishers, £20
When chef Alain Passard removed all red meat from his three-Michelin-starred Paris restaurant L'Arpège in 2001, intending to concentrate predominantly on cooking with vegetables, the restaurant world was shocked.
In September 2002, Passard opened his own kitchen garden 230km from Paris, in the town of Fillé, on the property of an old chateau. The vegetables grown there are organic, without the use of any machinery. The only help the gardeners receive during harvest is the use of a draught horse to help till the soil.
To celebrate the restaurant's 25th anniversary, Passard gives homage to the humble vegetable and his love of art and collage in his new book, The Art of Cooking with Vegetables.
Most notably, Passard has chosen his own collages to illustrate each of the 48 recipes.
"The collages in this book express marvellously well the influence of colour in my cooking: for me, it is a true source of inspiration, one which urges me to search for partnerships between ingredients in a quest of gastronomic and visual harmony," explains Passard in his introduction.
Organised into seasons, within each recipe Passard includes a commentary on how he brings the ingredients together to share a relationship on the plate - in taste as well as visually. Each recipe also has a recommended wine.
Recipes include herb-filled peppers on warm crusty bread; beetroot with leek, green apple and green tea; and red beetroot with lavender and crushed blackberries. There are also desserts, such as avocado soufflés with dark chocolate and baked apples with Hibiscus petals and sugared almonds.
The recipes are distinctly innovative, full of unexpected combinations and complex flavours and Passard has elevated the simple vegetable to an ingredient that can stand up on its own.
Combining his passion for fresh and seasonal ingredients and art Passard has created a book that will change how many look at the humble vegetable.
However, I was disappointed by the collages. Although they were attractive in their own right, they did nothing to whet my appetite to try what were otherwise interesting-sounding recipes.
By Katherine Alano
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