Book review: Root Stem Leaf Flower by Gill Meller

16 July 2020 by
Book review: Root Stem Leaf Flower by Gill Meller

Award-winning chef and food writer Gill Meller never planned to be a cook; he studied art and photography at college but came to recognise a similar joy derived from making something nice to look at and making something nice to eat. Of cooking and art he says: "We offer up each in the hope that someone will tell you that they like what you've made."

Meller has become known for his involvement with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage, where he teaches at Park Farm and inspires others to grow, source and cook food in the most delicious and sustainable ways possible.

This book was a year in the making – even the photography was done in the exact seasons, with plates of food set outdoors on leaf-strewn surfaces or against sun-dappled backdrops. And with sustainability emerging post-pandemic as a key focus for mindful cooks, its timing couldn't be more relevant.

The 120 recipes range from the simple (artichokes with melted butter) to the more involved (spiced beetroot and fermented cabbage fritters). Desserts include a wintry dish of quince fumble – a happy marriage between a crumble and a fool – and an autumnal blackberry, plum, olive oil and rosemary cake, sprinkled with sugar and cut into squares.

Chapters are divided by the seasons: fast-forward to summer and you'll find recipes bursting with broad beans, artichokes, courgettes and aubergines; as the shorter days of winter draw in, there are parsnips, chicory and shallots. The recipe for ‘Val's onion tart' "as I remember it" is a creation Meller first experienced in the Arctic Circle with his friend and chef Valentine Warner.

This is a book for anyone who enjoys cooking and eating good food, has an appreciation of the seasons and cares about our impact on the planet. Indeed, one of the ways Meller advocates creating a "brighter future for our children" is in how we eat. It sounds like the best way to see out 2020.

Root Stem Leaf Flower: How To Cook With Vegetables And Other Plants, by Gill Meller (Hardie Grant, Quadrille, £27)

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