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Book review: The Botanical Kitchen, by Elly McCausland

19 March 2020 by
Book review: The Botanical Kitchen, by Elly McCausland

A waitressing job, aged 17, in a restaurant that championed local and organic food launched "notoriously picky" McCausland onto a culinary voyage of discovery, inspiring her to write award-winning blog Nutmegs, Seven.

Now she has written her debut cookbook, Botanical Kitchen: Cooking With Fruits, Flowers, Leaves & Seeds. The compilation of 90 sweet and savoury recipes, many inspired by her global travels, may be hugely varied in origin but are united in their focus on fruits, flowers, leaves, seeds and spices, which are all given a starring role.

Divided into seven chapters, from ‘tropical fruits' to ‘flowers and leaves', each has a detailed introduction, including culinary quotes from historical and literary figures and a page of tips and tricks on storage, preparation and cooking: "Disappointing figs can always be remedied with a little heat and honey", she states in the ‘Mediterranean fruits' chapter.

In the ‘leaves' chapter, recipes include more widely available kaffir lime and sage to banana leaf (in Cambodian Amok, a coconut fish curry, steamed in banana leaves) and lapsang souchong tea leaves in the smoky braised beef ribs. Self-confessed tea-addict McCausland also includes the marvellously named London fog ice-cream – a ‘tea latte' made with Earl Grey and vanilla, which she was introduced to during a trip to Canada.

The book itself is a pleasure to look at, the food photography evocative and tempting. ‘Berries & currants', the recipe for baked brie, McCausland's "go-to dinner party starter" (taking just two minutes to assemble), is an oozing delight of blackcurrants, toasted pecans and honey.

The book is aimed at adventurous cooks who enjoy experimenting with flavour combinations or turning up the volume of storecupboard ingredients. The hefty 250g freshly ground poppy seeds, for example, required for the Austrian flourless poppy seed cake, might be overkill for some, but McCausland draws the limit at nutmeg: three are the most a person can eat without dying, she states; happily her recipes contain no more than half a teaspoon.

Try a recipe from the book: Roast duck Thai red curry with lychees >>

The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26)

Book review: The Vegetarian Kitchen >>

Book review: The Irish Cookbook, by Jp McMahon >>

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