This month's book is a weighty one, filled with hundreds of Sarah Raven's favourite recipes for using the produce harvested from her kitchen garden. In her words:
'This book is all about the pleasures that fruit and vegetables can give you; it's aim is to put them at the centre of every meal. It's also a practical guide to all that is wonderful in the edible plant kingdom ...'
Sarah leads you through the gardening year, starting in January/February, two of the bleaker months in the garden, with recipes for cabbages, chicory, citrus fruits (she admits that including these is a bit of a cheat as you're unlikely to be able to grow enough to cook with!), evergreen herbs and winter salads. Cauliflowers, purple sprouting broccoli, rhubarb, spinach and watercress lead you into early spring. Then comes May and June with the emergence of the first spears of asparagus, broad beans, crunchy lettuce, globe artichokes, new potatoes, peas, radishes, elderflowers and strawberries. This is swiftly followed by the main harvesting period during high summer with recipes for apricots, nectarines, peaches, beetroot, summer berries, courgettes, cucumber, edible flowers, French and runner beans, gooseberries, herbs, melons, carrots, onions, garlic, plums, raspberries and tomatoes. Pause for a deep breath! We're now into the autumn which brings the apple harvest, glossy aubergines, borlotti beans, fennel, celery, chillies, damsons, hedgerow fruits, figs, grapes, maincrop potatoes, mushrooms, nuts, pears, peppers, quinces, medlars, sweetcorn and of course, pumpkins and squashes. Finally, the book draws to a close with the winter vegetables - brussels, chard, kale, leeks, winter roots and imported pomegranates and cranberries.
Now to the actual recipes. As you can imagine in such a large book (over 450 recipes) there is plenty of variety. Many of the recipes are obviously inspired by the Mediterranean and there's plenty of unusual ones to try too - stuffed lamb with lavender cooked in hay, smoked haddock and nasturtium fish cakes, summer garden tempura, basil ice cream and stuffed courgette flowers are just a few examples.
The new potatoes with saffron dressing are particularly good and different from the usual potato salads. The sauce is punchy and garlicky which was just as well as the flavour of the potatoes I'd bought last week left a lot to be desired! And, the recipe for grated beetroot salad with mustard seeds and orange is delicious as well. Especially served with salmon or chicken. I made it several times last year with the pretty striped chioggia beetroot and also the yellow burpees golden variety .
There's a good proportion of allergy friendly recipes too, like the gluten free blackcurrant and almond cake, pictured above. I thing it's fair to say though that the book does favour a gluten free diet rather than dairy free as a good number of the recipes do seem to use cheese, yoghurt and/or cream. However, there are still plenty of naturally allergy friendly ones. You're in luck if you want some egg free dessert recipes though as there are some egg free ice creams and also recipes for lemon posset, strawberry shortbread tart and strawberry gratin.
These are some more of my favourite recipes from the book. Most of them are gluten and dairy free otherwise I've tweaked the recipes to make them more allergy friendly:
Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Lemon & Hazelnuts
Baby Spinach, Pancetta & Roasted Almond Salad
Hungarian Goulash with Lovage
Griddled Mini Globe Artichokes
Chorizo with New Potatoes
Roast Beetroot with Lentils and Goat's Cheese (without the goat's cheese!)
Courgette & Lemon Salad
Borlotti Beans with Sage
Griddled Sweet Potatoes with Ginger, Chilli & Lime
Chestnut Pavlova with Caramelised Bramleys
Squash & Rocket Salad with Pears & Rosemary
Smoked Haddock & Parsnip Fishcakes
Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin
Roast Swede with Maple Syrup
Whilst it's a great book to dip into when you need some inspiration for your fruit/veg harvest, it's also a good starting point for deciding what to grow. I've also got another of Sarah's books, The Great Vegetable Plot (it was bought for a relative but seems to have returned to my bookshelf!) which is another brilliant book filled with invaluable advice and practical tips for growing your own fruit and veg.
I almost forgot to mention the stunning photography by Jonathan Buckley if you go to his website some of the photos are included in his gallery.