I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and can truly appreciate those little underrated treasures in life, but there’s not much more satisfying than plucking home-grown produce from your very own garden. Even better – serving it up to appreciative friends and family with flavours that hark back to a 1970s childhood (or earlier) when tomatoes tasted like warm sunshine and raspberries couldn’t be eaten without one’s eyes rolling into the back of the head.
Sheridan Rogers certainly understands the value of the home garden – the cook’s garden. With over thirty years’ experience in the food industry, Rogers is an award-winning food and travel writer, journalist, broadcaster and food stylist, and has written a number of books including Mini Chefs: Cooking with Kids.
In The Cook’s Garden, the author’s childhood passion for gardening and cooking, instilled by her mother who could be most often found in the garden, is heartily apparent. The book’s content is as bountiful as the most beloved veggie patch and home orchard, abundant with a farmer’s market of beautiful edibles.
Divided into two chapters – Vegetables and Fruit – the author takes us first through a line-up of leaf vegetables, then brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli) and on through shoot and stalk veggies, pods and seas, fruit vegetables, root vegetables, herbs and more.
Each vegetable type is headed by a literary quote or stanza that will inspire the romantic in many home cooks, followed by author notes that both enlighten the reader, and provide a warm link to her personal connection to the plant – like the time Rogers’ dad was overjoyed that his lettuces finally had hearts!
Within the vegetable type, we also find several recipe options that quickly inspire either a quick dinner rustle-up like Beans and Tomatoes (a simple Italian family dish), or something a little more substantial, that would readily provide dinner party fodder, like Spaghetti al Salsa Di Pomodoro Crudo. The Italian influence is apparent in The Cook’s Garden, but there is also a tumble of Australian and international influences, from Pumpkin Scones to Baba Ganoush.
Thick, creamy pages, beautiful typesetting and fragrant photography make for a visually pleasing book that whets the appetite of the eye as well as the belly. Warm, passionate and delicious, The Cook’s Garden is the type of book any home cook would savour. Simple, staple how-tos such as marinated fetta or goat’s cheese are priceless, and the book could easily become a kitchen staple along with the bread and pasta – providing luscious ideas for utilising your garden bounty, whether it be a snatch of sun-ripened cherry tomatoes or a squat forest of mesculin. Inspiring.