BEING an avid lover of gardening and cookery books, you can only imagine my delight and excitement on receipt of Michael Kelly’s latest garden and food bible, Grow Cook Eat.
This book is simply a sublime guide to growing and cooking your own food and it unambiguously does what it says on the tin and more, rolling two very connected skills and a crew of connoisseurs into one beautifully produced publication.
Michael’s style of writing is incredibly down to earth and accessible, yet packed with loads of technical information and he covers everything you need to know about growing, harvesting and cooking your own food from soil preparation, seed sowing to serving.
What’s more, Michael and the GIY gang managed to get over 35 renowned cooks, chefs and growers on board to contribute their seasonal recipes to help home growers convert their crops into amazing meals, making this book incredibly unique.
Where else would you find the expertise and passion of Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall, Darina Allen, Neven Maguire, Domini Kemp, Clodagh McKenna, Catherine Fulvio and growers such as Alys Fowler, Mark Diacono, Joy Larkcom and many more crammed into one humble hardback?
The format of this book is a winner. In the opening pages, readers are treated to a comprehensive annual sowing planner, which lists over 40 different vegetable crops — telling you exactly when, where and how to plant them. Most of this is based on Michael’s own homegrowing experiences in Co Waterford, where he manages to keep a hungry family of four in homegrown vegetables for up to 9 – 10 months a year.
An overview of the growing year such as this is invaluable for the novice and experienced grower. The book then progresses into month-by-month chapters which are chock-a-block with seasonal gardening essentials, including ‘things to do’, ‘top jobs’, ‘what’s in season’, a ‘to do list’ and an ‘insight’ for each month.
To boot, every chapter features a detailed resume on a veg of the month. For example November features carrots as the vegetable of the month and you can read everything about this sometimes tricky-to-grow crop from sowing, growing and harvesting, recommended varieties, common carrot complications and how to combat them, plus a few tips gleaned from the experience of carrot-growing and carrot-loving GIYers across the country. In December it’s garlic, January it’s parsnips and so on and so forth.
Reading about seasonal vegetables and fruit clearly whets one’s appetite for not only growing them but also for the prized end point – cooking and eating them – and this book does not fall short of fabulous recipes, ranging from snacks, sides, sweets, preserves and hearty main courses.
Each month’s group of recipes spotlight what’s in season — which is ideal for helping us gardening enthusiasts deal with inevitable gluts and inspire us to make the most of our precious produce when it’s there fresh for the picking.
This month includes a really quick, easy, nutritous and delicious recipe by Joy Larkcom, one of the world’s most respected growers and garden writers, for Pak Choi, a stalwart winter oriental green.
Halve or quarter the pak choi lengthways. Steam for 3 – 4 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the chilli, ginger and peanuts in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil for a minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients and the remaining olive oil. Place the pak choi in a serving dish and pour the dressing over. Serve warm.
Grow, Cook, Eat is an indispensable companion for everybody who loves growing or cooking food using the finest, freshest of garden ingredients.
Not only will it enhance your own personal growing, cooking, eating and health, but also that of the nation — as all proceeds of this book help fund GIY HQ, a national food education centre being developed by GIY in Waterford city.
The aim of GROW HQ is to help people to live healthier and more sustainable lives by inspiring and supporting them to grow their own food. GROW HQ will encompass a home-grown food training centre, cookery school, café, shop and training gardens. It will be the home of the GIY movement internationally, and the hub from which they will run food awareness, education and outreach programmes.
To acquire your own copy of this book, or gift to a gardening friend, check out http://growhq.org/ or check your local book store. Grow, Cook, Eat retails at €25.00.