This is the ultimate garden-to-table guide from one of Australia's most highly regarded food writers.
Authoritative and distinctly personal, the book offers detailed garden and kitchen notes for 73 vegetables, herbs and fruits, along with 250 delicious recipes. Just as The Cook's Companion inspired a generation to rediscover the pleasures of the kitchen, Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion will revolutionise the way we think about sourcing, growing and sharing our food.
The following are example recipes from this book:
SERVES 4 There is something very special about the deep crimson juice from raspberries. This crumble is one of my favourite dishes. Try it with blackberries and mulberries too. It deserves being served with the very best cream.
50 g unsalted butter
400 g raspberries (or mulberries or blackberries or a mixture)
1/3 cup caster sugar
double or clotted cream, to serve
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
60 g unsalted butter, chopped
2/3 cup plain flour
4 x 125 ml-capacity individual gratin dishes
Preheat oven to 200°C.
To make the crumble topping, mix sugar, baking powder and ginger in a bowl. In another bowl, crumble butter into flour with your fingertips to make pea-sized pieces, then toss flour mixture with sugar mixture. Set aside.
Use some of the butter to grease four 125 ml-capacity gratin dishes. Divide berries among dishes. Press them down lightly with the back of a spoon. Scatter over sugar. Spoon over crumble topping; it should be no more than 1 cm deep (any extra crumble topping can be put into a suitable container, labelled and frozen, ready for a crumble some other day). Divide remaining butter into small pieces and dot over tops of crumbles. Set dishes on a baking tray with a lip to catch any overflowing juices.
Bake crumbles for 15 minutes or until topping is golden and berry juices are bubbling through. Leave crumbles to cool for several minutes before serving with spoonfuls of double or clotted cream.
About the Author
Stephanie Alexander's early food life was influenced first and foremost by her mother, Mary Burchett, a wonderful cook who was interested not just in recipes, but in the culture that inspired the dish. She was eager to experiment. When she left school she went to the University of Melbourne and then studied to become a librarian (with no thoughts of working with food professionally). She left Australia at the age of 21 to see the world. The world for her at that time was France, and she was delighted to discover that France was every bit as thrilling and satisfying as she had dreamed it would be. In the intervening 40 plus years she has returned as often as possible and, whilst acknowledging change, there remained a value and respect accorded to food that she found renewing and reassuring.
This is without a doubt my new favourite cookbook. Alexander arranges her fruit and veg in alphabetical order and provides information on how to plant, grow, cook and eat each of them - all in stunning Stephanie style. Since opening the Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, Alexander has been working with Collingwood College to develop a Kitchen Garden that teaches children about where their food comes from. In 2004 she established the non-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation to expand her model into other primary schools. In this book, she now furthers the project into Australian homes. She provides intricate details on how to build all sorts of home gardens, from those dug into the ground, above the ground, and on apartment balconies, as well as how to create your own compost, and adds so many more useful tips. Her wealth of knowledge, in both the kitchen and garden, shines through. As a result of her experiences, her advice is geared towards planting and cooking with kids - making the process all the more fun for big kids too!
The book jacket to this edition is an amazing textile, dyed vibrant red. Alexander often acknowledges where her recipes have come from, including such headline names as Greg Malouf and Kylie Kwong - but I think we would all admit that Alexander really has been adopted as a collective Aussie grandmother. This is THE Christmas cooking present of the year - give it to yourself, or if you can stand it, someone else.
Reviewed by Karen Coleman, Booktopia Buzz Editor
The following is an exclusive Booktopia Q&A with Stephanie Alexander:
1. What is your number one tip for getting children interested in fresh food and where it comes from?
Get them cooking alongside you with the freshest ingredients you can obtain.
2. What would you suggest to someone who wanted to grow fresh food but doesn't have a great deal of time or space to do it in?
Buy the Kitchen Garden Companion and take special notice of the section on Container Gardening under each individual entry. Grow only what you love to eat
3. Of all the recipes in Kitchen Garden Companion, do you have a favourite? Why?
No favourites – just see what is freshest in my garden and go from there. Tonight I am picking mint, coriander spring onions, broccoli shoots and tender carrots – sounds like a Thai-style salad coming up
4. How do you keep pests off the vegie patch?
Check out the section in Kitchen Garden Companion on Pest and Weed Control using simple non-toxic ingredients
5. How do you get children enthusiastic about team work in their gardens?
Work alongside the children so they see that you genuinely value the task. Children will follow your lead. Ensure they have a piece of garden that is ‘theirs’