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Book review: The Garden Chef

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Written by:
Book review: The Garden Chef

A plethora of cookery books focused on chefs growing their own produce are set to be published in the coming months. All are highly topical in that they feed into the demand from consumers for highly sustainable businesses that operate with fewer food miles and minimal waste.

The Garden Chef provides an insight into the stories and recipes of 40 of the world’s leading chefs, who are inspired by the ingredients they grow. British chefs among the contingent include Damian Clisby of Petersham Nurseries Café, London; Robin Gill of the Dairy, London; Skye Gyngell of Heckfield Place, Hampshire; Stephen Harris of the Sportsman, Kent; Matthew and Ian Pennington of the Ethicurean, Bristol; and Simon Rogan of L’Enclume, Cumbria.

The thought that a kitchen garden can only be established where land surrounding a restaurant is plentiful is dispelled by the experience of Gill, who has created a 100 sq ft vegetable plot on the rooftop of the Dairy in Clapham. A deceptively simple and delicious sounding dish of fresh peas, rooftop mint and fried bread is Gill’s recipe in the book. The combination of nori oil, pea mousse, lemon gel and mint granita is a refreshing offering for any diner.

Meanwhile, the sprawling five-acre kitchen garden at Heckfield Place – working towards biodynamic certification in 2020 – produces 90% of the herbs, vegetables and fruit used in the hotel’s two restaurants.

With such a rich bounty of produce, it is no surprise that, when thinking of a dish, Gyngell always starts with vegetables, as opposed to fish or meat. Cooking according to the season – like all the other chefs featured in the book – requires her to be creative as she deals with a glut of, say, tomatoes, or thinks of innovative ways of using every element of a plant. For instance, as well as using the fruit of a fig, she will use the leaves to make a syrup or to wrap fish.

For both the stories surrounding each chef and for their accompanying recipes, this is a book of the times that I’m confident will inspire many a chef to start digging, be it in a garden patch or even a windowsill pot.

The Garden Chef (Phaidon, £29.95)

Recipe of the week: The Ethicurean’s pan-roasted hake, fennel and pine purée, braised Savoy, shiitake soil, clams and hazelnuts >>

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