Grow It Cook It, by Sally Cameron, photography by Charlie Smith (Penguin, ISBN 978 0 14 301096 8)
There is no doubt that the author is keen on her home garden and her background is as a food writer and stylist both in the UK and now back in New Zealand. But this enthusiasm is not a sure-fire guarantee of success. Trying to cover all bases and be all things to all people (there are also sections entitled Cook’s Notes and Child’s Play) was perhaps a little ambitious.
There are listings for 30 different fruits, vegetables and herbs in a somewhat random selection. Each chapter starts with a page or so of information on how to grow the subject but this cultural information is patchy. Growing lemongrass was fine but the entry on feijoas was not. And if one is going to advocate eating geranium flowers, I think there needs to be a discussion on the difference between geraniums and pelagoniums. The author’s gardening experience seems to be primarily based in Auckland suburbia and while this may be adequate for dispensing some simple advice, really she is trying to punch above her weight in the area of gardening.
Ms Cameron is far more comfortable with the recipes and cooking side of things. There are 355 recipes so the book is more than generous. The food is a jaunt through the flavours of the world but at a user-friendly family kitchen level. Rosemary Shortbread, Broad Bean and Lemon Risotto, Fresh Orange Terrine – all tasty and reasonably simple. I would wish for more consistency in the use of measures by volume – the recipes lean to listing ingredients by weight even for such items as sultanas or flour when a cup measure is much easier to use and overall the measuring techniques are inconsistent. But the greatest flaw in this book is that the recipes are grouped in chapters determined by the vegetable, herb or fruit tree that is the starting point, even though it may be a minor ingredient only. So there is no logical sequence to the recipes, although it does at least have a decent index.
Overall, it is better on the food than on the gardening and you can find more comprehensive and user friendly gardening information from many other, more experienced sources. It has a nice enough presentation without getting too excited about it, soft cover and opens flat.