Ten years ago I bought Sophie Grigson’s first book on vegetables and it soon became a valued reference work in our kitchen, even though I found her TV appearances grating. I think it was Victor Lewis-Smith who, when reviewing one of her shows, pointed out that she always seemed to be standing metaphorically up wind of anyone she suspected of being less than middle class.
Time has passed and my first book has disintegrated almost totally so this new one is most welcome. Very few recipe books start with the vegetable and not the recipe, with the result so that you end up standing in your kitchen wondering what to do with a glut of courgettes or that celeriac you bought on a bit of a whim. With this book you can buy what catches your seasonal eye in the shop and be confident there will be some tasty recipe for it in this book. This is particularly useful if you are one of those people, and naturally Sophie is, who like to have a box of random organic, rather expensive, vegetables delivered to your door each week. It’s a lottery that this book helps you win with a glut of recipe ideas for even the oddest veg.
The advice is as solid as a teak chopping block. She knows her onions. There are over 150 recipes that are nearly all simple to achieve and many unseen before such as deep fried cauliflower with a sweet, sour and hot dressing and something called garlic scapes, the green shoot that comes from a variety of garlic while it is still growing, (NOT the shoot you’ve got on those garlic cloves you found at the back of the vegetable rack).
I also liked making her chicken and chickpea stew with some early greens now coming up at my allotment, and using up the last of our purple sprouting broccoli with a fine lemon beurre blanc. Now I’m looking forward to cooking the first of our broad beans in a dill and saffron pilaff – the young beans are vibrant green coming out of pods no bigger than a finger. If all you can get are supermarket monsters, take the time to remove the grey coat from each individual bean and put the rest on the compost heap where it belongs.
It’s a big book for your money and well photographed throughout and it fits the description of bible well. I think we are going to see a tsunami of vegetable books in this recessionary year and this is making an early play for title of The Best.