The Allotment Cookbook: Book Review

 

The Allotment Cookbook

This is a cookbook with a refreshing lack of frills. The Allotment Cookbook (pub. New Holland, RRP £12.99) written by Kathryn Hawkins, is full of ideas for what to do with the fruit and vegetables that you’ve grown on your allotment – or vegetable patch.

The Allotment Cookbook has a no-nonsense appearance, which emphasises practicality over style. This is a book you’ll use – it certainly won’t sit unread on the coffee table.

Anyone who’s ever tried to grow vegetables on an allotment – whether experienced or a novice – will find something of use in this book. The first section is an A-Z glossary of all the main types of fruit and vegetables that you’d grow on your allotment or vegetable patch – such as runner beans, courgettes (zucchini), onions, tomatoes, potatoes – as well as a few more unusual varieties, like celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes and pak choi.

In this glossary, Kathryn Hawkins includes lots of tips on harvesting your produce (when it should be ready, how to tell if it’s ready to pick), as well as storing and freezing it. Pumpkins, for example, aren’t recommended for freezing ‘as they tend to be too soft and watery on thawing’. If you do want to freeze some she suggests you make the pumpkin into a puree first, for use as a pie filling or soup base.

For pears – those delicious but tricky fruits – she reminds you that most pears ripen off the tree and that they need frequent checking. With runner (string) beans, she tells you to pick them often, as the more the beans are picked, the more the plant will produce. If you can’t use them straight away, then store them stem end in a jug of water in the fridge for 2-3 days.

The second part of The Allotment Cookbook features 60 recipes, covering everything from soups to preserves, on how to cook your home grown fruit and vegetables. This will be welcome for anyone who’s had to cope with the annual glut of produce – especially those courgettes (zucchini) and marrows (summer squashes) – and who’s struggling to come up for ideas on what to do with it.

There’s a tempting sounding recipe for fresh bean minestrone with rocket (arugula) pesto, and an unusual sounding pea cake and pea shoot salad. Main courses include melanzane alla parmigiana – a classic Italian dish that uses aubergines (egg plants) and tomatoes – and venison with a blackberry sauce. Among the delicious sounding desserts is a blueberry pie with lavender cream, and an indulgent raspberry and redcurrant cheesecake.

Perhaps most useful for those with a glut of produce, and limited freezing facilities, is the section on preserves. This includes recipes for slow roast preserved tomatoes with herbs, a spiced plum chutney – which Kathryn Hawkins says is ideal with cold meats or cheeses at Christmas, a sweet pepper and chilli jam and a marrow, ginger and orange conserve.