Unpacking our possessions after a year in storage is like discovering old friends. Favourite books which I have missed will join the new books I’ve collected over this last year. Before renovating our new home we are establishing our vegetable garden and orchard. We won’t be self sufficient, but we intend to grow much of what we eat. Our planting decisions will increase the diversity in our diet, and provide more interesting fresh food options than are available locally. So the books I have in my browsing stack this month are part instruction and part inspiration. We need to plan ahead, not just for immediate future, but for preserves, ferments and vegetables that will store. These aren’t the only books I’ve been looking at, but these are definitely my favourite books of the month of October ’23 for finding inspiration and knowledge!
While not vegan or completely vegetarian, they have a common theme – vegetable forward cooking. Recipes and stories inspired by gardens and eating outdoors which is part of summer experience in New Zealand. I have to confess to rarely ever making an exact recipe from them, but browsing through the pages of these books dream up recipes, plant the seeds to harvest and gleen inspiration for eating and cooking outdoors.
Home Grown Revolution – James Wong
James Wong is a Kew-trained botanist, science writer, and broadcaster, who encourages readers to cultivate unusual and exotic fruits, vegetables, and herbs in their own gardens, regardless of how big or small they might be. Over the last decade my garden has been potted, but now the interesting edibles are being transplanted into our garden. Covering selecting growing and eating more unusual crops, it helped us plan what to plant when trying to be locavores.
My gardens have definitely been more interesting because of this book, saffron, wasabi, Sichuan pepper along with sea kale, shiso and tea are a few of the plants we have grown in pots and transported to the South Island of New Zealand. I am making more plans, which is why I still reach for this book after a decade.
Kew on a Plate – Raymond Blanc
Michelin starred chef Raymond Blanc shares the rich heritage of food and its cultivation at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.o This book is more than a cookbook, it celebrates seasonal produce with plant-focused recipes interspersed with insights and tips on preservation, cultivation, history and stories, accompanied by beautiful images. The TV series inspired me to buy this book and a plant-based version of his Green Pea Risotto and plant certain vegetables to create more.
Fire Smoke Green – Martin Nordin
The photographs that drew me to this book, backed up with creative use of vegetables and then there’s cooking with fire. Martin Nordin is recognised for vegetarian dishes which emphasise fresh ingredients, innovative techniques, and the rich meat-free flavours he can achieve on a barbecue or grill.
I have since bought his books, Mushrooms, 70 vegan recipes of mushroom focused deliciousness and Green Burgers, as the title says, it’s all about the veg burger and of course the sides that won’t disappoint.
Root Stem Leaf Flower – Gill Meller
If you’re a River Cottage fan you should know of Gill Meller. He has been a significant part of the River Cottage team for many years. Gill’s cookbooks focus on simple, seasonal, and locally-sourced ingredients inspired by the in the seasons and the landscapes around him. His is root to shoot cooking the no waste version of vegetable cookery. Rustic yet refined recipes that use all of the plant are accompanied by photographs that made me want this book. Many recipes can be easily be tweaked with egg and dairy alternatives and still taste great.
Green Fire – Francis Mallmann
If you followed the series “Chef’s Table” you might have watched the Francis Mallmann episode. He is a firm believer in the power of fire to transform food. This chef emphasises flavours, textures, and the natural essence of ingredients. Unlike his episode this book is vegetarian, often vegan. Chef Mallmann acknowledges it’s time to turn the fire “green” – for people and the planet. Stories, anecdotes and achievable recipes will hopefully encourage you to throw more veggies on the barbie.