We were recently tempted by the luscious cover of Tender | Volume I by Nigel Slater. The beautiful blue green veining of the cabbage leaf on the outside was enough to make us pick up the substantial 600-odd page book, but the writing inside confirmed that we had to add it to our (ever-growing) cooking & gardening libraries.
The book looks at over thirty different vegetables that can be grown in the UK. Each chapter first describes the vegetable in question with striking passion & romance; then looks at its place in the garden (usually suggesting varieties, and often accompanied by a diary tracing a year-in-the-life) and in the kitchen; flavours to pair with; tips & advice on growing, harvesting & eating; and finishes with a host of tempting recipes. Some of the vegetables are already firm favourites with us (asparagus, celeriac, beans, leeks, parsnips, tomatoes… we could go on), whilst others rarely find their way onto our plates (turnips, chard, swedes) but the descriptions & recipes are enough to tempt us to give them another go. Seeing as we’ve just refilled our pantry with marmalade from citrus fruits left over after the Christmas celebrations (do your family Christmas food shopping traditions include a compulsory big bag of lemons that hardly ever get touched, year after year?), perhaps the first experiment will be the “sweet and sticky casserole of duck with turnips and orange”. But even without actually putting the recipes to the test, this book is going to give us a lot of pleasure on the long, cold winter nights while we dream of long summer days in the vegetable garden.
As an aside, Nigel also seems to have a particular fondness for growing heritage varieties. As always, our favourite suppliers of seed remains The Real Seed Company (http://www.realseeds.co.uk/) here in beautiful Pembrokeshire. They have a great range of heritage and other non-F1 hybrid seeds that you can grow and enjoy from your own gardens and windowsills.