When someone you know only slightly, but whom you respect, asks you to read their cookbook, your heart has to sink just a little. You like this person; you admire them, but a cookbook? We writers of such books know how much craft goes into fashioning them and whilst many folk scribble down the odd recipe, a whole book, a published book at that, must be a much more thoughtful and professional work. So it was with some misgivings that I started to read Carl Legge's The Permaculture Kitchen.
I needn't have worried. From the first chapter, which thankfully explained just what 'permaculture' meant, I found a thought provoking and interesting book, but more importantly, it made me want to go into the kitchen and cook.
It is structured with basic recipes and building blocks which offer a myriad of variations. There are options that would work for any cook: beginner to competent, vegan to carnivore – not an easy task.
Whilst there is no doubt that this book would be great for someone with a vegetable garden or allotment, here in Central London many of the principles are just as valid. No smallholding but a farmer's market and a hatred of waste unites us. I too use every part of every vegetable, so imagine my delight when I saw a recipe for carrot top pesto! That's one I'd not thought of before.
Carl's chapter on bread is as good as I'd hoped and I will be following his recipe for sourdough carefully, hoping I can finally crack this tricky bread. To begin with though I will make some roti, I want to eat them "warm, covered in black and brown bubbles" dipped into my new pesto.
Variations help you to adapt the dishes to suit taste, pocket and larder. You will need to build up your store cupboard to fully enjoy the recipes but start with a bowl of simple tomato sauce over pasta and work up from there.
This is a book to inspire and nourish, one filled with a love of food, family and nature and one I will return to again and again.
Thane Prince, author, food writer, cookery tutor and judge on the BBC's new TV series 'Grow, Make, Eat: The Great Allotment Challenge'.
Permaculture - practical solutions for self-reliance, a magazine filled with useful and inspiring features, stories and ideas about all aspects of sustainable living from gardening and farming to green building and renewable technology. Check out a free digital copy HERE. You can subscribe to the print edition HERE.