Sunday, 14 November 2010

Book Review - Kitchen Garden Companion

This blogpost is a review of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, published by Quadrille Publishing -

I would like to emphasise that there is no commercial relationship whatsoever between me and Quadrille, and I have not been paid to review this book! Jane found out about the book through her research into competitions for her magazine The Competition Grapevine. The publishing company provided us with a complimentary copy of the book, so we are returning the favour by reviewing it.

First impression: this is a weighty tome! Including the index it has 740 pages -- fully justifying its £30 price-tag.

The book has instant appeal for me, because it has a good balance between text and photographs. The photography by Simon Griffiths and Mark Chew is absolutely stunning, and covers plants, growing, ingredients, food-preparation and finished dishes. I always need a good photo to help me to visualise a recipe!

Stephanie Alexander is not someone I have been aware of before now, though she is evidently well known in Australia, where she made a name for herself through her scheme to establish kitchen gardens in primary schools, inculcating in children from an early age the love of gardening and respect for Nature. This is a principle that I too feel strongly about, so she gets me On-Side immediately.

In the introduction to her book, Stephanie writes about her own experiences long ago with establishing her own kitchen garden, and the trials and tribulations that this involved, which eventually led her to gain confidence in her food-production and subsequently cookery skills. This is something with which most amateur gardeners and cooks will empathise. The approach adopted in her book is uncannily close to that which I have adopted in my own garden and the blog in which I now describe it. The link between growing and eating is the dominant theme.

Advice is given on subjects like composting and wormeries

Because of her previous work with schoolchildren, Stephanie is particularly keen to play-up the opportunities to get children involved in both the gardening and the cooking aspects, and her book is liberally interspersed with Especially for Kids sections.

"Especially for kids"

Stephanie's book has lots to offer for the beginner, but it also has a wealth of useful advice for the experienced reader too. As a gardener of 25 years or more, I can see that the information provided in the book it sensible, practical and "tested". My wife Jane has a similar length of experience in the cookery field and is a very accomplished amateur cook. She confirms my view that the culinary content of the book is similarly excellent. One point she particularly noticed is that the vegetable element of the recipes remains the star attraction - the recipes mostly use "store-cupboard" ingredients, without asking you to buy loads of fancy extra bits and pieces to pretty them up.

Lots of lovely recipes supported by stunning photos

My conclusion: I'm impressed. Without a doubt, this book will appeal hugely to gardeners, cooks and general Foodies. I recommend you put it on your Christmas wishlist straight away...


  1. It looks like a very nice book!
    I haven't read that much lately because I am still new with the language here, I will try to work on my reading skills so I can do some post like this. Thanks

  2. It is a wonderful book. I gave it to my sister for Christmas last year and she is always telling me how good it is. I have another Stephanie Alexander book which is similar to her garden companion but aimed at schools and school children. That recipe I blogged about recently (The broad beans with pasta one) was from her book. Stephanie was actually a restauranteur and cooking writer before she became involved with schools. She had a pilot program with an inner city school in Victoria which she then introduced to a few other primary schools. Any school chosen were given all sorts of support to get their garden and kitchens established. Now the Federal Government is involved and has made funding available for the program to go national.

  3. Hazel; does she do a TV programme? Sounds like her influence on gardening in schools has been a bit like Jamie Oliver's has been on school meals here in the UK.

  4. Hello Mark, I'm just about to head along to the plot now - in the rain!
    This book does sound good. I love the cover illustration. I'm a sucker for this sort of design. It sells a book to me without me even looking inside.

  5. Hi Linda; Yes, the book's cover is very interesting: the "dust-jacket" is made of a cottony / hessiany sort of material -- presumbly to make the thing look all the more "homespun".


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.