Friday, 30 September 2011

Book reviews

Recently I was contacted by Summersdale Publishers, an independent publishing house established in 1990, asking me to review a book called "Minding my Peas and Cucumbers", by Kay Sexton. I agreed, and they sent me a copy of the book, a small hardback priced at £9.99 (216pp).

My first impression of this book was that it is "old-fashioned". It has a very 1980's look to it. These days, we expect books about gardening and cookery to be fully illustrated with good-looking and informative photos. I was surprised to find that his book has no photos at all. It has a few quite appealing but rather naive line-drawings.

The book is structured around a number of anecdotes on the subject of Allotmenteering, told in chatty style with lots of "direct speech".  There are a few quite nice recipes, using the sort of produce you might grow on an allotment, but nothing "ground-breaking" - and significantly, the recipes are not illustrated. Likewise, there is a certain amount of practical advice about becoming an allotment holder and how the allotment system works, and a few tips about growing, though they are hard to locate. This is definitely NOT a reference book.Whilst mildly entertaining, I feel that this is a book that you would read at most once. I have to be honest and say that it is not my sort of thing. I started it but I didn't finish it.

Marks out of 10: Five


A completely different sort of book is the one I recently won in a photo+recipe competition on the Times website. It is "Everyday and Sunday recipes from Riverford Farm", by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter. Published by Fourth Estate, price £18.99 (softback, 362pp)

This book is a product of the ever-expanding Riverford Farm empire. The firm is perhaps best-known for its organic vegetable box delivery scheme, but these days there is a lot more to it than that!

The book is a joint effort between Guy Watson, the founder and proprietor of the business, and Jane Baxter, head chef at Riverford's award-winning restaurant The Field Kitchen (a great name for a restaurant specialising in real organic food!). The theme of the book is cooking with vegetables that are in season locally. It is not a Vegetarian cookbook; it's just a book that celebrates cooking with vegetables. As the title suggests, the majority of the recipes are for everyday meals, many of them incredibly easy to prepare, but these are supplemented by a few extra-special recipes - the sort you would make for a Sunday feast or a special family occasion.

The book is lavishly illustrated with fabulous photos, covering not only the ingredients

but also the finished dishes.

The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and very modern, featuring lots of interesting ingredients that enhance and complement the veg.

This book is exactly the sort of book I like - covering my two favourite subjects: veg-growing and Foodie-ism. It will provide me with lots of inspiration. I love it. And I love it even more because I won it!

Marks out of 10: Nine-and-a-half.


  1. How exciting - being asked to do a book review and winning a book! The top book... I was thinking maybe it would have been better focusing on specific life 'stories and experiences' of maybe 4 allotment holders, rather than bits and pieces around the allotment. (Hard to know as I haven't read it.) P.S. hope you're getting better weather - lots of rain here today.

  2. 1980s retro was bound to appear before long - although it seems a bit too soon for that to my mind!
    It's strange, although I love allotment blogs (tho I'm a very bad blogger myself these days), I have zero tolerance for books about allotment gardening. Not sure why that is - perhaps because they're generally not of a very high standard.
    Your receipe book looks great tho.

  3. The second book sounds lovely but what I really want to know is what was your photo + recipe entry? Did you post on it and I missed it? Regardless congratulations!

  4. I like photos too, and avoid making new recipes that don't have them! I probably wouldn't mind reading an allotment book though - we don't really have them here (I don't think!) and it's another world for me.

  5. Liz; my winning recipe was for Swiss Chard baked "au gratin", using a photo similar to one which I posted when I blogged about this a few weeks back.

  6. What a coincidence as I have done a book review too - you just bet me to it! Different book though.

  7. I probably can't follow any recipes without photos. The second book sounds much more interesting than the first.


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