With a verdant and vibrant cover, this book whets your appetite from the get-go. Now we have arrived in summer after a some-what stop start to the main growing season I think it is a good time to review this joyous book.
The author wears his opinions and heart on his sleeve and his voice can be heard throughout – often eliciting a giggle or a wry smile – I had to remember I was reading this on the bus to work!
A beautiful introduction leads to the shorter first section of the book – herb skills. This encourages the beginner and the more experienced to develop their knowledge of growing and care for herbs, and crucially how to develop kitchen skills bringing out the best qualities of herbs in terms of preparation and medium of flavour catalyst such as infusions, herb butters & salts and much more.
The bulk of the book dedicates itself to the authors personal selection of herbs, each one is given a whole page with a consistent format detailing the food stuffs that herb has an affinity with, how to grow & harvest and how to use in the kitchen. (The library assistant in me also enjoys the alphabetical order) Whilst there are some familiar faces such as chives and rosemary, we are also introduced to some less familiar (well at least to myself) such as shiso, savory and anise hyssop.
Recipes follow, with a chapter on infusions, blends and sauces, followed by a chapter entitled “bigger things”. I was not disheartened by the inclusion of meat recipes, as a vegetarian there are vegetarian and vegan options and the recipes can be adapted for most if not all dietary requirements – the star is the herb, not relegated as an afterthought or limp garnish.
Mark Diacono at the very beginning of this book reminds us that herbs are a sensory experience, elevators and transporters that engage us in the kitchen and garden – something I think we all wholeheartedly agree on.