Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Root Stem Leaf Flower - Gill Meller

I'm struggling with the lack of nuance on social media this week and how much general frustration and anger is on display (I'm thinking specifically of a spat sparked by a picture of a colourful roundabout in Musselburgh that Chris Packham posted - it got jumped on because many of the species were non native). I'm absolutely not immune to it - as I worry more and more about what my job prospects are and see more friends facing redundancy and continued uncertainty - it's really hard not to lash out, or fall into pointless argument. I'm not always succeeding at avoiding these things but I'm going to try really hard today.

One thing that's not causing either anger of frustration is 'Root Stem Leaf Flower', I've been cooking from this book a lot over the last 10 days or so and it's every bit as good as first impressions made me hope it would be. So far the only downside is in being unable to share the things I'm making.

The recipes are arranged seasonally but because I'm buying my veg rather than growing them I'm not following it particularly seasonally. Availability is relatively limited at the moment, Leicester Market never quite closed through lockdown, but it did contract. It's slowly expanding again but the variety isn't there. That's down to a combination of wholesale prices being too high with vendors not feeling they can pass on the increases, and goods just not being there - the effects of the wet winter were already obvious in the price and quality of Lincolnshire produce back at the start of the year.

It's been harder to keep track of time through lockdown anyway, and realising that the fruit and veg I see for sale hasn't changed anything like as much as it would in other years has added to a general sense of stasis, and also a nagging unease. This post keeps veering off in ways I was not planning on; what I meant to say was that the wintery baked leeks and dill were delicious, and so were the autumnal roast peppers and shallots (although the leeks felt wintery, roast peppers are great whenever).

I think my favourite recipe so far has been the aubergines and roast tomatoes for everything though - it sums up all the things that I'm loving about this book. It's simple both in terms of the ingredient list and what you need to do with them. It's delicious - and economic which is always a bonus. And it stands out thanks to the addition of some crushed fennel seeds. I guess there's nothing especially revolutionary about fennel seeds, but they would never have been an obvious choice for me to use and they're the thing that turns a try of agreeably roasted veg into something memorable.

My favourite thing about the book is that it's absolutely full of recipes that do the same thing - either taking a vegetable that I don't normally get very excited about (I'm looking at you broccoli) and making it sound great, or something that I like (hello carrots) and turning them into total stars. The last time I felt this enthusiastic about brussels sprouts was reading Anja Dunk's 'Strudel, Noodles, and Dumplings'.

Despite my best intentions to reduce the amount of meat in my diet I haven't always done very well at finding recipes that inspire me, but this book really does. That it's come at a time when I'm spending more time in the kitchen and have re-found my enthusiasm for cooking feels like an absolute gift amongst the general wreckage of 2020. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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