jane's delicious kitchen review

Submitted by MichaelE on Wed, 2011-02-02 12:16

Jane's Delicious KitchenJane's Delicious KitchenJane's Delicious Kitchen – Harvesting, preserving and cooking seasonal food - by Jane Griffiths is a South African cookbook, that is the sequel if you like, to the bestselling Jane's Delicious Garden.

The book is beautifully produced and provides an eclectic mix of recipes that show you what to do with the wonderful fresh produce you've grown, having been inspired by Griffiths' first book of course! The recipes in the book are structured around the seasons, and focus on Griffiths' favourite seasonal ingredients from her garden. Jane's Delicious Kitchen (JDK) heavily features Griffith's abundant organic garden – which produces the fruit and veggies that have starring roles in many recipes in the book.

JDK starts out naturally with Spring, and Griffiths chooses to focus on artichokes, saying “I much prefer the simplest method of eating them,” i.e. drenched in melted butter, and scrapping the fleshy bit off the leaves. However she offers a more sophisticated way of having them, and her first recipe may seem a little daunting - Pasta Vertina with a lemony Artichoke sauce, (pg 14) which sounds great, till you realise that this will involve making your own pasta. I'd love to, but not having a pasta machine, I'll have to pass on this one.

Moving on to Asparagus then, I come across a much simpler recipe for Asparagus and leek on puff pastry, (pg 20) and as this uses bought ready made puff, it's much more my thing. The book continues in the same manner through the seasons with lovely recipes for the aromatics, garlic and onions, followed by plums, which just happen to be in season at the moment. Griffiths talks lovingly about the fruit off her ancient plum tree that produces a bountiful crop every year. Her Plum starter recipe is a great tip, and makes a great base for a whole range of jams, jellies and juices. Most of her jellies make wonderful use of both the fresh fruit and herbs in her garden such as Rose petal plum jelly (pg 41).

Griffiths' work as a film producer has meant that she is well traveled, and has experienced many different flavours and cuisines, and this is reflected in the variety of recipes in the book which range from Thai inspired, to Moroccan koftas to simple salads.

Moving on to fresh and zesty spring herbs, Griffiths gives a light, and colourful recipe for Vietnamese rice paper wraps (pg 48) which are light and refreshing with Vietnamese mint (you can use ordinary mint), coriander and basil. You may come across many new ingredients in this book, as Griffiths draws inspiration from a range of cuisines. This may also necessitate a trip to a good deli to source some of the ingredients, but most of them are available in Pick n Pay or Woolies. Griffiths provides a useful section at the back of the book, where she discusses the preparing and storing of various herbs, as well as explains unusual Asian ingredients and cooking techniques that are used in her recipes. This cookbook, uses global flavours, but focuses on local ingredients, and Griffiths is a firm believer in the adage that “the shortest food-mile is from your garden to your kitchen table”. This makes JDK both a useful staple cookbook, as well as one that will challenge an experienced cook. There are some techniques that are new to me, such as preserving green beans in salt (pg 80). You just need to remember to soak them before using them!

Griffiths moves on through the seasons, with delicious eggplant recipes in autumn, Eggplant Rolls, with Pepperdew, feta and mint (pg 126) and the warming spices of winter such as Ginger for which she provides a divine Caramel ginger tart (pg 138). This was easy to make, and had a warming pepperiness that can only be achieved from preserved ginger. There are also lovely local touches such as her Pork and narrtjie sosaties (pg 136) which would be a treat at a braai any time.

In Winter Griffiths inevitably focuses on the brassica family, cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower that can withstand the cold winters of the highveld as well as squash, with a Malaysian inspired butter nut soup (pg 212).

The Harvest section of the book contains useful recipes designed to use up a glut of produce, such as a recipe for Basic bottled tomatoes (pg 225) or the more exotic Butter nut, orange and ginger chutney (pg 226). Also at the back of the book there are instructions on how to make your own spice mixes, such as Cajun spice or Garam masala, as well as stocks and rubs.

The recipes in JDK are beautifully accentuated by fantastic photographs of the food, and the garden, taken either by Griffiths or her husband Keith Knowlton, which ensure that the garden has a starring role in the book. The pictures manage to capture the fecundity of the garden and the sumptuous nature of the dishes that Griffiths has included in the book. Griffiths ethos of organic, and local produce shines through in the book. The book is designed not as a vegetarian cookbook and many recipes are based on meat, but Griffiths provides useful instructions on what vegetarians could substitute the meat components of the dish with so this book appeals to a wider audience.

The book is rather light on the dessert front, after all, who needs recipes for dessert with such fantastic fresh fruit? There are however a few for those with a sweet tooth such as the Boston Tea Party Strawberry and Lemon Cheesecake (pg 63) or the Strawberry and Almond semifreddo(pg 58), which has the fruity sweetness of the strawberries, is light and fluffy, as has the crunch of the almond praline.

Jane's Delicious Kitchen is a beautifully produced, seasonal South African cookbook, that deserves a place on your shelf. The book is published by Sunbird Publishers and costs R 229 from Exclusive Books.

Visit Jane Griffiths blog at www.janesdeliciousgarden.com