A new farm to table cookbook by John and Pip Burton-Race
Homegrown By Father and Son (self-published) is a book about growing your own vegetables and then cooking them into simple, family dishes. This father and son took on this project during the first lockdown. Many people have done similarly, with one of the green linings of the pandemic being domestic vegetable patches springing up across the UK over the past months. A cookbook emerges from this experiment when the father happens to be a renowned Michelin starred chef and the family live on a farm in Devon with a disused chicken run at their disposal. When the father is John Burton-Race, the Forward gets written by another famous chef, Raymond Blanc OBE who, as those privileged to have visited his Le Manoir de Quatre Saisons in Oxfordshire will observe, knows a thing or two about growing his own veg.
The son, Pip, has done a great job in learning about the science of growing food and transforming unused soil into a vegetable garden, making excellent use of his time while his school must have been closed during the lockdown. The cookbook was developed from the idea that John would create recipes from the produce he and Pip grew. Not all the recipes are vegetable-based, but some other ingredients come from the chickens and bees on the farm or were traded with local people for other items. Meat has been sourced from animals farmed locally. For those interested in the gardening aspects of the book in addition to the recipes, Pip’s Tips are scattered throughout the book with observations and hints about how to sow seeds, what herbs to plant or asking a local farmer for unwanted fleece after shearing to protect your root vegetables from slugs. There is a handy growing calendar detailing which vegetables to plant and harvest as the year progresses.
Reviewing a cookbook like Homegrown by Father and Son, about growing vegetables I felt I needed to begin with a vegetable-based recipe. As many of these are based on the veg that Burton-Race senior and junior grew and harvested over the summer, the season has now passed and tomatoes, marrows, courgettes and asparagus are no longer available in November. Not wanting to resort to buying in these vegetables from the supermarkets where seasonality has been overridden by food miles, I chose a dish using vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and onions and cauliflower. I realised only later that my green beans were flown in from Kenya.
A colourful vegetable curry was mild and well balanced and got compliments around the table. Always a good sign. It was lifted well by the delicious raita I made from the book, even though I didn’t have cashew nuts which the recipe adds to the simple yoghurt and grated cucumber sambal. I added a dollop of tomato chutney to my portion and then had a second helping. Reading the recipe I knew at once that I needed to double the portion sizes. The recipe (which you can find at the end of the article) serves four, but the four in my household eat a great deal more than the sharing of a large potato, a carrot, a quarter cauliflower and a handful of green beans. Make this dish the day before as the flavour does improve with an overnight stay in the fridge. In fact, I usually find that soups and stews taste the best on day three.
Homegrown includes a number of fish and shellfish recipes and I rather wish the book had already been published when I had a staycation in Devon during the summer. Then I had a great time cooking with fresh crab and local fish and would happily have settled down to make Burton-Race’s crab soup. Back in London, I tried a hake recipe from Homegrown by Father and Son. Not quite as exciting as the recipes for poached brill or grilled lobster perhaps, but hake with button mushrooms and potatoes boulangère made a tasty dinner. Those who have made fish en papillote will be familiar with cooking the fish in a parchment parcel, thus trapping all the lovely juices that are created while the dish is in the oven. The recipe calls for a flourish of truffle oil which no doubt lifts most dishes to a higher plain. Sadly I had none in my store cupboard. I served the fish alongside a very simple dish of grilled courgette ribbons with garlic and olive oil which were lovely and lemony with the fish.
Homegrown has 80 recipes that range from the most simple – buttered spinach – to pies, flans and tarts that require pastry making. Potato recipes, for example, are sometimes for beginners in the form of a simple potato and shallot salad while more experienced cooks can impress with potato gnocchi with butternut squash puree, charred baby leeks and sage. There are lots of creative ideas for soups, salads and risottos, hearty beef or oxtail stews, and a range of lovely desserts from baked apples to steamed honey and orange sponge pudding with homemade custard.
Homegrown is a book that might inspire readers to grow their own vegetables even it the plot many of us have available is a few pots on the patio rather than a farm. I have been wanting to grow my own for years but inertia always settles in as the Spring approaches. Perhaps this will be just the book to jolt me into action. If only I could get some seeds at my garden centre. The last time I looked they were sold out. Homegrown is certainly having a moment.
A mild vegetable curry that is both tasty and healthy
- 2 red onions finely sliced
- 30 grams fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 3 large tomatoes peeled, deseeded and chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted in a pan and crushed
- 1 tsp black peppercorns crushed
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 vegetable stock cube crumbled
- 1 tbsp mild curry paste
- 50 grams coconut cream grated
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 100 grams carrots peeled and diced
- 100 grams potato peeled and diced
- 120 grams cauliflower separated into florets
- 100 grams French beans cut into 3cm lengths
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 400 ml water
Heat the oil in a thick bottomed casserole. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, roasted cumin seeds, black peppercorns and sliced onions. Cook on a high heat for 2 minutes.
Add the grated ginger and crushed garlic and continue cooking for a further 2 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes, stir.
Add the ground coriander, curry paste, vegetable stock cube, turmeric, and chilli powder. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the water, tomato puree, grated coconut cream and kaffir lime leaves and bring to the boil.
Add the diced carrots, potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the cauliflower florets and the French beans.
Cover with a lid, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the spinach leaves and check seasoning, adding salt to taste if needed.
You can buy Homegrown by Father and Son on Amazon
There are some great new recipe books around, just in time for Christmas. I loved Simply Sabrina by Sabrina Ghayour – do check my review. I’ve just been reading The Food Almanac by Miranda York, which comes highly recommended if like me you enjoy reading about food as much as discovering new recipes to try. And, Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage has given me a great new set of recipes to try too.