Nigel, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your appetite-stimulating writing, your easy recipes, your ability to always show me something interesting to do with kitchen constants like cauliflower, onions or lentils. I love your weekly column in the Observer and I love the Observer Food Monthly magazine (which, while living in NZ, I had sent out to me by my long-suffering mother!). I love your books, right from the copy of Real Fast Food that I got when in college, through entertaining from Real Food and Appetite while in my first job, The Kitchen Diaries that I recommended to many of my customers in Urru, bookclub choice Toast and, now, to Tender.
Ah, Tender. Not only am a fan of Nigel’s but I’m a sucker for ingredient-categorised books like this. Tender, as the title says, is a tale of a cook and his vegetable patch, of growing food in the city and what happens to the produce when it makes it into the kitchen. Nigel has a long, thin, London terrace garden that, with a lot of love and some help from friends (Monty Don being an especially good friend to have in this kind of situation), has been transformed into “a romantic mingling of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers.” It’s also productive, with vegetables like chard, courgettes and tomatoes all playing starring roles both inside and outside the house.
Each section has information on growing a particular vegetable, different varieties to try in the garden, a selection of recipes and – this is what Nigel is particularly good at doing – lots of ideas, both for ingredients that go well with it and different ways to cook/serve it. This will join Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book and the Garden Cookbook by Sarah Raven in the line of well-thumbed books that live on the kitchen mantelpiece for dealing with vegetable gluts. And it’s not over yet. Volume II, his guide to the fruit garden, is due in May 2010. Another one to watch for.
Must Try: A Soup of Cauliflower and Cheese, Chocolate Beetroot Cake with Crème Fraîche and Poppy Seeds, Chickpeas with Pumpkin, Lemongrass and Coriander
Tender: v. 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater is published by Fourth Estate.