I suspect that for many bloggers, writing a book is one of those dreams that sits at the back of ones mind, festering perhaps, never quite realising the light of day. When people ask me if I’ve considered writing a book I giggle nervously and explain that authoring books is best left to others more talented than I. In truth, however, should the opportunity or indeed the time needed to create such an item, ever be present in my somewhat busy life, I imagine that this would be the kind of book I would like to write. Country Gardens, Country Hospitality is a stunning book written by renowned writer, photographer and passionate gardener, Holly Kerr Forsyth, which chronicles some of Australia’s most beautiful gardens, the people behind them and the time-honoured recipes they create within them.
The premise of this book is one that resonates with me deeply; as Holly made her way around a drought-ravaged Australian country-side in 2010, she was struck by the generosity of those she met along the way. She speaks of driving through locust plagues that threaten to destroy entire crops in a matter of hours only to arrive at a destination an hour or so down the road to be greeted with tables ‘groaning with homemade slices and cakes’ and tables covered with ‘beautiful arrangements of roses that had been picked from local gardens’, as Holly points out, ‘it was impossible not to be deeply moved by such generosity’. The notion of country hospitality is one that is deeply entrenched in the Australian psyche, indeed as a child growing up in the sleepy town of Port Augusta I never went hungry, social events were an opportunity to break out the time-honoured Pavlova recipes, the famous pasta salad and the secret marinade made from simple pantry staples. When a person fell ill friends from the community would swoop in to provide nourishing meals and when a child was born they were showered with gifts of food and pre-loved clothing. My mothers own recipe book is filled with hand-written recipes such as ‘Mrs Coupe’s Sponge Cake’ and ‘Debbie’s Pavlova’ and is testament to the relevance of a book such as this one.
This book is not a ‘MasterChef’ creation, it does not feature famous recipes from famous chefs using difficult to source ingredients, the focus is on ordinary Aussies creating beautiful gardens, wonderfully simple dishes and the importance of sharing with others. It is about the reasons we create gardens and what we do within them, about growing your own produce and eating by the seasons. The provenance of many of the recipes may be unknown, but what does it matter? They are tasty, time-honoured traditions and they ought to be shared. The presentation is spectacular, each photograph gloriously captures the stunning spaces, the delicious dishes and wonderful people who inhabit them. This book would make a wonderful gift for the keen gardener and country cook and is available from today for $49.99 via Melbourne University Press.
There are many wonderful recipes throughout this book including eggplant parmigiana, quince and apple crumble and the lentil and asparagus salad featured below. The publisher has kindly allowed me to reproduce one here for you to try at home, they have also generously supplied one book to giveaway to one lucky reader.
To go in the draw to win a copy of this stunning book simply leave a comment below, I will randomly select one reader and announce the winner next Thursday, 8th November at 12pm SA Time on my Facebook page.
- 125g rocket
- 40g flat-leat parsley
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 tbspn red wine vinegar
- 150ml olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- 400g asparagus (approx. 2 bunches)
- 200g brown lentils
- 100g pecorino cheese, broken into small pieces
- drizzle of walnut oil (optional, a fruity olive oil would work well, too)
- lemon wedges to serve
- To make the dressing, combine half the rocket with the garlic, vinegar and oil in a food processor. Whizz until smooth and season to taste.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook asparagus until bright green (only a few minutes), drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.
- Cut into 5-6 cm pieces.
- Place lentils in a pan and cover with cold water.
- Bring to the boil, add salt and cook until just tender - about 20 minutes.
- Drain well and add to the bowl with the rocket dressing.
- Check seasoning.
- Add asparagus, most of the remaining rocket and toss gently.
- To serve, scatter pieces of pecorino over the salad, drizzle with oil if using and scatter over the remaining rocket.
Photographs by Holly Kerr Forsyth
Disclaimer: I received two copies of this book from Melbourne University Press, one for my own collection and one to giveaway.
Photographs and recipe used with permission – all photographs by Holly Kerr Forsyth
Entries close Wednesday 7th November @ Midnight (SA Time), winner announced on Facebook at midday on the 8th November.
Comp open to Australian residents only – apologies to International Readers.