Country Gardens, Country Hospitality & Lentil and Asparagus Salad


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.


4.5 from 4 reviews
Country Gardens, Country Hospitality & Lentil & Asparagus
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A gorgeous spring salad taken from Holly Kerr Forsyth's book 'Country Gardens, Country Hospitality'.
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 6
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Cut into 5-6 cm pieces.
  4. Place lentils in a pan and cover with cold water.
  5. Bring to the boil, add salt and cook until just tender - about 20 minutes.
  6. Drain well and add to the bowl with the rocket dressing.
  7. Check seasoning.
  8. Add asparagus, most of the remaining rocket and toss gently.
  9. To serve, scatter pieces of pecorino over the salad, drizzle with oil if using and scatter over the remaining rocket.
Recipe from 'Country Gardens, Country Hospitality' by Holly Kerr Forsyth, photograph and recipe used with permission
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.


  • Phoebe says:

    What a beautiful book!

  • What a lovely looking book. There’s nothing like country hospitality is there? I wish we had more of it in the city!

  • Berenicw Lawrence says:

    Looks like the perfect book for me! I love to cook, garden and take photos, especially if it includes cooking my own home grown delights.

  • Melissa says:

    Gorgeous! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Leanne Harms says:

    Whatva wonderfully inspirational book, I would love to own this book.

  • Miss Piggy says:

    I love gardening books that also show recipes illustrating what to do will all of the beautiful produce.

  • Rhoda! says:

    I’m drooling at the idea of winning this gorgeous thing. The book will go perfectly with my cup of tea & my secret garden

  • Ros says:

    Beautiful idea to show off our country….would like to win this … I may be lucky

  • peta says:

    I must check this book out. Love Holly’s approach so am sure it’s a beutiful book. I know she visited a friends stunning Mossgrove B&B in Dorrigo around that time so wondering if it’s in it?

  • Kati W says:

    How gorgeous, just the type of book that I need to read so as to gather ideas to get my huge garden in order. There is so little out there about LARGE GARDENING, so much emphasises courtyard gardens and (waterwise) unproductive gardening. I love to find those who like to use their land to nourish their own near and dear.

  • suzer says:

    How good is that recipe! Nothing like making your own salad dressing…you never go back once you start.

  • Marcella says:

    Sharing simple food with others – one of life’s true pleasures!

  • Marlo Perry says:

    I’ve only just discovered your blog, it is absolutely divine.

    Two of my favourite things: food and gardens!

    Bookmarking 🙂

  • I am truly envious that you have had a book published on my two fave topics and pastimes. Congratulations on a beautiful contribution to the world of publishing!

  • Hotly Spiced says:

    Hi Erin, so lovely to meet you over the weekend. Thanks for looking after us so well and for everything you did to put on a fabulous and very worthwhile conference. I was sorry to have to rush away before thanking you and the others but I had a plane to catch so headed away just as it was finishing. I love the look of this book and it has always been my experience that country people or people from small towns are always so much better at looking out for their neighbours and helping in a time of need xx

  • Kelly McKinley says:

    Love Holly’s work, always a pleasure to read and her photos are marvellous–plus she must be a rather swell person for all those gardeners to let her into their sanctums and recipe books! Wish our asparagus was older but will have to wait another year to harvest…off to market. PS have been dying to go to your hometown and visit the Arid Lands–esp. eremophila–garden!

  • Melissa says:

    This book seems to epitomise what cooking is for me – simple recipes made with locally sourced produce and lots of love for friends, family and the wider community. It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to win this book and to share Holly’s tasty recipes with loved ones. 🙂 x

  • Michele Buck says:

    What a beautiful and inspirational book. I will definitely be including it as Christmas gifts this year for special family members. Thanks Erin for promoting it 🙂

  • I love gardens and recipes for real people. Great meals require fresh, quality ingredients and not much else. Lovely post and it was TERRIFIC to meet you this weekend. Your smile will stay with me forever.

  • Jess Hill says:

    Living in the city I love (and rely) on books like this to ‘escape’ to the beautiful country. Still working on my master plan to escape the city and live a lifestyle reflected in the pages of Holly’s book.

  • Erin, such a yummy recipe… I wouldn’t have thought of combining lentils with asparagus… but with the pecorino and the walnut oil, it sounds really nice. Great to meet you at #EDB2012. Great job by yourself and the rest of the organising team!

  • Kerry says:

    Looking at these images just makes me want to rush out and garden but all I have around my new house at the moment is mud and dirt. Better I spend more time looking and the photos and make the recipe! Thank you for a lovely review.

  • what a beautiful book – i will be adding this to my library wish list. reading about ordinary people’s lives (and sticky-beaking into their gardens) is so inspirational to me. i am currently reading jenny ferguson’s “a year in my garden” which shows glorious cottage gardens on a grand scale, and has her wonderful tales of garden making; it is a pleasure to read. have you seen it?
    i say move away from the ‘masterfood creations’ and give us real food made by real people.

  • Ash says:

    OoOooO what an awesome looking book!! 😀

  • Megan says:

    Very inspirational. I am going to start the search in the new year for a house WITH a garden.

  • Alex says:

    My gardening skills probably aren’t up to scratch to make 100% use of this lovely looking book but at least I could make use of the recipes!

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