I don't usually like cook books. I'm terrible at following recipes. I don't like having to buy specific ingredients just to make something and have the remainder wasted. And living in a rural area means that I often can't even get the right ingredients. I like to be flexible and swap in seasonal ingredients or whatever is in my pantry or easy to get at my local supermarket.
This new cook book is different
Marriage of Flavours (Four seasons of beautifully balance food) by Scott Pickett, starts with an explanation of flavour matching and a list of seasonal produce. The recipes are arranged by season.
While I appreciate the attempt at using seasons, I live in an odd sub-tropical area where the seasons don't exactly align with the temperate climate concept of four seasons. For example, I can get strawberries for most of the year from the Sunshine Coast, then from Stanthorpe and later from Bundaburg, they are all about 2 hours away (so local), but all available at different times of the year.
Right now peas are in season here (they are technically "summer" produce, but I can't grow them in summer).
I chose recipes from different seasons
So I read the "winter" section first and I wasn't taken with many of the recipes, so I read the rest of the seasons and picked a few to try out of different seasons based on what I have in the garden at the moment and what I felt like cooking.
From Spring, I chose Slow-cooked Chicken and Leek. We had a perennial leek ready to harvest, so I was keen to use it and chicken is a bit of a treat (we don't usually buy it, preferring to grow our own, but haven't raised any for a while, so I got chicken thighs from the supermarket).
From Autumn, I chose a creamed kale recipe. I am not growing kale but I have an awful lot of silverbeet in the garden and cream sounds like a nice way to eat it. I think silverbeet is a fair swap for kale and I threw in some peas that we have in excess. I also found roasted cauliflower in Autumn. I'm not growing cauliflower (yet!), but it was cheap at the market so I have plenty to use up - this is an interesting combination with tahini, nuts (supposed to use pecan, but I had to swap for hazelnuts) and raisins.
This recipe also wanted "ras el hanout". I had to google that in the supermarket and sub in "Moroccan seasoning", which I hope is similar!
In the Winter section a potato bake (Pommes Boulangeres) recipe caught my eye - and a good way to use up the rest of the cream from the "kale" recipe. Seeing as I had the oven on for the chicken and cauli anyway, may as well keep baking. I added some sweet potato which we had also bought in excess last market.
Finally a desert for Winter - an apple tarte tatin to use up the soft apples in the fridge. Its supposed to go with a star anise ice cream, but a 7 egg yolks this is not feasible when the chickens are only laying 1-2/day. That's not exactly seasonal! I used a bit of cream infused with star anise instead.
What I like about this book
Firstly the photos are lovely (although there is not one per recipe, which makes it difficult for me to visualise what the end-result is supposed to look like).
I really do like the premise of matching flavours and therefore substituting available ingredients to get the same or similar effect. This is the first cook book that I've seen that has explained how to do this, previously I have been winging it!
I like the idea of using seasons, but they are not as simple in a sub-tropical area. The index is quite good though, so you can look for ways to use what you do have at the time.
Basing the dish around produce and then balancing it with other ingredients is a useful concept when trying to avoid food waste and matches with a homesteading or self-sufficient lifestyle. I usually think first about what I have in the garden, fridge/freezer and pantry before I buy anything new (although I had to buy a few things - cream, yoghurt, tahini - for these recipes).
Each recipe is pared with wine. I don't drink, so this is not a useful feature for me, but others may find it interesting.
The first part of the book explains the concept of combining flavours, which is the key to understanding how to substitute ingredients and still create tasty food. I see the recipes as guides to help understand the underlying theory of flavours.
I also love the use of herbs and spices to bring out flavour. You won't be surprised to know what I use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking, many are homegrown, whether fresh or dried, and I think they add a huge amount of flavour as well as many medicinal properties. (read more about my love of herbs here)
I was interested to see temperature and texture included as "flavours", along with the usual sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy and umami. Is smoked another flavour again? There is a flavour map to help with combining, but its not explained and I can't see how to follow it. Each recipe has the key flavours listed in top corner to help with combing with other dishes or understand what can be added or removed from the recipe.
If you are someone who doesn't usually bother with recipes, maybe this is the cook book for you! What do you think? How do you cook with seasons and flavour?