Tuesday’s Top 5 – Cookbooks for Kitchen Gardeners

I am a lover of cookbooks.  Fortunately I used to live in the UK where cookbooks are reasonably priced so I built up a large collection.  Since I moved back to Australia from the UK five years ago I have purchased about 3 books (other than from op shops) because the prices are simply too high.  This compares with about 100 during the previous 5 years.  Of course I was working and didn’t have expenses like children then but still when you can by a beautiful cookbook on Amazon for the equivalent of $30 you do find excuses for owning them a lot easier than when they cost closer to $50 -$100 (or more if its Stephanie Alexander…even Stephanie only costs $40 on Amazon).

Of the cookbooks I possess there are, I’m ashamed to admit, many that I don’t open but there are many that I do and these are my favourites to turn to for recipes that highlight vegetables.

  1. My absolute favourite cookbook of all time is a South Indian Vegetarian cookbook that was given to me on 22nd (or possibly 23rd) birthday by my then housemate and still good friend.  The reason I loved it then is that it allowed me to access a whole lot of flavours I consumed while in India but had absolutely no idea how to recreate.  The reason I love it now is that no matter what I grow in the garden there is usually a suitable cooking method in this book and the results are always delicious.  The book is called Dakshin and it is by Chandra Padmanabhan.  She has also written a follow-up called Southern Spice which also has great recipes but not the fabulous photos and presentation of its predecessor.


2. My next selection is a book called: Paradiso Seasons by Denis Cotter.  Denis Cotter is an Irish chef who runs Cafe Paradiso a vegetarian restaurant in Cork.  Whilst I have never visited the Cafe (or indeed Cork) I would love to if only to eat the sort of food he highlights here.  Recipes with names like Pumpkin soup with lime and a coconut-peanut relish, Corn crusted aubergine Fritters with a tamarillo chutney, Chickpea, Leek and Rosemary Soup with a hot pepper salsa have all proved popular in my house – even with the more meat loving members.  Broken down into seasons the book offers a variety of recipes that I have used for both; family meals and entertaining.


 3. A New Book of Middle Eastern food by Claudia Roden is not a vegetarian cookbook but any book that has 3 different spinach recipes for filling savoury pastries (admitedly one of these includes calves livers) has to be included.  Claudia Roden has written a number of books on Middle Eastern Cookery but I think this one is best if you want a no nonsense (there aren’t any pictures) reference for a Middle Eastern take on vegetables.  For example there are 16 entries for spinach, 34 for eggplant and for those Southern Hemispherites currently drowning in a sea of apricots she includes 15 recipes.  The book also includes historical and cultural aspects of eating in the Middle East and gives interesting background information about how each type of ingredient is used.

4. Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry is not solely about cooking vegetables either, instead it is a collection of her favourite recipes from the Middle East, Meditterranean and North Africa.  What I like about this book is the abundant use of herbs and strong flavourings in many of the dishes.  For instance a Greek Herb Pilaf with Prawns and Feta calls for onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, a good-sized bunch of dill, a good sized bunch of parsley, plus a handful of mint as well as lemon juice and lemon wedges to serve.  All the sort of things that if you have a productive kitchen garden you should (climate permitting) have in abundance but if you were to try and buy at a supermarket you would have to fork out a lot of money for vastly inferior produce.    This book also includes one of my favourite vegetarian combinations of all time: Bulgar and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chilli Roast Tomatoes – If you have the book then definitely give it a try.


5. My last selection is also my most recent acquisition – Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I am including it here, despite not having sampled many of its recipes as yet, simply because there are very few recipes here that I don’t want to try.  There are also very few recipes here that don’t include vegetables I grow in my garden.  But the thing that elevates this above other veggie centric offerings is the high esteem he holds Chard – a vegetable available year round just outside my back door.


And those are my Top 5 for cooking vegetables.  Do you have any favourites, recommendations for me?  I would love to find excuses for some more acquisitions…

As a follow up from last week, thankyou to everyone who commented on the kitchen gadgets – as per everyones instruction I will soon to go to the shops and purchase a salad spinner (and probably a Microplane).  Santa may have to provide the remainder, I shall be on my best behaviour all year….

P.S: To see what The New Good Life has come up with for her Top 5 then click here.

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24 Responses to Tuesday’s Top 5 – Cookbooks for Kitchen Gardeners

  1. Must admit finding a cook book that specialises in cooking vegetable dishes can be difficult. We’re not vegetarians and don’t want to have to buy special vegetarian type ingredients – just a good book that has great ideas for using vegetables! They tend to think only vegetarians want to make vegetables interesting.

    • Liz says:

      I agree wholeheartedly a great many book relegate vegetables or occasionally throw them in as an afterthought – I think the above books are great for vegetables though. I’m not vegetarian either and non of those have specialist ingredients – except Dakshin which does have South Indian ingredients.

  2. Mark Willis says:

    We have two of those: The Claudia Roden one, and Plenty. I’ve not come across the others, but like you we have hundreds of cookbooks – well, many of them are books about food rather than cookbooks. Are you aware of the Culinaria range? If not, they will probably appear on your Amazon Wishlist pretty soon, once you have looked them up!
    P.S. I assume you are a vegetarian, right?

    • Becky says:

      I have a lot of cookbooks, most of which never get opened. I’m not sure why this is except that the Internet is far faster and has better pictures. The few that get used are two Betty Crocker Cookbooks–one that my mother gave me and one that is exactly like the one she herself had–and the Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook, which is a small paperback but has had just about anything I need to know about canning in it (I use this one far more than the Ball Blue Book).

      • Liz says:

        Its interesting I think that the quality of books will have to go up as a result of the internet. I also think that because there are so many recipes out there people will buy books only from authors they really trust to provide the ‘best’ version of the multitudes of recipes on the net.

    • Liz says:

      Actually no I’m not vegetarian – I just enjoy eating vegetables but I also love seafood, chicken and the occasional bit of bacon, ham etc. I have to admit I don’t like strong meats like lamb much and I struggle with meat stews where the flavour gets meaty rather than clean & fresh if you know what I mean. I do find I’m drawn to more recipes in most veggie cookbooks simply because they are more likely to highlight vegetables or herbs. What I absolutely detest though is meat substitutes, Quorm for instance – ugggghhh!

  3. mac says:

    I’m with you, I love cookbooks and many didn’t get opened and used as well. I’ve been leaning more toward vegetarian cooking in recent years as I learn to grow our own vegetables. Thank you for sharing your favorite cookbooks, I own one of them “Plenty” in my eReader, it’s not as satisfying and enjoyable as holding a real book, unfortunately I have to go the digital route due to lack space for more books (too many to count).

    • Liz says:

      I have considered a eReader due to space considerations but at the moment the romantic in me is resisting I too like holding a real book. Also I think I’d end up destroying the ereader by spilling curry sauce (or similar) all over it….

  4. Andrea says:

    Great collection of cook books (id love them all) especially Plenty with all those recipes with Chard. I have a couple of old favorites which are handy for basic recipes, stocks, jams etc, Cookery the Australian Way, which is my old school cook-book.
    Quite a few Italian books, Dreaming of the Tuscany Table by Carla Geri Camporesi and brought in Grave has simple recipes like Marinated zucchini.(future post)
    Thanks for your tip on A Suitable Boy(The New Good Life) proving to be a wonderful summer read!

    • Liz says:

      Yay glad you are enjoying Suitable Boy, I was thinking that I must reread it too. I have Cookery the Australian Way from school too. I still use it a bit, mainly for basic biscuit recipes that I then embelish and for the preserves. My mum bought it when they updated it a few years ago but I have to admit liking the original more, especially the recipes that people wouldn’t dream of making now – ‘m thinking Indian curry made with curry powder and banana as its primary flavourings. I do like the sound of Dreaming of the Tuscan Table.

  5. leduesorelle says:

    Thanks for sharing your list, one of my favorite subjects! I downsized my library when I got an eReader, and I’m embarrassed to admit but I’ve had to buy many of them back, especially the cookbooks. I found the eReader was fine for books that are read beginning to end, but not ones that I want to flip back and forth through. Using the site Eat Your Books to index them helps in accessing recipes if you have a large collection.

    Denis Cotter has a new cookbook coming out that I’m interested in. If you don’t already know of them, I’m a fan of Heidi Swanson and Deborah Madison’s vegetarian cookbooks. Both know how to build on the flavor of vegetables, and neither rely on icky meat-like substitutes…

    • Liz says:

      Thats interesting about Denis Cotter – I do like his books, I find the combinations interesting and generally well thought out which is nice. I’m not particularly familiar with either Heidi Swanson or Deborah Madison although I have heard of the latter. I will definitely seek them out. That is interesting advice about eReader and not something that would have occurred to me. I have been meaning to have a proper look at Eat your Books – so thanks for the tip!

  6. L says:

    I’m searching for a dahl recipe, and I was sure I would find one on your blog somewhere – but alas! If you’re searching for a subject sometime, I’d appreciate a post 🙂

  7. Great list Liz, I love talking cook books, so I’ve joined in your theme. Here’s my list(s) http://thenewgoodlife.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/tuesdays-top-five-cook-books-yes-i-know-its-wednesday/

    Love the sound of several of your favs, will have to look out for them.

    • Liz says:

      That’s great that you did a list. I put a PS on the bottom of mine and will add another link to it in next weeks. These days I borrow heaps of the cookbooks I read from the library, dont know if yours would have any of them but might be worth a look.

  8. Leanne says:

    I love cookbooks too, actually I just love books. Though with so little space and already so many books something had to give. Books to read are now purchased electronically and cookbooks, well, when I feel like cooking something, I do a recipe search on the internet . The whole world is a cook book now.

  9. Diana says:

    I understand how you feel. I use to order many books from amazon. But now with kids, I borrowed recipe books from the library and copy the recipe that I would like to try in the future. Nice collection of recipe book you have there.

  10. L says:

    I bought Dakshin! It arrived today and the pictures really are beautiful as you say. I do have a question for you though – asafoetida powder????

    • Liz says:

      It is a powder used to create the taste of onion and garlic without including them in the dish (partially for textural reasons but mostly because there are some negative associations with their consumption – can’t remember all the details). Anyway it is really strong smelling but don’t be put off it does definitely enhance dishes but you do need to be careful with quantities. You’ll need to go to an Indian grocer but pretty much all should stock it.

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