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If, like me, you grow your own fruit and vegetables, then you'll probably be on the lookout for decent recipes to use your own home grown produce in. I think growing your own food and cooking go hand in hand, and Monty Don's book "Fork to Fork" is an excellent example of that happy union.
Monty Don is a well known TV gardener, but as this book displays, he has just as big a passion fo growing and cooking veg as he does for showing pensioners the best way to bend over and tend their roses whilst presenting Gardeners' World.
The "fork to fork" title gives a clue to the content of the book; it follows the life of a plant from being tended to in the soil as a seedling by a gardening fork to being eaten by a dining fork after it's been nurtured, grown and harvested. All of this is written in Monty's straightforward, unassuming style, peppered with supporting comments from his wife Sarah, with whom he co-wrote the book.
He starts the book with a 'state of the nation' address which answers his own question - "why bother to go to the trouble and expense of growing food in your garden?". I think that his passion and enthusiasm for home grown food shine here, and his words are inspiring.
Throughout the book are some wonderfully simple yet very effective photographs of scenes from Monty's vegetable garden, for example at the start of the section about soil it simply shows a photograph of Monty's big sausage fingered hands holding a big scoop of soil. Sounds a bit daft now I've written it down, but it works in the context of the book and matches his writing style - simple yet effective. I dare say that if housewives' favourite, "in't Yorkshire fantastic" Titchmarsh, had written a similar book that it would be full of photos of him with Nelson Mandela and lengthy flowery and poetic words describing his marigolds - he writes novels now, don't ya know. Let's leave the real gardening to Monty. If Titchmarsh and Monty had a fight, my money would be on "the Don" every time. He might talk posh, but he's got hands like spades and would be able to squeeze every last drop of Yorkshire Tea out of his little Yorkshire Pudding of a rival.
After the rallying war cry of an introduction, he sets out the battle plans in the chapter called 'the garden'. Here he describes the land he has available to work with, and the qualities and type of soil in his growing space.
Next comes the kitchen, with a short chapter on how their kitchen is laid out and what sort of store cupboard essentials they keep to form the basis of their home grown recipes. Nothing ground breaking in this or the last chapter, although I did enjoy the description of swans floating past the window of their medieval kitchen when the nearby river bursts its banks.
The main content of the book is a breakdown of the months of the year, starting in September. Monty justifies starting his gardening year in this month by saying that it marks the start of the planning and preparation for next year's growing season.
In each month, he gives detailed information about what can be planted and how to plant it, what can be harvested and how to use that harvest - for this he gives some quite simple but very tasty recipes. I've used several of his recipes and can vouch for their tastiness. I recommend trying his roasted tomato sauce recipe - the way he cooks it massively concentrates the flavours, gets used in our house as the base to plenty of recipes and it freezes well too.
One of the other things that appeals to me about his recipes is the lack of over complicated ingredients - some people in a similar position to Monty have a tendency to 'over egg their eggs' with their choice of ingredients. For example, Hugh "kills-and-eats-it-all" would suggest to use butter cup fed, 6 month old, organic, not reared outside a five mile radius of your house prize winning cattle, whereas Monty would simply put "beef".
Overall, I feel this is a good hybrid of a gardening and cookbook. However, there are cheaper books that do the same job available - the RRP of £25 is, in my opinion, too much. Four out of five stars, thanks for reading.