Cookbook road test: Kew on a Plate with Raymond Blanc
This new book is based on the BBC Two programme of the same name, presented by Raymond Blanc and Kate Humble. The premise: the veg-loving French chef, who’s established impressive vegetable gardens and orchards at his famed restaurant Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, helps re-create the kitchen garden at Kew that once produced fruit and veg for royalty. The irony of the situation isn’t lost on Raymond, who writes: “Of course I relished the idea of a French Republican laying a new garden… over a former royal plot!”
The resulting book is a cross between a gardening book and a cookbook. It may not be a new idea, but it’s a well executed one, weaving history with practical information (text by journalist Sheila Keating) and the story of the re-establishment of Kew’s kitchen garden – and topped off with lots of fantastic recipes.
The introduction covers the basics on how to prepare a veg garden. Each of the next 18 chapters is dedicated to a specific fruit or vegetable, following the growing season. As well as introducing his recipes, Raymond gives flavour notes on fruit/veg varieties and their use, accompanied by beautiful botanical illustrations from the archive collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Quality of the recipes
I tested two: new potato and chorizo tortilla and grilled asparagus with vegetable crumble. Both were a joy to cook (the recipes had clearly been tested) and got heaps of praise from the happy recipients. They were clear, easy to follow, uncomplicated – though cleverly spiced – and timings were spot on. Good ideas translated into great recipes. I wanted to cook every dish in the book.
Recipe and still-life photography by Jean Cazals is direct, simple and stunning. Garden reportage photography, by Cazals and others, illustrates practical how-to information on planting, pruning and harvesting.
People who like to eat good food and who’d like to try their hand at growing their own – but it’s
worth buying for the recipes alone.
Star rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (editor’s note: this doesn’t happen often!)
Kew on a Plate with Raymond Blanc: Recipes, Horticulture and Heritage; £25, Headline