'There's so much pleasure in making a delicious dish from something you grew yourself.'
One of the delights of standing at my kitchen window is that I look out to our courtyard and the many things we grow in pots. Among the geraniums, camellias, azaleas, abutilons, lavender and flax plants, there are are two fig trees, two olive trees, a bay tree, a rosemary bush, potatoes, chives, tomatoes, basil and mint. And on the front verandah are three lemons and a kaffir lime. Given that I have a flourishing kitchen garden in my courtyard, I dipped into the pages of Natalie Boog's Courtyard Kitchen with great interest.
Natalie Boog grew up in a household that centred around the kitchen. Her first cooking experience, at the age of eight, was French toast. And she has not looked back since. A self-taught home cook, her recipes are tried and tested, simple and full of flavour. Natalie is an experienced food photographer, who has shot many cookbooks and magazine features. Running a fruit and vegetable co-op promoted her to write a food blog. Courtyard Kitchen, her first cookbook, has just been published.
In Courtyard Kitchen, Natalie offers practical hints and tips for selecting the right plants for your 'little' space and how best to maintain them for the seasons, as well as information on harvesting, storing and freezing your home grown produce.
There is advice on planning your garden; choosing the most suitable pots and potting mix; using seeds or seedlings; as well as planting, watering, feeding and growing. Chapters are divided into plant groups: Basil, Parsley, Coriander, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Chilli, Lemon, and Strawberry.
Living up to its subtitle 'Recipes and growing tips for herbs and potted fruits', Courtyard Kitchen also offers a selection of rather lovely recipes, many of which have a delicious twist. Among my favourites are the chocolate basil cake, for instance. Wow, what a combination! Then there's Thai chicken coleslaw; a fresh mint and pea pasta; a refreshing beetroot and mint sorbet; a flourless orange and rosemary cake; buttery thyme dumplings; lemon and thyme cake; chilli molten chocolate puddings; strawberry, mint and ginger syrup; and plenty more.
Sound good? Yes, yes, yes... this is my kind of cooking! Indeed, this is my kind of cookbook too.
I had the opportunity to chat with Natalie recently. Our conversation follows below.
Hello Natalie, thanks for taking the time to catch up with me. Congratulations on Courtyard Kitchen. It truly is a delightful and beautiful book!
As a long-time fresh produce advocate myself, I share your philosophy of cooking from scratch with fresh produce. Tell me what inspired your book.
Inspiration for the book was a natural progression for me. Co-ordinating a Fruit&Veg co- op I had lots of extra and being a keen gardener I always had been growing herbs. So trying not to waste food I started combining the herbs from the garden with all the lovely fresh produce and what was left over I'd bottle up sauces and pesto, and jams. Trying new combinations of herbs so there was always something different to eat.
What is your earliest food memory?
Earliest memories of food, really weren't great. I was a fussy eater and both my parents are great cooks. So while my friends were having meat and three veg, we were eating curries and coq au vin. But that's where I learnt the beauty of being in the kitchen.
Does your heart or your appetite lean towards a particular cuisine?
My appetite probably sways in an Asian cuisine. My Dads Burmese and the fact we are so lucky in Australia with all the readily available ingredients and the freshness of it all.
Is there a recipe you’d like to share with my readers?
At the moment I’m really enjoying the Flourless Orange and Rosemary cake I love the freshness of the rosemary, and I think it gives the cake a great lift! The recipe and image appear below. Yum! Thank you.
What’s on the agenda for you for the rest of 2015, if you are allowed to share?
2015 I'm already working on a second book, if I'm luckily enough to get it published. More herbs and fruits.
And finally, what’s for dinner tonight?
Dinner tonight is really simple. I have lots of tomatoes in the fridge so I'll roast them with garlic, onion and some thyme or basil, give it a stir in the pan so the juices all combine and toss it through some pasta.
Thank you again Natalie. I appreciate your time.
Thank you too, Liz. I appreciate your support. Nat.
Natalie's flourless orange and rosemary cake...
FLOURLESS ORANGE AND ROSEMARY CAKE
I love the dense texture of flourless cakes and I love all citrus cakes, so being able to combine the two, with rosemary for extra interest, is an added bonus. I really enjoy using herbs in sweet recipes. It’s not a first thought for most home cooks, but it’s surprising how well they can work together.
220 g (7¾ oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
200 g (7 oz/2 cups) almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Lightly grease a 15 cm (6 in) round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
Zest the oranges, then remove the white pith and seeds. Coarsely chop the flesh and put in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process until well combined, then pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
This cake will brown a little more than usual due to the sugar and juice from the oranges, so if necessary, cover loosely with a piece of foil during baking. Serves 8.
Recipe reproduced from Natalie Boog's Courtyard Kitchen, courtesy of Natalie and Murdoch Books.
Courtyard Kitchen by Natalie Boog, $39.99, Murdoch Books. With thanks to the publicity team at Murdoch Books (and Natalie) for giving me the opportunity to showcase this title.
Tell me dear readers, do you grow herbs or fruit trees in pots? Do you love the sound of the recipes in this cookbook?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.