In a delicious conversation with ABC Radio National's Margaret Throsby, MasterChef judge and food writer, Matt Preston, mentioned that most people only cook three recipes from any one of the cookbooks they buy; and said that he prefers to see a 'dirty cookbook', meaning a book that is loved and used, rather than sitting pristine on the coffee table. This has always been my philosophy too.
That said, I must admit that on my shelves there are a handful of cookbooks that have barely been opened, while others quickly acquire that food splattered, much loved, well-thumbed appearance. Jude Blereau's latest offering, Wholefood from the ground up (Murdoch Books), which arrived on my doorstep only recently, is already fitting into the latter category.
If the cover photograph of green lentils, caramelised pear and pedro ximenez salad doesn't whet your appetite, then perhaps any one of the other 120 recipes will do so. From the basics (such as making good stock); to recipes for kefir, labne and almond milk; cooking with pulses and grains; and onto some seriously good things like rosemary and raspberry jelly, barley and spelt shortcrust pastry, pear butter, funked up roasted vegetables, and kefir buttermilk panna cotta.
There are recipes for fruit-based breakfasts, as well as protein-based breakfasts 'with a good component of fat' (gotta love that!). Among the selection of light vegetarian dishes are a 'three sisters' Christmas lima bean salad; the salad of lentils and caramelised pears on the cover and featured below; baked peach salsa and haloumi; and roast plum, goat's curd and basil tart.
Jude's baked whole mackerel is also on my list of recipes to try, along with roast buttermilk chicken, sweet and sour duck, and the lamb shoulder with fennel and borlotti beans. In terms of sweet things, the tapioca plum pudding, vanilla buttermilk ice cream, and peach shortcake are among the standouts.
For those who may not be aware, Jude Blereau is one of Australia's most authoritative, long-established wholefood advocates. She was living a wholefood life long before 'wholefood' was a buzzword for healthy living, and she knows better than most that one of the greatest obstacles to healthy eating is time, or lack of it. With just a little preparation you can build a solid food foundation, so being busy doesn't have to mean going hungry, she says.
After co-founding the Earth Market in 1997, a wholefood store and cafe in Perth, Australia, Jude moved on to set up the Whole Food Cooking School in 2001. Her focus is on helping people learn about good food and giving them the tools and information they need to make healthy and wholesome eating a part of their everyday lives. Jude has written four books - Wholefood, Coming Home to Eat, Wholefood for Children, and Wholefood Baking - which is quite possibly the best of the cookbooks to land on my kitchen bench so far this year. Yes, it's that good.
Wholefood from the ground up distills Jude's wealth of knowledge into one incredible guide. In addition to more than 120 nourishing recipes there is clear information about what constitutes 'good' food, where to source it and how to use it to its best effect. There is also a guide to building a wholefood pantry from scratch as well as practical tips for planning and preparing food ahead.
The recipe I have chosen to showcase is the one featured on the cover of the book. Jude says it is her version of a dish known as 'The Wedding Salad' from Sarah Searle at The Yellow House blog. It's a basic format of greens, sweet fruit, nuts and a dressing. Occasionally, I have substituted oak leaf lettuce leaves and baby spinach for the rocket and mustard greens. Both work well.
GREEN LENTILS, CARAMELISED PEAR AND PEDRO XIMINEZ SALAD
2 Beurre Bosc pears
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
60ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) Pedro Ximenez 12 month old sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons Pedro Ximenez sherry
50g rocket (arugula) leaves or mustard greens
1 quantity cooked French green lentils, drained*
40-75g (1/2 cup) hazelnuts, roasted, skins rubbed off, roughly chopped
hazelnut oil for drizzling, optional
Cut the pears into eighths, and remove and discard the cores.
Place the olive oil, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar and the sherry in a small frying pan no larger than 20cm (8 in). This size pan will give more depth of liquid (and thus more flavour) to the pears, and contribute to less evaporation. Toss the pears through the liquid, place over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, turning the pears every now and then. At the end of this time, there should be about 2 tablespoons of liquid left in the pan. If it looks like there is more, increase the heat slightly and continue to cook until it has reduced. Remove the pears and set aside on a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of sherry vinegar to the pan and stir - this is now your dressing. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
To put the salad together, arrange the rocket leaves on a serving platter and spoon the cooked lentils over the top. Using your fingers, gently toss together. Place the cooked pears over the lentils and scatter over the hazelnuts. Gently pour the cooled dressing over the salad and drizzle with a little hazelnut oil, if using. Serves 4 as a light meal.
*For the lentils, cook 100g of French green lentils in 310 ml of chicken or vegetable stock until they are cooked, but 'toothsome'.
Recipe and Images from Wholefood from the ground up by Jude Blereau (Murdoch Books), RRP $39.99, available in all bookstores and online. Thank you kindly to the publicity team at Murdoch Books, and Jude Blereau, for giving me the opportunity to showcase this title. It will be well used.
Tell me dear readers, do you cook more than three recipes from each of the cookbooks you buy? And are you familiar with Jude Blereau and her wonderful wholefood philosophies?
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I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.