Updated: Oct 12
✦ Forget online recipe searches, says reviewer Susie Boswell. Nothing can substitute for a hard copy of this exceptional new cook book, ideal for Christmas.
Over more than two decades since Britain’s River Cottage TV series first promulgated its seasonal, local, sustainable food ethos, the philosophy has become mainstream in western nations, including Australia.
That's our homegrown River Cottage "real food" ambassador Paul West pictured here, scoffing seafood straight from the briny at the Oyster Shed at Sandstone Point, off Queensland's Moreton Bay.
And that’s me, at his right elbow, our faces bent over a coral cornucopia of crustaceans fresh-cooked by West - he cracking crab claws for me. The feast’s accompanied by a healthy salad West picked moments ago from the Shed’s kitchen garden.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s foundation River Cottage success saw him travel here from London to select West from a keen field of local chefs to spawn and head up the original Australian series. The adaptation featuring Aussie produce was so popular it grew over the years to four seasons – currently being revived on SBS TV. West, meanwhile, has gone on to promote the establishment of organics and natural nutrition as a way of life at food festivals, on food trails and through similar events.
HFW - as 57-year-old Old Etonian and Oxonian Hugh Christopher Edmund Fearnley-Whittingstall is more conveniently known – has helmed a couple of dozen iterations of the British TV series, published some 30 cookbooks and expanded River Cottage into a magnificent marketing franchise of multiple entities.
He holds cookery courses such as baking and preserving, hosts River Cottage events including weddings, offers B&B farm accommodation and sold-out experiences for adults and children such as mushroom foraging, gardening and bee-keeping, and has expanded to partnering to manufacture organic food products. There are even River Cottage gifts, including a tweed picnic blanket woven from recycled wool!
Great Salads is written by River Cottage head chef Gelf Alderson who, as HFW says in his foreword, has worked alongside him for the past ten years. Vibrant, veg-focused spectacular salads, the author says, are assemblies for enjoying knockout tastes and peak nutrition in every season of the year.
A glossary of vegetables, fruits, herbs and even edible flowers, hints for growing and char-grilling and roasting prep techniques, 80 recipes including for dressings and pickles plus excellent photography and a handy index make this book an encyclopaedia that relegates online recipe-searching to dismal failure.
River Cottage Great Salads by Gelf Alderson (Bloomsbury Publishing, $39.99) is out now.
Fennel, celery and apple with creamy almond dressing
This salad is all about the crisp crunch of the fennel and celery, and the way these big bold flavours are tamed by the creamy almond dressing. Delicious on its own, it’s also a lovely accompaniment to grilled fish. The dressing goes with almost anything and keeps in the fridge for a week so. I often make a double batch. Try dunking lettuce leaves into it… delicious.