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Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book – The Cookbook Guru

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The first book chosen for the Cookbook Guru in 2015 is Jane Grigson’s “Vegetable Book”.

With it’s companion “Fruit Book”, it is the oldest of my “modern” food texts. First published by Penguin in 1979, the format of the books resemble a paperback novel. A single simple line drawing describes each vegetable featured.

This unassuming book begins with artichoke and travels through the alphabet of European vegetables to watercress completed by an appendix of useful dressings, stuffings, sauces and batters. The recipes have roots in the traditional cookery of the Mediterranean and the British Isles. Many are incredibly simple, purely a guide to emphasising the specific vegetable with careful cooking and restrained seasoning.

Grigson openly acknowledges her sources of inspiration as food prepared by friends and meals she enjoyed while travelling. Peppered amongst the recipes for soups, salads, side dishes and main course are poems, anecdotes, and social history.

Grigson is writing for the home cook with basic equipment and average skills. She may lack the flourish of modern vegetable promotors with her emphasis on cooked rather than raw vegetables, but each recipe is clear and accurate. By current standards many of Grigson’s recipes may seem dull but the more you eat from this book, the clearer it becomes to you that she was a cook, a fine cook. Her principles are sound and her understanding of flavour nuanced making the recipes perfect to use as basic building blocks. Simplicity may be her key but there is nothing insipid about her food.

In the thirty plus years this book has been on my shelves, I’ve prepared twenty or more recipes from it. Some I’ve gone on to reinvent, some I now cook ad lib, others I repeatedly make exactly as Grigson prescribes. One old favourite from the Vegetable Book is the Tomato and Oatmeal Tart (p157).  I posted a savoury tart using  the amazing oatmeal pastry recipe in the early life of this blog. The tart has been a summer staple in our house for decades.

I must acknowledge Grigson as my guiding light in the preparation of eggplants (aubergines) at a time in Australia when generally it was only eaten by Greek and Italian immigrants. She taught me to stuff them with lamb (p59), make ratatouille (p52), caponata (p54) and imam bayaldi (p55), although today I rarely consult the recipes, her guiding principals still influence the way I prepare these dishes.

Grigson was a working women, a journalist. She understood budget constraints and the pressures of time, but she was a woman who loved food, who revelled in the preparation and eating of wholesome tasty meals. Her enthusiasm spills over into her writing.

Together, Jane Grigson’s Fruit and Vegetable Books won the prestigious Andre Simon memorial book fund award in 1982.

 

 

About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

22 comments on “Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book – The Cookbook Guru

  1. Pingback: Jane Grigson’s Greek Bean Stew | Please Pass the Recipe

  2. Glenda
    January 30, 2015
  3. Sally
    January 15, 2015

    I don’t know why there is no Jane Grigson on my shelves and it’s something I need to rectify. The fondness with which you describe this book is so captivating. I’d love a copy – actually I’d love YOUR copy…that cover is beautiful.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      January 15, 2015

      You might find a second hand copy with the original cover image… In the same vein as Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson is a treasure!

      Like

  4. My Kitchen Witch
    January 13, 2015

    Definitely a must have book for the kitchen library. Snippets of it are available online through googlebooks and many of the recipes are repeated in Grigon’s other book, Good Things. Must look up that tomato and oat tart – sounds delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      January 13, 2015

      I prepared the tomato oatmeal tart yesterday, it’s perfect for a warm night. The crust is especially interesting. I replace the wheat flour with spelt, then just push it into the pan rather than trying to roll it out

      Like

  5. anne54
    January 10, 2015

    Your tomato tart sounds perfect! I will make it when my tomatoes ripen, or maybe even before then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      January 10, 2015

      I think you’ll enjoy the tomato tart Anne, perfect summertime food

      Like

  6. suej
    January 9, 2015

    Jane Grigson was a great cookery writer – her vegetable Book is one of my top references, along with Elizabeth David. That’s me dated, for sure!

    Like

  7. Serena @ foodfulife
    January 8, 2015

    I just love old cookbooks! Thank you so much for this post!

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      January 9, 2015

      You’re welcome Serena. I really value Grigson’s books as intelligent and accurate references

      Liked by 1 person

  8. trixpin
    January 8, 2015

    We have Jane Grigson’s veg book on our shelves, one my parents have had since I was little or before then. You’ll think me foolish but I never use it, and tend towards the book by her daughter, Sophie Grigson, that my dad gave to 5 or so years ago. I think I prefer a book with pictures. But if the recipes are tried and tested and give god results, maybe it’s time I got out Jane’s?

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      January 9, 2015

      I think you would enjoy reading Jane Grigson’s books Trix. Written in the 1970s they were a clarion call to the plain English cook to broaden the repertoire. They are full of information about handling the different featured ingredients. The recipes are excellent guides. Take the opportunity to join the Cookbook Guru…

      Like

  9. Leah
    January 8, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    Our very first contribution for the new year, and it comes in the form of a little synopsis of our current book: Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. Make sure you check out Lady Red Spec’s History with this fabulous reference.

    Happy Reading and Happy Cooking,

    Leah

    Like

  10. These books are two of my most valued references – like you Jane taught me how to cook eggplant and many other vegetables.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      January 8, 2015

      It may date us Rachel! I always look at a book without photos as a serious reference, a book that can teach you something, and for me that’s certainly true of Jane Grigson.

      Like

  11. Francesca
    January 8, 2015

    I am keen to try some of her recipes. Thanks for the background brief on Grigson and also for your link to the oatmeal pastry which sounds rather nice and rustic.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      January 8, 2015

      Thanks Francesca, I felt like writing, not cooking! The oatmeal pastry is really good made with spelt too, i usually use this recipe for summer savoury tarts. Did you manage to track the book down?

      Like

      • Francesca
        January 8, 2015

        No such luck in our libraries but someone sent a link to an internet copy via Leah who forwarded the link. Looking at the front cover, I am sure I saw it once in Savers, where all our books come from..

        Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on January 8, 2015 by in Food.
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