Delicious gardens springing to life

The Edible Garden Cookbook & Growing Guide, by Paul West, published by Plum, RRP $39.99
The Edible Garden Cookbook & Growing Guide, by Paul West, published by Plum, RRP $39.99
Growing your own food, cooking it and sharing with family and friends is what life is all about for chef Paul West.

Australia's answer to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - he hosted River Cottage Australia for four seasons - hopes The Edible Garden Cookbook and Growing Guide will provide a window into a life in tune with the seasons, just like his experience on a Tasmanian Farm was to him.

"Every meal we ate included ingredients that we had toiled to produce. I had never experienced a way of life like this and as I looked around the farm at the amazing food we were eating, and realised how connected we were to the local community it became crystal clear to me that this is life as good as it gets."

To help people along their journey, his book includes plenty of practical gardening advice and guides as well as an A-Z of growing vegetables. It looks at different ways of developing relationships around food, such as joining a community garden or holding a pickle party.

The cooking section of the book is divided into vegetables and fruit and meat, which focuses on more affordable secondary cuts.

Potato and lemon drizzle cake 

Photos: Chris Middleton
Photos: Chris Middleton
Asparagus is truly a seasonal treat, and its arrival in the garden heralds the beginning of another exciting growing season. Served here with crispy fried eggs and crunchy crumbs made from leftover bread, this is a fantastic dish to enjoy for breakfast bathed in the spring sunshine.

Serves 4

500g asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off

olive oil, for cooking

salt and black pepper

1 large slice of stale sourdough, torn into pieces

2 dried red chillies

4 eggs

Method

Heat the oven to 250degC and line a tray with baking paper.

Toss the asparagus spears in a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place them on the prepared tray. Pop the tray in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes or until tender. Turn the oven off and leave the door open to keep the asparagus warm.

Meanwhile, put the stale bread in the bowl of a food processor, along with the chillies, a little olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and pulse to form coarse breadcrumbs.

Add a little olive oil to a large frying pan and fry the breadcrumbs over a medium heat until golden and crispy.

Set aside.

Wipe the frying pan clean, return to a medium-high heat and add a generous splash of olive oil. Crack the eggs into the pan. The oil should be hot enough that the eggs bubble and spit. Carefully spoon oil from the pan over the eggs to cook the yolks. Once the eggs are crispy on the bottom with no runny bits on top, remove from the pan.

Divide the asparagus between four plates, top each with a fried egg and serve scattered with breadcrumbs.

Baked asparagus with fried eggs and chilli breadcrumbs 

When someone mentions potato cake you tend to think of thin slices of potato, battered and deep-fried, but a sweet cake made from potato - whaaaaat? Truth is, potato is an excellent addition to a dense drizzle cake like this and it's the perfect recipe for those who don't like to bake with gluten. Everybody wins!

Serves 12

200g unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g (2 cups) almond meal

200g cold, very well mashed potato

2 tsp baking powder

finely grated zest of 2 lemons

To serve

natural Greek-style yoghurt or thick cream

Lemon syrup

juice of 2 lemons

60g caster sugar

Method

Heat the oven to 160degC. Grease a 23cm springform tin and line with baking paper.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions until they are well incorporated, then fold in the almond meal, mashed potato, baking powder and lemon zest.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and give the tin a couple of taps on the bench to level the batter out and smooth the surface. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the lemon syrup. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar has just dissolved.

Remove the cake from the oven and prick it all over with a fork or bamboo skewer. Pour the hot syrup over the top, then let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Serve warm with a good dollop of natural yoghurt or cream.

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