Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of this cookbook for the purposes of a review. All opinions are my own.
I've just emerged from being transported to a way of life and way of cooking that, living in an urban city, seems almost entirely out of reach. At first, I wondered if I'd be able to connect with the recipes. I don't hunt quail, kill my own chickens, or cure my own prosciutto. But Rohan Anderson doesn't mind if you're a city-dweller. Instead, he's just trying to nudge us all into a direction of eating more locally, sustainably, and getting off the hamster wheel.
"For many of us, life is jammed with rush, noise, convenience, and stress. There is little time left for contact with the natural world... Why are we living like this? Never in our history have we been so well off, yet living such poor quality lives. Is this all there is? Surely not." -Rohan Anderson
The book is personal, with recipes that use the best of seasonal ingredients with a nod to his family life and rituals. This isn't a vegetarian cookbook, but I found that even for someone who eats less meat than most, there are many ways to appreciate the food and adapt it to my own preferences. I'm looking forward to trying the kale fusilli tris, pumpkin dip, and roast duck pasta bake, but this week, I cooked up a comforting vegetarian soup.
This poetry pairing might be better suited for the duck risotto recipe found inside, but I wanted to include it non the less, because I think it helps capture the spirit of Anderson's cookbook in verse. I picture him providing the "shotgun blast" in this poem, carrying the birds home to clean, cook, and transform into a meal that would honor the life they led in the wild.
Hunting the Cotaco Creek
His hand in hold so trigger-tight its bloodbelieves in ghosts. It clings with finger seton steel and waits inside a dream of ducks.The twilight burns into a rising arcof eastern sky as sun reveals herselftoo proud and instantly receives full-facea splash of mallard flock. A shotgun blaststhe yellow into streaming pinks and givesthe creek its new-day taste of echoed blood.Two green head ghosts fly through the pulse of dawnupon a trigger’s touch. The creek emptiesof sound. In silence human fingers findwet feet of web and carry in each handa bird whose only cry comes in color.
from Speaking in Tongues, 1994
Anderson is committed to hunting for his own food, and shares numerous tips for novices on hunting, foraging, skinning, and the various tools one needs. I appreciate his conviction. Even though Anderson believes if you're not willing to kill your own food, you shouldn't eat it, he's not pushy. His beliefs are offset by nudges to seek out local options whenever possible, and left me feeling like I should get outside a bit more.
LEEK AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Recipe by Rohan Anderson, Whole Larder Love; reprinted with permission from powerHouse books.
I've reprinted the recipe verbatim from the book, but wanted to let you know the modifications I made. I omitted the cream, made sage breadcrumbs for garnish instead of putting herbs in the soup, substituted Parmesan for Grana Padano cheese, and blended everything in a Vitamix instead of in the pot.
1 butternut pumpkin, skinned and de-seeded
2 leeks, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
2 tbsp butter
1/5 cup (50 ml) pouring cream
1 quart (1 liter) chicken stock
Handful fresh thyme, chopped
Small handful parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Clean out pumpkin and chop into large chunks.
Place pumpkin pieces into a roasting tray with a good drizzle of olive oil. Get your hands right in there and toss them around so the pumpkin is nicely covered in that beautiful olive oil
Pop your garlic cloves for roasting too, not chopped, just whole cloves, skin on.
Roast the pumpkin for 40 minutes turning once. When done remove the pumpkins and garlic and set aside.
Now heat a large saucepan, add a glug of olive oil and the butter. When the butter is almost melted add the chopped leek and cook until it softens on a medium-high heat (normally 5-10 minutes).
Now, add the roasted pumpkin, grate in the nutmeg, and add the thyme and stock.
Squeeze out that wonderful soft garlic right into your saucepan. Try not to eat it straight away like I always do!
Mash it all together. Use whatever you have around; I'll often use a potato masher or a large wooden spoon. Don't worry about consistency or texture at this stage, as we'll run a whizzer through it soon.
This is your soup base. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, with a little stirring every so often. If it looks too thick, add more stock or hot water and stir through.
Run a hand food processor (or a stick blender) through the soup to get your desired consistency. Add your cheese, salt and pepper to season, and stir through.
Pour in the cream, garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve with some toasted bread and eat away your winter blues.