Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower is a cookbook about plants—it’s about making the most of the land’s bounty in your everyday cooking.
Making small changes to the way we cook and eat can both lessen the impact we have on the environment and dramatically improve our health and wellbeing: good for us and for future generations to come. Making plants and vegetables the focus of your meals can improve your cooking exponentially—they provide a feast of flavours, colours and textures.
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower is a true celebration of seasonal vegetables and fruit, packed with simple and surprisingly quick vegetarian recipes. With roots, we think of the crunch of carrots, celeriac, beetroot. From springtime stems like our beloved asparagus and rhubarb, through leaves of every hue (kale, radicchio, chard), when the blossoms become the fruits of autumn—apples, pears, plums—the food year is marked by growth, ripening and harvest.
With 120 original recipes, every dish captured by acclaimed photographer Andrew Montgomery, and Gill Meller’s ideas for using the very best fresh ingredients, Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower is a thoughtful, inspiring collection of recipes that you’ll want to come back to again and again.
A Tart for May
In 2002 a brilliant organization called The Prince’s Trust gave me a start-up grant. The money helped me set up a kitchen where I baked tarts, just like this one, to sell at the local farmers’ market. I loved the market and all the producers who came along every weekend; I made friends there. The upside of a slow day was getting to eat my own tarts for supper, breakfast and maybe lunch too.
FOR THE PASTRY
300G (101⁄2OZ) PLAIN FLOUR
150G (51⁄2OZ) UNSALTED BUTTER, CUBED AND CHILLED
PINCH OF FINE SEA SALT
ABOUT 150ML (5FL OZ) CHILLED WATER
FOR THE FILLING
1 GOOD HANDFUL EACH OF BROAD BEANS IN THE POD, PEAS IN THE POD AND SUGAR SNAP PEAS
12 ASPARAGUS SPEARS
1 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
6 SPRING ONIONS, TRIMMED AND SLICED INTO 1CM (1⁄2IN) PIECES
1 LITTLE GEM LETTUCE, HALVED AND RIBBONED
½ SMALL HANDFUL OF TARRAGON, LEAVES PICKED AND ROUGHLY CHOPPED
½ SMALL HANDFUL OF FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY, LEAVES PICKED AND ROUGHLY CHOPPED
1 HANDFUL OF LOVAGE, LEAVES PICKED AND ROUGHLY CHOPPED
150G (5½OZ) SOFT GOAT’S CHEESE
2 EGGS PLUS 2 YOLKS
100ML (3½FL OZ) WHOLE MILK
300ML (10½FL OZ) DOUBLE CREAM
SEA SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
First, make the pastry. Pulse the flour, butter and salt in a food processor to the consistency of breadcrumbs. With the motor running, steadily add the chilled water, stopping as soon as the dough comes together. Remove the dough, knead it a couple of times, then wrap it in parchment and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Remove the pastry from the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature before rolling.
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4.
Roll out the dough to about 3mm (1⁄8in) thick. Line your tart case (I used a rectangular one, about 15 x 25cm/6 x 10in, and about 3–4cm/11⁄4–11⁄2in deep) with the pastry, leaving an overhang. Prick the base, then line it with baking parchment and baking beans. Bake ‘blind’ for 20 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return the case to the oven for 10–12 minutes, until just golden. Remove from the oven and trim the overhang. Set aside.
To make the filling, pod the beans and peas (you can leave any very small fresh pods whole – they can go in the tart like that if you like) and snap away the woody stems from the asparagus spears.
Set a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil, followed by the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, then add the spring onions, lettuce, peas and broad beans (whole or not). Continue to cook for a few minutes until the lettuce has wilted down. You’ll need to toss the vegetables around the pan to help them on their way.
Add the chopped tarragon, parsley and lovage leaves to the pan. Season the mixture again with plenty of salt and pepper, then spoon into the prepared tart case. Dot the goat’s cheese over the top.
Combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, milk and cream in a jug, season and mix well, then pour the mixture over the tart filling.
Carefully place the tart in the oven to bake for 30–35 minutes, until it has a mottled golden top and is slightly raised. Allow to rest for at least 20–30 minutes before serving.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.