Title: Super Natural Every Day
Author: Heidi Swanson (check out her lovely blog 101cookbooks.com)
Publisher: Hardie Grant
Style: Healthy, vegetarian food
Rating: 3-4 stars
I’m always a bit wary of the ‘natural’ tribe. I mean, I love whole foods as much as the next person, but ask me to pick out spelt or flax from a line up and I’m stuck. I’ve never been a subscriber to any one lifestyle choice food-wise, so when I picked up Super Natural Every Day (or ‘supernatural everyday’ as I’ve been calling it), I was expecting to find only a handful of recipes I’d actually be interested enough to try. But I was pleasantly surprised. In fact Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day is actually really lovely. And there are lots of recipes that skeptics like me might want to try.
Heidi is lucky enough to live in my very favourite city on Earth, San Francisco*, (cue the slight jealousface) and thus has access to some of the finest natural produce in Northern California. SF is a famously cosmopolitan city and its a fantastic place for foodies. There are lots of markets and many wonderful independent shops, selling the most wonderful produce, such as ‘purple rice grown by a workers’ co-op in Thailand’ or ‘farm-fresh eggs from hand-harvested Mendocino** nori’. Heidi immediately paints a wonderful picture of her kitchen and its contents. She occasionally sounds a trifle pretentious – ‘you’ll notice I prefer my rice brown, red, purple or black’ but her narration of her idyllic Californian kitchen is largely warm and engaging.
The book goes through the chapters of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also includes snacks, drinks and accompaniments. The muesli is absolutely gorgeous and very simple – I think I’ll be making my own variation and keeping a box with the rest of my cereal in future! I’ve earmarked the yoghurt scones to try too, and the spinach strata looks divine. Lunches include zucchini (courgette) soup, which has a lovely red thai curry base, and orzo salad. I had to google ‘orzo’ (it’s a rice shaped pasta, apparently) but it looks gorgeous. Simple snacks like honeyed feta and dill eggs make the book accessible even to the most novice of cooks. Some of the dinners are typically whole-foodsy, with dishes such as pomegranate-glazed eggplant with tempah, but there are more down to earth dishes too, such as the humbly named ‘weeknight curry’, which makes the book refreshing. The treats chapter is slightly more dubious (is watermelon salad really a treat? A treat in my book is half a batch of cookie dough and a gin and tonic…), but there are some lovely-sounding recipes in there too, such as the buttermilk cake and tutti frutti crumble. There are also some great tips in the back for making your own creme fraiche and storing your own cherry tomatoes in olive oil.
The book itself is as you would hope – gorgeous photography (much of it by Heidi herself, I believe), with lovely thick pages and a nice finish. It would make a wonderful gift, not just for vegetarians, but for anyone who likes to try something new. I still can’t tell the difference between quinoa and barley pearls, but I am definitely feeling a bit more open minded about whole foods. Just don’t ask me to give up bacon any time soon.
*Go there. Go there as soon as you possibly can. Best place on Earth. Also, if you do go there, be sure to visit my favourite SF lunch spot, Zazie, which is close to the Haight-Ashbury. Get a tattoo and some fava beans while you’re up there.
** Also been to Mendocino. Underwhelming.