Celia Brooks Brown already has a favoured place on my cookery book shelves thanks to her excellent World Vegetarian Classics. Now her Times online column has sprouted into the handsome New Urban Farmer, which follows the gardening and eating year on her north London allotment. It's the latest in the burgeoning genre of veg-growing/cookery books, and while some may not like this hybrid, I think Brooks Brown has come up with one of the best.
The books starts conventionally - and sensibly - with the early spring and the excitement of the first sowings of the year. Brooks Brown's enthusiasm for the rhythms of allotment life is beautifully captured, both in her writing and the fine photographs by Jill Mead. Each seasonal section is full of advice on growing and harvesting, and for those who don't have the joy of an allotment, there are great tips about what can be grown in containers. A useful chart of what to sow and harvest follows each chapter.
Recipes can be the downfall of the gardening/cookery hybrid but not here: Brooks Brown is too good a cook. I'll be making pea and feta egg cups and the rhubarb and lentil curry as soon as I can, and the soy glazed runner beans with cashews may pursuade me to fall back in love with this over-abundant legume.
As a reasonably experienced veg grower I didn't find much that was startlingly new - until I read about the Mauritian idea of cooking courgette leaves. Brooks Brown tried it and loved it.
The one thing I missed was information about vegetable varieties - cucumber Burpless Tasty Green and Swiss chard Bright Lights get a name check, but that's about it. Nevertheless, this is a book I'll return to throughout the year, and it would make a fine gift for a hungry allotmenteer.
New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown