The Second Helping bookshelves are groaning with cookbooks. Used for both inspiration and instruction they are a favourite feature of the kitchen. A recent addition is Natalie Boog’s Courtyard Kitchen: a handy, practical book that shows you how to grow herbs throughout the year to put a zing into your meals without overspending and or wasting unused herbs.
In Courtyard Kitchen, Natalie shares practical hints and tips for selecting the right plants for your small space, courtyard or windowsill with information on harvesting, storing and freezing. Courtyard Kitchen also features 80+ recipes based around different herbs and fruits, giving plenty of options for creating easy tempting meals for family and friends.
Natalie Boog is a food photographer and self-taught home cook. Her recipes are tried and tested, simple and full of flavour. Running a fruit and vegetable co-op prompted her to write a food blog natalieboog.com from which the idea of this book was born.
Because we like a little bit more, Second Helping jumped on the chance to ask Natalie a few questions:
Most people would be familiar with herbs like parsley and basil. What do you think is the unsung hero of the herb world?
I really like Thyme. It’s very versatile, one little sprig can really add so much flavour. It’s a herb that can be used breakfast, lunch, dinner, savory and sweet. Rosemary is also another favourite. Very easy to grow, and wonderful in so many winter foods, roasts, pesto, salad dressing or even just lightly sprinkled through a salad.
What do you say to those who think growing their own herbs is too much effort?
It really is easy to grow most herbs. Start with one and see how you go. Place it in a spot that gets morning sun and shaded from afternoon heat, and if you can, where you can see them. That way you’ll not only remember to water them, but use them. Herbs thrive by being constantly trimmed, so the more you use them, the better the plant grows. I find watering my herbs really relaxing a great way to switch off from the day.
It’s clear from your involvement in your Fruit & Veg Co-op that you value seasonal, local produce and want to encourage the same behaviour in others. The big supermarkets have taught consumers to think they can get anything anytime, do you think that notion can be overcome?
Most definitely. I already have seen a change in the amount of co-ops at the markets. Eating seasonally is also more economical. It’s easy when we are time poor to cook dishes we know, hopefully this book will add a few regular recipes to your table.
Savoury dishes would be the first thing that come to mind when cooking with herbs, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I like to make a raspberry and tarragon popsicle as a bit of a surprise at dinner parties, what unusual combinations do you like?
Basil and chocolate is a nice one.
It’s often said we eat with our eyes, and you bring that to life as a food photographer. What is it about food photography that you enjoy?
It’s lovely process. Watching the food being prepared, also having an interest is cooking I’m always asking questions of the chefs. Working with wonderful stylists and the creativity they bring. Through the camera I’m looking at textures and shapes and how shadows and light are working together. Food is a subject that’s always been a big part of life.
Courtyard Kitchen from Murdoch Books is available from all the usual places.