April Bloomfield is unarguably a true chef who learned her trade all the way up in some of the world’s great restaurants, such as the well-known River Café or Chez Panisse. This means her food is a combination of simple Italian (think simple ingredients at their best) and classic British. Her first book, A Girl and her Pig (Amazon UK / Amazon US), was her take on the tail-to-nose eating movement, and was already an impressive showcase of the food she likes to eat and to serve in her restaurants, such as the Spotted Pig in New York.
We were so excited to hear that she just released a new cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden (Amazon UK / Amazon US). We’ve discovered her energetic personality on PBS Mind of a Chef, and couldn’t wait to see this new book, where veggies in all their shapes are the star. And these recipes couldn’t be more different from boring salads and over-cooked vegetables!
The book is certainly pretty! Lots of cute drawings and sublime photos perfectly highlight the nature of her food: bold, colourful, vibrant! Subtle, inspiring, and daring pairings are commonplace, such as mixing raw and char-grilled fennel in the same dish to add depth, or variations of polenta that sound (and taste!) outrageously good. We particularly loved her ability to describe the way she thinks in layers of goodness and flavours, where every ingredient has a well-defined role to play.
It’s obvious that this isn’t a “let’s publish something quickly”-type of book. Every recipe has clearly been tested and refined over years of trial and error. Yet, her ability to strike the perfect balance between “making incredible food” and “still doable at home” is remarkable. Recipes are detailed and well-written, and some require quite a few steps (cooking ingredients separately, etc.), which shows that April doesn’t cut corners when it comes to food!
It’s true that some recipes might feel overkill for a quick dinner after work, but her goal was to show amateur cooks that it’s possible to make restaurant-quality vegetarian food at home without spending a whole week-end in the kitchen. The balance of flavours in her amazing Roasted Cauliflower and Freekeh salad with Pistachios and Pomegranate was top-notch and made us feel we’re ready to open a middle-eastern street food cart right away. We also tried the Watercress Soup with Spring Garlic, which was pure delish (although not as easy to blend as we thought…), so give it a try (recipe below)! We salute the efforts of the talented April for making such a high quality cookbook. Without a doubt, we’ll be cooking our way through it for many years to come!
Disclaimer: We received a free copy of the book, but had no obligation to write anything about it. This review represents only our personal view and we genuinely endorse this excellent book! Book photos and recipe used with permission from the editor.
Watercress Soup With Spring Garlic
- 2 Spring garlic heads (with stalks attached if possible)
- 110g Unsalted butter
- 1 Large Spanish onion (about 450g, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced)
- 2.5 tablespoons Maldon salt (or another flaky sea salt)
- 450g Baking potatoes (peeled, cut into 1-cm pieces, rinsed and drained well)
- 450ml Whole milk
- 450g Watercress (bottom 2.5cm of stems trimmed, thick stem thinly sliced, the rest left whole)
- 1 Small handful of chervil springs (optional)
- 110ml Extra virgin olive oil
- 120g Crème fraîche
- 1/2 tablespoon Black peppercorns (toasted in a pan until aromatic)
|Trim away the roots and cut off and discard the dark green tops of the garlic. Halve the bulbs lengthwise and thinly slice them.|
|Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat, then add the garlic, onion, and 1 tablespoon of the salt, and have a stir. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and creamy (about 30 minutes).|
|Add the potatoes, milk, the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of salt, and 450ml of water. Cover the pot, increase the heat to medium, and bring the liquid to a vigorous simmer. Uncover and lower the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fully tender, about 15 minutes.|
|Add the watercress (and chervil, if using) and gently stir to submerge the greens in the liquid. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and add the 110 ml oil, then remove the pot from the heat.|
|Pour the soup into a large mixing bowl and blend the soup until very smooth (working in batches if necessary and adding each batch back to the pot).|
|Combine the crème fraîche and crushed peppercorns in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and stir well. Serve with the crème fraîche mixture on top.|