Ever heard of a herb AND flower recipe book before? Neither had we, before we discovered the oh-so fabulous ‘The Herb and Flower Cookbook: Plant, Grow, Eat’ – a brand new cookery book with a difference, courtesy of Pip McCormac.
The perfect addition to any kitchen, Pip’s infectious and clever approach to cooking with herbs or flowers lets you take your cooking to the next level to create unusual and seasonal recipes that are fresh and full of flavour. With over 60 mouth-watering recipes, the book is split into 6 chapters and contains such dishes as Pea, purslane and pansy salad, Cheesy ham and chive “shepherd’s pie”, Raspberry, rose and mint tiramisu, and Geranium sunset.
There’s also a simple yet practical growing guide which features over 30 herbs and edible flowers, with instructions specific to each on when, where and how to plant, when to pick and what to plant it with. A flavour thesaurus suggests the foods it works with, the taste and how it should be eaten to prompt endless cooking combinations.
Tempted? Trust us; you won’t want to put this beautiful book down!
We caught up with Pip to talk petal power, herbs and his favourite flavours:
What was the inspiration behind the book?
Having never lived in a flat with outdoor space I was thrilled to finally get a place with a balcony. It wasn’t huge, but big enough for a few pots and plants. “A little project,” I thought, “a hobby that won’t take more than five minutes a night to water.” It was when I was googling what herbs I could grow I realised the sheer variety, and the depth of flavours I could be creating. And so, the idea for the book was born.
How do you create a new recipe?
I tend to have a clear idea of flavour combinations in my mind – I knew that cherry and basil went well together, for example, or salmon and borage flowers. So that’s the starting point, the rest is just creating a big a mess in the kitchen and seeing what works.
What is your favourite herb and flower to cook with?
I love how fragrant anything you’re cooking gets the moment you add in rosemary or thyme. There’s also a brilliant pepperiness that appears if you throw marigold petals into a soup. Plus they look super pretty.
If you could only have one herb for the rest of time what would it be and why?
Mint. It’s totally versatile, zings up any salad, add a freshness to fruit, or can be dropped into a cocktail. A herb for all occasions.
What is your favourite quick mid-week recipe?
There’s an easy recipe in the book for steamed artichokes with lemon and nasturtium butter – it feels very decadent to be sucking the meat out of an artichoke leaf whilst sat on the sofa in front of the TV. As with all the recipes, there are substitutions suggested if the main ingredient is out of season – when I don’t have any nasturtiums I simply use thyme instead.
Is it difficult to grow your own herbs and edible flowers?
Most herbs and flowers are pretty hardy. I’m not the most naturally green-fingered – I can’t imagine spending hours cultivating rare orchids, for example – but it’s amazing what will thrive if you let it. Borage, nasturtiums, lemon balm, mint and chives are all very easy to start from seed. Sometimes things just don’t work and you have to not to take it to heart. I seem to have killed two batches of purslane but am hoping for third time lucky. The trick appears to be not to over water it.
What are your top tips for an urban herb garden?
Start planning seeds in May and then do another batch in July. It will make the summer feel longer as another bright and beautiful crop arrives. Also, you can start small – a little pot on the windowsill can give you just as much satisfaction.
Where are the best places to source good quality herbs and flowers?
Mail order company Greens of Devon does the best boxes of edible flowers. It depends what is in season as to what you’ll get but that’s part of the fun – they’re always full of ingredients to play with.
Who is your favourite chef?
I’m hugely inspired by Maria Elia, whose latest book Smashing Plates is amongst my favourite ever. Half Greek Cypriot, everything she makes is imbued with a sense of sunshine and relaxed calm, a feeling I’ve tried to recreate with all my recipes.
What is your current favourite restaurant?
For date night, you can’t beat Casse Croute on Bermondsey Street. Tiny and French, the menu changes daily, written on the chalkboard in Gallic script. The mustard braised rabbit I had on my last visit needs to go down in history for its tenderness and gentle flavour. And what a wine list!
Pip McCormac is a food and interiors journalist living in London. With a decade in the industry, he was the Lifestyle Editor at Sunday Times Style and part of the launch team of Grazia. He is currently the Lifestyle Director of Red Magazine, the country’s leading women’s lifestyle monthly title.He is both a journalist and art director, commissioner and stylist, editor and writer, and has worked with some of the biggest names in British food such as Skye Gyngell, Yotam Ottolenghi, Jamie Oliver and Angela Hartnett.
Pip lives in Southwark, with a balcony filled with herbs pots and flower boxes – the chervil is currently doing most well…