Romney “Nani” Steele is a writer, a cook, a visual artist, and a food stylist.
Plum Gorgeous: Recipe and Memories from the Orchard is a beautiful collection of sixty tempting recipes, with plenty of mouth-watering photos of the dishes and the fruits that inspired them. The recipes in the book are organized by season.
The title, Plum Gorgeous, is slightly misleading. This lush cookbook contains recipes for many different fruits, not just gorgeous plums. The chapters (Oranges of Memory and Other Citrus; Still Life with Berries, Eternal Spring; Plum Gorgeous, Remembered Mornings, and Summer Afternoons; Beauty and Windfall, Fruits of Love and Longing) are as seasonal as they are atmospheric. Lemons, kumquats, blueberries, pears, persimmons, and even tomatoes are all given the appropriate nod.
Not Just Desserts
Fruit-centric cookbooks are usually so dessert-oriented that one needs a sip of water or tea just from all the sweetness of reading the recipes. Plum Gorgeous, while containing plenty of yummy sounding desserts (almond meringue with rose cream and red currants, blueberry lemon-lime gratin, and sherry-roasted pears with huckleberry sauce and sabayon come quickly to mind), gives fruit their savory due. A grape tomato ricotta flatbread, a nectarine salad with haricots verts and cured ham, and kumquats and toasted couscous with halloumi are just a few of the very fruity yet very savory recipes one finds.
Not Just Recipes
While Plum Gorgeous is first and foremost a cookbook, filled with 60 super-seasonal recipes, with such beautiful photographs and food styling, as well as extensive headnotes to the recipes, it feels like much more than the average cookbook. Steele captures a time and place in her own life – and fills the book with such a clear aesthetic sense – that a mere cookbook jumps into the world of the truly aspirational. We, too, would like to sit around her table, lathering raspberry rhubarb rose petal jam on everything in sight.
Buy this and other great cooking and gardening books at the Cygnet Market or at the Garden Shed and Pantry, Cygnet.