LOLO HOUBIEN fears for our food supply. Having gone hungry as a child in Holland during World War II, the gardening activist knows that even in the most prosperous societies, food security can be a tenuous thing and self-sufficiency is vital.
So with co-author and organic farmer Tori Arbon, she has put together Magic Little Meals, described as a "book for gardeners, by gardeners".
Subtitled "Making the Most of Homegrown Produce", it shows readers how to grow, prepare and cook more than 50 fruits and vegetables, creating marvellous, simple meals from even the tiniest home plot
The authors have divided the book into five parts. The first is an A to Z (or artichoke to zucchini) of vegetables, packed with growing notes and 'magic little meals', each of which incorporates at least one vegetable you have grown. Some make us use of yesterday's leftovers.
The second part features herbs and spices, the third is full of even more ingredients to try (it also shows you how to preserve what you don't use).
The fourth is all about fruits to grow and try, while the last is a potpourri of ideas covering everything from edible activities for kids to the benefits of omega-3.
Whether your taste runs to runs to French onion soup or Hungarian goulash, spanakopita or sweet potato fritters, you'll find bountiful ideas for turning your garden produce into delicious food.
Added to this, Magic Little Meals is beautifully illustrated and written in a bright, breezy style, making it a joy to look at and read.
Recipe: Tori's Favourite: Warm chickpea salad
2 sweet potatoes, or 1 small pumpkin peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 capsicum roasted to remove skin, then sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic , chopped
half a teaspoon of cumin powder
half a teaspoon of cinnamon, ground
2.5 cups of chickpeas cooked until tender
handful of toasted almonds, chopped
handful of coriander or parsley,
salt and pepper
Heat oven to 200C. Mix cubed sweet potatoes (or pumpkin) with olive oil, cumin seeds and honey. Scatter the coated sweet potatoes onto a baking tray and bake until browned and tender.
Place the whole capsicum in the baking tray along with the sweet potatoes to cook at the same time (about 20 minutes).
When everything is cooked, turn off the oven to keep sweet potatoes (or pumpkin) warm. Place the capsicum in a plastic bag to sweat. This makes it easier to peel off the skin before chopping into strips.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over low heat, add garlic, cumin, cinnamon, peeled capsicum and chickpeas.
Stir and heat to combine flavours then turn the mixture into a bowl and top with warm sweet potatoes, nuts and herbs. Add lemon juice and seasoning to taste.
Serve with crunchy bread, or on freshly baked butter pancakes of half-half chickpea flour and wholemeal wheat or other flour. Add a cooling raita of yoghurt and cucumber. A smashingly good lunch.
- Magic Little Meals, by Lolo Houbein and Tori Arbon (Wakefield Press); RRP $49.95