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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Abundant Kitchen by Niva and Yotam Kay

Perhaps it’s because I am putting my hand up for them... but it seems to me that books, films, emails and newsletters stemming from permaculture are everywhere I look at the moment. The international movement of permaculture began in Tasmania, just like me, and it remains an ongoing interest. Which is just as well, because the inundation continued this morning when this stunning book arrived by courier.

Only yesterday I was watching a short film about the permaculture movement’s co-founder, David Holmgren. I forwarded it to my oldest daughter, who attended his course at Melliodora, Victoria. But I suspect this book will be destined for an extended sleepover next door at the other daughter’s place, because there is hardly a day that goes by when she is not making a pickle, preserve or ferment. And this wonderful tome is touted as a fermenting bible.

If, like me, you have an interest in permaculture, as well as growing and preserving foods, this is the book for you. And from the outset it is just as likely that you will find aspects of the story familiar. Vague associations might surface. I traced my vague recall to a Country Calendar which featured the authors. I remembered that the pair – originally from Israel - began a small garden at the home of former Green Party co-leader, the late Jeanette Fitzsimons and her husband Harry Parke. Jeanette was someone who always walked the talk. Her former home, Pākaraka Farm, is a 215 acre off-grid paradise in the Kauaeranga Valley, with 180 acres in regenerating native bush. The balance is used for mixed agro-ecological projects that include the market garden developed by Yotam and Niva. If my memory serves me correctly, the pair initially worked at Pākaraka Farm as Wwoofers (World Wide Organization of Organic Farms) in exchange for accommodation and food, which led to the planting of the garden. Two years ago, at the 2021 Organic NZ Awards, their efforts at Pākaraka Permaculture were rewarded with the Organic Farmer of the Year Award. There has also been a TED Talk and, of course, the predecessor to this book The Abundant Garden, with which many readers will be familiar.

But let’s finally cut to the chase and talk about what can be expected from this companion title: The Abundant Kitchen. For just a start, the book contains 100 step-by-step recipes for creating time-honoured pickles, preserves and ferments, which are otherwise known to the already initiated as superfoods. These foods, many of which are not only delicious but also health giving, are known to improve overall health by assisting the gut biome to thrive, while offering nutrient-dense accompaniments to everyday foods.

You’ll find familiar recipes the pair enjoyed at the tables of their grandparents, like dill cucumbers, beside the more unusual ones like whole pickled radish. Then there are the delicious, nutritious drinks like Beet Kvass and Herb Kombucha. There are recipes for pickled onions and pickled olives, home-made yoghurts, vinegars and breads. There are plenty of recipes for derivatives of sourdough starters, but also for a fermented buckwheat bread similar to one the next door daughter has been making of late, which is a great easier to make, and gluten-free, to boot.

If I sound enthusiastic it’s because I am. Enthralled might be a better word, actually. I am always enamoured of a good recipe book, but especially so when it is beautifully illustrated and full of wonderful foods that are home-grown and health-giving.

This book would make a wonderful life-affirming book for someone you love.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Allen and Unwin


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