Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook

Sarah Raven (Bloomsbury, £30)

I can see that this will be one of my favourite cookbooks (as I own hundreds, this is a major accolade). The reason is that it works on so many levels: not only as a recipe book full of suggestions for really simple food, the sort that you want to cook after a day’s work, but it also considers the all-round pleasures of growing, cooking and eating. What are the best varieties of vegetable for flavour or for colour (red Brussels sprouts, purple French beans); how should food be presented (a green spoon is used for a full bowl of strawberries, different coloured courgettes make up a salad); and how does ambiance affect taste? She writes: ‘One of the best things I’ve ever eaten is a Doyenne de Comice pear with a slice of Gorgonzola sitting in the Madonna restaurant next to the Rialto Bridge in Venice.’ Perfect food, simplicity itself, ina perfect setting. We all have such memories.

Sarah Raven, yet another alumna of The River Café where she worked as a waitress, grows her own food, runs cookery and flower-arranging courses and has young children, and all of these skills are fully visible here. What is more, the photography by Jonathan Buckley, of both the vegetable garden and the dishes, along with a few family gatherings, is wonderful.

The whole design clear, elegant and thoughtful adds up to a book that will certainly become a much-loved family friend.