Roz Purcell’s basic food philosophy is summed up in the subtitle to this, her first book: whole foods for a whole life. Readers of her blog will be familiar with her approach to eating – cooking from scratch using natural ingredients and avoiding processed foods. And this book showcases that approach in even greater detail, with over 170 recipes for everything from smoothies to pancakes and beetroot-and-basmati burgers to hummus.
The book is beautifully designed and produced, the recipes clearly laid out and complemented by stunning photography. Most of the recipes are dairy and gluten free, paleo and vegan, and for those that aren’t she frequently offers alternatives or suggestions on how they can be adapted for different dietary needs. On first glance, there are quite a few ingredients that are unlikely to be staples in the average store cupboard; however, many of these more unusual ingredients are used in several recipes, so if you were to invest in them, you’d have no problem using them up.
The book is divided into several sections, from drinks to salads and mains to sweet treats and sports snacks, and everything in between. And I think it’s in these less obvious categories that the book’s greatest strength lies. It’s not difficult to find inspirational healthy dinner recipes, but nutritious snacks, desserts and sides are far harder to come by – especially ones that look and sound appetising.
What we cooked
As part of an ongoing effort to encourage my children to try new, healthier foods, I let them decide what to make. As a spin on a Saturday-night staple, spiced chicken legs were a resounding success – marinated overnight in yogurt and a mixture of sweet and savoury spices and roasted till crispy, they were meltingly tender, smoky and wonderfully sticky (and just as good cold the next day).
For dessert, they chose the made-over toffee pops. There are a few stages to these but they were worth it. They’re significantly less sweet than their packaged counterparts, but a lot more substantial – one goes a long way towards satisfying a biscuit craving. They’re a great example of something being more than the sum of its parts – the almond biscuit base, date caramel centre and chocolate topping are fairly basic on their own, but together they make a complex, filling and very tasty treat.
This is a handsome and practical book, perfect for anyone who wants to move towards a healthier diet, away from processed and packaged foods. It would also work really well for those on restricted diets or with gluten or dairy allergies. The sheer range and variety of recipes will ensure plenty of choice for anyone who feels limited by their dietary needs. This is not really a how-to book, so some familiarity with various cooking and baking techniques would be a help.
However, baking aside, most dishes will be very forgiving and are adaptable to what you might have or prefer to use. And now, when we are ever more conscious of the health implications of what we are eating, a book like this, full of natural, tasty and enticing dishes, shows that changing how we eat doesn’t mean consigning ourselves to bland fare but rather reveals a whole new world of tastes.
Natural Born Feeder: Whole Foods, Whole Life by Roz Purcell, Gill Books, February 2016.