By Jo Rittey


Cook books share infinitely more these days than just the ingredients and methods of the recipe books of days gone by. Chefs must be writers, poets, exquisite crafters of prose, capturing the shifting light of seasons, aromas, and memories. Lucky for us, the reader-slash-home cook, these superhuman beings exist to transport us through both word and flavour to other worlds.


Gill Meller is one such superhuman. Gill is the Head Chef at River Cottage, a food writer and stylist, and cookery teacher. Oh and he lives in a stone cottage in a small fishing village with his partner and two children and flies hawks. Of course he does His book, Gather, is almost lyrical in tone and shares Gill’s view of life, the landscape and food.


Featuring chapters on foods from Moorland (game and herbs), Garden (tomatoes, salads, soft fruits), Farm (pork, dairy, honey), Field (rye, barley, wheat, oats), Seashore (crab, seaweed, oysters), Orchard (apples, pears, blackcurrants), Harbour (fish and seafood) and Woodland (mushrooms, damsons, blackberries), Gill guides us through fairly simple recipes, often featuring only three or four ingredients, to celebrate the beautiful places they come from.


Gill starts his book by explaining his choice of title and the importance of the word, ‘gather’ to his approach in life. He sees is as a ‘hopeful; natural and very human’ concept, and the way he uses it, it is almost a call to action. A call to a more mindful way of cooking and eating; an appreciation of terroir, seasons and the pleasure of flavour.


Apart from the three recipes starring squirrel, (perhaps not readily available in Melbourne, although Gill does suggest alternatives such as pheasant, chicken or rabbit and there is something very Enid Blyton in the idea of cooking squirrel) recipes for damsons with sage, Camembert and cacao or venison stew with dumplings, or fish soup with tomatoes and star anise or crab apples in brown sugar and butter sound pretty tasty to me and the photography accompanying the recipes is sublime.


When you have Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall saying of Gill and his book, “just stunning. There’s no one I’d rather have cook for me than Gill – and there’s not a recipe in here I wouldn’t eagerly devour,” that pretty much says it all.



Hardie Grant Books

RRP $49.99



Jo has an exotic (kiwi) accent, loves good food and wine and has just a touch of the required culinary cynicism when it comes to the misuse of apostrophes and the hype over kale.



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