The Real Food companion is like having a food encyclopedia. Written by Mathew Evans, a writer, farmer and chef, it combines his decades worth of knowledge of food, from farm to table. In his author’s note he notes that he wrote this book because he wants people to have a good knowledge of food. “In challenging times, food comforts. In happy times it uplifts and sustains,” he writes.
Food brings us together and cooking gives us time to pause. His incredible food companion teaches you just about everything you can hope to learn about food. Reading it, because it must be read, not skimmed like an ordinary cookbook, makes you want to pack it all up and move to a farm where you can grow your own food and make everything from scratch. The book is divided into sections – dairy, grains, poultry and eggs, meat, seafood, produce, wild food and sweet food. He speaks about sustainability, not in a preachy or all or nothing way, but in a way that imparts with you the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced. It’s food education.
I love the random facts I learnt about food and the understanding on food I walked away with. It’s a resource that I see myself coming back to time and time again and one I’d recommend to anyone who wants to understand the food they consume and how to make better choices. The goal he shares is to have as little degrees of separation as possible between where your food is grown and your plate. Each extra degree of separation means less fresh and further away from whole.
Weaved within this truly educational guide to food are recipes – simple, homely, moreish recipes that feel true to the farmer-chef Mathew is. There is his mother’s cheese biscuits, scones, chicken soup and a grilled grapefruit recipe that brought me back to my grandparents breakfast room (although I decidedly prefer my grapefruit cold without sugar).
I’m sharing the recipe for piperade because I loved the sound of it. He describes it as a stewed pepper with egg stirred through it. It originates in the Basque region of Spain and on making it I’ve decided it’s the Spanish version of a shakshuka.
Piperade from The Real Food Companion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 red pepper seeded, membrane removed and chopped
- 1 green pepper seeded, membrane removed and chopped
- 400 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2 eggs lightly whisked
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat and fry the parsley with the onion for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
- Add the peppers and fry for a further 15 minutes, or until lightly coloured.
- Add the tomato, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the oregano, cook for 1-2 minutes longer, then pour the eggs, removing the pan from the heat and stirring as you do so. The sauce should thicken slightly; if it reboils it will curdle.
- Serve the piperade on slices of crusty bread that has first been grilled and drizzled with a touch of olive oil.