JUNE 25, 2019


Cookbook Review: Whole by Natural Harry

Down-to-earth plant-based wholefood recipes by Harriet Birrell

If your cooking passion tends towards wholefood recipes, as it certainly does for food blogger and lifestyle entrepreneur Harriet Birrell, it would be hard to conceive of a more engaging and creative presentation to take a look through than Whole by Natural Harry (Hardie Grant 2019). Rustic Australian seaside lifestyle meets an energetic next step in whole food daily eating in this consistently thematic cookbook by the pen-named Natural Harry.

The subtitle of Whole, “Down-to-earth plant-based wholefood recipes” is more than a little fitting for, as Harry tells us in the intro, most of these recipes were inspired by a four week long camping trip “on the shores of Fortescue Bay, enclosed by a wild Tasmanian coastline” where she and ‘Frase’ had nothing more than a “small stove, a knife and a chopping board… In getting back to basics in the Tassie wilderness I unknowingly created a new book.” It was here that Harry learned to “depend on food as close to its natural state as possible and look after yourself. But don’t be a goose about it!”

Between the sharp Australian slang, ever-present outdoor eating, and the creative insertions of natural ingredients such as plenty of tofu, miso, coconut aminos, and nutritional yeast, Whole isn’t quite like any other cookbook. It begins with the chapter “Brekkie” (breakfast) and introduces us to, among many other substantial recipes, the “Brekkie Bikkies Three Ways” (bikkies are the “ultimate breakfast in a biscuit”). These include rolled porridge, ripe bananas, tahini, shredded coconut, dates, and frozen blueberries. It’s all about understanding the nutritional value underneath the finished product in these natural recipes. The oats, she tells us, hold iron, fiber, magnesium and zinc as well as being higher in protein and fat than other grains. The chapter also includes “Spicy Tofu Scramble” sided by avocado, another ever-present ingredient, which in a later recipe is placed over hash browns, a creation Harry invented in a pinch without toast available.

Consider the “BBQ Tempeh Buddha Bowl” from the bowls chapter; the “Zucchini & Pumpkin Slice” in the mains chapter; and finally, the “Purple Sweet Potato & Vanilla Popsicles” in the sweet chapter, and you get a good sense for the many experiments that likely went into assembling this book. The results are recipes that always offer something bright and something new but with down to earth roots.

Try this exercise:

Want to start food writing, but aren’t sure where to start? Consider turning your cookbook collection into a series of brief cookbook reviews. Evaluate the entirety of the cookbook, paying attention to the recipes, but also how it is put together, how it looks, and how well the cookbook captures themes, trends, and interests. See if you can write your review in 500 words or fewer—this will force you to zero in on the most important aspects of the book. Publish your reviews in a blog or on social media to share with friends, or keep them to yourself for future reference and as writing practice. The more you write about them, the more you’ll start to see your cookbooks in a whole new way and appreciate them for more than just the recipes.