One thing that excites me is getting to review books from other countries, because the aesthetic and approach to recipes can be so different. This stunning book is no exception: Gut Gastronomy: Revolutionise Your Eating to Create Great Health—based on the health regime at Grayshott Spa in the UK. The book didn’t just make me want to visit the spa. It made me want to live in the book.
The spa’s regime is focused first on healing the digestive tract. As I have been doing research for my migraine diet books, I have recently read a lot of books that focus on gut health. I was fascinated to see their approach. They report very good changes in health markers in clients after just one week on their plan, including “unexpected” weight loss. Their plan includes fermented foods, eliminating grains and most pulses (called legumes here), and dairy products. They encourage the consumption of healthy fats, good quality protein, organic fruits and vegetables, blanched (not raw) vegetables in salads to improve digestibility. Any nuts, seeds, or allowed legumes (lentils and split peas) are soaked for 24 hours. Finally, they cut alcohol while on the plan.
Layout and design:
The book begins with an introductory section that includes: how your body works, know what you’re eating, the food groups, fermented foods, protein-rich fasting broths, heal yourself with the 21-day plan, and taking it further. Recipe chapters include: breakfasts, soups, everyday meals, vegetable side dishes, salads, and special occasions. The book is hardcover, beautiful paper, large format (coffee table sized), and makes excellent use of typeface and white space. The book designer is Maggie Town.
Nearly every recipe features a full-color photograph by Lisa Linder, showcasing the beautiful food. Maeve Healy is listed as “production” which I think must be food styling. It’s the “light and bright” style of food photography, giving the entire book a clean, fresh feeling that’s perfectly in line with healthy spa food.
Recipes include five options for herbed finishing salts (including tangerine, cumin, fennel, and chipotle salt, and why each is healthful), six types of fermented foods (including Thai fermented napa), chicken and beef bone broth. Once you get into the recipe chapters, you realize that this gives you some truly unusual choices. The breakfast chapter kicks off with summer fruit en papillote, instructions on how to make homemade pancetta (takes two weeks), and beetroot horseradish and seed crackers. Soups that caught my eye included red lentil, apricot and preserved lemon soup with chermoula, and smokey aubergine soup with peach & green olives. Meals include porchetta with plum and fig chutney and roasted tamarind, chilli, ginger, & coriander chicken. Others include crisp lentil-coated crayfish cakes with coconut & mango. The special occasions chapter features fancier, more complex main dish recipes like king scallops with cauliflower, anchovy emulsion, and vierge dressing. Nearly all recipes are gluten-free, most are paleo, and many are suitable for the migraine diet (but you need to know your triggers).
What I liked about the book:
Exciting recipes. Truly. When you’ve reviewed as many cookbooks as I have at this point, it’s hard to imagine you’ll see anything new. I requested that I be able to keep this copy of the book (and will give another away) because, honestly, I want to challenge myself by trying some of these amazing-looking recipes. I liked their explanation of gut health and their approach to food and healing.
I wasn’t so keen on:
Recipes were not coded for special diets although nearly all are gluten-free; nutritional analysis is not provided, which would be helpful for low-sodium eaters.
paleo, vegetarians, celiac, gluten-free, dairy-free, and migraine diets—if you are knowledgable about your ingredients. Can be low-sodium if you adjust the recipes and use common sense.
Not recommended for:
A note about my cookbook reviews: In the past, I tested at least three recipes from each book, took photos, and described my experience. Due to my dietary limitations (extremely-low-sodium for my Meniere’s Disease and trigger-free foods for migraine relief), it is no longer possible for me to test the recipes and do them justice.