Mike McEnearney is an acclaimed Australian chef who pioneered the idea of a ‘physic garden.’ “What’s that,” you ask? Well, it’s an ancient style of medicinal garden that guides natural health such as muscular (ginger, tumeric) gastroenterological (dill, oregano), or neurological (lemon, verbene, chamomile) through the consumption of herbs and plants based on the season they grow.
Sounds fancy, right? It’s actually quite easy to understand once you realize many of the foods we eat every day contain just as many, if not more, natural remedies to combat all kinds of illnesses than the over-the-counter and prescription pills we have at the ready in our medicine cabinets.
While McEnearney doesn’t make any claims about being a doctor or nutritionist, his recipes are nothing short of amazing. As someone who’s struggled with a variety of health issues, I have to say that the recipes I tried in this book were impressive in both taste and how they made me feel after eating them. Each dish is easy to understand how to make, simple to prepare, and full of flavor.
This book gives an answer to people who say “healthy food is nice, but it takes too much time and effort to prepare.” McEnearney takes busy schedules into consideration and provides tips on how recipes can be prepared in advance (something I really appreciate, because I hate getting started making a recipe only to find out I had to have prepared five ingredients the night before).
SO, let’s get down to brass tacks about what’s in the book. There are over 100 recipes that range from breakfast and salad ideas, to more substantial main meal dishes, desserts, and even drinks and condiments!
I really like how each recipe is laid out- bright, colorful picture to one side, and a breakdown of: when the dish is seasonally available, what kind of dish it is, how many it will serve, a backstory of why it’s included in the book, and my favorite part, a “medicinal benefit rundown” at the bottom of the page that explains exactly what health benefits each ingredient offers.
How cool is that? Sometimes when I’m cooking I’ll look up nutritional benefits of a specific ingredient, but more often than not, I’ll just hope that as long as it’s not in a can or a box with a million ingredients, it’s healthy. This book takes the guesswork out of that which is really nice if you’re thumbing through the pages and looking for something specific.
For recipe tests, I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so here’s what I made:
Coconut Bread with Blackberry Butter (p. 21)
This is a sugar and gluten free recipe, so if you’re looking to try new “bread” option, I’d give this a go! I didn’t give the recipe the right baking soda/vinegar ratio the first time I made it, so my bread turned out a little dense. The second time I made it, I paid more attention to my ratios and it turned out much more “bread-like”…so if you eye-ball your measurements, be sure to pay particular attention to how the raising agent comes together in this recipe.
The blackberry butter was really fun to make and super easy to store and use later on pancakes and crackers. In addition to being a cholesterol-friendly dish, the berries add anti-inflammatory qualities that boost the immune system and help with blood clotting.
Mango, Avocado, Lime & Lentil Salad (p. 33)
This is the perfect dish to make for a picnic or an on-the-go office lunch. It’s super easy to make-you literally toss all of the ingredients together. I will say though, this is one of those recipes you have to prepare an ingredient ahead of time. The lentils are best soaked over-night, but once you have those ready, everything else can be put together in a matter of minutes!
This dish had a lot of flavor and many different textures (mangoes, olives, arugula, lentils, etc.). It’s great on it’s own, or could be really nice alongside a filet of fish or chicken.
Asparagus, Peas, and Chamomile with Ricotta (p. 190)
Again, another very easy to prepare dish that packs a punch! The dish is so bright and light I’d serve it as a main dish (if you’re looking for a vegetable-forward meal), or as a side with something else. The chamomile dressing is something I’d never tried before, but I learned in the book that in addition to being an anti-inflammatory, it’s also really good for treating fevers, colds, and stomach ailments.
Overall, I really enjoyed the pace of this book. It has lots of different options, so you’ll be sure to please both your carnivore and vegetarian friends. More than the recipes, I think this is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about the healing qualities of food and how important sustainability and in-season ingredients are. McEnearney says in the book’s introduction that he wanted to “tie together the idea of ‘food’ and ‘medicine’…(to) guide you towards a more natural and sustainable way of nourishing and healing yourselves. I’d say he’s done just that and so much more.
I’d recommend this book to everyone, but especially those with health issues that may or may not be remedied with medication. This book offers so many different options to help deal with everything from fatigue and stress to heart disease and muscle growth, I’d say it’s an excellent resource to have in the kitchen.
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Score Card: Cover Art 4.5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Book Stats: Title- Real Food by Mike | Seasonal wholefood recipes for wellbeing | by Mike McEnearney
Page Count- 424
Binding-Reinforced softcover (color photography and recipes inside)
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.