Book review: Lavender and Lovage by Karen Burns-Booth

Lavender and Lovage, subtitled ‘A Culinary Notebook of Memories and Recipes from Home and Abroad’, is the newly published cookbook by Karen Burns-Booth.

Disclosure: Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was sent a review copy of ‘Lavender and Lovage’. Neither the book’s author nor its publisher reviewed or approved this article.

The title of the book is also the name of Burns-Booth’s long-established and widely read blog. Lavender and Lovage is a food and travel website that recently received a makeover to its design. Karen has a large social media following and regularly posts the recipes that she has developed accompanied by food photographs that she has styled. Unsurprisingly then, the Lavender and Lovage book also features the author’s own images.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Delicious looking food photography

You’ll see photos of tempting homestyle food in the book; appealing dishes that look as if they could have been photographed shortly before a family sat down to a meal together. That’s indicative that recipes in Lavender and Lovage are of the type that even modestly talented cookery enthusiasts can successfully follow and cook. The recipes are for what you might term ‘real food’ rather than fancy, artful dishes which might satisfy aesthetics and keen Instagrammers but not a hungry people with healthy appetites.

Lavender and Lovage is a hardback book that runs to 396 pages. The introduction conveys the author’s passion for tasty, no-nonsense food made with quality, fresh ingredients. It also hints at the global influences that have influenced Burns-Booth’s palette and style of cooking; she has lived in South Africa, Hong Kong, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, France and North Wales. As a food and travel blogger she has had opportunities to traverse the globe and taste dishes that have inspired some of the 160 recipes that feature in this book.

The front cover of 'Lavender and Lovage: A Culinary Notebook of Memories and Recipes from Home and Abroad' by Karen Burns-Booth.
The front cover of ‘Lavender and Lovage: A Culinary Notebook of Memories and Recipes from Home and Abroad’ by Karen Burns-Booth.

Anecdotes about life and food

Anecdotes, titled memory snippets or taste snippets, intersperse chapters of Lavender and Lovage. These are written in the present tense and convey food-related thoughts.

The recipes are grouped into breakfasts and brunches, starters and snacks, main courses, salads and accompaniments, then pies, pasties and tarts, followed by puddings then scones, cakes and biscuits. The final sections hold recipes for preserves and sundry gems. The latter includes an opportunity to include the likes of the chilli chicken pasta with chorizo that’s a signature dish of the author’s daughter, frying pan pizza and poutine, that messy comfort food that offsets the impact of drink after boozy nights out in Montreal.

The mains, or ‘middlings’ as they are termed by Burns-Booth, are subdivided into seafood recipes, poultry and game dishes, meat-based ideas then vegetarian recipes. The introduction to Ah Yeung’s sweet and sour fish explains that it was one of Karen’s family’s favourite dishes when in Hong Kong (Ah Yeung was her Amah). Recipes throughout Lavender and Lovage include a few lines that explain where the author first encountered them, her personal attachment to dishes and aspects of their heritage.

Easy to follow recipes

The methods for cooking the dishes are lucidly broken down and look easy to follow. I’ve already earmarked a handful, including the BBQ pulled pork and First Nations ‘Indian tacos’, that I look forward to cooking. There’s also a handful from the northeast of England, including stotty cake (flat bread) and fast rascals (a type of indulgent scone), that I may be tempted to try.

Lavender and Lovage is a proper cookbook. Reading it made me want to head into the kitchen and cook.

Further information

Lavender and Lovage: A Culinary Notebook of Memories and Recipes from Home and Abroad (£) was published by Passageway Press on 13 November 2018 and is available via Amazon (£):


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