5 January 2023 · Author Profile
Seasonal Salads by Fi Buchanan is published by Kitchen Press on January 5th 2023. The book, including 52 salad recipes to see you through every week of the year, is available in full on ckbk. We spoke to Fi about the year round joys of the salad bowl...
People often think of salads as a summer thing - how would you change their mind?
The great thing about salads is that they’re simple to make delicious at any time of year. In Autumn and Winter we crave the fresh dark chlorophyll greens of cavolo nero and kale, tart apples, smokey bacon, nuts and seeds to give the vibrant edge to the soups and stews of everyday life. Honestly, a salad can be anything you want it to be, just put together what’s fresh and best in the season in a quick, delicious, way. In the cold months roasted vegetables, spicy rocket, and woody herbs are comforting and warming. In the spring soft juicy new sprung greens, fresh tangy goats cheese, and asparagus are all at their peak… In any season the world is your salad bowl.
What can you tell us about the (much missed) Heart Buchanan Café and Deli and its menu - what’s your overall approach to cooking?
It was an idea I had borne of a total love for fresh ingredients, good wine, and a need for really delicious home style meals that people could take home and heat themselves. I’d always loved the idea that people could bring their own dishes to us and we’d full them with dauphinoise or casserole and they could collect them after work ready for home. We made terrines, and bread, celebrated Scottish cheese, and filled the shelves with the best store cupboard ingredients. People very kindly took us to their hearts and we were grateful to see them and made so many friends. It’s been closed for more than ten years now but people still stop me to say hi, or drop me a line asking for a recipe or to cook for their parties.
The approach to cooking at Heart Buchanan is the same approach I have now; what looks good in the market? What can we get best value for money from? What’s seasonal, and local, and really really tasty? That’s what I’ll be cooking.
Do many of the salads in the book have their origins at the café?
Heart Buchanan had a completely different menu every single day of its ten year life, but seasonality and focus on flavour was at the heart of it, and is at the heart of all the recipes in this book. I should say that we had an incredible team of chefs and experts behind the counter in Heart Buchanan and they were a huge part of guiding what we did.
Do you miss the buzz of being in the café kitchen? What have you been up to since?
I miss the people I worked with and the customers, but it was hard work, I think I averaged a 90 hour working week for ten years and I loved it at the time but I don’t miss it. Since then I’ve worked with American corporate giant Whole Foods Market, presented a TV series for BBC2, done a TEDX talk, been working as a food stylist with the fantastic photographer Alan Donaldson, working as a home economist on films, and TV shows like Ready Steady Cook. Just now I am very happy writing and have a micro-bakery supplying a very select few people in the city.
You acted as a mentor on the BBC series TeenCanteen helping youngsters to become food entrepreneurs. How did that go?
It was a very steep learning curve and a gigantic amount of fun. The best part by far was working with the fifth and sixth year group from Linlithgow. People are quick to write off teenagers as moody or lazy but they were amazing. They had such great ideas, worked so hard, and were so damn funny.
You were Kitty Pemberton-Platt’s co-author for Eat, Bike, Cook (another book from Kitchen Press, also available in full on ckbk) . How did the collaboration process work for that book? And what did you learn from it? Are you cycling much these days?
I didn’t know Kitty before I started work on the book. It was her idea and I was asked by my publisher, Emily, to write up the recipes that Kitty’s contributors had mentioned in their diaries. I loved the idea of celebrating women in cycling, and women in sport in the broader sense, and it was a great fun project because I was learning so much from the contributors. Because of lockdown the first time I met Kitty face to face was at the book launch in London, but I felt like I knew her a bit through her incredible illustrations and our email exchanges, but I was blown away by her speech about her vision. Yes,I still cycle but not nearly as much as my son who can easily do a 40k route on a Sunday afternoon.
What are some of the most well-thumbed cookbooks on your shelf at home?
I have hundreds of cookbooks and I like them all in different ways but the first cookbook I ever bought was Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater and I return to it often.
My most recent purchase was Bad Girl Bakery [also available in full on ckbk] and I love it. It’s completely reliable and a great fun read too.
Is there any seasonal ingredient you especially look forward to and can’t wait to get your hands on?
I love them all, I’m a greedy soul so I’m always gasping for the next delicious thing of the year. Waiting for wild garlic in spring, our broad beans to grow fat in the pods, wild strawberries, the smell of apples in autumn… but the rarest treasures are chanterelles. They are so very strictly seasonal - they can’t be forced or faked - and they are so perfectly delicious.
It’s early January and things can be a bit gloomy - which winter salad from the book would you recommend to cheer us up?