My sister in law is a great cook. She gave her own well-thumbed and beloved copy of this book to my little brother, hoping it would help him learn to cook. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I needed it more so I just nicked it off him (I will give it back, promise). I think I would have been frightened of any other cookery classic but because its Nigella, it somehow makes cooking seem sexy and glamorous. Great pancake recipes and I adapted a separate Nigella recipe for chicken satay to make sticky squirrel satay sticks. (I feel sure she would approve.)
I love foraging for my own food in the wild and cooking it. It helps to have a book about your local flora and this one is the best. Fi includes photos and tips on identification, as well as recipes. The wild garlic pesto has become a tradition at family drinks parties but we have to warn the guests their breath will smell! I believe foraging is so popular at the moment because it makes people feel empowered. We are mostly in thrall to the supermarkets and what they choose to sell us. Foraging gives you an opportunity to do everything yourself. It forces you to take note of the seasons, your surroundings and wild flavours. If you want a more wide-ranging book try Richard Mabey’s Food for Free or look out for Tiffany Francis’s new book Food you can Forage.
My Dad gave me this for Christmas one year and it’s a great reference book if I want to recreate dishes from my childhood. Some of my favourite memories of food are my grandmothers’ cooking which tended to be simple Scottish fare: lamb broth, drop scones, fried herring, porridge and proper marmalade. Scotland has a reputation for bad food and we do have some fabulously unhealthy junk food. But we also have some of the best produce in the world and know the best ways to cook them. Because these recipes are historic, they tend to use ingredients in season at the same time, which is also useful.
I could not have spent two years only eating animals I killed myself without this book. I often turned to its pages to work out how to cut up and cook a particular animal. It was invaluable in cooking offal and more unusual cuts. It was also a bit of a psychological crutch. I had moments of real doubt about writing The Ethical Carnivore. The fact that one of my heroes and someone who has achieved so much had also taken part in meat production first-hand gave me great confidence – though I came to my own conclusions on my own terms.
My late mother was a keen cook and knew Rosamund Richardson, so it’s nice to have a connection to her through this book. It’s a beautifully illustrated compendium of recipes for making jams, pickles and chutneys with all the bounty of a British autumn. For me, making jam is the essence of home and hearth. It’s my favourite food and in my perfect world, which has not of course happened yet and probably never will, I will spend all my time making jam for my family and friends.
Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright
Like most people I have Deliciously Ella and Hemsley and Hemsley on my shelf, bought in an effort to be more virtuous. I seldom cook from them. Then, I was in Oxfam the other day and I saw Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson looking regal on a motorbike and I thought that’s who I want to teach me how to cook! As Clarissa says: ‘Never trust a thin cook’. Some of the recipes are hair-raising, such as the penis stew, but others look more appetising and they are all delivered with a fag in one hand and plenty of humour.
Janet Henderson was a friend of my Granny’s and a trail blazer in vegetarian cooking. She set up Henderson’s Wholefoods in Edinburgh at a time when vegetarian cooking was relatively unknown – certainly in Scotland. The recipes are rather old fashioned, but hearty. Dishes like vegetarian haggis with clapshot and milk loaf. Henderson’s has never changed, and I don’t want it to. Going there for a plate of salad and a walnut brownie on a rainy day in the New Town will always be a joy.
This book just feels like it is of its time. I didn’t even know it was vegetarian when I bought it, I just loved the the simplicity and accessibility. Unlike some of the vegetarian cooking I grew up with, this is all exciting and fresh and zings with bright colours and flavours. It is vegetarian and seasonal and ethical and all the buzzwords right now but it doesn’t need to shout about it. It makes you appreciate the vegetables and see the potential in a potato rather than thinking the meat has to be the centre of the dish. In the future I think that will be the norm for most cooking.
I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but there is no doubt that in general growing plants takes less energy than growing a cow. In a world where we are struggling to tackle climate change, eating less animal products is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. Vegan recipes can have a reputation for being bland and boring but not in the hands of Ms Marmite Lover. Kerstin is a passionate chef who puts lots of emphasis on beautiful, imaginative food. There are plenty of world flavours and variety. The watermelon stir-fry is surprisingly meaty.
I went to a talk by Sumayya recently and it transformed how I see Pakistan. It has opened up a world of spices and smells and peoples and landscapes I didn’t even know existed: Chickoos and falsa berries, whole chickens cooked in 24 spices and rose milkshake. It showed me the power of food writing to reach across cultures and help us understand and appreciate one another. It made it seem important and as a relative new comer to the scene, that was very important to me at the time. I am going to give it to my sister for her birthday (after I’ve cooked a few more of the recipes).
The Ethical Carnivore