When you think of eating well, often the assumption is that it goes hand-in-hand with eating restrictively. For Gizzi Erskine though, the key to making Britain eat in a way that’s more nurturing for both our bodies and our planet lies in making the process satisfying.
“To ‘restore’ ourselves is not how we live anymore,” she writes, in the introduction to her latest tome, Restore. “Imbalance is rife. Most people’s modern mode of living involves excessive calorie consumption, wildly beyond what’s essential for our survival.
“Accepting that change starts at home can be overwhelming, devastating and depressing for anyone with any joie de vivre, but it doesn’t mean that we have to lead this incredibly staunch, colourless or bland life. If anything, it’s the opposite: when we look into food production and the reality of what it means to eat more sustainably we are in fact offered a pretty bountiful plate.
“There are some incredible food producers in this country and our seasons deliver an abundance of wonderful ingredients. Yes, eating in a ‘restorative’ way takes consideration, forming new habits, and stepping away from conveniences, but it can also be creative, fun and delicious.”
Today, in an exclusive preview ahead of the book’s publication on November 26, Erskine shares three comforting, satisfying recipes that prove restoration is a long way from deprivation…
“One of my breakthroughs was bringing attention to Korean food in the UK back in about 2007.
“While working as a chef in NYC, I’d hit Koreatown in my downtime with my mates, drink ice-cold beers and eat Korean fried chicken. Koreatown was open late, and you could go from restaurant to karaoke bar eating and drinking yourself into a stupor. I fell in love with Korean food there, and fell in love with the culture five years later when I first visited Korea, later moving there to film my TV show Seoul Food.
“I’m certain that the popular ‘buddha bowl’ has Korean culinary heritage, as it’s similar to a dish called ‘bibimbap’. In a bibimbap bowl, rice is topped with vegetables, meat (optional), egg yolk and a spicy sauce. It is quite refined – you can’t say that about a lot of Korean food – and is cooked in a searing hot cast-iron pot which is oiled before adding the rice; the vegetables and egg (and meat, if using) are swiftly put on top. By the time the rice gets to the table it has a fantastic caramelised crust that you peel away from the pot and you stir-fry everything at the table. It’s real theatre.
“Fear not if you don’t have cast-iron pots – you can eat it like Hawaiian poke, in a bowl with hot rice. Bibimbap is delicious, healthy and a great way to tackle a fridge forage. I’ve used traditional toppings, but do play around with seafood, tofu and different veg: the only mainstays are the rice, egg yolk and sauce.”
200g sushi rice
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 courgette, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, finely julienned
6 spring onions, shredded
100g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 corn on the cob
2 free-range egg yolks
300g rump steak, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp black or white toasted sesame seeds, to serve
For the sauce:
6 tbsp gochujang
2 tbsp Korean or Japanese soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
1½ tbsp caster sugar
1. Put the rice and water in a large saucepan with a good pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Take off the heat and steam (lid on) for ten minutes.
2. Gently heat the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan until emulsified. Set aside.
3. Mix together the sesame and sunflower oils. Heat a large wok or frying pan over a high heat, add a tablespoon of the oil mix and add half the spinach with a pinch of salt. Cook briefly until wilted, then remove and drain on kitchen paper, squeezing out any liquid. Repeat with the remaining spinach.
4. Add another splash of oil and briefly fry the courgette until golden. Remove and set aside. Repeat this process with the carrot, beansprouts, spring onions and shiitake mushrooms. 5.Rub the sweetcorn cob with oil, salt and pepper, then brown in the pan until the kernels start to char.
5. Heat two stone bibimbap dishes, or a wok on the hob, until smoking hot. Place the stone dishes, if using, on a heatproof surface. Brush the insides of the dishes or hot wok with the remaining oil and add the rice. Group vegetables around the edge, put the raw meat in the middle, then the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the sauce for each serving. Top with sesame seeds. Mix the sauce into the rice at the table with a spoon.
Roasted cauliflower, preserved lemon and chilli pasta
“Why have I never put cauliflower in any pasta dishes before? It’s not like it doesn’t make sense to put cauliflower cheese with pasta?!
“The first time I saw anyone do it in a way that piqued my interest was when cookery writer Rosie Birkett made this lovely roasted cauliflower pasta with preserved lemons. I have messed around with a few different recipes, but there’s something in the way the salty, sour and bitter lemons react with the cauliflower and acidulated, silky cheese sauce that give it the adult flare that makes it so special, so well done Rosie for making this a thing!
“I roast cauliflower leaves for this dish: they are so sweet and delicious, and have a satisfying texture.”
1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets, and the inner leaves
100ml olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for roasting the cauliflower
40g rye bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
250g ditali pasta, macaroni, mezzi rigatoni or orecchiette
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 dried chilli, crushed
3 free-range egg yolks
200g sour cream
80g Parmesan, grated
A large handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
2 preserved lemons, pips removed and skin thinly sliced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven as hot as it can go (about 260°C / 240°C fan/gas mark 10).
2. Spread the cauliflower florets and leaves on a baking tray and drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a teaspoon of salt, then mix with your hands so that all the cauliflower is evenly coated in the oil. Place in the roasting-hot oven for 15 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned, even slightly charred .
3. Once the cauliflower’s in the oven, heat half the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and fry for about four minutes until crisp and golden, then transfer to kitchen paper to drain off excess oil and keep them crispy. Set aside.
4. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of well-salted boiling water for a couple of minutes less than the time stated on the packet (you will finish cooking it with the sauce).
5. While the pasta’s cooking, heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan with the garlic and chilli and cook gently for five minutes, until softened. Set aside.
6. Drain the pasta, reserving 100ml of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pan.
7. Whisk the egg yolks, cream and Parmesan together in a bowl. Place the pasta pan back over a medium heat and stir in the egg mixture, followed by the garlic and chilli oil, parsley, preserved lemon, lemon zest and a generous pinch of black pepper. Mix well over the heat for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, check for seasoning and stir through the roasted cauliflower. Serve immediately, with the breadcrumbs sprinkled on top and, if you’re like me, an extra grating of Parmesan.
Garbage pail cookies
An homage to Momofuku Milk Bar
“This is a great way to use up not only Easter eggs, chocolate drops or forgotten chocolate at the back of the cupboard, but also other miscellaneous snacks – anything from pretzels and ready-salted crisps, cereal and oats to Turkish delight and marshmallows. You can pretty much put whatever you want in these.
“I can’t take glory for the recipe: a Momofuku pastry chef called Christina Tosi had this brilliantly useful and witty idea years and years ago, and this is my variation on it. I wanted to share the concept with you all.”
Makes about 28 cookies
250g light muscovado sugar
120g golden granulated sugar
250g butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1 free-range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
500g combination of any of the following, including at least 150g chocolatey things:
mixed chocolate or caramels marshmallows/dried fruit
rice crispies/cornflakes/any cereal/ pretzels/ready-salted crisps
nuts, such as peanuts or hazelnuts
1. Cream together both the sugars with the butter using an electric handheld whisk, or a food processor fitted with the whisk attachment. Once it has become pale and creamy, add the egg and the vanilla extract and continue mixing for about five minutes.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt then add to the butter and sugar mixture and continue to mix until well combined.
3. Now add the ingredients of your choice, making sure that whatever you decide to use, the final weight comes to 500g: you can use any combination of flavours and textures you like and have to hand. It’s best to mix them into the dough with your hands so as not to break the dough up too much. When everything is well distributed, wrap the dough in cling film or greaseproof paper and put in the fridge to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/l80°C fan/gas mark 6 and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
5. Unwrap the dough and mould it into about 28 x 50g balls. Put a few dough balls, well spaced out, on the lined baking trays (the cookies do spread quite a lot while cooking, so you may need to bake them in batches). Bake in the oven for seven or eight minutes, until they have begun to turn slightly golden but are still quite soft.
6. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool briefly before eating (they are irresistible warm, with a glass of cold milk). They keep well in an airtight container for a few days.
Recipes taken from Restore by Gizzi Erskine, available November 26 and published by HQ (£25). Buy your copy here.