Chef Gizzi Ersk­ine tells why good cook­ing re­quires proper tech­nique

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FOOD -

Gizzi Ersk­ine is not into fast recipes, or ‘easy’ ones, for that mat­ter. Don’t ex­pect cor­ner-cut­ting tricks and 10-minute meals with this new recipe col­lec­tion. In fact, she’s of the mind that, if you’re go­ing to eat a crab, you ought to know how to buy one fresh, crack it open prop­erly, and un­hook the creamy flesh your­self. It’s this style of cook­ing — in­vest­ing time, en­ergy, care, at­ten­tion — that’s “how I gen­uinely get my thrills”, ex­plains the 39-year-old chef and TV pre­sen­ter.

So, if you’re al­ways in a hurry, the Lon­don-based food writer’s new cook­book, Slow, might not be on your ‘must-read’ list — although it ought to be.

Ersk­ine’s food is “tech­nique-based and in­gre­di­ents-led”, mean­ing Slow is laden with dishes that re­quire a lit­tle more ef­fort than hun­grily snatch­ing at the near­est avail­able sup­per. “What I re­ally love to do is sit around a crock pot or a lovely roast — a dish that’s been in the oven for a re­ally long time,” she ex­plains. “Ev­ery­one sits to­gether, shoul­der-to-shoul­der, with glasses of wine, help­ing each other serve.”

Within the book, you’ ll find a sticky ox­tail stew and salt-baked sea bass, Pol­ish go­labki (stuffed cab­bage leaves), pas­tries and cloud­like le­mon pud­dings, as well as hand-pulled noo­dles and a rich lamb hot­pot. It’s struc­tured around process, the aim al­ways be­ing to cook meat so lux­u­ri­antly that it falls from the bone with barely a nudge.

Es­sen­tially, she’s not go­ing to dumb-down cook­ing, but that doesn’t mean her food is out of reach: “I want peo­ple to be chal­lenged. Of­ten, we’re told we’re not ca­pa­ble when we are, we are all ca­pa­ble to do any­thing we want.”

She’s in­ter­ested in the slow grow­ing of foods too. Not in­ter­fer­ing in terms of an­tibi­otics be­ing given to en­hance an­i­mals, or pes­ti­cides be­ing ap­plied to crops, as well as the cook­ing of them — prove­nance and qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents, she says, is cru­cial.

“I want peo­ple to un­der­stand that to make the best food, you have to have the best in­gre­di­ents,” she notes.

But Slow isn’t de­signed to be “wor­thy” or to make you feel bad. “I’m very, very aware of the im­pli­ca­tions of money on bet­ter qual­ity food,” Ersk­ine ad­mits, “but also, if we want to make a dif­fer­ence in the world, we all need to start cut­ting back on in­dus­tri­ally farmed meats.”

De­spite a stint as a pro­fes­sional body-piercer, Ersk­ine can­not re­mem­ber a time she didn’t cook and she spent a lot of her time in Asia as a child, due to her mother’s work in Bangkok.

“I got to eat as much Asian food as I could. That’s prob­a­bly where I learnt to cook,” she re­mem­bers. “Me and my mum will eat any­thing, and we’d clear off and go to the mar­kets and eat all the seafood.”

It was a bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “My mum al­ways said to me when I was younger, ‘You’re so good, you eat ev­ery­thing’, and that pushed me to eat.” The flip side to that is the sat­is­fac­tion Ersk­ine now gets from feed­ing oth­ers.

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