Gizzi Erskine’s new cookbook is all about investing time in the kitchen and using the best ingredients. ELLA WALKER and find out more
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 is “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.
Gizzi’s food is “techniquebased 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 cloud-like 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.
“Yes, it might take you an afternoon to learn how to make fresh pasta or fresh noodles, or to make a proper stock, but what you get out of that is something that tastes so much better and is so much better for you,” says an unapologetic Gizzi.
Slowing things down, she notes, is a way to better become “at one” with your ingredients, their heritage, their properties and culinary possibilities.
Essentially, she’s not going to dumb-down cooking for you, 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.”
Gizzi is 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,”
Gizzi admits, “but also, if we want to make a difference in the world, we all need to start cutting back on (industrially farmed) meats.
“If we understand how food is grown,” she adds, “we might think differently about how we utilise it as an ingredient.”
Despite a stint as a professional body-piercer, Gizzi cannot remember a time she didn’t cook (“There’s pictures of me as a baby with bowls in front of me, stirring things”), and spent a lot of her time in Asia as a child, due to her mother’s work in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I got to eat as much Asian food as I could. That’s probably where I learnt to cook,” she remembers.
Gizzi trained at Leiths Cookery School (it’s often noted that she came top of her class) before landing a BBC Good Food internship, and going on to host cookery programmes like Cook Yourself Thin on Channel 4.
She’s also worked in professional kitchens, such as St John Bread & Wine.
Having launched two new businesses this year – her Mare Street Market restaurant/deli and Pure Filth, her veggie burger joint – and written Slow, her plan now is to not “spread myself too thin”.
“I want to get it all right: I want to be good at business, I want to get better as a cookery writer, I want to keep enjoying myself and doing what I love,” she says seriously. “I want to be really good at my job.”
Louis Roederer NV Brut Premier in Magnum (£85, or £63.72 in a buy six deal at Majestic). Louis Roederer also won Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2018. High five, also, to Cornwall’s Camel Valley Vineyard for winning the Best English Sparkling Wine 2018 category for Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2015 (£29.99, waitrosecellar.com).
For the full list of winners go to champagnesparklingwwc.co.uk
■ Jane is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers. Find her on social media and online as One Foot in the Grapes.
Chef and TV presenter Gizzi Erskine left, whose new book, Slow, is out now
Slow (left) by Gizzi Erskine, photography Issy Croker, is published by HQ, priced £25.