Like many of us, Gizzi Erskine has found an immense source of comfort in the joys of good food and cooking in the past eight months.
As well as indulging in comfort food whipped up in her own kitchen, the London-based chef used a rare opportunity to slow down, particularly in lockdown, to consider approaching food in a more sustainable way that is kinder to the environment, nature, our health and our budgets.
Now, Gizzi has incorporated that thinking into her new cookbook, Restore, an easy-to-follow guide to shopping, cooking and eating sustainably.
Through a wealth of trademark delicious and fulfilling recipes, she also offers a persuasive argument for finding ways to restore and achieve balance, not just in our cooking and health but also within agriculture and nature.
“We can’t ignore climate change and global warming. Restore is about nourishment; restoring our impact on the world, through regenerative agriculture (modern farming practices that reverse climate change and promote biodiversity) and shopping sustainably,” said Gizzi. “It’s also restoring our bodies and minds with the food we consume. I want people to realise they can do this easily and affordably.”
One way to reduce our food’s carbon footprint is shopping locally for fresh produce. Gizzi recommends affordable delivery boxes for people without access to independent food producers. Another is making ingredients from scratch, such as miso, stock, fish sauce and kimchi.
Gizzi added: “Brexit and the coronavirus crisis made me question my use of imported ingredients. I thought I should learn how to make these things like fish sauce and miso paste that I use daily in my cooking.
“Fermenting is one of my strong points. I have miso in the fridge that I made 18 months ago. It’s easy but takes a little extra effort. I’ve simplified the process in the book. Fermenting isn’t for everyone but I hope anyone who experimented with sourdough in lockdown gives it a try.”
Every recipe in Restore offers a way of thinking about, preparing and consuming dishes in a more sustainable manner. One example, says Gizzi, is Three Ways with Mexican Pinto Beans, a recipe P.S. readers can try for themselves. “It’s a classic braised bean dish to accompany pork or prawns but add some stock and it becomes a soup, or fry it off to make refried beans you can have in a taco. It’s all about making one dish go further.”
Using animal products sparingly is equally key. The book celebrates cooking meat in ways that use less but impart more rich flavour, such as roasts, braises and stews. Gizzi said: “I’m a meat eater but I don’t want to be absent-minded about it. The only way we can justify eating animal products, including eggs, fish and dairy, is to do so sparingly with an awareness of how they are produced, from both an animal welfare and an environmental perspective.”
Gizzi mastered her trade at the prestigious Leiths School of Food and Wine in London. She has fronted cookery shows including Channel 4’s Cook Yourself Thin and Iron Chef, and penned six popular cookbooks.
Writing proved a welcome distraction from the pandemic and its impact on the hospitality industry. In March, Gizzi had to abandon her dream venture of a pop-up restaurant.
“It was devastating. We got an amazing review from a top food critic two days after we closed. Maybe we will do it again.”
However, she has also been developing Giz n Green, a pizza pop-up with Stephen Manderson, also known as chart-topping rapper, Professor Green. “It’s going brilliantly,” said Gizzi. “We sold 1,700 pizzas through a recent pop-up and are looking at becoming a delivery brand but with high-end, environmentally friendly products affordable for everyone.”
She hopes one positive outcome from an uncertain year will be a greater willingness among people to focus on where their food comes from.
“Right now, I can’t stop eating all the things I shouldn’t be eating, which is carbs and cream and butter but part of the joys of life are being able to eat whatever you like. It’s understanding how it’s grown or where it comes from. It’s not a lifestyle change but reprogramming how we respect nature and the animals that make up our food system. And giving yourself a bit of love through food.”
Restore by Gizzi Erskine, HQ, £25, out November 26.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe