Eat meat in a consciously sound way
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Chef Gizzi Erskine talks Ella Walker through her new cookbook, Restore, and her hopes for a food revolution.
Cookbooks take time to write. There’s recipe testing to perfect, measurements to clarify, photos to style and snap.
With Restore, chef Gizzi Erskine’s latest cookbook, she also had to keep pace with science – a high speed, ever-changing avalanche of the stuff. After four years of work, the result is both a recipe collection and, she hopes, “an accessible translation of what the hell’s going on in the world at the moment”.
Restore: A Modern Guide to Sustainable Eating, encompasses dinner, but also the food industry and its myriad problems, all the while drawing on environmental and agricultural science.
Erskine’s last cookbook Slow, had its foundations in the slow food movement, in line with a growing public awareness around good produce and making the best of ingredients, but it came before wider conversations around farming practices and the intrinsic relationships between food and planet.
“When you’re battling trying to keep up with something that, suddenly, has gone from being a quite slow progressive movement to suddenly, bosh! There’s so much to learn,” she buzzes. “We filed this book four months ago and I’m already like, ‘Oh, there’s still so much to say!’”
A huge amount of research has gone into it, and although “produce has always been what gives me thrills,” the crux of Restore is finding a balance between “really delicious recipes and making a practical guide for learning how to be an ethical, agriculturally savvy eater”.
Alongside recipes for lamb neck stew, salt-baked celeriac, black pepper crab and cauliflower pasta, London-born Erskine (41) examines the environmental concerns around monocropping, explores how to work with waste, and addresses issues within the meat and dairy industries.
“I’m a meat eater, but I’m really a consciously minded one,” she explains. “I believe that people go out to be more like this nowadays, but I think meat has got such a bad reputation; people don’t recognise that it is probably the thing that’s going to save the world.
“It might not be what everyone wants to hear, but let’s not forget that over 80 per cent of this country are meat eaters. It’s still the priority here, so if we’re going to eat meat, let’s do it consciously, in an agriculturally sound way, that avoids wasting lives.”
While the book has many a vegan and vegetarian recipe in it, Erskine does take umbrage with the idea “we’ve been sold that the only solution is veganism, or eating a plant-based diet,” when this too would likely have its own agricultural repercussions.
“It’s about understanding where your food has come from, and what’s been involved in getting it to your plate.”
Restore by Gizzi Erskine is published by HQ, priced £25. Available November 26.