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‘There's real joy in looking forward to an ingredient’– MasterChef finalist celebrates seasons and love for food in new book

By Federica Stefani

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Inverness-born Sarah Rankin is celebrating the launch of her new cookbook Kith next week (April 18).
Inverness-born Sarah Rankin is celebrating the launch of her new cookbook Kith next week (April 18).

It is not uncommon, for those who enjoy cooking, to go into a bookshop, spot a beautifully designed cookbook, slightly salivate at the sight of the recipes and take it home with the promise, in your head, that you’ll make time to recreate them at home.

Yet, many of these beautiful volumes are now left on a shelf or hidden in a cabinet, flicked through at times – but transformed into part of the home decor rather than a tool to improve our and our diners’ lives.

However, the day I received my copy of Kith, I was already trying out one of the recipes in the book within less than half an hour. Lack of time and excitement meant my crispy poached eggs were nothing like those in the picture – but I had the feeling that I would soon go back to some of these approachable yet delicious-looking recipes.

Gorse panna cotta. Picture: Katie Pryde.
Gorse panna cotta. Picture: Katie Pryde.

“I wanted the book to be full of really useful information, what I would have liked to have when I was learning to cook myself,” explained Sarah Rankin, the Invernessian home cook who took MasterChef by storm in 2022 making it to the final stage, and who is now crowning her dream of publishing her first cookbook.

“I'm not a classically trained chef,” she explained.

“I am self-taught, and everything I've learned, I've learned from my mom or from reading and practising myself.

“I think it's just about letting people know you don't have to slavishly just adhere to a recipe, but encouraging them just to cook and get into the way of cooking things from scratch and being adventurous and flexible with it.”

Wild garlic soup. Picture: Katie Pryde.
Wild garlic soup. Picture: Katie Pryde.

The result is a cookbook that flows like a friendly conversation taking the reader through 100 recipes and some very useful basic tips.

Kith – a Scottish word identifying friends and acquaintances - celebrates Scottish flavours, seasonality, local producers and the joy of cooking for those you love.

“A lot of the recipes are what my mum made when we were kids,” said Sarah.

“My granny was also a really great baker, and I got all of her handwritten recipes when she passed away. They are a special thing to have.”

The book is divided by seasons, starting with spring, and contains a housekeeping section with a compendium of practical, no-nonsense tips for anyone to cook.

“I think there's real joy in looking forward to an ingredient when it's absolutely at its best, and gorging yourself on it when it’s season.”

Using ingredients that are in season and - whenever possible - sourced from local producers is another key point of the book.

“We have amazing produce here in Scotland.

“I think cutting supermarkets out and going direct to the farm makes massive sense for everybody. You're more connected to the people who have produced your foods, and they get a fairer, better price for it.”

This book is a very special milestone for Sarah, who has been a special guest, judge and cook in many since her MasterChef experience.

But writing a book was not quite as she expected.

“I loved the process, but it took much longer than I had ever expected,” she said.

“It took around 18 months in total. I was living and breathing it for so long, and it’s very special to now hold the physical copy in my hands.

“It was also quite challenging. I had all these recipe ideas and the things that I practiced and then it occurred to me that I would have to write recipes - which I never really use! I just throw in this and throw in that and taste it and see how it turns out.

Rhubarb and custard tart. Picture: Katie Pryde.
Rhubarb and custard tart. Picture: Katie Pryde.

“And then I suddenly realised I have to make all these things again with scales and a note pads- and measuring jugs. It was fun, but we ate a lot of the same thing!”

She said that looking back, being a professional cook and a published author was not something she had ever expected.

“Covid completely changed my outlook on life,” she explained.

Sarah Rankin in front of her fans. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Sarah Rankin in front of her fans. Picture: James Mackenzie.

“I was approaching a milestone birthday when the world shut down. I have always loved cooking and my husband and I are huge MasterChef fans - and I used to watch it back in the 80s.

“So to be honest, I had a midlife crisis. I just thought I had never done anything and if I didn't just decide to be brave and do it, then I'd never have done it and I would always regret it. So I applied, and here I am!”

With a second book already in the early stages of production, Sarah said she hopes to continue to bring joy through food – whilst keeping her marketing business on the side.

“I don’t see myself ever completely stopping my marketing job, I work mostly with small businesses being able to help them is a great feeling, and I can’t imagine not doing it!”

Sarah will be presenting the new cookbook at an exclusive event held at An Talla in Dochgarroch on Friday, May 3 from 6.30-10pm, where attendees will have the chance to meet Sarah in person, have their books signed and see her demonstrate some recipes from Kith.

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