Gizzi Erskine’s sixth cookbook Restore proves that sustainable cooking needn’t be complicated. From brunch-ready shakshuka to Korean-inspired bibimbap, find inspiration for three delicious and flavourful meals below.
There’s a good chance that when you’ve been thinking about what to cook this year, eco-friendliness hasn’t always ranked high on your list of culinary priorities. Eating sustainably can often feel like a hassle, and rarely do we view it as something that can be seamlessly integrated into the everyday ritual of cooking with barely a second thought. During a pandemic, when we’re reluctant to linger over labels in the supermarket and desperate for meals that will break the monotony of staying at home, we may be less likely than ever to think about the green credentials of our food.
But sustainable cooking doesn’t have to be a chore – and in her new cookbook Restore: A Modern Guide To Sustainable Eating, chef Gizzi Erskine shows that eco-conscious recipes can be exciting, delicious and surprisingly easy. The book’s title reflects Erskine’s belief that eating in a ‘restorative’ way means being considerate with our food choices, forming new habits and stepping away from conveniences like imported ingredients.
As fans of Erskine’s colourful, inventive cooking would expect, the book is a thing of beauty, showcasing vibrant dishes that are as pleasurable to prepare as they are sustainable. Below, Erskine shares three recipes – taking you from AM to PM – to show you what a day of sustainable eating can really look like.
First up: shakshuka. Not your traditional brunch staple, but a version comprised of eggs baked in a rich green salsa, finished with crumbly homemade queso fresco.
For lunch, Korean-inspired bibimbap. A simple dish of fried rice, vegetables, meat and egg yolk topped with a spicy sauce, it’s a great way to give leftovers a new lease of life.
Lastly, cheese lovers will definitely appreciate Erskine’s roasted cauliflower, preserved lemon and chilli pasta, which brings an elevated twist to dinnertime comfort food. Simple, wholesome and delicious – just as we promised.
Gizzi says: ”I developed this recipe in the early days of Filth, with Rosemary Ferguson. Our mission was to get extra nutrition into everyday dishes. We wanted to make a healthy breakfast, both loved shakshuka and huevos rancheros, and thought we could somehow merge them.
“That week, I’d made a huge vat of green tomato salsa that ended up being the base of this dish. We fried some cumin seeds in oil then added the salsa, before blending it with fresh spinach to an even more nutritious, virtually Hulk-green sauce, got some roasted green peppers into the dish and baked the eggs in this sauce instead of the usual red one. We finished it with a combo of Middle Eastern and Mexican toppings and served it with flatbreads or grilled Turkish breads with some good extra-virgin olive oil. It’s a superb healthy weekend brunch dish and pretty fancy-pants in the impressiveness stakes, too.”
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 400g green tomato salsa (see recipe below)
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 85g fresh spinach, washed, wilted in a pan for a minute and drained
- 80g green peppers, roasted and sliced
- 4 free-range eggs
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- good handful of coriander leaves, chopped
- a few dill fronds
- a few mint leaves, shredded
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 300g queso fresco (see recipe below), made to a firm and crumbly texture
- 3 tbsp toasted mixed seeds mixed with ½ tsp za’atar
- freshly made flatbreads or grilled Turkish bread
- extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
You will need 2 individual 22-25cm baking or gratin dishes.
Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/gas mark 9.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds and fry for a minute or two until toasted. Add the green tomato salsa, coriander and spinach and cook for a minute. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, then remove from the heat and blitz until smooth.
Divide the blitzed sauce between two individual (22-25cm) ovenproof baking or gratin dishes. Split the green peppers between the two dishes, then simply make two little holes in the top of the sauce in each dish and break an egg into each hole. Season each egg with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the egg whites are cooked through, but the eggs still have runny yolks.
Remove from the oven and top the two shakshukas with the chopped coriander, dill, mint, sour cream, queso fresco and seeds, and serve with toasted or warmed bread, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Green tomato salsa
Gizzi says: “This might resemble the simple green salsa you get in burrito restaurants, but its heritage in Mexico is rich and varied. You can dress your tacos and dishes with a variety of salsas in Mexico and this one is prized for its clean green acidity.
“Green salsas are usually made with tomatillos, which are a variety of the deadly nightshade plant family (as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes also are) and they are prevalent in Mexico. They are green and unripe in flavour, and the green tomatoes that grow on our fair shores will do the job brilliantly. This recipe is smashing on so many things such as fried battered fish in tacos, and it also makes a terrific base for my green shakshuka.”
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 600g green tomatoes
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 2-3 fresh green jalapenos, stalks removed and cut in half (seeds or no seeds, depending on your preference)
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
- 3 tbsp oil
- juice of 3 big juicy limes
- 1 tsp salt
- very large bunch of coriander, leaves picked
Put the green tomatoes, onion, jalapefios and garlic in a food processor and blitz until smooth.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, pour in the tomato mixture and cook for 10 minutes, allowing it to reduce, then squeeze in the lime juice. Add the salt, then the coriander. Allow to cook for a further minute, return to the food processor and blitz again to achieve a really smooth sauce. Serve at room temperature.
The salsa will keep for up to 2-3 days in the fridge.
Gizzi says: “The process utilised here is one harnessed all over the world in all kinds of simple cheesemaking, and works on the simple foundation of separating milk’s curds from the whey. I think many people are scared of it because a lot of cheeses are made using rennet (a liquid made with the acid of the stomach of an animal, most commonly sheep), but vegetarian rennet is now available.
“Rennet is the best product for true separation and the firming up of the curds, but for making a fresh cheese like queso fresco, ricotta, cottage cheese, quark and fetas, the process is very easy and no rennet is required. I use this queso fresco in the roast carrots recipes, and for that the queso fresco requires a few days of ageing. Once aged, you can pop it in olive oil flavoured, perhaps, with rosemary, lemon peel and garlic. Making fresh cheese is a really fun process to get into and an insightful way of looking at early-stage cheesemaking.”
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
- 1.25 litres whole milk (preferably raw milk)
- 1 tbsp salt
- juice of 1 lemon
Put the milk in a heavy-based saucepan with the salt. Bring to the boil and, as soon as it starts boiling, turn the heat down to the lowest flame. Stir in the lemon juice, which will begin to separate the milk into curds and whey. Keep stirring for 5-10 minutes until the milk has fully separated and you have thick, creamy lumps of curd.
Line a sieve or colander with a double layer of cheesecloth or muslin and pour the mixture through it to strain out the whey and collect the curds. At this stage you can use these curds for salads.
To go further and make a more compressed, firm cheese, gather up the sides of the cloth and give it a gentle squeeze to push out more liquid. You should be left with a single solid mass of curd. You can eat it straight away or allow it to become a bit firmer in the fridge, wrapped in the cloth, placed in a sieve with a bowl underneath, and weighted down with a couple of tins (or something similar) for a minimum of hours (out of the fridge) or up to 24 hours (in the fridge).
It will keep nicely for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, in an airtight container or submerged in olive oil, and develops more of a tangy flavour as it matures.
Gizzi says: “One of my breakthroughs was bringing attention to Korean food in the UK back in about 2007. While working as a chef in NYC, I’d hit Koreatown in my downtime with my mates, drink ice-cold beers and eat Korean fried chicken. Koreatown was open late, and you could go from restaurant to karaoke bar eating and drinking yourself into a stupor. I fell in love with Korean food there, and fell in love with the culture five years later when I first visited Korea, later moving there to film my TV show Seoul Food.
“I’m certain that the popular ‘buddha bowl’ has Korean culinary heritage, as it’s similar to a dish called ‘bibimbap’. In a bibimbap bowl, rice is topped with vegetables, meat (optional), egg yolk and a spicy sauce. It is quite refined – you can’t say that about a lot of Korean food – and is cooked in a searing hot cast-iron pot which is oiled before adding the rice; the vegetables and egg (and meat, if using) are swiftly put on top. By the time the rice gets to the table it has a fantastic caramelised crust that you peel away from the pot and you stir-fry everything at the table. It’s real theatre.
“Fear not if you don’t have cast-iron pots – you can eat it like Hawaiian poke, in a bowl with hot rice. Bibimbap is delicious, healthy and a great way to tackle a fridge forage. I’ve used traditional toppings, but do play around with seafood, tofu and different veg: the only mainstays are the rice, egg yolk and sauce.”
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 200g sushi rice
- 400ml water
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 150g spinach
- 1 courgette, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, finely julienned
- 100g beansprouts
- 6 spring onions, shredded
- 100g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 corn on the cob
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- 300g rump steak, finely chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp black or white toasted sesame seeds, to serve
For the sauce:
- 6 tbsp gochujang
- 2 tbsp Korean or Japanese soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp sesame oil 1½ tbsp caster sugar
Put the rice and water in a large saucepan with a good pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Take off the heat and steam (lid on) for 10 minutes.
Gently heat the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan until emulsified. Set aside.
Mix together the sesame and sunflower oils. Heat a large wok or frying pan over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil mix and add half the spinach with a pinch of salt. Cook briefly until wilted, then remove and drain on kitchen paper, squeezing out any liquid. Repeat with the remaining spinach. Add another splash of oil and briefly fry the courgette until golden. Remove and set aside. Repeat this process with the carrot, beansprouts, spring onions and shiitake mushrooms. Rub the sweetcorn cob with oil, salt and pepper, then brown in the pan until the kernels start to char.
Heat two stone bibimbap dishes or a wok on the hob until smoking hot. Place the stone dishes on a heatproof surface (if using). Brush the insides of the dishes (or hot wok) with the remaining oil and add the rice.
Group vegetables around the edge, put the raw meat in the middle, then the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the sauce for each serving. Top with sesame seeds. Mix the sauce into the rice at the table with a spoon.
Roasted cauliflower, preserved lemon and chilli pasta
Gizzi says: “Why have I never put cauliflower in any pasta dishes before? It’s not like it doesn’t make sense to put cauliflower cheese with pasta?! The first time I saw anyone do it in a way that piqued my interest was when cookery writer Rosie Birkett made this lovely roasted cauliflower pasta with preserved lemons.
“I have messed around with a few different recipes, but there’s something in the way the salty, sour and bitter lemons react with the cauliflower and acidulated, silky cheese sauce that give it the adult flare that makes it so special, so well done Rosie for making this a thing! I roast cauliflower leaves for this dish: they are so sweet and delicious, and have a satisfying texture.”
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets, and the inner leaves
- 100ml olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for roasting the cauliflower
- 40g rye bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
- 250g ditali pasta, macaroni, mezzi rigatoni or orecchiette
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 dried chilli, crushed
- 3 free-range egg yolks
- 200g sour cream
- 80g parmesan, grated
- large handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
- 2 preserved lemons, pips removed and skin thinly sliced
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven as hot as it can go (about 260°C / 240°C fan/gas mark 10).
Spread the cauliflower florets and leaves on a baking tray and drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a teaspoon of salt, mix with your hands so that all the cauliflower is evenly coated in the oil and place in the roasting-hot oven for 15 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned, even slightly charred .
Once the cauliflower’s in the oven, heat half the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and fry for about 4 minutes until crisp and golden, then transfer to kitchen paper to drain off excess oil and keep them crispy. Set aside.
Cook the pasta in a saucepan of well-salted boiling water for a couple of minutes less than the time stated on the packet (you will finish cooking it with the sauce).
While the pasta’s cooking, heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan with the garlic and chilli and cook gently for 5 minutes, until softened. Set aside.
Drain the pasta, reserving 100ml of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pan.
Whisk the egg yolks, cream and parmesan together in a bowl. Place the pasta pan back over a medium heat and stir in the egg mixture, followed by the garlic and chilli oil, parsley, preserved lemon, lemon zest and a generous pinch of black pepper.
Mix well over the heat for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, check for seasoning and stir through the roasted cauliflower. Serve immediately, with the breadcrumbs sprinkled on top and, if you’re like me, an extra grating of parmesan.
Restore: A Modern Guide To Sustainable Eating by Gizzi Erskine (£25, Harper Collins) is out now
Photography: Issy Croker
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.