|photograph © Sarah Beattie, 2012|
Let me declare an interest. Sarah Beattie is my wife. That said, let me also declare that she deserves far wider recognition as an innovative, pioneering cook. So I'm happy to report that we learnt last week that she's been shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers' annual Cookery Journalist of the Year Award. There are only three people on that shortlist: Diana Henry (Telegraph), Yotam Ottolenghi... and Sarah.
It's a big deal. These awards have been going since 1996, they're the UK's most important food awards, and the shortlists have always comprised the big names: people with TV series, best-selling books and/or columns in mega magazines or the national broadsheets. So it's quite something that Sarah's work has put her in amongst them.
Something else marks her out as the underdog: her food is entirely vegetarian. She's earned her shortlisting for the large monthy feature she contributes to Vegetarian Living magazine - for each of which she devises a set of recipes, cooks them all into existence in our kitchen and then photographs them for publication. No assistant, no sponsor, no production company, no expense account, no food stylist, no studio. She does it all. The result is a celebration of seasonal eating pleasure, time after time.
Eating pleasure. That's the crucial thing. Hers is not the kind of approach that gives vegetarian food a bad name. Sarah is a veggie not to be Worthy or Moralising but through a personal disinclination for the killing of animals. She doesn't preach about it, or try to convert other people. Not even me. It's her own committed position, but what makes her food so good is a sheer pleasure in food, in its tastes and textures, in the bounty of its vast variety. So she can call on her wide, deep knowledge of how food works, from micro-biology to world-wide cuisines, to create rich and beautiful food that anyone can love. Indeed meat-eaters often don't notice that the meal of hers they just ate, including a second helping, contained no meat at all.
The clue is in the title of her first published book: Neither Fish Nor Fowl: Meat-Free Eating For Pleasure.
Here are just a couple more samples of her work. The food I'm lucky enough to eat at home:
|Borscht-poached ravioli; photograph © Sarah Beattie 2013|
|photograph © Sarah Beattie 2013|
And that's not to mention the clear celeriac soup; the summer salad of watermelon, Feta, onion & mint; a brilliant yellow Goan curry; the tomato, Stilton & vodka ice-cream...
She has a big new book, text and photographs, ready for a publisher to take on. It's to be titled Meat-Free Any Day.
The Cookery Journalist of the Year award winner will be announced at the Guild of Food Writers' event at the RIBA building in London on May 29. Sarah will be there, and pleased to be there whether she wins or not. And I'll be right there with her. Still declaring an interest.