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Meet the Expert: Annie Bell

Featured, Meet the Expert

Tell us about yourself

I’ve been writing about food for longer than I care to admit, nearly twenty five years as YOU Magazine’s cookery writer, and over twenty books (my husband tells me!). I began my career with aspirations to become a chef, until having my two sons led to a change in direction.

My books have largely followed my own life experience. To begin with there were a couple of vegetarian titles, one of which Evergreen was shortlisted for the Andre Simon. Thereafter, my cooking was shaped by friends and family, I love beautifully cooked simple and classical food, all the greats and familiar favourites. I also love baking and Annie Bell’s Baking Bible is one that many friends tell me they use regularly. I believe in test, test and test again. As well as trying to ensure that recipes work as well as possible, I try and cut out unnecessary ingredients and steps to simplify them.

We have long divided our time between West London and a ramshackle sixteenth century farmhouse in Normandy, where I draw inspiration from the fabulous range of local produce. The kitchen literally is at the heart of the home, with a massive granite fireplace that we regularly cook over, a couple of leather armchairs either side and a big table. It is the room where everyone congregates and socialises, which means they also get roped into shelling beans and the like!

Why did you pursue a career in food?

It is a family joke that I started cooking because I was useless at everything else. But there is a grain of truth in that, I don’t think I was ever anyone’s idea of good office material, much too scatty. Having tried a number of jobs that I didn’t enjoy, I asked myself ‘what do you like doing most’? And I still believe that if you follow your heart, it never feels like work.

What is your biggest achievement/lesson you have learnt?

A few years ago I returned to university to read a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition. It was without doubt the greatest challenge I’ve embarked on, as my first degree was a BA so I lacked the scientific experience and background that were the foundation. I found it so tough, but I was determined to see it through. The lesson that I learnt, was that faced with any task that seems insurmountable, if you break it down it becomes attainable. Today I turn to that tactic whenever I am feeling overwhelmed

How do you use your favourite ingredient and why?

I cannot live without tomatoes. Whether it’s grilled tomatoes on buttered toast at breakfast time, or with a sliver of cheese or a dip during the day, I put a tomato salad on the table come supper regardless of what we are eating. And we grow such amazing tomatoes in the UK, sometimes I return from France looking forward to what I will find here.

How have you been spending your time during lockdown?

I had just started writing Eat To Save The Planet, when lockdown began. I had quite a tight deadline, so being consumed by the project was a positive. At the time I felt that global environmental concerns and climate change were low on the agenda, but then as the situation progressed it became very clear how the pandemic is related to planetary health, and has been fuelled by modern travel.

Now as we are hopefully coming through it, there is an increased sense of urgency about tackling global sustainability and respecting the environment. How we eat and reduce waste is one of the key ways in which we can contribute as individuals. The book illustrates the Planetary Health Diet and how we can all get on board, regardless of whether we are vegan or vegetarian, flexitarian or pescatarian. In particular the aim is to eat more plant foods and reduce our intake of animal foods.

Could you share your favourite recipe?

Spicy Cauli with Tumeric Yoghurt Serves 4

This recipe which comes from Eat To Save The Planet (One Boat), is full of plant power.
Like so many roast veggie dishes this is endlessly versatile, eat it any temperature you like, and it will still be delicious cold the next day. Buckwheat is one of the healthiest grains, with a complete set of all nine essential amino acids. This also goes well with a lamb cutlet or two, while vegans can replace the yoghurt with a dollop of coconut yoghurt.

I am very into the double whammy of turmeric and saffron at the moment, so if you want to take the sauce to the next level, grind about 15 filaments in a pestle and mortar, blend with a teaspoon of boiling water and add to the yoghurt sauce.

  • 700 g small cauliflower florets (2-3 cm)
  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced across
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • 1 heaped tsp coriander seeds, coarsely ground
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds, coarsely ground
  • 40 g buckwheat
  • a large handful coarsely chopped mint
  • a large handful coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • pomegranate seeds to serve
  1. Heat the oven to 190 C fan oven/210 C electric oven. Spread the cauliflower over the base of a large roasting pan (eg 38 x 25 cm), then mix in the onion separating out the strands. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and stir to coat, then season with salt, scatter over the coriander and cumin seeds and stir again. Roast for 30-40 minutes until golden at the edges and crests, stirring halfway through. Leave to cool to an ambient temperature.
  2. In the meantime, bring a medium pan of water to the boil, add the buckwheat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender, then drain into a colander.
  3. Mix the herbs into the cauliflower, also the buckwheat and a little more salt. Transfer this to a large serving dish. Serve with the tumeric yoghurt dolloped on top, scattered with pomegranate seeds.
  • Tumeric yoghurt
  • 150 g zero-fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp soured cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, plus ½ (half) tsp finely grated zest
  • a pinch of ground tumeric
  • 1/2 (half) tsp sumac

Blend all the ingredients together in a small bowl with a little salt. You can do this while the vegetables are cooking, or even better in advance, then cover and chill to allow the flavours to develop.

Explore Annie Bell’s books

Annie Bell is a leading food writer, nutritionist, and member of The Guild of Food Writers. Awarded their “Journalist of the Year” award. A trained chef writing for titles including Vogue, The Independent and the Mail on Sunday’s YOU Magazine. Publisher of cookbooks including the following titles:

New for 2021 – Eat to Save the Planet by Annie Bell is out now with Pan Macmillan, £16.99.
Low Carb Express
The Modern Dairy
How to Cook
Low Carb Revolution
Annie Bell’s Baking Bible
Picnic Cookbook
Soup Glorious Soup
The Camping Cookbook – Get the spices for this here!
Gorgeous Christmas
Gorgeous Greens
Gorgeous Suppers
The Country Cookbook
Gorgeous Desserts
Gorgeous Cakes
In My Kitchen Food for Family & Friends
Living & Eating
Annie Bell’s Vegetable Book
Evergreen
Not-so-wicked Puddings
A feast of Flavours

@anniebellcook
www.anniebell.net

Annie Bell

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