Q & A with Gill Meller on his cookbook, Gather

Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes by Gill Meller was previously published in the UK last year and released here in the US this month.  Gather is an incredibly beautiful book with an elegant collection of recipes that still have a homespun quality to them. 

Gill is a chef, food writer, author, food stylist and cookery teacher and has been part of the River Cottage team for 11 years. While he has collaborated on River Cottage titles, Pig & Pork and A to Z this is his first solo book.

Charming seasonal recipes that combine interesting flavor combinations are plentiful in this book. For example, Fried Apples with Sage, Pork Cheek & Celeriac, Lemon & Gooseberry Tart with Elderflower Fritters, and Black Currant & Thyme Ladyfingers all quietly demand try me. The photographs are stunning and capture the spirit of Gill's recipes. 

Gill generously took some time to answer a few questions for Eat Your Book members. When you have finished here, head over to our contest page and enter our giveaway for one of three copies of Gather. 

Q:  Gather is absolutely beautiful. This is being publicized as your first cookbook - but you've contributed to River Cottage titles and penned the 2015 Handbook. How was this experience in comparison with writing for River Cottage?

It's been brilliant working on all the River Cottage Projects over the years; I've learnt so much from it. But working on my own cookbook felt really different to anything else I've produced-it's given me an opportunity to realize something that feels very personal to me.

We collect all our experiences somewhere, usually in our memories, or in notebooks, or in our hearts. Lots of my experiences involve food, and cooking, and the pleasure that eating together can bring. Writing Gather felt like an expression of lots of these thoughts, memories, and ideas that I have.

Q:  Some of my favorite cookbooks of late involve gathering of friends and family around the table. Gather seems to fit in that category - gathering local, seasonal food and coming together - was that a major focus for you?

Yes, very much so. In fact it's a philosophy that underpins the book. Just before the introduction, I Included a dictionary definition of the word "gather," as it's a word that symbolizes lots of different things, and I thought it might help to explain some of the ideas behind the book.  It reads:

 Gather | To collect from different places; assemble | To cause to come together; convene | To draw (something or someone) closer to oneself | To harvest or pick

Q: One of my mantras, for years, has been that we can learn so much about different cultures and people from learning about their food. What is one cuisine you would love to immerse yourself in and spend time perfecting?

I'd love to learn about the food culture and cuisine of Japan.  I've never been, but I like their philosophy on food and cooking. For the most part, the Japanese have a simple, respectful approach to ingredients and where they come from. Their cuisine is deeply rooted in a long history of cultural and regional change, and their often humble approach to cooking resonates within me. I like their appreciation of the land and landscape in which they live-it feels pure and has an honesty about it. 

Q: What are you favorite dishes to cook for family and friends? Are you a casual entertainer or a pull out all the stops host?

I used to get really overexcited about cooking for family and friends. I can remember going to all sorts of lengths to impress them, through a myriad of little dishes that I felt displayed the length and breadth of my skills in the kitchen. These day's I'm much more relaxed when I cook at home. Something generous and delicious that everyone can share together seems the best way to eat to me.

In the summer and autumn, I love big warm salads full of texture and colour. I adore fresh crab and mussels too. I love roast pork and apples in the winter, and whole baked fish, aioli, and new potatoes in the spring.

Q:  Tell us which recipes from this title are your favorites?

There is a rye and barley sourdough that I make at home a lot. It's so tasty, and it keeps really well. I included a pasta dish I like very much: Pappardelle with a sauce made from slow cooked rabbit. It's very simple but very, very good.

The other recipe I like to make is the mushrooms on toast. I've used a mushroom called hedgehog or Pied de mouton. It's exquisite, truly.

Q:  I love how you create different flavor combinations - such as the Apple Rye & Cider Cake - which flavor combination have you tried that you were sure wasn't going to work - and was pleasantly surprised that it was wonderful - and which flavor combinations have you tried which you thought were going to be a success and then was an utter failure.

I've leaned to cook in my head. I can make a dish from scratch there. I prepare the ingredients, combine them, and cook them in my mind. After working on so many cookbooks it's a skill I've kind of perfected. So most things I really make seem to work well. I'd like to think I have a pretty high success rate.

Q;  Who are your culinary idols? Who have you cooked with that has been a dream for you - and who would you love to cook with?

A few years ago I was in Copenhagen. It was a beautiful summery day. I was in the garden of a restaurant right next to the free town of Christiania. I was lucky enough to be cooking lunch over open fires with René Redzepi, Ferran Adrià, Massimo Bottura, Fergus Henderson, to name but a few. We all sat down to eat each others dishes. Then we played football and Frisbee. That was a good day.

Q: Are you a cookbook collector? If so, can you tell us about your favorites?

I am, but I don't have anywhere to put them, my shelves are filling up and up. One particular favourite though is an obscure and quite old little book called 'Farm House Fare'  - recipes from country housewives. It's absolutely brilliant. It contains recipes for rook pie, mock goose (ox heart) pickles, cheese making, bacon, plum pudding, brawn, pigs feet and parsley sauce, and lemon curd dumplings. A fascinating read.

Q: Lastly, please tell me you are working on a second solo title.

Yes, I am and I'm thrilled. It's going to be out early autumn 2018, but it's looking beautiful already.

Thank you Gill for your time and of course this cookbook junkie had to find a copy of Farm House Fare - the only one on ebay - which I ordered for kicks. I was able to locate some additional information on Farm House Fare for our readers.

 

 



 

18 Comments

  • monique.potel  on  3/20/2017 at 3:45 PM

    i am not familiar with the river cottage book

  • sgump  on  3/20/2017 at 9:24 PM

    I lived in the UK nearly two decades ago and--although not aware of River Cottage at that time--became aware of them and their books about 10-12 years ago. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's *River Cottage Veg* (2013) is a great one.

  • Siegal  on  3/22/2017 at 9:46 AM

    I haven't encountered River Cottage books yet

  • JenE  on  3/23/2017 at 11:36 PM

    Yes, lovely titles

  • edyenicole  on  3/25/2017 at 8:51 PM

    No, I've never heard of these books before.

  • Nancith  on  3/25/2017 at 9:35 PM

    I am familiar with them--they are on my Amazon wish list.

  • fiarose  on  3/25/2017 at 10:39 PM

    I haven't heard of river cottage books before--excited to know them, if this title is any indication of how lovely they are!

  • lils74  on  3/27/2017 at 4:53 AM

    I have the paperback editions of the first 10… got them as a nice set. Plus the original River Cottage Cookbook, of course!

  • t.t  on  4/8/2017 at 12:34 AM

    I'm familiar with them, but I don't own any of them.

  • earthnfire  on  4/9/2017 at 7:21 PM

    Yes, I like them, especially River Cottage Veg

  • Uhmandanicole  on  4/14/2017 at 11:56 PM

    I am not familiar these cookbooks. But I am so glad to know of them now!

  • lgroom  on  4/15/2017 at 9:44 PM

    I have only heard of them but never have had a chance to really examine any of the titles

  • RSW  on  4/17/2017 at 7:26 AM

    Never heard of them.

  • ddenker  on  4/18/2017 at 9:24 PM

    I am not familiar with river cottage books.

  • meggan  on  4/20/2017 at 9:03 AM

    No, but I would like to be!

  • imaluckyducky  on  4/21/2017 at 8:32 PM

    I am and I LOVE them

  • AnnaZed  on  4/22/2017 at 8:29 PM

    I did not know about River Cottage Books until now, marvelous list!

  • kelliwinter  on  4/24/2017 at 1:18 AM

    i love my well used copy of River Cottage Vegetables!

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