Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts is your third cookbook. How do you think up new recipes?
Recipes are easy – I’m thirsty for new food, I’m a girl-about-town foodie who is always going to new restaurants. I’m a food and travel writer for InStyle so I get to travel the world looking for new recipes, which is amazing, so I am super lucky on that part. The recipe side of things is very easy; I’ve almost got too much in my head that I want to put out there.
Conceptually this book came about by being a girl and wanting to eat amazing food but still keep my weight down, and after Cook Yourself Thin, which was a huge success, I knew women felt the same. Girls want to be able to have their cake and eat it. If you give yourself one day off a week you actually have more longevity as a dieter, but also it kick-starts your metabolism and makes you lose more weight, which is brilliant, so those two things going hand in hand make perfect sense to write a book about it.
The recipes are very Asian-inspired – is this a cuisine you love?
I grew up all over the world, but Asia being where I learned to cook, so I love Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese – my heart is in the Asias. But I trained as a British chef the French way with British influence, so I’m really inspired by that as well. But like I say, I’m thirsty for all food, I just love it.
Do you indulge at the weekends and cut back during the week?
The book is split into two parts – the first part is about being really good but also having to deal with the fact that life is so busy in the beginning of the week. I wanted to get things from fridge to table in half an hour if I could, and make the ingredients accessible. But then on the weekends we can enjoy the cooking process more and give ourselves a bit more time to enjoy making dinners, and also entertaining – having your friends round and having Sunday lunches or dinner parties or baking for your friends or family. That’s how I live my life anyway, but what was great is that suddenly it turns out it’s better for you.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I was a body piercer for years but I’ve always cooked. I think that I started in an industry that I loved and did well in when I was young, but I knew it wasn’t really my vocation. I knew by the time I was 20 I wanted to retrain and put my money where my mouth was, but I worked in restaurants before I went to catering school, and I carried on in restaurants for a while afterwards, then I went into food writing. But I do pop-ups about three or four times a year, so I still chef; I alternate between being a food writer and a chef.
What’s a typical day’s food for you?
This morning I had a banana, peanut butter and protein smoothie, which is so easy to do and is really well balanced and gives you tonnes and tonnes of energy, and a flat white. I’m just about to have my snack, which will probably be my Hummus for Heroes, which is pimped with toasted pine nuts, pomegranates and mint. And then for lunch I’ll probably have a tartine, where you just take the lid off your sandwich and pimp it with more filling, which I think is the best bit – all the savvy French ladies do this. I haven’t thought about dinner yet but I’ll probably make either Korean noodles or spelt spaghetti with meatballs and chorizo. That way it doesn’t sound like you’re being healthy; it sounds like you’re eating loads of yummy food that happens to be healthy.
What would your ‘last night on death row’ supper be?
I love this question. I do a new-style sashimi and crispy tuna rice, which are two of my favourite things. Then I’d have a seafood platter. Then a roast dinner with all the trimmings and a really good gravy – and then cheesecake.
Do you have any TV work coming up this year?
Cooks to Market [Gizzi’s programme on Sky Living] comes back in the next month or so, and I’m working on other projects at the moment. This year is filled up with other big things that I’m doing, which I can’t talk about yet, but it’s going to be an epic year.
Gizzi Erskine's Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts is out now, published by Quadrille.