Author of over 25 cookery books, Nicola Graimes is an award-winning cookery writer and also the former editor of Vegetarian Living magazine.
Previous titles Nicola has authored include The Top 100 Recipes for a Healthy Lunchbox, The Big Book of Wok, The Big Book of Low-Carb Recipes, Veggienomics, The New Vegetarian Kitchen and The Part-Time Vegetarian for Nourish.
Nicola talks to us about her latest book ‘I Love My Wok’ and her predictions for the next big trend in cooking.
Your latest book features over 100 recipes that make use of the wok, what you made you want to focus on wok-based recipes?
One of the things that most appeals to me about the wok is how well this ancient and traditional piece of Asian kitchen equipment fits so beautifully in the contemporary Western-style kitchen.
In some kitchens, the wok has been relegated to the back of the pan cupboard, alongside the sandwich toaster, but it’s time to drag it out and dust it down as it really is a versatile piece of cooking equipment.
Traditionally, the wok is most often used for stir-frying but it is also ideal for steaming, blanching, braising, deep-frying and even smoking food. I find the versatility of the wok really inspiring and I wanted to show in the book how easy it is to create many different types and styles of dish in just one pan.
For many of us, quick and healthy are two of the most important criteria when preparing a meal. We don’t have the time to spend hours in the kitchen, especially during the week. A stir-fry ticks all the right boxes being quick and easy to prepare as well as healthy. Of course, you can stir-fry in a frying pan but the shape of a wok is perfect as the food can be cooked quickly in a small amount of oil, so the amount of fat you need is kept to a minimum and beneficial nutrients that diminish over long cooking are retained.
What’s your personal favourite meal to serve up in a wok?
That’s a difficult choice but I am a big fan of Asian food in general and obviously a wok is perfect for creating some of my most favourite dishes from China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and India.
Photo by Margo Brodowicz on Unsplash.
One of the most fun things to do in a wok is smoking food and there are a couple of recipes in the book that use this technique, including Wok-Smoked Poussin and Tea-Smoked Salmon. Both are smoked over a mixture of rice and tea leaves, which lend a subtle smoky flavour – do make sure you have a window open though when trying this technique and it can get a bit smoky!
What dish are you most likely to order in a restaurant?
There’s a relatively new Japanese/Korean restaurant in Brighton called Oshio and I like to go for their excellent dim sum, incredibly fresh sushi and wholesome spicy noodle one-pot stews and soups.
After being a vegetarian for around thirty years what influenced your decision to occasionally eat meat and fish?
It was such a difficult decision to make and one I really didn’t take lightly. I was on quite a restricted diet for health reasons at the time and began to have cravings for roast chicken of all things. Anyway, shortly after I was at a press do and there was nothing vegetarian on the menu but there was roast chicken… I took this as a sign! More recently, however, I’m finding I want to go back to a total vegetarian diet again. Let’s see what happens…
What do you predict to be the next big trend in cooking?
Eating sustainably with minimum food waste is becoming more and more crucial and mainstream today and I can’t see this going away. More and more people will cut down on the amount of meat they eat as not only is meat becoming restrictively expensive to buy, our eating habits are unsustainable. The trend and growing interest in inspiring and creative vegetarian and vegan cooking is set to become even bigger.
Following the success of your range of cookbooks, what’s next on the cards for you, what would you like to write about most?
I’m working on a number of projects – watch this space – and would love to write a comprehensive vegetable book. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when cooking veg and I want to show how easy it is to create exciting healthy vegetable-based meals using inspiring flavour combinations and using the whole plant, so root-to-stem-to-leaf cooking.
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