Cooking the books

We tried the McCartneys’ new cookbook – here’s our honest opinion

Stella, Mary and Paul have updated Linda’s classic recipes for the modern vegan cook, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking, writes Ella Walker. The in-between storytelling is where the real power lies

Saturday 24 July 2021 07:30
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<p>Linda’s family use the book to share their memories of her cooking and approach to feeding people</p>

Linda’s family use the book to share their memories of her cooking and approach to feeding people

Linda McCartney died of breast cancer in 1998, but her presence in the world of food, supermarkets and animal welfare is still ongoing and colossal.

New cookbook, Linda McCartney’s Family Kitchen, brought together by her daughters Stella and Mary, and their father (and Beatle) Paul McCartney, looks to build on Linda’s work and ethos, share her recipes and promote the importance – to animals and the environment – of eating a plant-based diet.

Here’s what we make of it.

The book: Linda McCartney’s Family Kitchen: Over 90 plant-based recipes to save the planet and nourish the soul by Linda, Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney

Who will love it? Anyone whose freezer is packed with Linda McCartney sausages and mince, anyone who does meat-free Mondays, and anyone tempted to take their first steps into vegetarianism, or looking to leap into veganism. You get a strong sense of McCartney family life throughout. Between the recipes, Stella, Mary and Linda’s sister Louise share memories of Linda’s cooking and approach to feeding people, which sits alongside a thoughtful introduction written by Paul, and many family photos of Linda in the kitchen with her kids, or frolicking outdoors.

What is it trying to get us cooking? While McCartney championed vegetarianism, this cookbook offers up entirely plant-based meals (even the mac and cheese) so will suit vegans too. There are reliable set-pieces (lasagne, pies, a sandwich loaf, risotto and curries), as well as takes on Chinese fried rice, pad Thai and kimchi pancakes. There are brownies and many a cake recipe (the carrot cake and gingerbread cake look particularly good) and a very strong breakfast section (cinnamon rolls! Bircher muesli!).

How easy is it to use? Very. The introductions to each recipe are written as though for total cooking beginners, the recipe lists are not remotely daunting, and the time spent in the kitchen seemingly minimal.

The best recipe is… the Mexican-style sweet potatoes, the garlic bread (that could become a staple), or the chargrilled cabbage with Thai dressing and cashew nuts.

The recipe we’re most likely to post on Instagram is… the lemon rice with aubergine, yoghurt and herbs. It pops with bright pink, half moons of red onion.

The dish we’re least likely to try is… the homemade baked beans. They look dreamy, but realistically, who has the time?

Overall rating: 7/10 – tasty looking food, if not groundbreakingly inventive. The book also doesn’t grapple with concerns around the sustainability of certain veggie items – avocados for instance. But the storytelling around the recipes is powerful, and the animal doodles adorable.

Black bean tacos

These tacos make a great Mexican-style feast

“Linda’s cooking was influenced by her love of Mexican food and these tacos make a great Mexican-style feast. Choosing plant-based food is a compassionate step that helps prevent cruelty and suffering in animals, so go for pulses, such as black beans, as a way of filling your protein needs. Great served with guacamole.”

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 10 mins prep | 30 mins cook

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika

2 x 400g tins of black beans, drained

200g ripe medium tomatoes, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To serve:

8 taco shells or tortillas

150g guacamole

150g salsa, from a jar

Large handful of fresh coriander, leaves only

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Lime wedges

Method:

The book is out now

1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for eight minutes until softened, taking care not to let them burn.

2. Add the spices and cook for another three minutes until aromatic, then add the black beans, tomatoes and 250ml of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until almost all of the water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat the tacos or tortillas. Serve the black beans on top with the guacamole and salsa, then sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves, chilli flakes and lime wedges.

Recipe extracted from ‘Linda McCartney’s Family Kitchen: Over 90 plant-based recipes to save the planet and nourish the soul’ by Linda, Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney (Seven Dials, £26).

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