Inspired by her gorgeous vegetarian cookbook, At My Table, we chat cookbooks and foodie passions with the lovely Mary McCartney. Find out about her latest book, favourite ingredients and all about her foodie inspirations.
Can you tell us a bit more about your new cookbook, At My Table?
What I really love to do is cook for family and friends, and as a long-term vegetarian, when I’m entertaining I like to think of a menu plan that is well-rounded, balanced and nutritious but also really satisfying and pleasing to everybody. I have a range of different meals that I like to make which changes depending on the people I’m hosting, the season and occasion. So in At My Table, I am sharing vegetarian recipes from my own kitchen that create great vegetarian feasts for every event throughout the year, such as a Celebration Brunch, Afternoon Tea Party or a Dinner for Two. If I’m entertaining lots of friends, I like to create a table with lots of different things spread across it, such as the Middle Eastern and the Mexican feasts. I also love like to make traditional Sunday roasts. Even though I’m vegetarian I don’t like to lose out on that lovely big weekend meal so I created a Sunday lunch that doubles up as a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
If you had to pick one recipe to show-off what At My Table is about, which one would it be and why?
One of the things that I’ve been making most is the Mushroom and Chestnut Pie because I found a really good gluten free pastry mix, which I mention in the book. I’ve been eating a lot more gluten free recently because I feel like it gives me a lot more energy. I’ve also been making the Herb and Cheese Soufflé a lot for friends and the Mexican Tostadas Deluxe. It’s hard for me to pick one thing because I really like to eat a real variety of food.
Here at The Happy Foodie, we’re somewhat obsessed with cookbooks. Can you tell us a bit about your favourite?
If I’m really honest, the books that inspire me are my Mum’s cookbooks because helping her with her books led me into writing mine. She was a quite a revolutionary vegetarian. She wrote three cookbooks and I helped her with the last two, editing and testing recipes. I think her first cookbook, when it came out, filled a real gap in the market for vegetarian cooking ideas. I’ve taken that inspiration using different, perhaps more modern ingredients but it has the same philosophy of trying to make vegetarian food satisfying and nutritious.
Is there an ingredient you are really enjoying cooking with at the moment?
There are some things that I try to eat often because they’re healthy and I really enjoy them. I love pine nuts, avocados, tomatoes and water cress, because it’s full of iron, but I don’t generally cook with the same things all the time because I think that variety is important. I do have store cupboard favourites though, nuts, seeds, different flours and vegetables and things like that.
Which dish says ‘home’ more than any other to you?
My mum’s cream of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich dipped in.
What excites you about the British food world at the moment?
What I really find exciting is this new trend of to going back to more old-fashioned food values, people having supper clubs and using allotments. I was walking by the Serpentine Gallery the other day and found a little allotment site behind it. I think that kind of growing your own, moving away from ready-meals and going back to real food is exciting. The Jamie Oliver food revolution is really brilliant too.
Who would be your dream dinner party guest and what would you cook for him/her?
I think maybe I’d go for John F Kennedy to grill him on everything that went on behind the scenes. There are so many unanswered questions there and he was very glamourous too. I would probably cook him my dinner for two from the book – my Warm Mushroom Salad, the White Onion and Tarragon Tarts, Green Beans with Sesame Seeds and Lemon and the really, really yummy Chocolate Almond Tortes for dessert.