One bite at time

Food-for-Thought-300Food for Thought is a new book full of gorgeous photographs, exciting, simple yet challenging recipes. Its author, Vanessa Kimbell is food writer, chef, sourdough queen and much more says ‘”isn’t intended to tell anyone how to eat. It is a book that I hope will open your eyes and get you to question good choices”.

It covers Vanessa’s experiences, culinary expertise and philosophy about how we grow, cook and eat our way through life and the world. Subtitled ‘Changing The World One Bite At A Time’, this book is a collection of recipes wrapped up in vivid travel recollections and flavoured with compelling arguments about how we can respond more ethically to the food we buy, cook and share.

Vanessa Kimbell ... chef, author, educator
Vanessa Kimbell … chef, author, educator

Recipes range from Vanessa’s signature Sourdough bread (her starter is from a 200-year old French culture and available from her website to Compassionate Chicken Nuggets and Don’t throw old bananas away caramel banana loaf. There are dozens of recipes and thoughts, with the book running to 224 pages.

With so many cookery books these days simply a collection of recipes, often first found elsewhere, it’s refreshing to get a well thought out selection that encourages us to think not just about food as fuel, but as our very being and that of our planet. Pages and pages of beautifully photographed ingredients and dishes is great, but too often lacks the call to action to actually make what is being written about and presented. ‘Food For Thought’ offers of a rare combination attention grabbing writing and great photography which makes you think, shop, cook and eat. No mean feat when food is too often hijacked by fad-diets, health scares and misguided associations with guilt (chocolate, for example!).

Vanessa's sourdough bread
Vanessa’s sourdough bread (c) Vanessa Kimbell

Explaining why she use Fairtrade chocolate to make Chocolate Honey Truffles, Vanessa refreshes a well-known argument about buying from smaller producers and promotes buying ‘own label’ milk, cream and butter from farm shops and markets for a dish named Help Your Local Dairy Farmer Rice Pudding.

However, this book is far from ‘worthy’, offering everyday recipes and food for thought about how your food buying decision can affect farmers and communities thousands of miles away.

Anyway, I’m off make Vanessa’s ‘Three Flavours of Salt’ and to fill a couple of bottles with Ethical Italian and French salad dressings!

Kimbell’s Pho Ga Vietnamese noodle soup

Pho Ga Vietnamese noodle soup

I first learnt to cook this recipe in the kitchen of an overnight train as it took us from north to south Vietnam” is how Vanessa introduces her recipe for Dump the Diet Food Pho Ga Vietnamese Noodle Soup.

Few among us can make that claim, so Vanessa has featured story and recipe in her new book  Food for Thought, published by Kyle Books. Vanessa continues: “It was amazing to be in the tiniest of kitchens with the most limited facilities and the humblest chef I ever met, but the focus was on fresh local food as the core of this meal: all the ingredients had been bought that morning in the local market.

Vietnamese food revolves around rice in all it sticky, boiled, fried forms flavoured with generous splashes of fish sauce and flavoured with the likes of mint, lemongrass, papaya or mango. A good savoury Pho Ga is a packed with flavour while the meat and veg should sit comfortably in a bowl surrounded by clean, uncloudy and clear broth.

Serves 4 – 6

For the stock

30g of fresh root ginger, in one piece and unpeeled.
2 medium onions, unpeeled
vegetable oil, if you’re frying
6 skinless chicken thighs
1.5 litres hot chicken stock
2 star anise

For the soup

3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus extra to serve
240 – 300g rice noodle, cooked and refreshed in cold water (60g per serving).

To serve

8 spring onions
400f fresh bean sprouts
1 red chilli, sliced into rings, plus extra to serve
juice of 2 limes, plus thin-cut lime wedges, to serve
a good handful of herb leaves such as mint, coriander, and basil.

Cut the ginger in two, so you have a ‘flesh’ side and a ‘peel’ side and halve the onions, leaving their skin on.

Using a heatproof kitchen fork, char them on both sides over a gas flame (or on a griddle). If you prefer, you can roast the onion until slight burnt, or using a small amount of oil fry the onion and ginger really well before transferring to a large pan.

Add the chicken, stock and star anise and remove the chicken from the bones keeping the meat to one side.

Return the broth to the pan and bring it back to simmering point.

Season with salt and fish sauce.

Put the noodles into a sieve or steamer basket and lower them into the broth to reheat for just a few minutes until piping hot.

Share out the noodles between large deep bowls and top with some chicken meat, the spring onions, chill and lime juice.

Add the herb leaves and serve with extra fish sauce, chillies and lime wedges.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.