This year marks fifteen years since The Cranks Bible was first published – and it seems like an excellent time to revisit the book and all that it stands for. In the years since its initial publication, the food revolution has gathered momentum, and healthy eating has become a global phenomenon. We are, and rightly so, demanding good food that is responsibly sourced, organically grown and sensitively cooked.
Veganism has moved from the fringes to become commonplace. Raw food eating has a devoted following. And there has been an explosion of new (to us) ingredients. When I first wrote The Cranks Bible, quinoa was just beginning to make an appearance – light and easily digested by most, it held the promise of good health, immunity and nourishment for both body and soul. Now the vogue is for cacao in its purest form, chia seeds, almonds, blueberries, broccoli sprouts, fermented foods, coconut in all its guises: milk, cream, sugar, flakes, flour and oil.
A new generation of ‘clean eating’ foodies has emerged, influenced by the wholefood tables of the Sixties and Seventies – the scene into which Cranks first opened its doors for lovers of fresh, vibrant and ethically-sourced ingredients. And in no time over the last twenty years has the Cranks philosophy of nature knows best been more pertinent.
A seismic change is taking place and many of the items that parade as food on our supermarket shelves are being recognised for the negative effects they have on our health and well being. But I am keen to urge caution too. While we know more now than we did, we still do not see the whole picture. The answer might not be to eliminate ingredients from our diet, demonizing first one then the other – fat one decade, sugar the next, dairy the one after that . . .
For me, the real food revolution begins at home. Start growing your own food, even if it’s just herbs in pots. Get your hands dirty. Re-establish the connection between what comes out of the ground and what you put in your mouth. Turn your back by all means on food that is processed beyond recognition but know the difference. A burger or lasagne mass-produced in a soulless factory with the addition of umpteen additives is a far cry from a burger or a lasagne lovingly made at home with natural, well-sourced ingredients.
My philosophy is everything in moderation and a little of what you fancy does you good. I am not going to give you a puritanical list of dos and don’ts, shoulds and shouldn’ts. Many of the recipes in this book are gluten-free, some omit dairy and sugar, but the emphasis is always on taste and enjoyment. There are treats and indulgences, such as a rich and silky chocolate mousse cake and passion-fruit ice-cream. There are hearty and warming dishes to share, such as root vegetable casserole with herb dumplings and my take on the classic Cranks dish of homity pie which uses potatoes sautéed until golden and wholemeal pastry folded with a generous quantity of butter. I still assemble these pies in heart-shaped tins because food is about love – for the body, mind and soul.
The recipes in this book are timeless: they often have ancient roots, even when they are made contemporary through new methods and flavour combinations. They make use of ingredients many of our grandparents would have enjoyed, and they assume a degree of responsibility on the part of the cook and the mouths he or she feeds.
Fight the good fight but put food in its right place, share in the bonhomie it encourages and enjoy. Everything else is unnecessary complication.