6 things Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall can teach you about having fun in the kitchen.

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Lately there’s been a lot of River Cottage action in our house.

Since my Irishman gave me a couple of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall books and DVDs for my birthday we’ve become hooked on this food-loving Englishman’s enthusiasm and ‘grow it yourself’ ethic.

Watching and reading Hugh, it’s hard not to get infected with the desire to produce your own food.

I was already pretty excited about veggie gardening. Especially since I set up my own small plot when I moved to the Snowy Mountains. And I’ve always dreamed of having chickens somewhere in my future.

Now, however, pigs, sheep and a polytunnel have been added to the vision.

And my Irishman has started to fancy himself as a future keeper of bees (can you imagine anything more divine than home-grown honey?).

One of the things I love most about Hugh, apart from all the enthusiasm, is his approach to cooking and good food. As he rightly says in the introduction to the original River Cottage book,

“Since food is something that all of us have to deal with several times a day, it would be a shame to miss out on such regular opportunities to achieve, at least, satisfaction, at most outright joy.”

So inspired by the original River Cottage Cookbook, I wanted to share with you a few things that Hugh has taught me about having fun in the kitchen.

1. A cook’s greatest assets are vegetables and herbs
A man after my own heart, Hugh puts the vegetable section first in his book because he loves his veg and recognises that giving veggies the respect they deserve can really improve your life with food.

2. Shopping for fresh produce is all about finding ‘vitality’
That is, which veg are the most ‘alive’ and have suffered the least abuse since leaving the place where they were grown. I quite like his choice of the word ‘vitality’ meaning aliveness rather than just freshness.

3. If you think you don’t like a particular veg, try a super-fresh specimen
Hugh shares that he wasn’t a big fan of cauliflower until he started eating it fresh from the Park Farm garden. A different recipe can also help the cause. See the ‘coronation cauliflower’ below.

4. Choose a different fish species from the last one you ate
Buying sustainable seafood can require a lot of research. And to be honest, there’s a lot more I should learn. So I loved this simple rule of thumb from Hugh. At least if you’re eating a variety of seafood species, you’re spreading the risk, so to speak. He also recommends seeking out local, preferably line-caught fish.

5. Eat smaller quantities of best quality meat.
I love that on one hand Hugh is an ‘enthusiastic carnivore’ and on the other that he is super concerned about the welfare of the animals we eat. I also love his ethos of making the most of the whole animal and not wasting anything.

6. Growing your own food is a ‘vital and life-enhancing act of self expression’
I can’t agree more. I’ve been growing herbs in pots for many years and they’ve always brought me great pleasure. Especially things like rosemary and thyme where a little goes a long way both in terms of adding flavour and bringing pleasure.

coronation cauliflower

coronation cauliflower
serves 2
takes 10 mins

Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage Canteen chef, Tim Maddams.

If you are wondering where the name comes from, ‘coronation chicken’ was a salad of cold chicken in a creamy curry based sauce apparently served at the banquet of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II way back in 1953. The idea to switch the chicken for fresh raw cauliflower is a brilliant one.

I’ve simplified Tim’s version quite considerably so we’re only using dried coriander and fresh coriander to flavour, rather than a curry powder or a blend of curry spices.

Brilliant as a simple lunch.

6 tablespoons whole egg mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cauliflower
splash lemon juice, optional
handful roasted almonds
small handful fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

1. Combine mayo and coriander in a medium bowl.

2. Trim cauli and finely chop into bight sized pieces no larger than a grape.

3. Toss chopped cauli in the dressing. Taste and season, using the lemon juice if you need a bit more freshness or vitality.

4. Serve topped with almonds and fresh coriander.

carnivore – replace some or all of the cauli with shredded BBQ chicken from the shop.

vegan – choose a vegan mayonnaise.

egg-free – use natural yoghurt instead. And skip the lemon juice

coronation broccoli – replace the cauli with a large head of broccoli.

nut-free – replace the almonds with some toasted bread crumbs.

more substantial – either be more generous with the nuts, or stir in a few chopped hard boiled eggs. OR better yet do both.

different spices – try a combination of equal quantities of ground cumin, coriander and turmeric OR a good quality curry powder.

budget – if serving as a side salad you could skip the almonds.


video version of the recipe


recently on The Stonesoup Diaries

§ The secret ingredient to exciting salads
§ Are you tired of throwing out veg gone bad?
§ Beauty and the Beans
§ Cooking without garlic & onions?

Jules x

ps. It’s not too late to get in for the ‘5 Habits of Healthy Cooks – Healthy Food Fast’ class.

And if you sign up before 5th November, you get in at a discount. It’s your last chance to join the school at this low price. For more details go to:


  • I love #2 – VITALITY. I look for fruits and veggies that *sing* – rich colour, deep flavour, crispness … anything that tells me this little specimen has not long been displaced from its origins :). And when you get them like this, it seems sacrilege to disguise them!

  • Love this post :) Helps that one of my favourite veges is cauliflower! Recently discovered the amazingness of eating it raw too – great dipped in hummus. Love the way you’ve done it here as well!

  • I watch River Cottage on Fox and he makes me yearn for country life. Quite a feat for a city girl. I am not too sure about the cauliflower but I will try it. I watched the video and I do love cauliflower au gratin. Time to try something new. When I can work it into the menu I will let you know the reaction. Probably when my son and his girlfriend next visit as I know she loves raw broccoli.

  • I think those principles are the most valid and those I really apply in my daily life: fresh seasonal produce, small quantities of high quality meat (once a week, maximum twice, but surely very little red meat, and only local and gass-fed), local sustainable fish (mainly trouts) and I add good quantities of whole grains and fresh fruits here. Also, some good local free-range eggs, raw milk and raw dairy milk products (kefir, yogurt and high-quality cheeses), in righ amounts, can really be part of a healthy eating.
    Love your recipes and can’t wait to go and see my grandpa to get some home-grown cauliflower!!

  • Jules, I made this last night and it was delicious! I added in a couple of chopped hard boiled eggs and used curry powder instead of coriander. ANOTHER of your recipes on my go-to-easy-favourites list! Thanks for your inspiration and hard work.

  • i love the simplicity of this dish and i’m sure it would taste pretty good. i guess you could substitute the cauliflower with many other crispy vegetables. even cherry tomatoes or grated carrot perhaps.

  • Great looking website Jules. Delicious, healthy and quick meals – I’m all for that!
    Thanks so much for speaking at the Eat Drink Blog Conference on Saturday. Jan

  • Great principles for eating.

    Just on sticking point, though: the fish. The rule for choosing a different fish each time makes sense for sustainability, but what about your own health? Avoiding certain kinds of fish or fish caught by certain methods because they’re more likely to be full of toxins and heavy metals from biomagnification is important to me. I’m going to keep my little guide about safe fish in my pocket–but will definitely incorporate choosing a different fish into my eating!

  • I live in the UK and have been a fan of Hugh sinse the first series of river cottage. I’ve always been attracted to simplicity and sustainability, two things which define that brand. He has done much to promote simple cooking.

  • Any tips on roasting the almonds? Oven temp? Or is dry pan on top of stove better?

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