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Interview: Glynn Christian

How to Cook without Recipes

Real Flavours

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Cookbook Collection:
Glynn Christian

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Interview: Glynn Christian

How to Cook without Recipes

Real Flavours

Interview: Glynn Christian

Glynn Christian is best known in the UK as a BBC-TV food traveller and food writer. He has been popular on UK television since the start of the eighties and the early days of celebrity chefdom.

I asked Glynn when he first became interested in food. “I was not a kid who wanted to help Mummy with the baking, and only became interested when I was 21 and first went into a flat, and quickly realised (a) I enjoyed cooking, and (b) life was more fun when you could invite people around and give them something nice to eat.”

Glynn was born in New Zealand and worked there producing radio and TV commercials. He made the move to Britain in the early 60s and soon found employment writing brochures for Clarkson’s, the holiday company. He had the chance to travel and discover exotic ingredients, and explore the diverse tapestry of international cuisine.

Glynn Christian Mr Christian's was the cutting edge deli co-founded by Glynn in 1974. His immense experience of fine foods and speciality ingredients allowed him to fill the shop with amazing products, just at the time when Britain was starting to shake off its reputation as the nasty food nation of Europe. He piled the shelves with everything an enthusiastic cook would want or could want. I asked how it all started. “I learned that ingredients were more important than recipes - that good ingredients could tell you themselves what to do, if you had ever eaten them before, and ever taken notice of them before. Then I put all that knowledge of the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and the US into stocking the shelves of Mr Christian's, the deli just off Portobello Rd. That led to my first book, about cheese, that led to weekly broadcasts on LBC radio, that led to Pebble Mill at One just a few days after I turned 40, and that led to BBC Breakfast Time . . . the rest is on the website!” (

In 1982 Glynn made A Cook's Tour, the BBC's first cookery series shot on location.  The series cruised Eastern Mediterranean ports and showed how their ancient influences could still be found in modern food.

BBC Breakfast-Time TV began in 1983 and found Glynn broadcasting live from a sliced-bread factory!  He was seen three times each week, either cooking or out on location reporting food-related stories.

Glynn has written weekly on food and cookery in The Sunday Telegraph and he was runner-up for a Glenfiddich Food Writer of the Year award.  He was the Food Columnist for Elle UK for five years and wrote for House & Garden, Punch, Gardens Illustrated and other magazines and newspapers. But he returned to Australasia in 1995, where he became Senior Presenter on TVSN the shopping channel and wrote for The Weekend Australian. 

In 1999 he moved to New Zealand where he appeared on TVNZ and wrote weekly for the New Zealand Herald and its magazine Canvas. He also produced and directed the BBC series Glynn Christian Tastes Royal Thailand, and Glynn Christian's Entertaining Microwave. He wrote and presented numerous series and travelled on location to the Eastern Mediterranean, Australia, California, Sri Lanka, China and Thailand. His programmes have covered everything from fish cookery to the history of afternoon tea, and he is also co-presenter of Tasting Australia, a 26-part series.

In Britain he is a regular contributor to Fine Food Digest, the magazine dedicated to the fine food business, and has helped pioneer the sale of speciality foods on QVC UK. Glynn has also been in demand as a judge of speciality foods and the shops selling them. His most recent TV appearances were as a guest on the 70s episode of The Supersizers Go (BBC2) and on Market Kitchen (UKTV Food).

Glynn is still a regular guest on radio and TV and was often seen on Good Food Live for the UKTV food network. He is the only TV cook to make a series about the microwave, and enjoys demonstrating that the microwave is not a gadget just for heating up your instant soup but actually the fastest way to cook some of the healthiest food.  He is currently planning a series of Mediterranean Microwave classes and courses in a restored townhouse in the medieval part of Antibes on the Provencal Riviera.

France has been a popular place for Glynn but he says, “I am too busy once again in London to contemplate living in France, and do not visit enough. But I have just had a glorious long weekend in the Haute Savoie at the gorgeous chateau in Samoens owned by my cousin Jane Tresidder and her husband Jack - and fell in love with Annecy. I reckon I could live there with enormous pleasure.”

Glynn has written numerous food-related books and you can find out more if you visit his web site I have recently reviewed the excellent Real Flavours - The Handbook of Gourmet and Deli Ingredients, and I’ll soon review How to Cook without Recipes, but how about Glynn’s other projects?

“There are two current projects (excluding a follow up to How to Cook without Recipes).

“I want to tell the story of the Tahitian women stolen away by Fletcher Christian on BOUNTY, of their 20 bloody years on Pitcairn Island before it was rediscovered, and how they, born with no rights on Tahiti, became the first women in the world to have their right to vote written into law, 90 years before the women of Britain. There's a film script making the rounds and that would lead to a book.

“And I am researching a book about cooking and eating in the heat of battle, something not done in any language as far as I can see. Because everyone eats, it puts war into scarifying new focus that's impossible in the usual rehearsals of victories and battles and lists of armaments.  It will take a few years but be very worthwhile to do.

“And I am talking to several companies about some new television series ...”

Whatever Glynn does you can be sure that it will be surprising, informative, amusing and a credit to this celebrated and generous foodie.

food and travel reviews Glynn Christian

Real Flavours

Real Flavours by Glynn Christian is a book that you will need if you are new to cooking and a book that you will want if you are an old hand to all things culinary, and it’s not even a recipe book! It’s more like an encyclopaedia of all things delicious.

Real Flavours This is a hefty tome in stylish sepia, black and white. It is, as it says, THE handbook of gourmet and deli ingredients. Why should you either want or need such a volume? you may ask. Well it’s a kitchen aid. It’s packed with information about every product that might cross your path in a grocers shop. Real Flavours is what you need if you want to know how to cheat at, where have I heard that before?

There is a wealth of wonderful items lining the shelves of delis all over the world. Products that have taken hundreds of years to perfect. Ingredients that will make your catering life easier....but you need to know what they are and how to use them. Real Flavours tells you in the most accessible way.

There is nothing missing. Everything has a mention, everything from Sugar to Sushi, from Fruit to Fish, from Grain to Game. Let’s take an example. You want to know about sausage? We’ll have a look. Start with Fresh Sausages. Glynn tells us about their production, their varieties, what to use them for and how to use them. But then he continues with.....Sausages With Casings, and gives 17 examples with descriptions and histories....Without Casings, more examples. Next it’s Smoked Dried Sausages, Scalded Sausages, Cooked Sausages, all with lots of different types listed and described. Multiply that by each product and you can see why the book is considered to be perhaps the most comprehensive of its type.

Real Flavours is not only informative but it’s thoroughly readable. You will start by just dipping into it and finish by reading it from cover to cover. Even the introduction is a worthwhile read and you can’t say that about too many books.

Although this isn’t a recipe book, it does have a good number of them, like Simple Spiced Salt Beef - sounds delicious. There are both Green and Red Thai Curry Pastes which will be excellent, as Glynn must know as much as any Westerner about the cuisine of that lovely part of the world (Glynn has presented several TV series on the cuisine of Thailand).

It will be your most “thumbed” food-related book and the one you refer to time and time again. It’s full of humour, knowledge and passion for the subject. Glynn Christian has written a classic food book which deserves to be recognised as such.

Real Flavours
Author: Glynn Christian
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £15.99
ISBN 1-904943-20-9

food and travel reviews Glynn Christian

How to Cook without Recipes

Glynn Christian is one of my favourite food writers and this is another of his ‘non-recipes’ books, as the title would suggest. This is the cookbook you should read and inwardly digest before you buy a single recipe book.

cooking without recipes How to Cook without Recipes takes you back to basics and teaches you how to taste. It should be equally welcomed by both cooks and chefs and will be just as fascinating to lovers of wine.  If you need to ask why you need to learn how to taste, then you have no business visiting my site!  You eat don’t you?  Then you should read Glynn’s book....and don’t come back here ‘till you do!

How to Cook without Recipes will show you how to get the very best out of your cooking and will revolutionise the way you read cookbooks. No need to follow recipes slavishly but read and understand the taste combinations, look for the Flavour Trails, understand the concept of Taste Affinities. There are lists to help understand what goes with what, and by the time you have read the book you will understand why.

Glynn calls a spade a spade, and the book is all the richer for that. On the subject of baked custard: “You must never use only egg whites or too many egg whites when making any sort of baked custard: crème brulée in particular fails, becoming a legless, deathly pale scramble of egg and sugar. (If you’d like to try this, there is a clutch of restaurants I can recommend, all around the world.)”

With a bit of practice you will be able to adapt cheffy cookbook recipes to use your preferred ingredients. You’ll have the confidence to write your own recipes knowing that the result will be to your taste, and delicious. You’ll be a better and more confident cook.

This isn’t an anti-cookbook book. Glynn has a heart-warming section called Taking an Author to Bed, in which he pays compliments to the professional efforts of Ainsley Harriott, Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein and others. Glynn is well respected by chefs and food writers because he knows what he is talking about, and I am sure there are many of them that have this book as bedtime reading.

How to Cook without Recipes is the most informative book about taste and cooking that I have ever read. Glynn has, as usual, been thorough in his research. He writes in a style that brings great humour to what at first might seem a dry old subject. This is absorbing  and will make you think and mutter “I never knew that” at the start, but “Oh, yeah, that would work” as the penny drops at the end. This has got to be one of the best reads around and an essential volume for anyone who enjoys food. Another classic in the making.

How to Cook without Recipes
Author: Glynn Christian
Published by: Portico
Price: £12.99
ISBN 978-1-906032-23-4

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