For most of us, the kitchen is where it all happens. From quickly grabbed slices of toast and last-minute snatches of homework, to the lazy chaos of prepping and dishing up Sunday lunch, and drunken late-night arguments over who ate the last of the crisps and dip.

“It is the kitchen, for most people, where interaction and life takes place,” explains food writer Gill Meller, best known for his work with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage. “Our kitchen, when we were growing up, was fairly lively. My parents were quite sociable, everything just happened there - friends would come, people would stay, food would be cooked.”

From his childhood in his parents’ kitchen, he went on to spend his adulthood in commercial kitchens: “So as a space and a place, it’s always had a real significance and poignance - more so than the other rooms in one’s house.”

As such, he has peppered his latest cookbook, Time, with photographs of kitchens that belong to people he loves - “to make some noise” about these fundamental rooms that underpin what we eat, how we eat it, and who we eat with.

Meller, 37, says his kitchen now isn’t packed with gadgets (“I’m not overly mad on electrical kit”) and instead he relies on a couple of good sharp knives and “sentimental things”, like his pestle and mortar, his wooden spoons, and an old silver fork: “They’re far more important to me than kit.”

The collision between memory and cooking is a thread he tugs on throughout Time, be it through the impact of a specific utensil, the joy of a borrowed recipe, or in trying to recreate a childhood meal from memory and taste alone.

“Memory is all we really have as people, in the sense that we don’t really know what tomorrow’s going to bring,” says Meller. “The present is an instant, so everything that shapes us and moulds us and gives us what we know, is in our memory. Anyone who writes a cookbook, they’re only pulling on memories, even if they’re creating a new recipe.”

He believes food memories are particularly significant, “because eating and tasting is such an important part of our lives and the senses trigger memories like nothing else”. Even something as simple as fish fingers can take you back, he notes with a laugh.

Meller’s mother died last year, and her food and influence can be felt throughout Time, be it in the seasonal nature of his recipes (“My mum was a good cook, ingredients were important to her”), recollections of her “old turquoise, crank-handled runner-bean slicer”, or in sharing her recipe for spaghetti with tomato and fried chicken, a dish everyone in his family makes.

The book is split into three parts - Morning, Day, Night - but essentially mirrors, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and includes recipes from across the seasons in each section. “Breaking it into times of day felt more poetic and romantic, and I like that about food books.”

And the food itself, says Meller, is straightforward and achievable too. Time, he admits, is a touch more accessible than his debut cookbook from 2016, Gather - for instance, there’s no squirrel meat in this one, but he’s all for encouraging people to consider different ingredients. “It’s only that our society sees that as an unconventional meat to eat,” he says of squirrel. “It’s actually really tasty.

“We live in a fairly sheltered culinary society, in that we’re not that adventurous,” he adds. “You only need to go to France and look into the butcher’s shop and you’ll see things the majority of people in the UK wouldn’t dream of eating on a regular basis; intestines and brains, all sorts of unusual offaly pieces.”

“I love liver and bacon,” he continues. “I don’t see why we should be nervous of it, it’s just another part of the animal.”

He extends this attitude to where he cooks too. Take a quick glance at Meller’s annoyingly idyllic Instagram feed and you’ll see envy-inducing pictures of him cooking over hot coals on West Dorset beaches (he lives near Lyme Regis with his wife and two daughters).

“I just love being outside, I love cooking; if you combine the two, it makes for a pretty good day,” he says with a grin. As much as Time reveals his love of them, “it’s good for us to get out of our conventional kitchens,” notes Meller, “not only because cooking over fire, charcoal, wood, produces delicious food, but it’s a very natural thing to do for us as people, and we’ve forgotten that.”

He laments the loss of understanding around food and fire, brought on by the availability of electricity and gas - but we can rebuild that connection. “Tune out for a bit, go outside, make a fire, cook something nice to eat - there’s nothing more primal or simple or basic than that,” he says. It just comes down to making time for it.

n Time: A Year And A Day In The Kitchen by Gill Meller, photography by Andrew Montgomery, is published by Quadrille, priced £25. Available now.

Stew of pork, bacon and mushrooms with cream, cider and parsley (serves 4)


Dash of extra-virgin olive oil

1 piece of cured pork belly (streaky bacon; about 350g), cut into 4-5cm cubes

500g fresh pork belly, cut into 4-5cm cubes

1 large or 2 small leeks, halved and sliced

2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

4-6 bay leaves

2-3 rosemary sprigs

2-3 thyme sprigs

2tbsp plain flour

450ml cider

450ml pork, chicken or vegetable stock

Knob of butter

250g wild or cultivated mushrooms, cut into large pieces

200ml double cream

Small bunch of parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 3.

2. Start by heating the oil in a large heavy-based casserole set over a medium-high heat. Add the cured and fresh pork belly pieces and cook the meat for six to eight minutes, or until well browned on all sides.

3. Lift the pieces out of the pan using a spatula or slotted spoon and set aside. Add the leeks to the same pan, along with the sliced garlic, all the herbs and a little seasoning. Sweat the leeks gently for about 10 minutes, then return the browned pork pieces to the pan, sprinkle over the plain flour and stir well.

4. Cook for a further three to four minutes, then pour in the cider and stock and bring to a simmer. Stir well, then place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and place in the oven for two hours, until the pork is fork tender.

5. Meanwhile, set a large frying pan over a high heat and add the butter. When it’s bubbling, add the mushrooms, season them lightly and saute, turning them regularly, for six to eight minutes, until cooked through. Set aside.

6. When the casserole is ready, remove it from the oven and add the fried mushrooms and double cream. Stir well, then return the pan to the oven for 15 minutes without its lid.

7. Stir in the chopped parsley and check the seasoning before bringing to the table with a sharply dressed green salad and some good bread.



(Serves 4-6)

400ml thick Greek yoghurt

6 perfectly ripe figs

2-3tbsp runny honey and honeycomb

Few thyme sprigs (optional)

For the barley crumble:

100g plain flour

Pinch of fine salt

100g butter, cubed and chilled

75g golden caster sugar

75g barley flakes


1. First, make the barley crumble. Heat the oven to 175°C/335°F/gas mark 51/2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix and rub the ingredients thoroughly together until you have formed clumps and lumps.

2. Line a large baking tray with a piece of baking parchment. Tip out the mixture onto the tray and distribute evenly. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning the crumble over three or four times during baking, until it is evenly golden all over. Remove from the oven.

3. To construct the dish, spoon the yoghurt out onto a large serving plate or platter and spread it evenly over the base. Halve the figs, or quarter them if they are large, and scatter the pieces over the yoghurt. Cut the honeycomb up into small sticky bits and distribute this, along with the runny honey, in, around and over the figs.

4. Scatter over a few generous handfuls of the barley crumble, and finish off with a little shake of leaves from the thyme sprig, if using.



(Serves 4)

1 celeriac (about 800g), peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

2 red onions, halved and each half cut into 3 or 4 wedges

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 rosemary sprigs, torn

1 small bunch of thyme, torn

2 bay leaves

2tbsp olive oil

15g pumpkin seeds

15g sunflower seeds

300g skirt steak

1 large handful of salad leaves and herbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:

2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2tsp Dijon mustard

2tsp sugar

1tbsp red wine vinegar


1. Heat the oven 180°C/350°F/gas mark 6.

2. First, make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a small bowl or jug, season with salt and pepper and whisk vigorously to combine. Set aside while you make the salad.

3. Scatter the celeriac over a large baking tray, then the onions, then the garlic, rosemary, thyme and bay. Trickle one tablespoon of the olive oil over and season well with salt and pepper.

4. Place the baking tray in the hot oven and roast, turning the celeriac occasionally, for 35 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and scatter over the seeds, then return to the oven for a further eight to 10 minutes, or until the celeriac is a little caramelized on the outside and tender in the middle. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

5. Season the steak all over with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a medium-large frying pan over a high heat. Add the remaining olive oil and, when hot, add the steak. Cook for about one to two minutes on each side for rare; or two to three minutes on each side for medium. Lift the steak from the pan and keep warm.

6. Take a large, warmed serving platter and scatter over the roasted vegetables and seeds. Slice the skirt steak thickly across its grain and place this on and around the celeriac. Top with the salad leaves, then trickle over the dressing and bring to the table.