Cookbook Report: Q & A with Mary McCartney, author of FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking

By Jolia Sidona Allen May 8, 2013 Categories: Cookbook Report


While many vegetarians have to eschew family food traditions in pursuit of a plant-based diet, there is an ever-growing number of us lucky enough to be raised in a vegetarian household and to learn, from childhood, how to cook and eat healthfully in a vegetarian kitchen. So it was for Mary McCartney—daughter of Paul McCartney of the Beatles and the late Linda McCartney, a rock photographer, musician, and animal rights activist who penned several vegetarian cookbooks and created the vegetarian product line Linda McCartney Foods.

For Mary, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Like her mother, she’s an internationally acclaimed photographer and a passionate food lover turned cookbook author. She’s also the mother of four vegetarian sons. In 2009, she launched the wildly popular Meat Free Monday movement in London alongside her father and sister Stella McCartney, a fellow vegetarian and catwalk-caliber compassionate fashion designer.

On becoming a cookbook author, Mary notes, “I was doing an interview with The Times in London to promote the campaign, which has really taken off. When I did the interview, I cooked lunch with the journalist, and she enjoyed it so much that a publisher approached me about a cookbook [which became The Meat Free Monday Cookbook].” Her latest release, FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking, is a collection of gorgeous photos and fresh, family-friendly recipes inspired by the flavors of her childhood.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Mary dishes on how the family recipes in the book have evolved over the years and how to get children interested in cooking, and shares her Hearty Quinoa and White Bean Soup recipe. The soup, and the book, would both make lovely gifts for a mother in your life.


Have some of the family recipes in this book changed more than others over the years?

The Cheesy Quiche is something that my mum used to make. I wanted very much to keep the cheese and onion flavors that I remember growing up with. Over the years, I began making up recipes a bit more to keep me interested and experimenting with food. The Auberine (Eggplant) Wraps, I didn’t grow up with, but I cook now, especially for friends. And there are new foods like quinoa. I didn’t grow up eating quinoa. I only started using it in the last three or four years. I like it for adding texture, and it’s a great source of protein. I use it in the Hearty Quinoa and White Bean Soup (recipe below), which is similar to minestrone. I use it a lot instead of rice now as well. I think it’s really versatile. There’s a salad recipe that uses quinoa in the book, Super Quinoa Salad. The quinoa makes it filling. It makes it a dish.


What’s your best advice for parents on how to get their children engaged with cooking and with food?

I love cooking soups, so I get kids involved by making a soup. I blend it up because if they like the texture, they’re more likely to eat it. When they get a bit older, they like to chop the vegetables, because kids can be more finicky about the size of the vegetables. When they get more of the power, then they’re more interested. I like to discuss what ingredients to add, asking, ”Do you like cheddar or veggie Parmesian cheese?” I like talking about it, and getting them to help make sandwiches. They start thinking about food and being a part of the process. It can be messy, but fun.

I also take them through the farmers’ market so they can see carrots with the tops on still, so that everything isn’t pre-packaged. I have memories of digging up potatoes and being so surprised that the potatoes are in the ground, and pulling a carrot out out of the ground.


How would you describe your cooking style?

For the main meal I like to start with a couple of key ingredients. I like eating a variety of different dishes so I’m not just eating the same food groups all the time. And I like a lot of color in my cooking. My challenge is to make food as tasty and indulgent as possible but actually healthy.



Serves 6

This is a warming and very satisfying soup. I like to use quinoa because it’s a really nutritious superfood that provides a great source of protein. The grainy texture helps make this soup filling enough to provide a meal in itself.

4 Tbs. light olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
15-oz. can white beans, such as cannellini
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
14.5-oz. can chopped tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup quinoa
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbs. fresh oregano, rosemary, or thyme, chopped
1 Bay leaf
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté 5 minutes. Add beans and garlic, and sauté for a couple of minutes more.

2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock, and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Finally, add quinoa, parsley, oregano, and bay leaf, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes to allow quinoa to cook through. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.


Reprinted with permission from FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking © 2012 by Mary McCartney, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.



Jolia Sidona Allen is online managing editor for Vegetarian Times. She’s a life-long vegetarian, writer, editor, and lover of lentils and green smoothies. Outside the VT office, she can be found frequenting SoCal farmers’ markets and veg restaurants, or getting her daily dose of Vitamin D (and some sand in her toes) under the warm California sun.

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Great recipe

Linda - 2013-05-10 12:24:39