The hours Sarah Rankin happily spent in the kitchen of her Inverness home helping her mother cook for the family have made her the talented chef she is today.

She was inspired by her mother and grandmother’s cooking and the recipes they handed down to write Kith, in which she shares the dishes she cooks and eats at home for family and friends.

“I learnt to cook by osmosis in my mum’s kitchen, being told to stir this and take that out of the oven,” said Sarah, who lives in Perthshire with her husband and their two teenage children.

“My mum and granny proved that the best food is made with love, and that is the premise of my book – food is love and by using good raw ingredients, sharing our recipes and feeding people well, we share that love.”

Sarah’s love of cooking was a private affair, until she plucked up the courage to audition for MasterChef, the BBC competition for amateur cooks.

“I didn’t have a great deal of confidence in my abilities, but I had a midlife crisis in lockdown – my son was going off to university and I was approaching 50 – and I just thought, I’m going to do it. My husband and I are huge fans of the show and he always said I should do it.”

After reaching finals week in 2022 and coming fourth, Sarah began cooking full time and is now a supper club chef and caterer, with a new career as a food writer.

In Kith, she shares her enthusiasm for Scottish seasonal produce and the 100 recipes are divided into the four seasons, using the best local ingredients and traditional Scottish cooking updated for modern palates – from grouse with beetroot and sherry to Arbroath smokie souffle.

But her love of food goes back to her Highland childhood.

“Whether a swap for a pickled onion Monster Munch with your own-brand ready salted in the playground or sharing a tasting menu experience somewhere fabulous and Michelin-starred, food is about the people you eat it with just as much as it’s about what you actually eat.

“My love of food started young. It was humble and of the 1970s and I loved it. My mum was really quite an adventurous cook, which wasn’t easy in 1970s Inverness. I remember when I was eight, she made crêpes with a sweet and sour sauce with tinned pineapple and ketchup and thinking it was the most exotic thing I’d ever eaten. I can still taste it. I told my friends at school what we’d had for dinner, and they told me they’d had mince.”

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Sarah hopes her book, which includes instructions for basic sauces and techniques, will encourage more people to cook at home and source the best seasonal ingredients locally.

“When I was growing up we shopped at the local farm to buy vegetables and eggs, and today I get my pork from two farms in Perthshire and my seafood from a fishmonger in Fife. Farm shops and farmers’ markets are great places to find out about wonderful food suppliers.”

Sarah believes that supermarket shopping has eroded the cooking skills and use of seasonal produce common in her grandmother’s day.

“There’s a myth that cooking is hard – it’s not. We’re also becoming so distant from our food, shopping in supermarkets, who decide what we eat. It’s the same stuff on the shelves all year round and you really have to look to find British produce.

“But if we eat seasonally, it’s better for our growers and better for us – it has to be better for your body to eat food at its peak that hasn’t been messed around with or picked before it is ripe and shipped halfway around the world.

“You can get strawberries in October, but they are grown in hothouses in Morocco and taste of wet. Far better to look forward to amazing Carse of Gowrie strawberries.”

The Herald: Kith by Sarah Rankin is published next monthKith by Sarah Rankin is published next month (Image: NQ)

Sarah welcomes the increased availability and take-up of seafood in Scotland since lockdown, when restaurants closed, and suppliers turned to the home market.

“Scotland has the most incredible larder – the waters around us are full of amazing seafood and we have wonderful, rare breeds of cattle and pigs.

“Scotland is my home, and it is the food and ingredients of Scotland that I turn to most often. Our larder is a bounty, and our land is awash with makers, bakers and artisans who celebrate the best it has to offer. I want to share their stories, shine a light on their products, and spread the word on the wonderful array of delicious things that this great land and its people create.”

•Kith will be published by Birlinn on 18 April 2024.



Ham hock terrine and piccalilli

Serves 4–6

2 ham hocks – ideally smoked

1 litre water

300ml white wine

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

a bunch of parsley

2 bay leaves

1 onion, whole

12 semi-dried prunes, chopped

100g pistachio kernels

For the piccalilli

1 cucumber, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced 10 cornichons, diced

1 whole cauliflower, split into florets

300ml white wine vinegar 100g caster sugar
1 red chilli, finely chopped 1 tsp mustard seeds

1 bay leaf
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

A bit of advance work here, but the results are well worth it. A lovely lunch dish and wonderful as part of a ploughman’s or charcuterie board. As always, use free-range, high-welfare pork products wherever you can.


• • •

Simmer the ham hocks uncovered in a pan for 2 hours with the water, white wine, coriander seeds, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaves and onion, skimming the top throughout. Remove the hocks, cool and shred the meat well. Strain the cooking liquid through a muslin. Mix the shredded ham with the chopped prunes and pistachios. Line a loaf tin with cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides, and press the ham mix into the tin. Pour over a little of the cooking liquor but do not cover the meat. Fold over the cling film and leave to set a little in the fridge. Once the liquor has set, press with kitchen weights in the fridge. Leave for at least 12 hours. Turn out and slice.

For the piccalilli, add enough salted water to cover the veg and leave overnight. The next day, drain and rinse. Mix the white wine vinegar, caster sugar, chilli, mustard seeds and bay leaf in a pan and warm through until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Strain, reserving the liquid and discard the bay leaf. Mix together the cornflour, turmeric and mustard with some of the vinegar to make a paste. Add to the remaining pickling liquor and cook for a minute or two until thickened. Add the veg and leave to cool. Decant into sterilised jars and keep in a cool, dark place. This can be eaten immediately but improves over time.

St Clement’s shortcake

Makes 8–10 shortcakes; 16–20 individual biscuits

For the shortbread

226g butter
114g icing sugar 226g plain flour 114g cornflour
3 tbsp caster sugar 1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp orange zest

For the lemon curd cream

60g butter
170g caster sugar
2 lemons, juice and zest 1 egg
3 egg yolks
150ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar

For the orange curd

60g butter
170g caster sugar
2 lemons, juice and zest 1 egg
3 egg yolks

This is a mix of two recipes belonging to my maternal grandmother, Granny Main. The shortbread comes from her own handwritten notes; the lemon curd from a much-annotated copy of the Highland Housewives’ Cookbook, a collection of recipes sent in to the Highland News Group of newspapers by women (and they were almost exclusively women) from all across the Highlands. It has no publication date but the cover price is 10/-, so we can assume it was prior to decimalisation in 1971. It is tatty and well loved. The family recipes shared in it for the benefit of those who showed their love through food are obviously well used too, and that brings me immeasurable joy.

Both of these recipes are converted from the original pounds and ounces, hence the funky measurements.


Begin with the shortbread. Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan). Cream the butter and icing sugar with a wooden spoon until smooth, then sift in the flours and bring the mix together quickly with cold hands.

Roll out to a thickness of about 2cm and cut out rounds with a 5cm-pastry cutter. Chill on a tray for 15 minutes in the fridge – this helps them to keep their shape, as the butter is cold when it goes into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Mix the caster sugar and zests together and sprinkle over the biscuits as soon as they come out of the oven.

For the lemon curd, put the butter, caster sugar and lemon juice in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Beat the eggs separately and once the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, gently and slowly beat in the eggs. Stir until thickened. This could take up to 10 minutes or so. Pour into sterilised jars and cool. Make the orange curd in exactly the same way.

For the lemon cream, beat the double cream until thick and add the icing sugar to sweeten. Add 3 tbsp of the lemon curd and mix well. The curd cream should have a thick spreading consistency.

Once the shortbread has cooled, spread orange curd onto half of the shortbread rounds, then sandwich another piped or spread with the lemon cream on top. Dust the tops with more of the zesty sugar.