The Naked Cookbook Author Q&A: Tess Ward

Tess Ward, author of The Naked Cookbook answers questions and describes her approach to clean, healthy eating.

Q: Can you describe a bit of your culinary training? What influences led you to offer up the clean, simple recipes included in this collection?

A: Although I was classically trained in French cuisine, my farm-to-table experience in the kitchens at River Cottage got me really interested in produce-led cooking. For me cooking has always been about great quality—fresh ingredients prepared simply but with a modern twist. This book is a celebration of some of my lighter recipes, which are perfect for the budding healthy cook.

Q: You make a point to note that, though simple and nutritious, the recipes here do not all fall within restrictive categories that have become pop­ular in recent years (gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian, for instance). Can you describe how this approach reflects your overall philosophy about balance in diet?

A: For me eating well isn’t about giving up major food groups in search of some perfect diet. It is more about balancing the indul­gences and the everyday foods in a way that is unrestricting and enjoyable. I don’t like to focus on movable fads and trends because often they can be misleading. Packaged gluten-free foods, for example, are often filled with sugar and processed fats. I want people to see health as a long-term goal, not a short-term fix.

Q: What do you hope this approach offers home cooks?

A: Hopefully, this is a relief to many budding cooks. There is nothing more off-putting than recipes that take a long time to make and cost a ton. Life is just too busy, and for so many cooking is not a priority. Cooking from scratch needn’t be hard nor boring. This book accommodates that.

Q: Can you offer some insight into your creative process in developing these recipes? How do you approach building a dish, and when do you know you have a winner?

A: Developing recipes can be unpredictable. I begin with a selection of ingredients I like and take it from there. Sometimes I will end up with a totally different result from what I was expecting. Once I am happy with the dish, I will test it again and, for a second opinion, have one of my team test it, as well. If it gets the thumbs-up, I am happy.

Q: The recipes we have included here are all one-bowl meals—flavorful, nutrient-dense ingredients that come together in one bowl—chosen from quite a few of this kind in the book. Can you describe the draw of offering up this type of one-stop meal prep?

A: It’s great for washing-up dodgers, can easily be doubled up for lunchbox leftovers, and is a real pleasure to eat in the colder months. There is nothing better than a dahl or hot, slow-cooked stew to warm those winter cockles.