At The Chromologist we were excited to be able to speak to Pip McCormac, Lifestyle Director at one of our favourite British women’s magazines, Red. Every month Pip and his team feature beautiful homes, inspirational decorating ideas and mouth-watering recipes, so we weren’t completely surprised when he launched his own recipe book ‘The Herb and Flower Cookbook’. We caught up recently to find out more about his new venture.
TC: We’ve known each other for a few years now, but more in your role as an editor, have you always been interested in cooking?
PM: You know, although each journalism job I’ve had has covered home and food, I started out being more about interiors. The magic a touch of paint or a new form of lighting could bring to a room was spellbindingly transformative. But in the last few years a love for food has taken over – I think that, with the rise of social media suddenly the messages from new foodie businesses were getting out there, and it all felt really exciting as trends and crazes came and went really quickly. Plus, there were only so many times I could redecorate my home – it was time to focus on something else!
TC: What prompted you to create a collection of recipes inspired so much by nature and home grown herbs?
PM: Having never had any outdoor space in London, I moved into a new flat which had a balcony. “A couple of herb pots,” I thought. “A little side project to keep me amused.” I quickly became obsessed, scouring the internet for seeds and watching as shoots sprung up. At the same time, I’d noticed more top chefs using edible flowers in their restaurants, and thought this could be something that could be developed at home. They look really pretty, for starters, and although are very simple to cook with, make any dish feel far more impressive.
TC: Which is your favourite recipe from the new book and why?
PM: My answer changes every time I get asked this. The dill and cucumber gin is summery and refreshing, the artichokes with nasturtium butter are easy but indulgent, but right now I’ll go for the lavender-poached apricots, which I ate for breakfast today. Fragrant and light, they take minutes to prepare and can keep for a few days in the fridge. So much more inspiring than toast.
TC: What’s your entertaining style?
PM: I love showing off! If guests don’t walk in and marvel at my hosting skills I feel very short changed. I like to put out flowers in jugs, candles, lots of glasses for lots of drinking. And then make several bowls of different, smaller dishes that can all be put out at once and people help themselves to. It’s far more relaxed and creates a friendlier ambience than plating up food in the kitchen.
TC: You live in Southwark, do you spend a lot of time at Borough Market, and what’s your recommendation?
PM: I tend to head to Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey instead – it feels a bit more dynamic and a bit less touristy. A salt beef sandwich from Monty’s Deli will cure any hangover, and the eggs from the sweet old man on the unmarked stall may cost a fortune but their rich creaminess are worth every penny.
TC: You have worked for some of the biggest names in British media – Sunday Times Style, Grazia and now Red, which part of your job do you enjoy most?
PM: I like being shown new products and getting to try the latest restaurants, picking the best and working out how trends will relate into real readers’ lives. I would never run a page of, say, purple products because purple is supposedly big this season – our homes aren’t like our wardrobes. Instead I try and look at existing decorating and eating styles, and how the latest collections or ideas will fit into them.
TC: And which part do you find most challenging?
PM: Trying to keep on top of new launches! The internet is brilliant because it has opened up new ways for companies to market their product, but it also means there’s a plethora of amazing stuff out there. I want to be able to see it all so I can truly pick the best for our readers.
TC: Who is the most inspirational person you have interviewed and why?
PM: The chef Maria Elia, whose recipes I’ve always been a fan of. In fact, when I moved to Red I tracked her down because she was such a hero of mine, and suggested we go to Cyprus, where her family is from and the inspiration for many of her recipes, for a shoot. Thankfully she agreed, and didn’t think my star struck nature was too weird. She taught me a different way to use ingredients, to think about how flavours evoke memories and feelings. Every plate she creates is imbued with sunshine, a trick I’ve tried to evoke in my own book.
TC: Every month you and your team create stylish new looks for the interiors pages of Red, where do you go for inspiration, and how do you gather your thoughts into one cohesive look
PM: We have a defined point of view at Red, that our readers are time poor and yet still love things to look beautiful. So anything that is straightforward, functional, beautiful and will fit into real life is going to make it on to our pages. We know from seeing which inspirational galleries do well on Red Online what sort of thing our readers like, and thankfully it’s the same as us! Grey walls, modern rustic, easy updates. Chic interiors that don’t cost the earth. It’s about being confident with your style.
TC: How would you describe your personal style, both in fashion and at home?
PM: My own flat is a mix of grey walls, modern rustic wood finished and Scandi shapes – I like a hit of copper or gold for extra shine, too. My wardrobe style is just as defined – I never stray far from fitted shirts, ties and a tie pin. We don’t have to dress smart for the office, but I just feel comfortable that way. I did go in wearing trainers once and my colleagues stared in shock. I barely got anything done – my mind just didn’t feel like it was in work mode!
TC: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made, and do you still think it was a good decision?!
PM: Probably a pair of copper anglepoise-style lamps from Heals, which we use as bedside lamps. They were totally unnecessary but I love them, they way they gleam and bend and seem to strike a pose. Yes, still a good decision.
TC: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
PM: I keep pestering my boyfriend to move with me to Venice Beach, California. Think of the wonderful lifestyle – all sunshine and jogging and going to Whole Foods. Fortunately he’s so uninterested he’s never called my bluff – I don’t know if I’d really ever live anywhere but London. It’s where my friends and life are. Plus the food here is off the chart.
TC: And finally, when can we expect to see another cookbook from you?!
PM: I’ve got a couple of ideas up my sleeve, but nothing solid yet. I want it to feel totally right rather than just churning one out for the sake of it. That said, doing The Herb and Flower Cookbook was the most fun and rewarding thing I’ve done in my career, so I’m keen to do it all over again! Watch this space…
Make sure to come back next week for a couple of exclusive recipes from beautiful ‘The Herb & Flower Cookbook’.