Scottish MasterChef finalist Sarah Rankin tells us about new cookbook, Kith

The recipes are divided into seasons
Sarah Rankin portraitSarah Rankin portrait
Sarah Rankin portrait

Whenever there’s a series of BBC’s MasterChef on the telly, we become very patriotic and root for the Scottish contestants.

If they’re especially like-able, we’ll cheer them on even harder. Perthshire-based Sarah Rankin is an excellent case in point.

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Unfortunately, she didn’t win the 2022 series, but she did make it all the way to finals week.

Since then, she’s carved a career in food, as a broadcaster, chef, and, now, an author. Her next step is to release a cookbook, Kith: Scottish Seasonal Food for Family and Friends, on the cover of which she wears her signature yellow-framed glasses. “Everyone recognises me when I’m wearing those,” she says.

It seems like she’s been non-stop, since the programme was filmed back in 2021.

“MasterChef feels like a lifetime ago, but everything in my life has completely changed since,” says Rankin, who stays in touch with the other contestants.

What would she be doing if she hadn’t entered the series?

“What I did before, which was running a marketing agency and I still do that a little. I’m trying to work out when the transition point comes, but I love that job as well,” she says. “I’ve found it really helpful to have those skills, as I’ve started a new business and brand, I suppose. And I feel so incredibly lucky that this is what I get to do for a living”.

The post-MasterChef life includes this publication. Its chapters are organised into the four seasons, with Rankin’s favourite being winter, because “you can hunker down with big jumpers, great wine and buttery rich sauces”. Across the book, you’ll discover 100 recipes for wild garlic soup; pork chop, pangrattato and remoulade; whisky-cured trout with salt-baked beetroot mascarpone, and egg yolk butter and candied bacon. There are some impressive creations for a self taught cook, who credits her mum for sparking her interest in food. As Rankin explains, her mother would always make dishes from scratch and normalised that daily routine.

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“After I left home, I was never into the ready-meals,” says Rankin, who has refined her skills with a few formal classes, like one at Martin Wishart Cook School, and now teaches her own at Violet Kitchen Studios in Bridge of Earn.

She’s created the dishes in the book to be user-friendly, but still impressive, with something for all tastes.

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“That was the goal really. I do a lot of fine-dining when I do private catering, but we eat regular stuff at home,” she says. “We’re just more mindful about how we prepare it and sourcing the Scottish ingredients, because they are genuinely the best”.

There are plenty of mentions in the book for Scottish producers, and Rankin is a fan of other local businesses.

“When we do go out to eat, we love Jamie Scott’s restaurant in Fife. And Loch Leven’s Larder, which is just up the road from me, is our go-to lunch spot,” she says. “We’ve also got a fabulous little coffee shop in town called Unorthodox Roasters. They actually gave me the coffee to do the coffee-crusted venison in the book, so we did a photoshoot there. They’re really enthusiastic about what they do and it’s really infectious”.

Kith also includes a lot of delicious-looking puddings and cakes, which is a surprise, as Rankin admits that she doesn’t have a sweet tooth and would always rather opt for the cheese course over dessert. There’s elderberry sorbet, lemon posset, and an unusual gorse panna cotta, which is infused with the coconutty scent of that wild plant, as well as rhubarb custard tart (presumably for those who are fans of the classic hard sweet) and St Clement’s shortcake, among many other goodies.

The influence may be traced to Rankin’s late granny.

“My granny was an amazing baker and I got a lot of her handwritten recipes when she passed away. There was such nostalgia attached to them,” says Rankin.”She had an old Be-Ro cookbook and tucked inside of that were loads of handwritten recipes on the back of envelopes and things, and there was clootie dumpling and tablet. There did end up being loads of dessert recipes in the book, so apparently I CAN do pastry”.

Rankin’s granny gets a little mention in Kith’s prologue, as does her mum and partner. She also pays tribute to The Birds - who are they?

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“They are my best friends from school. There are five of us and we’ve been friends since nursery and we’re all 50 now,” says Rankin. “We don’t see each other often, but when we do it’s always good fun, and wine and pic ‘n’ mix features quite heavily”.

As Rankin’s gang don’t live nearby, most of the book recipes were tested on her kin, rather than kith. They’ve been her enthusiastic supporters for the last couple of years.

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“When I was practicing for MasterChef, my husband would come home from work on a Tuesday night and there would be guinea fowl and then the same with a slightly different sauce,” she says.

As well as her family, Rankin has had other influences, when it comes to creating her first cookbook. She’s an avid collector of this genre and has a library’s worth in her house.

“I have over 200 recipe books and I read them from cover to cover like novels. I don’t cook a lot out of them but I pick up interesting bits and pieces. They’re a compulsion,” she says. “I used to live in the US and subscribed to Gourmet magazine, which food writer Ruth Reichl used to edit, and there was an annual they put out every year. My favourite is the 2005 one”.

We think it’s time she cleared some space for her own books.

Kith by Sarah Rankin, out April 18, £25, Birlinn,



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