Keith Squires On Cooking With Love

Keith on Food - Love Veg

We chat with Keith Squires about the inspirations behind his Cooking With Love vegetarian recipe book. Head Chef at Dru Yoga Center in Snowdonia, we spoke with Keith to find out more about the veggie-packed read, cooking tips and his ‘love, generosity and joy’ cooking philosophy.

What inspired you to write the book?
Guests often want to take our chefs home with them so they can continue to have the same food at home. Obviously we can’t let them do that but this book is the next best thing— a guide to creating a Dru kitchen in your own home.

It sounds funny but it sort of wrote itself. For instance I was writing about herbs parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and the Simon and Garfunkel song came into mind. I started looking that up and an amazing story came with it. How the herbs are symbols of love and had a language when the song was written in the middle ages.

Keith on Food - Ginger cake

Tell us more about your culinary background…
It all started at nine years old when I had the idea to start making bread and cakes in my mother’s kitchen, which she really encouraged. My grandmother also got enthused by the idea and started buying me ingredients in bulk because she had a shop and could get a cheap deal at the cash and carry.

Many years later I was helping out at the Dru Yoga Centre in Wales. It was getting near lunchtime so I went up to the kitchen. Like my stomach it was empty, no-one was making any lunch! I had a choice grab a quick snack for myself or make something for everyone. I chose the latter and that decision changed my life. The next day everyone asked me to be the resident chef. I’d created a new role for myself!

It was mostly trial and error to begin with. I had no idea about vegetarian cooking (apart from baking) and this cookery book wasn’t available then. However, it was fun being creative and making up my own recipes from what was available. During the 1980s, interest in Dru Yoga grew quickly and so did the numbers of people visiting. I started off cooking for four or five people. It wasn’t long before we started running yoga conferences. Starting with a hundred delegates that, too, doubled each year. Before I knew it we were providing vegetarian food for thousands of people!

For the next ten years we ran courses mostly from large houses, always amazed at how many meals we could cook from a single cooker in a domestic kitchen. In 1997 we established our very own Dru Training Centre in North Wales, complete with commercial cookers and that blessed creation—a pass-through dishwasher

What can readers expect from the new book?
The first thing is a good laugh, even I find it funny and I know what’s coming next. Also, that it is beautifully designed and put together by my wife Samia. It is like a piece of artwork that is such a nice thing in itself to have in your home. Practical too, because it is heavy enough to hold straight the other books on your shelf.

It is based on the healthy cuisine at the yoga centre in north Wales. People always wanted to take the cooks home with them. Now they can as the book captures the essence of the cooking at the centre.

The next thing is that it introduces the idea of plant based meals as a healthy option for everyone. How to balance a simple vegetarian meal so that is delicious, and has the right protein and other nutrients. Then we introduce the whole world of Ayurveda so now you can match your cooking and eating habits to your constitution type. Plus a look at lots of ingredients we use, including lots of inspiring legends and stories. We also remembered it is a cookbook so there are over 100 tried and tested favourite recipes.

Keith on Food - Broc and sweet potato

Describe your cooking philosophy in three words.
Love, generosity and joy.

What has been the proudest moment in your career?

There have been so many magical moments, but more recently it has been about the book. We spent a number of years writing it and a lot of patience went into finalising the editing and layout. Even the printing and shipping took a long time. It was an amazing when all the books arrived in a big truck. It just happened to be St Valentine’s Day which was appropriate for our ‘Cooking with Love’ book. It was a bit like a baby arriving, and in the same way our life hasn’t been the same since.

Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
The important thing is to never lose your enthusiasm and passion for cooking. This makes it special and people can tell the difference. Keep looking at new recipes and styles of cooking. Food is about people’s wellbeing too, so try to make food healthy as well as delicious.

How would you describe your style of cooking?
I actually love cooking in a very rustic way. Just to see what is in the market fresh at the start of the week and make something from it. At the end of the week I love using up all the bits and pieces that have been left and creating something wonderful.

What provides you with inspiration for dishes?
 get a lot of inspiration when I go traveling. Just recently we went to Malta and found out about the traditional cooking there. Some of it is vegetarian in style for economic rather than ethical reasons.  Traditional Maltese food is rustic and follows the seasons – wherever I go I love finding out about the food and the wonderful stories that go with it.

Do you have any role models?
It is great spending time at the yoga centre in Wales and be surrounded by an amazing bunch of people. Everyone there is very positive and inspired. They look forward to every day with lots of positive ideas. When I first went there nearly everyone was my role model.

Now it’s nice to return the favour. When guests arrive for one of our retreats they are often seem tired and little bit stressed. After a weekend of yoga, walks in nature and great food and company everyone is really glowing. It’s great to be part of that.

What food takes you back to childhood?
As a family we loved potatoes. My favourite was mashed potato with butter and milk. Particularly served with gravy and onions. Now as my comfort food treat I love having some veggie sausages with gravy and mash.

What is your favourite spring dish and ingredient?
During the winter it is normal to sit by the fire with our favourite comfort foods. It is natural to put on weight and eat heavier food.  In spring time the green bitter shoots are emerging from the earth. These help us to detox and get ready for summer.

Spring cleaning is not just for the house our bodies need it too. I do a seasonal detox this time of year with juices and soups made from the green leaves that nature is providing.

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