Sarah Rankin.
Sarah Rankin.

In a Nutshell, Sarah Rankin: ‘I still go to my granny’s handwritten baking recipes’

MasterChef finalist and food writer Sarah Rankin on her favourite meal, her biggest Scottish inspirations and watching her mum cook with adventurous with ingredients and flavours when she was a child.


What’s the closest thing you have to a signature dish:  

Venison of any cut, cooked in any way. I adore venison and we need to celebrate it more.

Describe your style of cuisine in ten words: 

Scottish, seasonal, sustainable, delicious, unfussy and made with love.

Best and/or most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten: 

An Abroath Smokie velouté at the sadly now closed Newport by Jamie Scott. I can still taste it. It was incredible.

Worst/weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten: 

At a nose to tail traditional Spanish restaurant in Madrid just a few weeks ago. Pig’s snout with crispy pig’s tail. Weird, but delicious.

Worst thing you’ve ever cooked: 

Very overcooked seasoned chicken wings at the afterparty for my husband’s 40th. They were like spicy charcoal. 

What’s the dish that you’re most proud of having cooked: 

The sweetcorn custard and chicken skin dish I cooked in a MasterChef invention test where we were given a chicken and an egg and told to be creative.

Favourite ingredient 

Anything pickled; red onions/radishes/capers/nasturtium seeds/wild garlic buds. That little punch of acidity really lifts the flavour of whatever you’re serving.

Your go-to recipe book: 

My Granny’s handwritten baking recipes.

What other country’s cuisine really excites and intrigues you? 

I love Middle eastern food. The delicate use of spicing, low and slow meat cookery and that sweet/sour thing with fruit in savoury dishes blows my mind.

Most you’ve ever paid for a meal: 

£500 at a Michelin starred restaurant I won’t name. It was absolutely not worth it.

Your favourite Scottish chef: 

Tom Tsappis. He’s doing incredible things, and the experience he and Matilda have created at Killiecrankie House is exceptional.

Favourite chef outside Scotland: 

Jeremy Lee. Real food, classic cookery, no messing around with stuff. And he just seems so full of love for his produce and his team.

Who taught you to cook or ignited your passion for food as a youngster: 

My mum. She’s a great home cook who was adventurous with ingredients and flavours when we were kids. Not easy in late 70’s Inverness.

Most important lesson a young chef can learn:  

Persevere. Taste everything and make it with love.

Culinary mentor – the most important person in your development as a professional chef: 

I’m self-taught so have never worked in a brigade, but Gary McLean and Coinneach MacLeod have both been incredibly helpful and supportive.

Best thing about the industry: 

How flexible a career in food can be, and how much food brings people together.

Worst thing about the industry:  

Women, in the restaurant world specifically, still seem to be woefully under-represented.

What’s the biggest sin a chef can commit: 

Not being humble. You are only as good as the last dish you served.

What do you eat when you’re at home: 

Eggs in all their forms. And chimichurri with everything.

Celebrity guest or your perfect dinner party – who would you most like to cook for: 

F. Marian McNeill. I think she’d be pleased that so many of the recipes she preserved are still being cooked.

Tell me a something about you that virtually no-one knows: 

I was an obsessive Elvis fan as a young teenager and wrote an (as yet unpublished) diary of his life when I was 13.

What’s your favourite wine? 


Your spirit of choice? 

Gin, closely followed by whisky. The decision made by the time of day. No gin after 8pm. Anytime before then is absolutely fine.

Do you play music in the kitchen and, if so, what’s your go-to track or artist:  

I listen to podcasts when I’m cooking or have vintage movies playing in the background. Now Voyager is a particular favourite.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be:  

A Marketing Consultant. I still keep my hand in. It’s proved useful when trying to start a new career and small business.


Sarah Rankin will be heating up the Kitchen Theatre at this year’s Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Scottish Game Fair event, which takes place from 5 – 7 July at Perthshire’s Scone Palace.

Read more Chefs In a Nutshell here.

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