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Learn to Cook Like John Pawson

The British architectural designer and his wife Catherine are set to release a cookbook with more than 100 recipes they enjoy making at their Oxfordshire farm.

By Rachel Gallaher

Photography by Gilbert McCarragher

Book cover of kitchen table with one chair, bowl of lemons, floating shelf with open dishware home farm cooking

Twenty-one years ago, architectural designer John Pawson collaborated with food writer Annie Bell to publish Living and Eating, a now-out-of-print book of simple recipes that has been known to sell online for more than $1,300. Praised by everyone from The New Yorker to The Guardian, the cookbook gained a cult following and an endless stream of requests for its revival.

Next week the call will be answered with the release of Home Farm Cooking (Phaidon), a volume from Pawson and his wife Catherine showcasing more than 100 recipes that the couple often cook at home on their country farm in Oxfordshire. Organized by season, the book combines dishes of Catherine’s own invention along with those given to her by friends and chefs, or ones inspired by her favorite cookbooks. Much of the tableware, dishes, and cookware seen throughout the pages are designed by John (he’s done collections for Salvatori and When Objects Work, as well as pieces for 1882 Ltd.) and used by the Pawsons on a daily basis.

exterior view of barn dining room with stone facade picture window outdoor dinning with wishbone chairs long table couple eating outdoors

Spring. The barn dining room. (pages 30- 31).

“I’d been thinking about doing a second cookbook for a while and Emilia Terragni, Phaidon’s editorial director, was very keen that this time it would be a Phaidon book,” Pawson says. “We had been talking over various ideas, in terms of direction and potential collaborators and then a piece came out in the New Yorker,which described Living & Eating as ‘one of the most wonderful cookbooks ever published’ and this was the final push. I wanted to keep the focus on how we live and cook at home and making this book with Catherine made everything that much more personal. We had just finished Home Farm and the final year of work on the book coincided with lockdown, so life was very focused on being at home.”

overhead view of place setting for entertaining Chocolate, prune and whiskey cake with cream in dishes with forks on the side

Winter. From a Menu for a festive lunch: Chocolate, prune and whiskey cake with cream. (page 222, bottom).

As a designer, Pawson is known for his minimalist aesthetic, a term that often gets a bad rap for being cold and harsh—a categorization he argues against. With images taken throughout his and Catherine’s home, and focused on the entertaining spaces, the book shows that clean lines and a thoughtfully restrained palette can be communal and welcoming.

“I’ve never seen any contradiction between architectural minimalism and making places that are warm and inviting,” Pawson says. “The entire house is arranged as a series of comfortable gathering spaces—for larger numbers of people when we have family or friends over—but also for Catherine and me, when it’s just the two of us. There are actually three kitchens: one in what was the old farmhouse, one in the barn, and one in the wainhouse, where the wagons and carts would once have been stored. I didn’t set out with the idea of making a home with three kitchens, it was a consequence of what it made sense to do with the inherited architecture, but it was wonderful last year when the children were staying for extended periods, as it allowed them a degree of independence.”

LEFT: Winter. From a Menu for a festive lunch: Roast rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce. (page 223). RIGHT: Spring. Piedmontese peppers. (page 69).

As for the food, it’s a fresh mix of easy-to-prepare dishes that highlight seasonal produce and local offerings, from bright stuffed Piedmontese peppers in the spring to autumn’s rich butternut squash and pumpkin soup. Much like his approach to design, Pawson says that his, “food preferences are for a restricted palette of ingredients that are not too fussed about with. I like to pare away.”

Asked about his favorite dish in the book Pawson offers up the stuffed courgette flowers. “The flavors are so fresh and using an ingredient that is available for such a short time makes the recipe the essence of seasonal eating.”

Home Farm Cooking will be available through Phaidon on April 28.


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