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Nadia Lim gets vegeful


She is proudly an omnivore but Nadia Lim isn’t afraid to make veges the star of the show. We catch up with the culinary mastermind about how good old veges have given her a hit of inspiration in the kitchen.

 

 

 

You’ve just launched My Plant-based Bag, a limited-edition meal delivery kit packed with the best of New Zealand produce and plant-based proteins. What encouraged you to start a plant-based food bag and how has it been received?
It’s been amazingly received, and we’ve all been blown away by how popular it’s been so far. It’s totally a reflection of what more and more people want these days. People used to think vegan food was rabbit food, but now so many omnivores are impressed (and often surprised) by just how delicious vegan/vegetarian food can be.


Your latest cookbook Vegful has also just hit the shelves. How difficult is it creating recipes where veges play the starring role?
Not difficult at all! I absolutely loved writing my latest book, Vegful! Whenever I pick a beautiful glossy, plump, vibrant purple eggplant or a hoard of cheerful cherry tomatoes from the garden, I can’t help but be inspired. I love my veggies so much and have so much respect and awe for what nature creates – they deserve to be the stars of more meals on Kiwi dinner tables. And the delicious meals they turn into for my family just inspire me to create more and more.


What are some of your favourite veges and favourite plant-based meals?
Too many to choose from! I love my spuds, kumara, eggplant (often underrated), and pumpkin, and since I’ve just been to Italy and Greece, tomatoes (they are so full of flavour there!). As for favourite plant-based meals, hmmm…. well, I could eat my vegan tacos (with walnut almond chilli and guacamole), masala dosa, and burrito bowls any day, any time.


After turning your talented hand to vegetarian and even vegan meals, how surprised have you been at what you’re able to create without dairy, meat and eggs?
I did a one-week vegan challenge several years ago and I surprised myself (and my fourth-generation sheep farmer husband) with how easy and delicious being vegan was. Since then, I’ve always known that vegan food isn’t ‘lacking’ in any way (including flavour, satiety and ease). We’re both still omnivores, but we genuinely love delicious vegan meals done well.


How much more adventurous has this encouraged you to get in the kitchen?
Creating vegetarian and vegan recipes has actually given me an inspiration boost in the kitchen. I’d almost go as far as saying it has been liberating; once you start with vegetables as the star of your meal, it opens up a whole world of new varieties, flavours and techniques. So many delicious cuisines, like Middle Eastern and Indian, typically have loads of amazing vegetarian dishes so it’s encouraged more experimentation, like my masala dosa and Middle Eastern pita salad.


What are your go-to veges for spring?
Well, asparagus of course. Because it only makes a fleeting visit, so I go a bit crazy with it while it’s here. Lots of leafy greens (of all sorts) as you’re starting to crave lighter meals, and new spuds. Because, spuds… mmmm!


Families are increasingly making separate meals for the adults and the children. As a busy mum, what are your go-to family meals?
I love a good old spag bol, and it’s always a guaranteed winner with the kids. We also love the creamy tomato, mushroom & black bean shepherd’s pies and kumara, chickpea and mushroom burgers from Vegful.


What are some of your favourite ways to get veges into fussy toddlers?
Haha, ummm…. bribe them with ice-cream? I’m not going to lie, that’s what we often resort to. I don’t have any magic tips, sorry. Toddlers are fussy little food critics. I do hide veggies a lot in our meals, like in sauces (the Autumn Harvest sauce in Vegful is great for that). My veggie pops (also in Vegful), contain pineapple, cucumber and spinach, but my two young boys think they’re a treat for eating their veggies. Little do they know the joke is on them, ha!


What are some of your most versatile vegetables to work with?
I’ve just been ‘living’ in Italy for seven weeks, so eggplant, courgettes, capsicum and tomatoes are at the top of my mind. Also, green beans. All of them are super versatile vegetables. That was just about all the vegetables that were in the veggie garden (and there was no supermarket) so I had to get creative with them. But boy you can do a lot of different things with veggies – we would grill, BBQ, slow-roast, roast and blend, have in soup, stuff, steam and stir-fry them. I’d say they cook well anyway except for boiling.


How involved do you let Bodhi get in the vege garden and does this make him more engaged with the cooking and consuming of the food?
Yes, he is definitely more likely to eat or try something if it’s straight from the garden. Like green beans… he wouldn’t touch them if they’re on his plate but let him pick some young ones straight off the vine and he won’t share any with you.


What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
Probably lots more cooking and looking after kids. I’m also moving to Central Otago!

 

We have a Nadia Lim plant-based bag delivery and a copy of Nadia’s new book Vegful to give away to two very lucky readers! Just head to the Metropol Facebook page to enter.

 


 

Allyson Gofton on beautiful baking: Q&A


Allyson Gofton has been a beloved New Zealand cook and television personality for 30 years since first cutting her teeth in the test kitchen of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

 

 

Allyson was recently in the city for a fundraising event for St Johns in conjunction with Westburn School and Piccadilly Bookshop to release The Baker’s Companion, the third iteration of Gofton’s The Great New Zealand Baking Book, which first came out 25 years ago. We caught up with her about making magic in the kitchen.

You’ve just released your new book The Baker’s Companion, can you tell us about the book?
After Food in a Minute, I wanted to pull all my knowledge of baking into a book. The Baker’s Companion is about trying to explain why your cakes may fail. It’s about making sure the money you invest in baking is a success. It’s about the enjoyment of baking; passing down the knowledge of baking so that when you go to cook, you get the information that’s not written into a recipe. It’s all there. It’s certainly not about glamorous baking or creating expensive items. It’s about enjoyment, good flavour and making sure that when it comes out of the oven, it looks like the picture you see in front of you.


The book is focused on beautiful baking – are you all about the sweet side of life or do you get into the savoury side as well?
Do I like the sweet side? Yes I do, though I don’t do chocolate, but I love festive food, like Easter, and I do enjoy the savoury side of life as well. Slow-cooked food is something I love – slow-cooked food and baking are two genres I have become known for in my career. Interestingly, I trained as a chef in the late 70s (which is giving away my age) and trained here as a food writer. So my skills are in professional cookery, but I was also a communicator of food. Over the years I’ve worked as a food editor for Next magazine, through which I had to understand all aspects of food. I’ve done a professional apprenticeship, and then I did journalism papers before constantly travelling and updating my skills. As a food writer, it was usually about family food; food writers today concentrate on one genre, such as cake decoration, vegan recipes or gluten-free material. In the career I’ve had, you had to write across all genres. This is the third baking book I’ve done over 30 years. It’s been updated and upgraded over the years, so it reflects where we’ve come today. Things in cooking and baking come in and out of favour. Once upon a time you would whisk up a sponge. Now you melt butter and milk together and bake it. How we bake has changed so much over time.


What’s your favourite recipe from the book?
One of my favourites is the Kasbah Date Scones (on page 62 of this issue of Metropol). I love the photo and I also love date scones. This one is made like a swiss roll and inside is a lovely spiral of dates cooking with orange oil and Kasbah spices, like in the Middle East. It’s a lovely modern twist on the scone, taking a traditional recipe to the next level.


You’ve been making culinary magic for more than 30 years now and you’re just as popular now as you were back then. Why do you think New Zealand has connected so strongly with what you do?
I have been lucky to have been able to follow my dreams. I left home wanting to be like a Margaret Fulton or Tui Flower; being a good editor was my dream. You did a lot of hard work, a lot you didn’t get paid for. I happened to stumble across magazines. I come from a very humble family, a blue-collar working family from Tasmania. I love home cooks; I love family; I love that people try to cook in their homes. You don’t have to make café style food in the house; it’s about small budget, short order cooking. I think somehow in amongst all that, people have enjoyed my food, but they can see I’m just like them. I love learning about food. I love studying food; its role in our lives, how society has changed the way we eat and its impact. I spent four years in advertising as an accounts manager to pay the rent. One of my jobs was looking at how we market food to consumers. I found that fascinating. It doesn’t matter if you don’t cut your own onions. Tomorrow’s children will probably buy them frozen and already cut, but the most important thing is they cook for the family. You can buy ingredients pre-chopped and pre-sliced, but you’re still cooking it; that’s all that really matters. It’s not, ‘ooh she doesn’t peel her carrots’; what’s important is that we are eating them.


You headed down our way recently for an event in conjunction with Westburn School and Piccadilly Bookshop that was a fundraiser for St Johns. How does it feel to get to use your profile for the greater good?
I’ve been asked so many times to go to places and if I can do something for the community, I always try to say yes. My father was awarded an Order of Australia for his work for the charity Legacy. They raised money and looked after children of the widows of World War II. We spent Saturdays doing sport things with these children without parents; if we got too many presents, we gave to those children; if we won something in a raffle, it was given to those children. My parents instilled in me that we only need what we need.


What does the next 12 months have in store for you?
I’m a strong believer in a reasonably traditional role of mother. I’m a bit old fashioned like that. We have a family business in Auckland, a factory that makes cosmetics believe it or not. My husband works in Auckland, so at the moment my role is to settle the family into our new home in Cambridge (from Auckland), then put the lipstick on a Friday night with a glass of wine. I have more ideas than I have time to live. I have some ideas, but they’re constantly changing. I would love to work with schools and teenagers, teaching them about what you need to eat, looking at how the world’s normalising ‘treats’ as ‘snacks’. So I have lots of ideas, but first I’ve got 400 boxes to unpack; if someone said the decluttering process of moving takes a weight off your shoulders, the process is nothing other than laborious. So that’s this year, decluttering, then we’ll see what next year brings.