I’m not sure if I’ve told you all this before but I have a bit of a problem, well actually I have two problems. The first I wrote about in my previous post – my unhealthy addiction to cheese – the second is my obsession with collecting cookbooks. I can’t help myself, if I see a pretty cookbook then I must have the pretty cookbook. I am particularly drawn to wholefood cookbooks with interesting takes on everyday food. Sadly many of the books I buy end up sitting on the shelf without so much as a second glance. Yeah, it’s pretty bad. In most cases it’s because I’ve struggled to get past the first few pages.
I’m one of those crazy people who reads a cookbook from back to front – does anyone else do that? I tend to think that the measure of a good cookbook is the ‘basics’ section in the back – what is their approach to chicken stock, do they know how to make fluffy quinoa, a flaky shortcrust or an interesting salt or herb mix? Further, what does the dessert section look like? Is it all white sugar and bleached flour or has the author experimented with spelt or rye flour and had some success? Are there gf or vegan options? Finally, is there evidence that the author actually cooks these recipes in their own kitchen? The cookbooks that I return to over and over, the ones with dog-eared, food stained pages almost always seem to pass this inital inspection.
Late last week I received a copy of Wholehearted Food by Brenda Fawdon. I immediately flipped to the back and discovered an excellent selection of recipes, including the real chocolate ice cream (which I’ve included for you below), and set about marking out what recipes I would make first. It’s a lovely book, with a focus on healthy eating and sustainable produce, and it has something for everyone. There are gf options, vegan and vego recipes, as well as tips on how to source sustainable meat and eating by the seasons. And it was written by an absolute pro. Brenda Fawdon is a chef and passionate advocate of organic food. She founded the first licensed organic restaurant in Australia, Mondo Organics, and an immensely popular cooking school of the same name. She is a respected leader and voice for real food in Australia, and is passionate about using organic, unrefined and sustainable produce.
The book certainly passed my incredibly ‘rigorous’ tests and I’ve already dog-eared a few recipes that I can see making their way into my regular rotation. Inspired by her recipes and overall approach to food, I caught up with Brenda to find out a little more.
An interview with Brenda Fawdon, author of Wholehearted Food.
Tell us a bit about yourself – where did your interest in food come from and how would you describe your cooking style?
My interest in food came from my darling mother, she was a wonderful cook and so was my grandmother. Mum was a great entertainer, maybe that was the catalyst to inspiring me to be a chef and restaurant owner. I love cooking Italian, Spanish and Moroccan style food and of course I prefer to use organic, seasonal, local and wholefood ingredients.
You’ve achieved so much in your career; tell us a little about your cooking school and restaurant?
I have been a restaurateur for 31 years now, it’s a miracle I’ve lasted so long… Mondo Organics restaurant serves modern bistro style food. The cooking school operates every week and the schedule of classes is available online. We offer both health and European classes. EG Superfoods, Eat Yourself to Good Health, Gluten Free Dairy Free, Wholefoods, Modern Spanish, Pasta Making, Moroccan, and many other options.
What was it like opening the first licensed organic restaurant in Australia? How have attitudes changed?
Exciting! I was determined, I believe you can do anything you want to do, as long as you feel passionate and driven to succeed. The Australian organic food industry is the fastest growing food industry in Australia. Young people are becoming more aware of food providence, water quality, environmental issues and how and where they can purchase chemical free food. More and more people are choosing to shop at markets and opting for organic home delivery services.
You’ve just released a cookbook called ‘Wholehearted Food’ – how did that come about?
Nearly, release date is the 23rd Of October. Alex Payne, UQP non-fiction publisher thought it was a good idea, and of course I thought she was right. Alex managed to convince the UQP publishing committee that it would work. Now I hope the readers enjoy WHF too. This is UQP’s first cookbook and the team put a massive effort behind it and belief in me, I’m very grateful the opportunity.
I talk a lot about seasonal eating on my blog and it’s something my readers are really passionate about. Why do you think it’s important to eat seasonally?
I prefer produce that hasn’t been stored in cold storage for months, it tastes better and is usually a better price because often there is are a glut of whatever the seasonal produce is. I believe eating out of season is just plan wrong. When lemons go out of season over Christmas use preserved lemons until they start to come back in, in March. Otherwise you’ll be using hard, dry, small bright yellow speed- balls with very little juice content and probably, waxed – YUK! I suggest talking to stall holders at markets, they usually love a chat if they’re not too busy serving customers.
I have a notorious sweet tooth but everyone seems to be giving up sugar at the moment. Is it really as bad as everyone suggests?
Yep it is sorry. Are you able to find sweetness in your life in other ways? I don’t think ditching sugar completely is wise, we all need a little sweetness, however, the white highly processed, refined, bleached sugar many people have grown to love (become addicted to) is compromising health. Try rapadura, it’s an unprocessed sugar or coconut palm sugar, both great sweeteners.
What are your favourite recipes from the book?
I love the green soup and the kitchari, both are delicious and so nourishing. I also love the juices, I made an orange, carrot and turmeric juice this morning and it was soooo delicious, all the produce was grown locally on Mt Tamborine. The navel oranges are coming to the end of their season, they have been so juicy and sweet this year. I’m now thinking about what I can make with mango and stone fruit for summer.
What advice would you give to readers of the blog who would like to explore a healthier approach to eating?
Simple, buy my book or come to a cooking class at Mondo and say Hi!
Plus, start slowly, don’t throw everything out at once. Maybe, replace your white sugar with rapadura and then replace your white bread with sourdough or sprouted bread, replace your white rice with bio-dymanic brown rice (it tastes much better and it’s way more nourishing) It takes time, don’t try and do everything at once. Make wise choices and above all, have fun!
Thanks for your time!
One of my favourite recipes from the book is this ‘Real Chocolate Ice Cream’ recipe made using raw cacao powder and rapadura sugar – two things that are on my shopping list this week. The recipe is included for you below and I hope it inspires you to find out more about Brenda’s new book.
Giveaway: UQP have offered a copy of this wonderful new book to readers of my blog and I just know the lucky winner is going to love it. To go into the draw to win a copy simply leave a comment on the blog. Entries close 29th October, Australian residents only (sorry!).
- 2 cups organic full-cream milk
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup raw cacao powder
- 1 cup fine-dried rapadura sugar (page 180) or plain rapadura
- 8 organic egg yolks
- 300 ml pure cream
- Heat the milk, salt and vanilla in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cacao powder and remove from the heat before the milk reaches boiling point. Cool to room temperature.
- Put the sugar and egg yolks into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until pale and thick. With the mixer on a low speed, gradually add the chocolate milk mixture until incorporated.
- Strain the mixture into a heavy-based saucepan and gently heat, constantly stirring until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon – don’t bring the custard to a boil or it will separate. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks with a whisk or hand-held electric mixer. Fold the cream into the cold custard. Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions until set, then freeze until ready to serve.
- Makes 1.5 litres
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Wholehearted Food via UQP – Views are my own.
Competition rules: To enter you must leave a comment on this post. Entries close Tuesday 29th October and winner will be drawn at random. Australian residents only.
The winner is Kirsty Bell! Congrats!