Just a quickie to fill you in on what’s been going on. Very excitingly, since returning to Spain I have had an interview published online in the South African ELLE magazine. Here’s the link if you want to see the whole article with pictures of some of the food and places I mention in the interview
EAT YOUR VEGETABLES
Introducing Natalie Ward, food writer, Cook Eat Live blogger, photographer and stylist, who specialises in delicious vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Natalie lives in Andalucia, Spain, but recently visited Cape Town where she compiled a list of the best restaurants for vegetarian and vegan food. We asked:
Why do you prefer a vegetarian lifestyle?
When I was younger the reason I didn’t want to eat meat was because I didn’t want to eat animals. It didn’t make sense to me. Now it is more to do with the health benefits of a meat-free diet. In 2009, aged 36, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. It made me change my lifestyle completely. I gave up all cow’s milk products, sugar (including fruit), caffeine, alcohol, smoking and all processed foods. By the time I was operated to remove the 2x3cm tumor, it had shrunk to almost nothing.
How would you describe ‘whole foods’ eating?
I see whole foods as real, unprocessed foods – local and organic where possible, and not messed about with. No preservatives, additives or chemicals. It’s just about being more aware of what you put in your body and where it has come from, buying fresh ingredients and cooking them from scratch, rather than buying ready meals and heating them up in a microwave.
Is the whole foods/vegetarian lifestyle a challenge when eating out?
Definitely, but it’s getting better. I moved from England to Spain 11 years ago and it was basically impossible to eat out. The only thing I could eat was tortilla (Spanish omelettes) or a salad. And even that would have tuna in it. The Spanish think fish is vegetarian! I find it a lot easier to eat out here in South Africa.
Have you developed any of your own recipes?
Yes, for my blog, Cook Eat Live Vegetarian. I get inspiration from books, TV programmes and restaurants, but mainly from what I see growing in the fields where we walk the dog in the mornings. I create seasonal vegetarian recipes with a world flavour.
What brought you to South Africa?
My dad lives in Cape Town. We came on holiday here for the first time four years ago and fell in love with it. The food here is amazing. The quality and choice of restaurants and cafes is unbelievable. In Europe we still have a preconceived idea of what Africa is like. I am making it my mission to change that.
How do meat-loving South Africans fare in terms of vegetarian dishes and restaurants?
For a nation of meat eaters you do veggie exceptionally well. Most of the restaurants I have visited or contacted have had a choice of vegetarian options on their menu. A few have even created a vegetarian tasting menu especially for me with wine pairings. I could definitely get used to that!
Which dishes/restaurants/dining experiences have you enjoyed the most?
So far we loved Babel at Babylonstoren. There is a beautiful fruit and vegetable garden that you can have a guided tour of before enjoying a delicious lunch made from the produce you have just seen growing. Planet at The Mount Nelson has a five-course vegan tasting menu, which is unheard of. The Greenhouse prepared a wonderful seven-course vegetarian tasting menu which was a definite highlight. Peter Tempelhoff has made the balance of flavour and texture an art form. Ryan at Haute Cabriere also prepared a special five-course vegetarian tasting with wine pairings for us. Each one of the dishes was created especially to compliment a different one of their gorgeous wines rather than the wine being matched to the food. A real experience. The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz has a refreshingly modern outlook; the place is absolutely stunning, leading the way in new informal wine farms. It also has a fabulous spa and guesthouse. Ile de Pain in Knysna makes some of the best breads and cakes I have ever tasted. The Portuguese custard tarts (pasteis de nata) are to die for. And finally Reuben’s. We ate at two of his restaurants and I have to say that his flavours stand out for me. His use of fresh herbs and spices is genius.
What makes a restaurant a winner for you?
It’s about the all-round experience for me. It’s a real art to get everything right and to create a positively memorable dining experience.
If you’re interested in the health benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, Natalie suggests reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Click here to explore Cook Eat Live or follow Natalie on twitter @Foodblogdog
Can you see me smiling and jumping up and down from where you are?