Interview: We Love Food

Admittedly, I am not the most elegant in the kitchen. Part of the reason is that time is precious and with London’s busy lifestyle, there’s not a  lot of it to spare. M&S oven meals often come to my rescue after a busy day.

When this shiny cookbook, We Love Food, landed on my doorstep, I felt a bit more inspired by its pretty photos of organic food and a wide variety of dishes to choose from – some simple for people like me and others a bit more complicated for those who are more adventurous when it comes 6pm.

I had the opportunity to ask the authors about how hectic Londoners can benefit from their approach to cooking and food in general. They also give some tips on how to grow your own in London’s limited living space.

Here’s a few words from Peta Heine and Kirsty Manning-Wilcox. (WLF)

LLO: Why is We Love Food specifically relevant to the lives of Londoners?
WLF:
London life is fast-paced, exciting and complex. Modern family life is all of these things too! As busy working mums, we recognize that it can be crazy to get the kids to school and all their other activities, pull off a day job and get any time at all to cook or garden. We Love Food is full of tips for gardening in confined spaces plus many healthy, quick and practical recipes for families on the run (including an SOS list for those nights when you just can’t face the kitchen but want a quiet night!).

We’ve also included ideas for lazy weekends at home when more time is available to roam the wonderful markets, delis and specialty shops a great city like London has to offer. There are many old recipes to remind you of your childhood, like Golden Syrup Dumplings and Lemon Delicious Pudding and other more modern adaptations of the wonderful cultures that are available to us now like Thai Green Chicken Curry, Middle Eastern Tomato Salad and Sesame Chicken Vermicelli with Asian Greens.

LLO: What were your priorities in creating this beautiful book?
WLF:
As working mums we recognize that during the week you want your children to be eating healthy meals, but we don’t necessarily have the time and energy to spend all day doing it! We want to introduce children to the concept of how food is grown and prepared, and wanted a guide book for people like us who don’t necessarily have a team around us helping us cook, garden and care for the kids! We are the generation doing it all!  Our goal was to create delicious, achievable, family-oriented recipes as well as some simple and inspiring growing instructions for a handful of well-loved fruit and vegetables.

In the photography and design we really wanted to show the kids having fun in the kitchen and the garden. It’s about getting back to the simple pleasures, stepping off the treadmill to smell the roses. Something we could all do a bit more of! We are both working on it!!

LLO: It’s often a bit hectic in London with this chaotic city lifestyle. Can you point us to a few of your recipes that would be perfect to toss together after a long day but still feel like you’ve prepared a nice meal?
WLF:
Chow Mien Noodles, Lemony Lamb Chops with Baked Vegies, Sichuan Chicken Thighs and Asian Greens, Tacos or Fajitas

LLO: What’s your favourite sweet treat to indulge in after a stressful week at the office?
WLF:
Easy baked rhubarb, Nutty Ice Cream Sundaes or Golden Syrup Dumplings.

LLO: There are some interesting sections in We Love Food that are all about home-grown ingredients. A lot of Londoners don’t have the luxury of a garden, so do you have any tips for growing indoors or on small balconies?
WLF:
Summer is a great time to get a few herbs growing on a sunny windowsill in 10 cm pots. Rosemary, parsley, basil, coriander, chives, mint, garlic chives and a chilli plant will see you through the summer months. The great thing about growing your own herbs and garnishes is they give an instant life to any pasta sauce or curry and can be sprinkled over anything. How often do you buy a bag of herbs at the supermarket only for it to go mushy before you use it all? This way you have herbs for any spontaneous dish. Fresh herbs are also a good way of getting “greens” into the diet of your kids – let them sprinkle parsley over a pasta, or scrambled eggs on the weekend. Chillies really add depth to simple pasta sauces and curries and they look pretty as a centerpiece on an outdoor table.

If you have a larger outdoor space, a 50 cm terracotta pot filled with premium potting mix will hold a couple of silver beet plants, a few lettuces (cos, mizuna, radiccio- pick your favourites) , some rocket and some Asian greens like pak choy or bok choy so you always have a salad or Asian side dish ready to go. A large ½ wine barrel will hold enough greens to keep a family of 4 in salads throughout summer. Choose green plants that are ‘cut and come again’ so you can just chop them off and they will re-shoot right through summer. Beetroot is a handy plant to grow as the leafy green tops are great in salads and pasta sauces, and the beetroot is great baked in foil and drizzled with Feta and olive oil. Two sides for the one veggie, Voila!

Tomatoes and beans can be grown in hanging baskets or trellised up drain pipes. Many London nurseries also stock specialty grow bags full of soil and nutrients ready to grow whatever seedlings are in season. Drop into your local nursery or farmer’s market to get a couple of punnets of whatever is in season and away you go!

LLO: What are you having for dinner tonight then?
WLF:
Tacos with the lot!

Thanks Kirsty and Peta!

We Love Food, £16.99, is published by Hardie Grant.

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London Art Spot: Mythili Thevendrampillai

Mythili’s Tamil background and the religion in which she was raised form a strong foundation for her impressive body of work. Many of her paintings merge the gods and goddesses of Hinduism with modern day celebrities to create an open-minded vision of the role that traditional beliefs play in our lives today. With a solo show on now and her work being displayed alongside Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili from May 3 in the Elephant Parade, she is certainly one to watch.

Mythili has put down her paints and brushes for a few minutes this week to talk to us about the meaning behind her work, how living in London gives her creative freedom and what to expect from her current show.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
MT:
 I feel unrestricted in London and can go where I want, make what I like and say what I feel. There is access to a wide variety of creative stimulus and social interaction with a large multicultural community.

As an artist having this personal and public freedom means that there is little pressure to censor anything that is produced.

LLO: How would you describe your style and technique?
MT:
I studied print-making, so techniques learnt in this process cross over when I paint. I still use a variety of objects to create stencils. Cooking ingredients are also used as stencils; kidney beans, chick peas and lentils create a pixel effect and the images can have a graphic look to them. A blue print skeleton is created through collage and drawing then silk screened onto the canvas. Layers are built onto the image with acrylic, oil and spray paint. 

LLO: Much of your work blends Eastern and Western culture which is interesting considering the generations of Londoners born to parents who come from Eastern cultures. What messages do you hope to communicate through your art?
MT:
The images that I have been working with recently are an attempt to bridge traditional tales and ideas with a contemporary understanding.  I want stories from different cultures to be accessible to anyone who is interested in them. I am keen for images to create curiosity so that people investigate cultural concepts on a deeper level.

LLO: What can we expect from a visit to your solo show “Desi Gods and Goddesses of the 21st Century” on now in Westbourne Park?
MT:
The paintings are about the ideas of God being a combination of different forces. I went to a Catholic convent and have family members who are Evangelical christian. As I was bought up as a hindu there were  contradictions in my understanding of God. It interests me why someone would or wouldn’t believe in God and how this entity can bear the brunt of glory and condemnation. I like looking at characters real and of mythology that people consider positive and negative. The paintings are a process of creating visual ideas of these forces.

My understanding of the gods and goddesses are that they are energies that have the potential to manifest in all of us. Different gods and goddesses have a variety of characteristics and qualities that can be expressed. I have incorporated well known and people I know within the images of the gods and goddesses to symbolize the notion of divinity living in us and us living in divinity. 

LLO: Your work is set to feature alongside Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili this summer as part of London’s Elephant Parade. Can you give us an idea of what we can look forward to when the elephants hit the streets?
MT:
The elephant parade will be a outdoor UK exhibition presenting 250 elephant sculptures uniquely painted and then auctioned of to raise money for the conservation of endangered elephants. It’s a wonderful project that I’m thrilled to be a part of. Lots of information can be found at www.elephantparade .org

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
MT:
It’s a painting in the show: Kali. It’s a self portrait. The original blueprint that I sketched was fairly timid with a playful facial expression and garlands of flowers around my neck. Kali is often depicted in pictures and statues in this passive representation, my mother supports this by her belief that “Kali has a sweet face”.  Kali is a force with conviction that eliminates the undesirable in a fairly extreme and aggressive way. My mouth is stitched up and razor blades replace roses. Shutting up and getting rid of things is the preferred option though the tendency can be to rant relentlessly and accumulate. I’m proud of this painting because a part of me thought it egotistical to make myself Kali and then I remembered that the incentive of the collection was to encourage people to accept their divinity.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your experience bringing creativity to the girls in Uttar Pradesh, India.
MT:
The girls at Udayan care were amazing, happy and incredibly motivated artists. We produced large scale mandalas that contained various geometrical shapes combined with text. The girls loved introducing vibrant colour to the designs that decorated statements about their strengths and ambitions.

LLO: Favourite London exhibition space/gallery?
MT:
I’m very fond of the Hayward. Although I went to the Wapping Project a few nights ago and loved the gallery space there. It has a haunting atmosphere and makes you feel quite sensual.

LLO:  Do you have any other shows later this year?
MT:
I am showing work in Bangalore and Delhi later this year.

Thanks Mythili!

Note: All of the above paintings are 30 x 40 inches, acrylic, oil and spraypaint on canvas.

For more of Mythili’s work, check out her website: www.mythiliart.co.uk/

See her solo show, Desi Gods and Goddesses of the 21st Century, now:
Venue: London Print Studios
Address: 426 Harrow Road, W10 4RE
Dates: Now – 13 March (Tuesday – Saturday)
Time: 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: Free 

 For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.