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.