Vegie chef to the stars:
N
adine Abensur
launches 
her sixth Vegetarian Cookery book 

Enjoy
in Byron Bay and London




"
MARIGOLD SWISS VEGETABLE 
BOUILLON POWDER
 
is something of an institution in the U.K.”, says Nadine. 
“Every cookery writer in the land, from Jamie to Nigella, refers to it and it is seriously good. It is available in Australia in specialty shops, wholefood shops and delicatessens. Ask for it and more will stock it”. 
...Nadine Abensur, ENJOY

HOW MUCH DO OUR PARENTS, or the place we grew up, have an effect on our attitude to – or passion for - food? 

The birthplace of Nadine Abensur was Morocco, and she grew up by the sea in Casablanca, where she imbibed from her French-Jewish parents an abundant attitude towards cooking food, and entertaining.  

Her parents, she says, always entertained generously, from the heart. “My parents were not rich but they had no concept of frugality or economy – not when it came to food”. So they entertained “grandly and magnificently”, with food preparations for festivals and special occasions lasting weeks. 

When she was eight, the family moved to London, where English school food – like lumpy semolina, “revolting rice custard” and “nauseating baked banana” left an indelible impression on the young Nadine. 

Despite a love of psychology, Nadine ended up creating a career for herself in food. “The culinary legacy of my childhood had a very long arm, and I am still driven to communicate the unique skills and attitudes that were handed down to me” she says in the introduction to her sixth and latest cookbook, ENJOY, simultaneously published in the U.K. by HarperCollins, and in Australia by Penguin Lantern.  

“I’ve done this in various ways over the last 20 years. I ran a vegetarian catering business for eight years, which of course meant organising and cooking for party after party. I treated each one as if it were my very own celebration, my very own feast.” Her passion and skill in that company, Culinary Arts, attracted famous clients from Paul and Linda McCartney and Annie Lennox, to Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles and Hugh Grant.  

“I love the sight of a table laden with gorgeous-looking food. Apart from the fact that abundance in food is deeply imbedded in my psyche, I adore the sheer artistry of it – the colours, the smells, the sense of plenty”, Nadine writes in ENJOY.  

Following her party catering years, Nadine became food director of the U.K. Vegetarian Restaurant group, Cranks. “I tried to imbue the food there with a different aesthetic, a new finesse”.

Since 1996, she has written five Cranks cookbooks, including the world-renowned and best-selling CRANKS BIBLE (including 250 delicious recipes) named by The Guardian as ‘one of the best books of the year’, and found in homes around the globe.

Having now moved to the east coast of Australia, to be closer to nature and the beach beloved of her childhood, today Nadine teaches hands-on cookery classes from her home in Mullumbimby, overlooking the green hills of Northern NSW. She also runs cooking classes at James Street Cooking School  in Brisbane; at Accoutrement in Mosman, Sydney (with classes booked out six months in advance!); in Duck Under the Table at Pt Macquarie, with classes in Coffs Harbour also on the drawing board. 

As for teaching cooking: “I feel in my element” she says. “There is a conviviality and bonhomie in the classes that I couldn’t have predicted, and an amazing warmth that brings all sorts of different people together, and makes cooking the lovely, communal activity it’s supposed to be.

"There is a spirit of cooperation and creativity that everyone loves and responds to. Sometimes people laugh so much they have tears running down their faces. It’s just amazing.” (Not surprisingly, she often teaches ‘team-building’ exercises for corporate groups.) She has up to 35 students in a class usually, or up to 16 if it’s “hands-on”.
 

A passionate vegetarian, Nadine believes vegetarian food “should resonate with the abundance and colour of freshly grown vegetables…I would like a shift in the balance of power please. I would like more vegetables and I would like meat to take its rightful place as the bit on the side, the occasional treat.” She points out that: “awareness in the sufficiency of vegetables and in the relatively low need for protein (an adult female needs as little as 36g of protein a day, an adult male only 50g) and carbohydrate has dawned slowly”. 

Nadine Abensur has been happily using Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder for about 20 years, and it’s liberally sprinkled in recipes through all six of her books.

From recipes for Moroccan pumpkin couscous with a prune and onion confit and a mouth-watering Paella, to Lemon and Saffron Risotto with Courgettes and Pesto, or Beetroot risotto, Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Vermouth Ragout and a Pomegranate and Red Wine Reduction, Celeriac Gratin with Porcini Mushrooms and Star Anise, to a Tagine of Fennel, Pumpkin and Aubergine, you’ll find the recipe calls for the taste of Marigold bouillon.

Marigold Swiss Vegetable bouillon powder is something of an institution in the U.K.”, she says. “Every cookery writer in the land, from Jamie to Nigella, refers to it and it is seriously good. It is available in Australia in specialty shops, wholefood shops and delicatessens. Ask for it and more will stock it”.

Recipe from Nadine Abensur’s latest vegetarian cookbook ENJOY:

FENNEL AND CHICKPEA SOUP WITH PARMESAN

I haven't included many soups in this book - so it's a measure of the high regard I have for this simple recipe, that I include it here. "You had to come to daggy old Lismore to find me," a dear new friend said to me. And the same is true of this lovely soup which I found in a quite delightful, unpretentious French restaurant, Paupiettes, hiding behind an unprepossessing new redbrick façade. Truly, seek and ye shall find.

Serves 6
2 tbs olive oil, a rich and fruity one
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 small potato, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot peeled and diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 fennel bulb, tough outer leaves discarded, finely diced
2 tsp Marigold Bouillon powder
A chunk of parmesan, rind reserved, shaved with a potato peeler or just grated
400g can chickpeas, drained
Sea salt
Handful finely chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish 

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and fry the onion until soft, adding the garlic half way through. Then, with a minute between each, add the potato, carrot, celery, fennel and the bouillon powder, stirring well to coat. Add 4 large mugs of water and bring to the boil, then throw in the parmesan rind and simmer for 5 - 6 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and cook for a further five minutes, making sure they don't go mushy so that the stock stays clear. Skim any foam off the top.

Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve as soon as you can, garnished with the parsley and a good amount of shaved or grated parmesan.