|Vegie chef to the stars:
Nadine Abensur launches
her sixth Vegetarian Cookery book
Enjoy in Byron Bay and London
MUCH DO OUR PARENTS, or the place we grew up, have an effect on our attitude to
– or passion for - food?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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”.
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: