Bettina's Kitchen

2018-05-Bettina1. You had a very multicultural past, having lived and worked in Tanzania, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria. Which is the one county or culture that you feel has had the biggest influence on your cooking?

I think that I carry a part of each country that I am from, have lived in or worked in. I tend to get very inspired by my surroundings on a “here and now” basis. It’s impossible to choose just one. I am also very lucky to come from a family of very good home cooks each amazing at their own thing.

1. Where else in the world would you like your culinary journey to take you? 

I would like to visit Japan and more of Asia and also I have yet to discover parts of South America. I love travelling to anywhere I haven't been!

1. What made you adopt a vegan diet?

I am not vegan. Actually I carry no label at all. Most of what I eat  on a personal level is plant-based and gluten-free. The latter because of a severe intolerance. However, professionally and what I specialise in as a chef is “vegan cuisine” and also 'free-from' cooking that covers the most common allergens. 

1. What misconceptions do people have about following a plant-based diet?

That the food is boring, unsatisfying, expensive and time-consuming. I would argue against all of those points.

1. If you were to cook for someone who hasn’t eaten a vegan meal before, what would you prepare?

When I cook for clients at retreats I call the first meal “A hug”. It’s the “everything is going to be ok” meal. I usually cook a comforting pasta, because it is an ingredient so many of us recognise and feel safe with. And I always end with a dessert such as a chocolate mousse - again something that most people love.

1. You’ve just published your first cookbook ‘Happy Food’ – how would you describe it and what inspired you to write it?

It’s a collection of recipes that I have cooked professionally over the years at retreats for clients, or taught at workshops. It’s easy, accessible, vegan food that is also comforting. I have taken into account subjects that are relevant today such as the 'waste not' aspect, creating recipes for 1 or 2 person households, and I’ve made sure to use ingredients that are basic and can be found in most supermarkets and countries nowadays.

1. Given the title of the book, do you think that food can affect our moods?

Yes! I think that food and mood go hand in hand! Cooking/feeding/eating are such emotional actions. We all know whether we feel great, or not so good, after a meal, don't we? Cooking a meal for yourself or a big family feast is an emotional affair. A lot of care goes into sourcing your produce, deciding what to cook and the act itself. The effort, love and time that goes into cooking a meal is all emotional. I think somewhere along the line we sometimes forget that a meal is a gift to oneself. Every single part of that meal goes into our body to feed our cells and nourish us. As cheesy as it may sound, I also think we feast with our eyes. It’s the first sense that gets hit! So in a way it is important that we make food look attractive, appetising and even give it a hint of excitement! (I am well aware that we don't always have the time to do this ). I don't know about you, but when I am served a beautiful plate of food it genuinely makes me happy!!

1. What philosophy or values guide your approach to cooking?

Simplify: use simple, good quality ingredients. Buy as much local and seasonal produce as possible: it tastes better and you support your local community. Being able to rustle up a meal quickly and without fuss is important, because time is something we have less and less of, so this is important. The south of Spain has amazing markets and incredible produce.

1. You’re a busy working mum - what is your best time saving advice when it comes to cooking? 

Set aside some time on a weekend and plan your meals ahead. Batch cook and freeze. Don’t stress about cooking recipes more than once and take that 'perfect mum' pressure off that says everything has to be special. The fact that your child eats a home cooked meal is a gift in itself! Trust me I know.

1. What has changed in the vegan culinary scene since you started?

The judgements about it. When I started out, not many of my friends and family knew what I was doing. It’s definitely so much more mainstream now and “the in thing to do”. It makes a massive difference! There are exciting times ahead! Marbella is quickly catching on the wellness bug and it’s exciting to see it all unfold.

1. What are some of the must-have staples that every vegan should have in their kitchen? 

Pasta, good flours, jarred pulses for quick fixes, a good selection of spices, good quality grains and nuts. Pantry basics I guess, and of course lots of veggies and fruits.

1. What are your favourite restaurants in Marbella? 

Dezentral has always been a favourite ( I pretty much wrote the book there). I love Gioa for raw/vegan and the owner did the same courses as I did - I am a fan. Last, but not least,I love a Spanish hidden gem - one of those places that you stumble across that makes awesome food. There are a few here.

Bettinas Book is out on Amazon now!

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