Hands up, guilty as charged. It’s pretty shocking how long it’s been since I last posted…And quite a lot has happened in 3 years. Awards (thank you Fortnums and Guild of Food Writers for my cookery writer of the year awards), TV shows (all the regulars plus ‘The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver. That was WILD!), and another Hayden baby (Elektra bean born right in the middle of the pandemic and already a little legend).
So what is it that inspired me enough to come back and post given all that epic stuff thats happened? Well, book baby three is here. Nistisima is finally out in the world and I’m buzzing! It has been a long time in the writing and making and I am beyond proud. The love so far has been wonderfully overwhelming.
So what is Nistisima, what does it mean and why did I write it?
NISTISIMA – vegan recipes, from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The word Nistisima refers to the food eaten during periods of lent and fasting. These are predominantly vegan/ plant based foods. And this is how people of Orthodox faith eat for many days and weeks during the year. When you hear the word ‘fast’ you may assume it refers to the act of ‘not eating’. However in this sense, you can eat what you like but it mustn’t contain animal products (the exception here being shellfish. As shellfish doesn’t bleed, so religiously this is considered ok. However I chose to keep the book vegan).
Why did I write this book?
I found that when I was doing the publicity for Taverna, my previous book, I was repeatedly asked if there were lots of vegetarian or vegan recipes in there – which there are. However it got me thinking about how people think of Greek and Cypriot food as ‘meat heavy’, which, of course it isn’t. Due to the religious back bone of these countries, there are so many meals that are based on veg, lentils and pulses. And this is where the idea began – a celebration of the ‘other’ recipes, the less known about ones, the dishes you don’t find in restaurants. With many of these being eaten during times of fasting,
As I started penning down my own experiences and recipes, I want to delve further. So I reached out to priests, monks, religious friends, peers… The stories and messages I have received have been so inspiring. I started in Greece and Cyprus and looked at other countries with a big Orthodox following such as Serbia, Syria, Ukraine, Lebanon and more. The introduction goes into the ‘whys and hows’ of Orthodox fasting but it is factual, interesting and contextual. The recipes are for everyone.
Writing a vegan book as a carnivore has also been an interesting experience. It’s made me want to focus more on plant based meals, take time over them and celebrate them in the same way. There is no preaching or judgement in the book – however you come to it is good. Whether you want more of a repertoire when fasting, are vegan and looking for new recipes, or like me, and eat everything but want to up your veg intake – there is something for everyone. I hope you like it.