Wednesday, November 21, 2012

wholefood mama:jay black

I am very excited to be bringing you this post for two reasons, one because it is the second post in an on-going series about mamas (& hopefully some papas too) who love wholefoods, be they just beginning their wholefood discovery or deep into the heart of it, but I am most excited because today's wholefood mama is my newest delightful friend who I met through blogging, someone that many of you already know and love, it is the very talented and lovely Jay Black creator of 'and the trees'.

Jay and her musically talented man Scott and their two beautiful children Ilo and Poe moved from Sydney to Bellingen in search of a more simple, creative and family focused life, "Where we can shift the work/life balance and aim for a more sustainable way of living in many different ways," says Jay.  

When Jay is not sewing her fabulous upcycled women's clothing or adding her completely charming photography and words to her blog, Jay's favorite way to relax is by doing weekly yoga for some dedicated down time, reading (in stolen moments), embroidering, it is very meditative, or spending some time with her lovely, listening or chatting.

Now, on to the cooking!

I believe our experiences during childhood of food and cooking lay the foundations for our tastes and attitudes to food, what were you taught about food and cooking as a child and what did you grow up eating? 

My mum is Malay Indian, which meant loads of delicious homemade meals; dahls, curries, rice dishes, etc, we also had the usual fare but we were definitely never a meat and three veg family.  I think that because of the diversity of flavours in our home as well as the utter passion and inclusion that we felt around food as we grew up I am still very passionate about food. I love the communal aspect, the sharing of meals from each others plates, the analysing of flavours, eating with hands, this was the way I was raised, very connected with food, this was the main way in which my mother's culture was expressed, through food.  So many memories of my childhood, involve the smell of curry and the joy of sharing this food with friends, it conjures, warmth, joy and yes, hunger.  

We lived on a couple of acres, we had chickens and we grew a lot of our own food which meant we were aware where food came from, it wasn't a novelty, it was were we got our vegetables and fruit from.

My parents awareness and passion for food has definitely led to my aware, healthy and passionate approach to food, such great and fun foundations. I also love that this passion has continued with them, my dad has recently set up an aquaponics system, growing his own fish and still has a thriving veggie patch, countless fruit trees and oodles of berries and trees with the best oranges I have ever tasted. 

Now that you are all grown up with a family of your own, tell us about your family's food philosophy? (ie. do you eat only organic food/ some organic/ what values are you teaching your children around food? where you shop for your food, who cooks). 

In our home we do only eat organic food/ local, spray free unprocessed food. Previously, when we were in Sydney, we grew a lot of the vegetables and herbs that we would eat and we are in the stages of getting that happening again in our new place. Poe and Ilo know why we eat organic or local; they are aware of why we try not to buy things that have travelled in an airplane to get here and will often ask questions about it or question why other people don't eat like we do. We try to teach them how important it is to have a balance within their body and how sweet things (depending on what kind) are okay sometimes but it has to be balanced with wholesome, strong healthy food. We do our shopping at our local organic food shop, Kombu, at the growers market and via the bello food box. I still do most of the cooking but Scott also does quite a bit as well, always with at least two very special helpers. 

The million dollar question, do your children enjoy eating vegetables and how do you encourage them to do so? Yes they do,  and they see no reason not to. There have always been vegetables on their plates, as part or the whole of their meals so there is no reason not to, or to question it. They particularly love broccoli and peas. I guess the one vegetable they don't like is pumpkin, and that is fine, we include it and sometimes they eat it, sometimes not. 

What are a couple of your favorite wholefood ingredients and what do you love about them? Quinoa - a delicious and versatile complete protein, eggs- again a great protein and such a delicious and quick fix when the little ones are needing a protein snack, sea vegetables - so diverse and amazingly good for you, a sprinkle of dulse, the inclusion of kombu, a snack of wakame, so rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and so much more. Butter, nuts and seeds are also favorites.

Which cookbooks, websites or people do you look to for inspiration with cooking? 
All of Jude Blereau's books 
The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans
World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey


What are your favorite things to cook that your family enjoy? 
Beans and rice, tempeh bolognaise, lentil and potato stew and vege koftas.

What is one of your fondest food memories? 
Having my mother and her mother make rice balls out of rice with some fried fish and a bit of butter for me when I was a child. They would, with one hand, form a perfect ball and using just their thumb pop it into my waiting mouth, so delicious, nutritious and comforting. oh my goodness. 

If you could change one thing about our world in relation to food what would it be? 
Wow, what a question, I guess keeping it real; no gm foods, no numbers in foods, having people understand the importance of 'whole' food and having all foods fall under the heading: 'local, organic, sustainable'.

Can you share a favorite recipe? 
Oh, this was tough. I ended up with an eggplant pickle recipe and my yellow rice recipe, two elements, that once partnered with a curry of sorts would make an amazing meal. Actually I am totally addicted to this pickle and have it on everything. 

Spicy Eggplant Pickle

1 red capsicum
1 large eggplant 
1 large red onion, cut in chunks
1/2 tsp grated garlic
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp dry chilli flakes 
1tsp chopped fresh coriander root
1/2cup chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
150mL apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp rapadura sugar
sea salt and pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil

Either roast eggplant and capsicum in the oven or over a flame until soft (I sometimes cut mine - eggplant lengthways and halved capsicum and roast in oven, as I don't have a gas burner). 
Bake for around 25mins or until soft. When cooled down, scrape the flesh from the eggplant halves. Discard the skin and chop the flesh into very small pieces. Peel the skin off the capsicums and also chop into small pieces (it isn't that big a deal if you still have bits of skin left on capsicum).
In a saucepan, heat up the oil and add the onions. Stir around until very very soft, then add the spices, coriander, cumin,cinnamon and chilli flakes. Keep stirring so that they don't stick to the pan. 
Then add the coriander root, ginger and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the eggplant and capsicum. Stir around to coat with the oil and spices. 
Add the vinegar and sugar. Let simmer on low heat for around 30 minutes. 
Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the pan. 
Add half of the coriander leaves and half of the mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper. 
Leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.

You can either leave this to cool or have still a little warm. Just before serving, mix in the rest of the coriander leaves and mint leaves. Any left overs pop in a jar to have on EVERYTHING. 

Yellow Rice
Wash 2 cups of rice and rinse, then to a saucepan (or rice cooker, if you are that way inclined) add two cups of water, then two teaspoons of tumeric (or more if you wish), 6-8 (or more) cardamon pods, stir and bring to boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until rice is cooked. Fluff and try to remove pods. 
Enjoy. xx

Thank you so much Jay for sharing your wholefood story and for your as usual fabulous photos. xx


  1. lovely interview, nice to read more about the lovely jay. I am bookmarking this eggplant pickle recipe to make when I can get my hands on some organic eggplant! also agree completely with the madhur jaffrey love - that woman is amazing. x

  2. What a beautiful interview. Thanks Nikki and Jay.

  3. oh so honoured to be part of this gorgeous blog, thank you wonderful Nikki, so delighted that through this blogging world (and now beyond) we have become friends.
    I, as you do, was rereading my answers and reflected on my wholefood journey and realised that even though eating wholefoods was part of my upbringing, I only really got very passionate about it after having Poe, six years ago, you know the time when all your values, ethics, wishes for your children and the future of the planet raise themselves to levels that can't be ignored. Today it is the way we eat, this is not to say we are perfect but we are constantly learning and loving the journey, it is oh so delicious and fun (and you get to meet and connect with amazing humans).

  4. A really lovely interview! I just can't go past Jude Blereau for her approach to food x


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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