Kitchen Stories with Sara from @shisodelicious
Meet Sara, the power woman and bento fantast behind Shiso Delicious.
In celebration of the launch of her new website I asked Sara 10 questions and she was more than happy to share her kitchen stories with me. Keep reading if you want to be inspired and have a read filled with good food vibes.
We will hear more of Shiso Delicious - of that I'm more than sure.
Hi Sara, tell us all a little bit about yourself.
Hi Ida - I love food! I live in London with my husband A and many jars of nuts, seeds, grains, spices, herbs ... My day job is freelance graphic designer and my own creative baby is Shiso Delicious. My cultural background is pretty mixed up – I was born and grew up in Sweden and my roots are Japanese and Bulgarian.
You have an amazing Instagram account filled with the most perfect dish after another. When and how did you get into cooking? How about whole and raw foods?
That’s very kind of you to say Ida. I come from a family where food was, and still is, an important part of being together. As a kid I would always hang around my granddad or mum in the kitchen and I soon took every opportunity to make food that I wanted to eat myself. I was especially crazy about baking, something you wouldn’t guess when seeing my Instagram now! Moving away from home I discovered food from other parts of the world as well as becoming vegetarian which I threw myself into with passion.
When I eventually moved to London I was blown away by its multi-culturalness in food and everything else. My first job here was in a natural food shop where I discovered a ‘scene’ of eating and living green and felt very at home with this.
Raw food I found just as it was appearing in the UK. It was a very exciting but also extreme time for me not least in the way both I and people around me were experimenting with food and eating. I think some amazing inventions and ideas can come out of ‘extremism’ – but to me it’s a lab, not really a sustainable way of life.
Eventually my experiences made me realise the importance of taking charge of my OWN balance of eating, and not losing perspective on what really makes me happy. Part of being happy – to me – is to feel that I’m able to nourish myself in a way so that my body and soul can work at their best. And for my own sanity, it is essential to see and be OK with that life’s journey is forever bumpy ... little bumps and big bumps.
Name three must haves in your kitchen.
A good sharp knife, clean cutting board and blender goes a long way. In terms of food it varies throughout the year and my life but at this very moment: Cashews, dates, smoked tofu.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Why?
Must be dinner as this is the meal I always share with A - I like having a good, cooked meal in the evening as I often eat quite light during the day.
Would you like to share a favourite dinner recipe?
Sure, I will share what I’ve been totally obsessed with recently: Plant powered tacos with grilled tofu, cabbage and curried hummus.
These are absolutely divine – bursting with flavours and textures, and quick to make!
I haven’t used measurements here – simply use as much as you and whoever you’re cooking for will be happy to eat.
Plant Powered Tacos
with Grilled Tofu, Cabbage & Curried Hummus
To assemble you need:
good quality soft corn tortillas
salad leaves (optional)
For the grilled tofu and cabbage you need:
red or white cabbage very thinly sliced
smoked tofu cut in match sticks (the firm kind that comes in a block and can be sliced)
pre-cooked chickpeas (optional)
virgin olive oil
coconut palm sugar (optional) and good quality salt
harissa powder (not paste) Sub with cumin and chili if you don’t have harissa
dried rosemary and pink pepper (optional)
Start by grilling your cabbage – turn your oven grill on high, cover a tray with baking paper and spread a thin layer of cabbage with some smoked tofu and chickpeas added. Drizzle with olive oil, a few sprinkles of coconut palm sugar, salt and seasoning – I often use harissa on half of the cabbage and rosemary and pink pepper on the other half. Grill for 10 minutes, the time depends a little on how strong your grill is. The cabbage should start to smell sweet and be very slightly charred on top.
For the hummus you need:
freshly squeezed lemon
preserved lemons + brine if you have them
your choice of curry powder, I like Malaysian rendang curry at the moment
good quality salt
While the cabbage grills, make your hummus and heat your tortillas according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The tortillas will keep warm in a stack and wrapped in a kitchen towel until it’s time to fill them.
Hummus is simple to make, load your blender with chickpeas, tahini (I use minimum 1 part tahini to 10 parts chickpeas), lemon juice (be careful not to over-lemon), a chunk of preserved lemon + a few spoons of the preserve brine, the curry, salt and water. I use about 1 part water to 4 parts chickpeas, so quite a lot. If the hummus comes out runny, add more tahini and/or chickpeas. Blend for about a minute until it’s light coloured and creamy. Check for taste and adjust if needed.
Instead of preserved lemons you can add a small piece of mango or a small amount of sweetener like coconut palm sugar or quality agave syrup. May sound strange to add sweetness to the hummus but when mixed with the other fillings it tastes fantastic. I don’t use garlic in this hummus, I find it tastes creamier and more interesting without.
Get your fillings ready: hummus, cabbage / tofu, avocado, salad leaves. Spread the hummus on your warm tortilla then load it with as much filling as possible but so you can still ‘close it’ to its classic taco shape. Stack them snug shoulder to shoulder and serve up!
What would your perfect food day look like?
I love when I get cooked for so that would be my perfect day.
Breakfast would be cooked by and eaten together with my lovely A. His breakfast special is avocado and eggs, poached or fried (free range organic of course) on sourdough toast with green leaves and masses and masses of Japanese green tea.
Then we’d hit town for some cultural and soul nourishment – some galleries and exhibitions or a walk around one of London’s beautiful parks. Eating out on the go can be tricky when you want to eat natural, quality food but if I can find a veggie based juice I’m happy, or some nuts or clean energy snacks that’d keep us going till an early dinner at a favourite restaurant.
Right now nothing beats Sushi Tetsu – a tiny, traditional sushi restaurant in Clarkenwell where you sit at the counter and watch the owner and chef – Tetsu – prepare your tiny morsels of food according to every rule of the big Japanese sushi book. It’s like an amazing dance, so inspiring. Satisfied in our bellies and hearts we’d lull back home to relax.
You live in London, England. Which places, cafes, restaurants and food shops must one visit while in town? Feel free to share your hidden gems.
The big Wholefoods Store in Kensington – it’s like a gigantic supermarket but with only organic/whole/natural/quality products. Every product you could possible want is there – it’s a place to go mad for! I don’t go often but when I do I make sure I can spend a looong time in there.
Stoke Newington Farmer’s Market – this place on the other hand I visit almost weekly. It’s my local place to get most of my vegetables, eggs, some lovely bread, apple juice, sauerkraut… It’s a wonderful place to get locally and small-scale produced food.
Spice Mountain shop in Borough Market, London Bridge. I love this treasure box for discovering new, interesting spices – all really fresh and in perfect sized pots. While you’re in Borough Market check out Oliveology too – all kind of beautiful Greek natural produce imported by a friendly, lovely lady. And if you get hungry, try the freshly woked zoodles with miso-teriyaki sauce at Wok-it. Love Borough Market! It’s best on a week day though, weekends are crazy with tourists ;)
Restaurants: Sushi Tetsu as mentioned above is the high-end option, for a down to earth but super tasty option try Dotori by Finsbury Park station. A family run, always fully packed Korean-Japanese hole in the wall with great prices and food.
Finally if you’re visiting London check if there’s any natural food/product trade show on that weekend – there are a few worth getting an entry ticket to like Natural and Organic Products Europe and Speciality and Fine Food Fair. You normally need to book in advance but it’s worth it if you want to know what’s happening in the world of natural products.
We all have a sweet tooth, don't we? What do you prefer to have when you need that sweet kick?
I’m essentially a savoury girl but find I eat quite a lot of ‘sweet’ foods – as much plant-based food sits on the sweet side of the taste spectrum. Think nuts, grains, starchy vegetables… apart from the obvious fruit. This means I rarely crave REALLY sweet stuff.
However when I’m at home I often have cashew parfaits sweetened with dates as an energy snack. If I’m out I’ll go crazy for a little bag of dried mango or a Pulsin’ protein bar.
You are well known for your bentos – what is the secret to the perfect bento box?
First, I’ll take you literally and say 'a practical, stylish box that won’t leak'. Both practical and stylish are essential to me as you eat with your eyes as well as your mouth and belly – yet a box needs to be leak proof and easy to fit into a bag full of work stuff as well.
Second, choose foods that will stand the test of half a day in room temperature and still be delicious and look fresh at lunch hour.
Third, make it simple yet delicious – simple enough so you can prepare it every day and delicious enough so that you or the person you’re making it for look forward to lunch every day!
Many Japanese foods and flavours are perfect for both last points and I love using and getting inspired by them for my bentos.
You are obviously a very inspiring woman. Where do you get your cooking inspiration from? Any specific foodies out there that inspire you?
That’s very kind of you to say Ida, thank you! My main inspiration comes from my constant excitement about improvising with food – finding new ways of feeding myself and my loved ones in a way that suits the time of year, the changing needs of the body, the restrictions or abundance of ingredients or whatever I happen ‘feel into’.
Starting to put my food images on Instagram and eventually becoming part of a very creative and supportive community there has both motivated and inspired me to pursue my own way with food as Shiso Delicious.
It’s too difficult to mention just a few foodies as there are soo many amazing inspirational people out there .. !
Thanks for having me Ida! I seem to have given you a whole essay here. Thank you for getting me to think about my food journey and where I stand right now. See you somewhere here online!