Kitchen Stories with Saara from @viimeistamuruamyoten
It's been a while since the last round of Kitchen Stories, sorry. I'm now happy to tell you that I've finally got a bunch of lovely ladies lined up for you, all as talented and inspiring. First up we have Saara Atula. I discovered Saara's Instagram page late last year and I've been obsessed with her food styling ever since. She can truly capture the moment in one single photo. I'm also a big fan of Saara's blog, where she shares mouthwatering vego recipes. How does she do this all?
I think it's time we let Saara do the talk.
Hi Saara, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello you! I’m Saara, 25 year old, a great food lover and especially focusing on nourishing and wholesome veggie foods. I’m actually studying medicine and about to graduate but I wish to work more and more with food and photography on the side of being a doctor.
You run a veggie food blog and Instagram page with the most delicious looking creations. When and how did you get into cooking?
Oh, as home economic classes started in secondary school I was all over the kitchen after that. My mom wasn’t too glad that I most of all loved baking and would bake something about twice a week. Finally we had to get a new bigger freezer to store all I’d baked. I started to work in a bakery too for a part time job.
As my mom was such an enthusiastic cook herself she didn’t really let me do actual cooking. So when I moved on my own the first thing I did was to stack up with loads of cook books and started to actually study all the chemistry behind cooking to understand better how and why the ingredients should be used certain ways. I started creating my own recipe archive and spending more and more time with cooking and not so much with baking anymore. Each evening I would just open the fridge and peek inside that what could I make up with these ingredients.
When I started at the university I became the cook of our faculty. I was carrying sometimes my own sourdough to the lectures too, haha. Every time there was an event I was the one who was asked to cook.
And so I gradually learnt how to cook amazing foods, by trial and error.
How about plant based foods?
I’m now running mainly a vegan blog. But it certainly wasn’t always like this. After bakery I actually started to work with fish and meat selling them in the supermarket with funny clothing and hat. That time I was dreaming to work in a Michelin restaurant one day.
Three years ago I lived in Indonesia and during that year I ate like the Indonesians which meant mainly plant based. During special occasions we would have a tiny piece of meat or fish to go with the veggies and rice. I could say that there I kind of woke up to see how much we consume meat in developed countries. After that year I hugely cut down the amount of meat I consumed and gradually started to move towards vegetarian diet. During the last six months I’ve also started to realise the environmental (and ethical) problems of vegetarian diet and learnt to cook more nutritious vegan food. Just to say I’m not vegan, I still use fish and dairy but in smaller quantities.
Name three must haves in your kitchen.
Ice cream maker, a good blender and a spiralizer.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Why?
All of them of course! But maybe dinner as that’s the time of the day when I have most time spend on cooking.
Would you like to share your favourite dinner recipe?
There are so many! But if I have to name one vegan dinner recipe of mine, I would say that start with chickpea and aubergine tagine. It’s so so good and a naturally vegan dish.
Chickpea & Aubergine Tagine
3 garlic cloves
1 tbs grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp jeera
1 can of chickpeas
handful of cubed sweet potato
juice of ½ a lemon
1 can of crushed tomatoes
½ l of vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
1 dl of dried fruits (eg. plums and apricots)
Serve with couscous, yogurt and fresh mint or parsley.
Heat the oven to 175 degrees celcius. Cut the onions into big chunks. Crush the garlic cloves. Add some olive oil to a pot and saute the onions for a few minutes. Add garlic, ginger and spices and stir around.
Slice the eggplant. Cut the dried fruits into smaller pieces. Add all rest of the ingredients to the pot.
Transfer to an oven for 2-3 hours.
Serve with couscous, yogurt and fresh mint or parsley.
What would your perfect food day look like?
Hard one. A perfect food day means a lot different foods.
Breakfast would be filled with fresh berries, fruit and Turkish yogurt. Maybe some really good sourdough bread.
For lunch I love salads (not the lettuce and tomato ones). I really like cafes where they have huge salad buffets with lots of everything. Maybe like a couscous salad, marinated chickpeas, quinoa salad, roasted sweet potatoes, something fresh and lot of different dips and spreads.
I live on snacking. I eat snack in and between the actual meals and maybe during them. Mostly I’m fond of slightly sweet snacks so I would go for smoothie, nice cream or a chia pudding. Or maybe crackers and hummus.
For dinner I would choose Asian flavours. Maybe a rich, creamy and spicy Indian curry. And ice cream for a late night snack.
You live in Helsinki, Finland. Do you have any places, shops, cafes (anything really) you would like your foodie friends to know about?
For brunch I love Mo Cafe. For a cup of coffee Gran Delicato is my old favourite. For to go lunch I most often go to Fafas. For a sit in lunch I would recommend Na’am Kitchen and Deli Cafe Maya. And for a very fancy dinner my favourite place at the moment is Restaurant Grön.
We all have a sweet tooth, don’t we? What do you prefer to have when you need that sweet kick? Feel free to share a recipe as well.
Oh, I’m such sweet tooth totally! Ice cream definitely is my very favourite. I make my own ice cream a few of times a week. Favourite flavours would be maybe raspberry liquorice, frozen yogurt and tiramisu. Even better with some Finnish berries like wild strawberries or raspberries on top!
You’ve really nailed it when it comes to food styling. What are your no no’s and must when it comes to creating that perfect food moment.
Thanks! I’m still practicing on that, but luckily getting better and better every day. The most important thing about styling is to tell a story with your picture. What kind of feeling you want to convey with the pic? And choose your props wisely. The biggest no no is something I used to do a lot. I was so thrilled with all the props I had gathered that I used too many props in one picture. If the picture is too stuffed with props the actual food won’t stand out. The more talented you get the more you can use props but for beginners; start with just the dish and one or two props.
You’re such an inspiring young woman. Where do you get your own inspiration from? Any particular foodies out there that inspire you?
Haha, oh thank you. Inspiration comes from anywhere I go. Master Chef Australia used to be my biggest inspiration, but now as I’m doing more plant based I would say I get inspiration from the nature, from the streets, from inspiring cafes or chefs. It might be a little detail in Instagram picture I see or just thinking how I could make something vegan version or how to combine familiar flavours in a new way.
I get more inspired by beautiful food photography than by actual recipes, so inspiring foodies are the ones whose photography I admire. I’m the biggest fan of Linda Lomelino, Bea Lubas and Our Food Stories-blog.