In the spirit of healthy living, ditching fad diets and embracing delicious food, we spoke with the delightful food blogger, Sarah Britton. Her blog, My New Roots is an absolute treat and the photography is no less than eye-watering. Hailing from Copenhagen, Sarah shares with us her route to a healthy lifestyle, her undying love for avocados and her very worst recipe disasters. Oh, and her delicious breakfast taco recipe. Over to you, Sarah…
UO: What made you want to study holistic nutrition?
I spent a year working on an organic farm in Arizona, it’s also a center and laboratory for sustainable living. I worked on a farm there doing a five week workshop, and then five weeks turned into almost a year-long immersive experience. While I was there my life changed so much. Physically, mentally and spiritually, I became in tune with the natural world and the rhythm and the cycles. This made me realise the impact food has on us on so many levels. I grew up not really thinking about food very much and not really thinking it had such an effect on us and this experience really opened my eyes. When I got back from Arizona, I knew that I had to make some changes and change my direction a little bit. I went from having a design degree and thinking I was going to pursue design, to starting to pursue holistic nutrition so I went to school in Toronto to study that and I’m really glad I did.
UO: Where does your passion for cooking stem from?
It stems from the holistic nutrition. When I started to understand what food does to our bodies and how it works on a cellular level, I just thought that was the most fascinating thing. It made me want to cook more because before that, I didn’t really think about food having a real effect on us and therefore didn’t really care about cooking. Once I understood if you cook carrots down, the nutrients become more bio-available or if you add lemon to spinach, you can absorb the iron better. I really wanted to get in the kitchen and play and try new things based on my new found knowledge. It’s very exciting because I definitely don’t come from a family where cooking is important or even cared about at all. My parents always complained about doing it but somehow I overcame that, thankfully.
UO: What do you love most about having a vegan diet?
I don’t have a vegan diet anymore. I was a vegan for many years but I actually eat goat and sheep dairy now and some eggs once in a while. I guess you could say I have a plant-based diet but I don’t actually like labels. I think labels are for tin cans. When you put yourself in a box, you feel really bad if you go outside the box and it’s inflexible. Life is really long and who knows what I’m going to be eating when I’m 50. I tend to say I eat whole foods and the best thing about having a whole foods diet is that you don’t need to worry about fat grams, counting calories or how much protein stuff has; it’s really just about the food. I’ve found so much balance in eating this way and it’s like total freedom. As someone who used to be overweight and who used to be really concerned about their diet and what was going inside me from a caloric standpoint, I’ve surpassed that so much. I never think about it anymore and my weight hasn’t changed in 15 years, even after having a baby so that’s definitely the best thing about it.
UO: What is the creation process in putting together new recipes?
It really varies. It can be based on an ingredient that I really love and want to explore. It can start from when I see a photograph of something that’s inspiring. I’m a really visual person, my background is painting, and I think I definitely get a lot of inspiration from art, photography and music. I know it sounds crazy but I can hear a song and think of a flavour and go off that. My brain works in mysterious ways but I don’t question it, I just appreciate it. Once I’m inspired I go into the kitchen and play around. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really need to try very hard or spend too long experimenting and things don’t go pear-shaped very often. If they do, I know how to pull it back. Unless it’s a baked good. This is why I don’t bake a lot because baking is a total science. Cooking is forgiving in a lot of ways. So basically, the creation process includes mucking around for a few hours and then eating! It’s very fun and very relaxed.
UO: Have you had any recipe disasters?
Of course! There’s been so many. A few years back I made a really over-the-top birthday cake and everyone really loved it so the next year I decided to do it again, and then I became addicted to making over-the-top layer cakes. One of the years I attempted a carrot cake and it was such a fail. I think I ended up doing five versions of it and none of them were good! By the end I was so exhausted and sad and I had used up so many expensive ingredients. I threw in the towel and just made some nut butter instead. At least disasters can lead to good stories!
UO: What is your favourite thing to cook?
That’s tough, it depends on what time of year it is. I really like big grain salads. My diet is based on legumes and grains so I add lentils, beans and peas and I like to make a big, yummy grain bowl. I use whatever vegetables are in season and make a really nice dressing and toast up some nuts and seeds. So I guess you could say that’s my favourite thing to make. It also lasts a long time and is portable so it’s good to take with me when I’m on the move. My husband and baby like it too which is a bonus.
UO: What is your hero ingredient?
If I have an avocado, life is good. It’s pretty much all I need in life. A little lemon juice and some flaky sea salt would also be good with that. If you add avocado to anything, it makes it delicious. Aside from caramalised onions. Caramalised onions could save humanity.
What is your go-to sweet treat?
I really like dried figs, any time of year. All day, every day. I love a dried fig, they’re so delicious.
UO: What inspires you?
As I said before, I’m a very visual person. I also like being in my garden and mooching around farmer’s markets. Also music, poetry and nature inspires me a lot. I go for walks in the woods and just the way the mushrooms are coming out of the soil will inspire me to make a whole pizza based on the way that looks. Being outside and the seasons are a big inspiration to me for sure.
UO: What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Definitely my book. When I hold my book in my hand, I almost can’t believe that it’s finished. It was such a long process, about two years from beginning to end, and I think in the middle of it I thought I’d never see the day where I’d be holding it! It’s really exciting and I feel really proud and I’m so happy with the way it turned out so it’s definitely been my biggest achievement.
UO: What are the best and worst things about having a huge social media following?
The best thing is that there’s this wonderful outreach and I can connect with people all over the world, at all hours of the day. I just think it’s the most amazing thing. I’m not really a Facebook person at all, I struggle with Facebook, but Instagram has been so much fun for me. I really love it because it’s instant, I don’t think about it too much, it’s fun and easy and I don’t even have to use my computer to post on it. I can’t really think of the worst thing about having a large following because I’m really grateful for anyone who follows me and I think it’s positive.
Out of breakfast, lunch and dinner I prefer… breakfast. My breakfasts are simple but I like to start my day on the right foot.
If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be… avocados. Or if I could get everything I needed nutritionally from a baguette that would be great. Bread is my weakness.
If I had to choose between summer and winter I would choose… Summer! Who chooses winter? I’m kidding, I’m just not a cold person!
The most rewarding thing about my job is… whenever I receive an email from someone saying their life has changed because of My New Roots. I never anticipated that happening so that’s so rewarding.
I’m currently listening to… Fleetwood Mac Rumours is always on heavy rotation.
My biggest release is… swimming. I’m most relaxed when I’m in the water.
My favourite time of day is… late afternoon when the sun is low and golden.
CHIPOTLE SWEET POTATO AND TRUMPET MUSHROOM BREAKFAST TACOS
Serves 4 (V, gf)
When I go out to a restaurant for breakfast, my eyes are like heat-seeking missiles searching for the words breakfast tacos. Breakfast tacos are most definitely a North American phenomenon, so here in Copenhagen, I am pretty much forced to make my own. These little beauties feature my favourite tuber, the sweet potato, all spiced up with smoky chipotle. I’m hoping my version of breakfast tacos will change the collective consciousness in this city and I’ll see something similar on a menu here soon. Until then, I’ll just be thankful I don’t need to change out of my pajamas to eat them. (There’s no need to limit yourself to making this for breakfast, either—this meal would make a delicious lunch or dinner.)
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons cold-pressed olive oil, plus more for garnish if desired
1 teaspoon raw honey or pure maple syrup
2 cups / 175g shredded cabbage
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
Fine sea salt
2 knobs of ghee or coconut oil
1 small red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon chipotle powder or hot smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 pound / 500g), cubed (leave the skin on if organic)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup / 225 ml water or vegetable broth
2 handfuls (5 ounces / 150g) trumpet mushrooms (or any mushroom you like), sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 . In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and honey. Add the shredded cabbage, coriander, and sea salt to taste. Toss well.
2 . Heat a knob of ghee in a large frying pan. Add the onion and a couple pinches of salt. Cook until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chipotle, and cayenne, and cook for another minute or so. Add the sweet potatoes, tomato paste, and water or broth. Cook, covered, until the sweet potatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, set the mixture aside, and wipe out the pan. Return the pan to the heat.
3 . Heat another knob of ghee in the hot pan. Add the mushrooms, making sure there is enough space between them to cook. Do not stir them for about 5 minutes—this will allow them to brown a little on one side. Then flip them over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until golden. Season with salt and pepper. If you’re using them, add the beans to the pan and heat until warmed through.
4 . In a dry frying pan over medium-high heat, warm each of the tortillas, then wrap in a clean tea towel to keep hot until serving. To serve, put a helping of the sweet potatoes on each tortilla, followed by a few slices of mushrooms. Garnish with the cabbage slaw. Serve with hot sauce alongside.