“My first cookbook…was more component heavy. I really focused on a lot of superfoods and health foods, which is definitely more my style,” says Britton, who notes that she’s fan of ingredients like raw cacao and bee pollen for their healing abilities. But her readers were asking for something simpler the second time around.
“Single parents, students, people that read the blog were saying, ‘that’s really great, but it’s a little time-consuming and pretty expensive,’ so my response was the second book, which was a pretty big challenge for me.”
Not only did Britton listen to her readers and create a book full of tasty, easy-to-prepare foods with mouth-watering photographs, she also made sure all the ingredients in the recipes were available from discount grocery stores.
Vegetables and grains are the recipe’s most common showcases in keeping with Britton’s love of plant-based foods, but she resists labeling the recipes as vegan or vegetarian. “I like to eat intuitively and I encourage other people to do that too…The bottom line for me is that this is just delicious tasting food that really supports your body, and it just happens to not have meat in it.”
Arranged by meal type, the chapters in Naturally Nourished also include a seasonal flow of ingredients. In addition to her nutrition background, Britton studied traditional Chinese Medicine, so the book reflects that practice’s adherence to five distinct seasons (with summer divided into two). “I wanted to stick with that,” says Britton, “because I’ve noticed a huge change in my life since I started eating seasonally.”
She also encourages exploration. A section in the book called How to Boost Flavor shares kitchen secrets with home cooks who may be wondering how simple ingredients prepared quickly can still come out so delicious. Charring, searing, marinating, and roasting are just a few of the methods Britton describes in detail.
“Home cooks tend to be afraid of high heat. Get the pan screeching hot…that high heat really does something amazing to vegetables. You get a charred, crispy, caramelized, almost meaty flavor that really surprises people.”
The key is in the ingredients, Britton says. Use expeller pressed coconut oil or ghee. “Don’t cook with virgin coconut oil, since this ends up burning and oxidizing, and everything tastes like coconut, which is not always ideal.”
Other memorable advice from Naturally Nourished includes trying to purchase things with only one ingredient, and trying to keep your impulse buys to the produce aisle. Both of these suggestions sum up Britton’s aesthetic for the book, which ultimately advocates fresh and simple food prepared in new and surprising ways.
In keeping with her busy life, Britton offers tips to ensure you get the healthiest meals possible no matter how much time you have. Many recipes in the book include ‘rollovers,’ ingredients that get prepared for one meal, but with a little extra for another recipe later in the week.
“That is how I live. I love cooking, but I’m not going to spend an hour in the kitchen every night… Rollovers are the biggest time saver because you don’t have to commit. You can say, ‘what do I feel like?’ I have quinoa, so maybe I’ll turn it into a salad. They help you be creative and play a little more.”
For those just getting started with plant-based eating, Britton recommends building a foundation of meals supported by whole grains, lentils, and beans. “That’s where the base of most your meals should be coming from, because that’s what is really filling and satiating. It’s also ridiculously inexpensive.”
This doesn’t mean giving up flavor, variety, or even your favorites, since Britton manages to cook up everything from brownies to cake to vegetable ‘steaks’ in Naturally Nourished. This makes the book a great resource for dinner parties and everyday cooking.
For a taste of what makes Britton’s collection so special, try the recipes below. Both are excerpted from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton. Copyright © 2017 Sarah Britton. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Twinkle, Twinkle Jeweled Rice
VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE
This golden, glistening, gem-colored rice dish is inspired by a classic Iranian recipe that features warm, fragrant spices, dried fruits, and nuts—and is a true labor of love to make! I’ve simplified the process by cooking everything together in one pot, and I’ve made it healthier by replacing white rice with brown. Although the lemon added at the end may seem like an afterthought, it is an essential element of the dish, rounding out the flavors and adding a zesty kick.
2 small yellow onions or 4 shallots
2 medium carrots
Knob of coconut oil or ghee
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 bay leaves
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup / 75g mixed dried fruit (dates, apricots, raisins, cranberries)
2 cups / 400g brown basmati rice, rinsed (if you can, soak the rice for up to 8 hours)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
½ cup / 70g raw, unsalted almonds
½ packed cup / 12g chopped fresh mint leaves
½ packed cup / 11g chopped fresh chives
1 cup / 90g pomegranate seeds (from about 1 pomegranate)
Cold-pressed olive oil, for drizzling
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
- Dice the onions and grate the carrots.
- Using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife, peel the rind from the orange, removing as little white pith as possible. Slice the rind into matchstick-size strips and set aside. Reserve the orange flesh for another use.
- In a medium pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, 1 minute, then add the turmeric, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and the cinnamon stick. Stir to coat with the oil and fry for another minute until fragrant. Next, add the onions, carrots, orange zest, and dried fruit. Cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
- Drain the rice and add it to the pot with 4 cups / 1 liter of water and the salt. Cover the pot, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the water has evaporated, about 45 minutes.
- Roast the almonds: Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast until they are fragrant and slightly darker in color, 20 to 25 minutes. (A good way to check is to bite one in half and check the color in the center—it should be golden.) Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Roughly chop the almonds.
- When the rice is finished cooking, remove from the heat. Scoop the rice out onto a large serving platter to cool slightly and to prevent the grains from sticking together. Sprinkle with the herbs, almonds, and pomegranate seeds. Fold to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning (you will likely need to add more salt at this stage). Squeeze a few of the lemon wedges over top.
- Serve the rice with a drizzle of olive oil and more lemon wedges.
Smoked Lentil Tacos With Pico de Gallo
VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE, GRAIN FREE
Makes 6 tacos
I haven’t eaten any kind of meat in a very long time, but taking my first bite of these insanely tasty tacos made me feel as if I were. You see, meat contains ample amounts of glutamate, an amino acid that is responsible for umami, the taste of yummy savory-ness that helps us feel satisfied. In an attempt to make tacos that lacked for nothing, I knew I had to infuse a ton of mouthwatering flavors into the lentils, so I used my secret weapons: sun-dried tomatoes, tamari, and caramelized onions. The smokiness that we often associate with meat comes from the addition of smoked paprika—genius spice to have in your meat-free arsenal.
PICO DE GALLO
1½ cups /250g diced cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup / 65g minced white onion
1 teaspoon minced red chile (serrano is a good choice)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup / 7g chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
Fine sea salt
1 cup / 210g green lentils, soaked for 8 hours or up to overnight, if possible
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 small yellow onions, sliced
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
1.2 ounces / 35g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika (ground chipotle would also work)
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
6 corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Hot sauce (optional)
- Make the Pico de Gallo: In a small bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes, onion, chile, lime juice, and cilantro. Season with salt and set aside.
- Prepare the filling: In a stockpot, combine the lentils and enough water to cover them with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse them well.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and salt, stir to coat, and cook until the onions soften and begin to slightly caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, paprika, oregano, and tamari. Stir to coat, adding a little water if the pot is too dry. Cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the lentils and stir well to incorporate. Taste and season with salt, if necessary, and remove from the heat.
- To assemble, divide the smoky lentil mixture among the tortillas, followed by the Pico de Gallo. Add the avocado and hot sauce, if desired.