I love cookbooks. I frequently add new tomes to my heaving collection, and glean great joy from pouring over the pages; absorbing the imagery, diverse dishes, interesting ingredients, and both the unconventional and classical techniques. They educate and inspire me, but I rarely actually follow their recipes. As such, I was as much daunted as I was intrigued when the challenge was set for me to review the latest addition to my cookbook collection; Natural Born Feeder by Roz Purcell.
Most will know Roz Purcell as one of Ireland’s best known models, and a former Miss Universe Ireland. Working in this industry derailed Roz’s passion for food, and she comments in the introduction how “food became the enemy and was something to be avoided.” In the last year however she has become just as well known for her food blog Natural Born Feeder, which she says has helped her achieve a healthy relationship with food.
The sub title of the cookbook; ‘Whole Foods, Whole Life’, captures the essence of Roz’s philosophy; using quality wholefoods, avoiding processed foods, cooking from scratch, and following an 80/20 approach, allowing for balance. It is clear from her blog, social media, and the 318 recipes she has crammed into her book that she has a passion for recipe development, and that this book is just the beginning of Roz’s food journey.
A beautifully styled book, there is relaxed and rustic feel to the food photography; think generous portions of colourful food, overspilling from mix matched crockery, arranged on frayed linen cloths and weathered wooden boards. To get a feel for the book, I chose two sweet and two savoury recipes to test; Oat Loaf, Lemon, Blueberry and Banana Muffins, Quinoa Pizza and Salmon Burgers.
Being the kind of person who has a cupboard overflowing with red lentil pasta, maca powder, and nutritional yeast, I thought that I would be fully equipped to take on Roz’s recipes. However, despite spending hours in the kitchen, few of those hours are devoted to baking. Therefore, I had to do a tour of the city’s health food stores and supermarkets picking up coconut flour, psyllium husks, ground almonds, milled flaxseed, and other ingredients. So many of them that the little pantry space my housemate had cornered for herself has now been well and truly invaded.
The ‘Oat Loaf or Scones‘ recipe was first up. The main ingredients for the loaf were oats, which I blitzed to a flour in a Nutribullet, and milled flaxseed. Enriched with eggs, it formed a stiff dough. I added a drop more almond milk to loosen it a little, along with some pumpkins seeds, as Roz suggests that the recipe is a base for experimentation.
The loaf was due to be taken out of the oven after 35 minutes, or when ‘lightly golden’, though at this stage it still had an under-baked palor. I ended up leaving it in the oven for over an hour, as when I slotted a skewer in it came our far from clean, a sure sign it was still under baked. As pictured in the book, the loaf didn’t rise very much, but taking inspiration from the image I sliced it thickly and layered with almond butter. It had a hearty, soda bread flavour that worked as well with my vanilla almond butter as it did with hummus.
One note was that there were no instructions for what to do after baking; do I leave it in the tin to cool or take it out? Do I store it in the fridge or cupboard? and whether or not it was suitable for freezing. Instructions like these were missing from all the recipes I tried. I froze the remaining loaf in slices that could be toasted straight from the freezer, but have yet to see how they turn out.
The Lemon, Blueberry and Banana Muffins were made with ground almonds and coconut flour, making them low carb and paleo friendly. I used walnuts in place of half of the more expensive pecans specified. These were straightforward to make, but it was only when it came to filling my standard 12 cup muffin tray that I noticed that the recipe makes an awkward 16 muffins. I filled a baking tray with muffin cases, and resigned that these would be the lesser of the batches.
After nearly 40 minutes my muffins were due to be taken out of the oven. While still warm I broke one open, and pockets of blueberry burst satisfactorily. Much like the batter which I had sampled liberally, they tasted great. The coconut sugar and crushed nut topping gave a nice crunch, and the ground almonds meant they were dense, but nutty and fragrant too. The distinctive almond and banana flavour was complemented with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon, and though not much of the lemon flavour came through, these were an office hit.
I was looking forward to trying the some savoury recipes, and as it was Saturday night, the Quinoa Pizza seemed fitting. Coming from the ‘Fake-Away’ section of the book, Roz says her transition from the dark ‘unhealthy’ side was made easier with this “just-as-good” alternative. I didn’t expect it to be an authentic Italian style pizza, but I hoped for three things; a thin, crispy base, that I would be able to pick up a slice without it crumbling, and that it would be tasty.
The result? My three preconditions were met; the thin base pizza although still undercooked in the centre had crisped at the edges, it held together when sliced, and had an authentic flavour from the roast pepper sauce, fragrant with oregano. I enjoyed making and eating this, it definitely gave me that naughty take-away feeling.
Fishcakes and burgers often fail to impress as they are usually more spud than salmon, but Roz’s Salmon Burger recipe was almost 100% fish, with just coriander, some aromatics, and an egg white to bind, added in. These took minutes to make in a food processor. The wet mixture was then shaped into patties and transferred to the fridge to set. When dinner time came around I awkwardly coated the still very wet burgers in black sesame seeds before cooking.
Although difficult to handle when cooking, the result was a moist, firm burger, with a crunchy sesame coating, and a distinctive Thai flavouring. Next time to make the burgers less wet and easier to work with I would make six smaller burgers rather than four, and maybe add some brown rice or coconut flour.
I had fun following Roz’s recipes, and had delicious guilt-free food along the way. The cooking/baking times were at times debatable, and some instructions absent, but with a little common sense the result was always good. True, some of the ingredients were expensive, and would not be found in the average pantry. However many of these ingredients overlap across recipes, so this initial investment will serve me when trying out the other recipes that I have my eye on, all of which look tasty, achievable and healthy. Three words which I think sum up The Natural Born Feeder Cookbook.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.