Introducing Natasha

Meet Natasha, the Barnet-based home cook specialising in vegan food. Specifically, Natasha likes to ‘veganise’ carnivore dishes. She certainly does this successfully, as when we visited her Barnet home we were served up a variety of delicious dishes, from jerk jackfruit to Thai curries.

We sat down with Natasha to find out where her love of vegan food came from.

On the menu when we visited was Natasha’s top seller, “jerk jackfruit, rice and peas, with fried plantain and dumplings, and a side of coleslaw”. We also tried some other, equally tasty dishes, including callaloo, Thai curries, mac n cheese, sweet and sour cauliflower, and vegetable fried rice. If you’re more of a desert person, Natasha also makes cheesecakes, cakes and cookies. All vegan and all delicious. If this is making your mouth water, you can order Natasha’s dishes here.

 

“Cooking vegan food just ignited a passion in me that had laid dormant for while”

 

Natasha recalls her childhood by the sea in Totnes, South Devon, where her love of food began. Natasha has fond memories of helping her family out in kitchen, and her mum was an great cook, making everything from scratch: “She’d make whole Chinese takeaways on a Saturday night from scratch. And desserts- we had a dessert at every single meal, which was homemade. She taught me how to cook, my grandmothers taught me how to cook and how to bake too. But I would say my mum was the one who influenced me the most”.

Although Natasha’s mum’s recipes aren’t vegan, her sticky toffee pudding was so iconic that Natasha couldn’t help but veganise it. Her mum is “one of your old school home cooks, your traditional mum cook”. Although her and her mother’s cooking might look different, she was still an important influence, teaching her “to not have processed food and to make everything from scratch”.

When asked where she gets inspiration for her vegan recipes, Natasha revealed that four main sources. Firstly the internet, as she often finds herself craving dishes she discovers on Instagram. She also travels for her job, becoming inspired by the flavours of countries like Malaysia and Portugal.

More significantly, Natasha is influenced by her family’s tastes. Her son decided to try Veganuary, but found struggling with what to eat. Natasha took it upon herself to cook all of his meals, discovering along the way “how interesting and flavoursome you can make vegan food”. Realising that not knowing how to cook vegan food was a barrier for many people, Natasha found a passion for cooking up plant-based goodness.

 

“Vegan food is more than just a salad, it’s not a bit of grass or ‘rabbit food’. It’s varied, it’s nutritious, bright, and good to eat.”

 

Natasha’s favourite dishes to cook are her Thai curries, as she reveals she even makes the curry paste herself. But most important to her is that “all the foods I cook are things I love and feel really passionate about. I think that comes out in the cooking and in the food”.

Sharing these dishes is also important, as when asked what emotions ‘home cooked’ evokes her, Natasha says she feels maternal, as she loves to provide food for family: “I’ve always been a bit of feeder, maybe it is a maternal thing, making sure people are fed. I want people to look at the food, taste it and be full up and content, and want to come back for more”. Her friends, family and even her neighbours are big fans, as she’ll often drop round dishes for them to try. She loves showing people that “Vegan food is more than just a salad, it’s not a bit of grass or ‘rabbit food’. It’s varied, it’s nutritious, bright, good to eat. It’s good for you and it’s good for the planet”.

Natasha’s food has been a hit with her local community, as she receives great feedback. She welcomes all feedback, often using it to guide any adjustments to her dishes. Ultimately, the support and love from the local Barnet community is what makes all the hard work worth it.

 

“My way of being an activist is through food, it’s about educating and letting people realise how good the food is”

 

Although she grew up eating meat, Natasha was inspired to go vegan after one of her friends revealed she was also vegan. After doing her own research, Natasha became vegan overnight: “for me it was a personal belief, not just a diet. It wasn’t about cutting out certain foods, it was about not harming another living being, I’m extremely passionate about that. For me, producing good food that is cruelty free is important, you don’t need to have these animal products in your diet”.

She says that becoming vegan changed her cooking, providing her with a challenge: “in vegan cooking, you have to add a lot of flavour to food, because things like tofu can be quite bland, and vegetables on their own might not be very tasty. It’s really ignited my passion for cooking, and my kids think I’m a better cook for it.”

Sustainability is also important to Natasha. She uses compostable and recyclable containers to package her food, and composts any waste. She also gets her vegetables through Odd box, which is “like ‘rescued’ vegetables that would’ve gone to waste”. On top of this, using seasonal vegetables and shopping locally ensures that Natasha’s cooking is as sustainable as possible.

 

“Have the confidence and just do it, you can’t fail”

 

To budding cooks, Natasha says: “Just do it if you’ve got a passion for cooking. I’d cook for people and they’d keeping coming back for more. Over time you get more good feedback and over time it gives you the courage and confidence to keep going forward and keep trying new things. Have the confidence and just do it, you can’t fail.”

If you’d like to try some of Natasha’s vegan food, you can browse and pre-order her range of delicious food on our site.

Keep an eye on our Instagram for more home cooking content.

“Hi I’m Natasha, and I’m a home cook based in Barnet. I cook vegan food from all over the world, and I pride myself on veganising carnivore dishes, so people don’t realise that they’re having vegan food.”

 
What’s on the menu today?

“On the menu today is our top seller, which is jerk jackfruit, rice and peas, with fried plantain and dumplings, and a side of coleslaw. We also have callaloo, we have Thai curries, mac n cheese, sweet and sour cauliflower with vegetable fried rice, and for deserts we have cheesecake, cakes, and cookies.”

 

What’s your heritage?

“I was born in England, in Totnes which is in South Devon. I grew up there by the sea, and left Devon when I was 18 and moved to Bristol to do my nurse training.”

 

What’s your earliest memory of food?

“My mum is a really good cook, and I just remember her making everything from scratch. She’d make whole Chinese takeaways on a Saturday night from scratch. And desserts- we had a dessert at every single meal, which was homemade. She taught me how to cook, my grandmothers taught me how to cook and how to bake too. But I would say my mum was the one who influenced me to cook.”

 

Do you use any of your mum’s recipes?

“Some of the Christmas dishes yes, she’d always make sticky toffee pudding, which was delicious, so I use her recipe but veganise it. But some of the things she makes are quite difficult to veganise, to be honest. She’s one of your old school home cooks, your traditional mum cook. But has influenced me to not have processed food and to make everything from scratch, which is really good.”

 

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

“For a lot of stuff I get inspiration from the internet. I think once you start looking at food and recipes, stuff comes into your feed and onto your Instagram, I’m constantly looking and I’m constantly thinking “oo that’ll be nice” or “shall we try this?”. Also when we eat out, often I like to eat out and we’ll go to various different restaurants, and I’ll get inspired from dishes from there. I’ve travelled a bit this year with my mental health job, and so I’ve been to Portugal and Malaysia, and you kind of decide to recipe test things when you get home. I also get inspired by family favourites, things that people want to eat. We like to provide a variety of menu items because people might fancy Indian one night, Chinese another, or some Italian, so we have a range of stuff. So I’m constantly looking for new things to cook, new things to try, keeping everything fresh.”

 

How did you learn to cook?

“I suppose I learnt to cook from my mum probably, and my grandparents. My grandmothers taught me their basic stuff when I was growing up, I always remember helping in the kitchen. And then I moved out when I was 18, and I went to Bristol and lived on my own so I had to cook. I then had a young family, so I cooked a lot. I’ve always loved cooking. I went vegan about 2 years ago, and my son did Veganuary, which is where you basically go vegan for a month, and he was struggling to know what to eat and what to cook, so I was cooking all his meals, 3 meals a day for the whole month. I was trying to find different things to keep him interested, and that just ignited something in me that had laid dormant for while. And I realised how interesting and flavoursome you can make vegan food. So that was it. I asked my parents to do it (try Veganism) and they said “no, we wouldn’t know what to do and what to cook, but if you cooked it for us we’d eat it”. I realised that there’s probably lots of people out there who want to try this food but don’t know how to cook it, so that’s what started this for me.”

 
What’s your favourite dish to cook?

“My favourite dishes to cook are the Thai curries, I make the paste from scratch and I love the colours- I do a red Thai curry and a green Thai curry, and they come out perfect every single time. They look beautiful, they smell beautiful, and we always get really good feedback on those dishes. They Caribbean food is our top seller, I love it and I love to eat it too. All the foods we cook are things we love and feel really passionate about. I think that comes out in the cooking and in the food.”

 

What emotions do I feel when I say homecooked?

“A maternal feeling, providing that nutritious food for the family, and the extended family”

 

What do your friends and family think about the food you cook?

“My children are not so keen, they’re meat and dairy eaters. However, they understand why I do what I do, they’re very complimentary. Everybody else loves the food, they love to try it. I’m always providing food for my next door neighbours, I often give them things to try and they’re very grateful and happy.”

 

What do you like about sharing your food with the community?

“For me, it’s about showing people that Vegan food is more than just a salad, it’s not a bit of grass or ‘rabbit food’. It’s varied, it’s nutritious, bright, good to eat. It’s good for you and it’s good for the planet.”

 

Where do you source your ingredients?

“We get an Odd box, it’s like ‘rescued’ vegetables that would’ve gone to waste. Our menu stays quite similar but we’ll add some things on in winter, to include seasonal vegetables. We always buy local.”

 

Why vegan food?

“I grew up in South Devon and we grew up on seafood and meat. A couple of years ago I was toying with the idea of going plant based a couple of years ago, it was a big buzzword at the time. I met a friend for lunch and she had been vegan for some time, and she started talking about the animal industry. I did my own research, came home and watched some documentaries and went vegan overnight. So for me it was a personal belief, not just a diet. It wasn’t about cutting out certain foods, it was about not harming another living being, I’m extremely passionate about that. For me, producing good food that is cruelty free is important, you don’t need to have these animal products in your diet. Producing that food and showing people that this food is really good. We’re all brought up to think we need to have meat and fish on your plate, but I like to challenge people’s perceptions on that. My way of being an activist is through food, it’s about educating and letting people realise how good the food is. In vegan cooking, you have to add a lot of flavour to food, because things like tofu can be quite bland, and vegetables on their own might not be very tasty. It’s really ignited my passion for cooking, and my kids think I’m a better cook for it.”

 

What does the role of sustainability play in your cooking?

“Obviously it’s really difficult. We use compostable containers, because I don’t like plastic. Everything down to our smoothie cups are recyclable. We compost leftovers too, we recycle everything. We’re conscious of carbon emissions when it comes to delivery, we try to be as eco as possible. It’s a huge part of what we do, I hate waste and we try to do everything as ecologically as we can. Even just cooking vegan food is an ecological step, because producing just one hamburger uses thousands of litres of water.”

 

What advice do you have for people who’d like to start cooking?

“Just do it if you’ve got a passion for cooking. I’d cook for people and they’d keeping coming back for more. Over time you get more good feedback and over time it gives you the courage and confidence to keep going forward and keep trying new things. Have the confidence and just do it, you can’t fail.”

 

How do you feel when you get good feedback from customers?

“Really proud. It’s really nice to get good feedback. But even if you get other feedback, like I had someone say “I wish there had been more cauliflower in the sweet and sour cauliflower”, so from then on I just added more cauliflower. Any feedback is good and constructive criticism is welcome. Everyone has different preferences. The good feedback is what makes it all worth while, as it is hard work at times and a labour of love.”

 

What do you love most about cooking for others?

“I’ve always been a bit of feeder, maybe it is a maternal thing, making sure people are fed. I want people to look at the food, taste it and be full up and content, and want to come back for more.”

Leave a Reply

Shopping Cart
%d bloggers like this: