Chef Alice Coulson has been working with Kintsugi founder Al Reem Al Tenaiji on a range of delicious, seasonal recipes for our new book The Kintsugi Kitchen, out early next year. Here, Alice explains what drives her passion and creativity and shares one of her favourite winter recipes…
Healthy eating has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Kenya, with a Brazilian mother and an English father. At every meal, we had copious salads and vegetables, while meat was locally sourced and organic.
Kenyan dishes are influenced by a lot of other cultures and places, with India one of the strongest. Chai masala is a staple in most Kenyan households – including ours – and curry in some form was served at every party and celebration that I can recall. This rich mix of traditions has definitely influenced my cooking style, giving me a lasting appreciation for fresh, local produce and intriguing spices.
As I got older, I became interested in the role of nutrition in health, and how diet can play a big part in the prevention and cure of disease. I discovered Ayurveda, a 3,000-year-old philosophy that maintains that around seventy per cent of disease stems from the diet. In the Ayurvedic system, good health is based on the principle of eating the right food at the right time for your body type. Combined with positive mental and energy balance, Ayurveda works holistically with the body to optimise good health. It is prevention rather than cure and a fascinating practice that still has much to teach us.
I studied cooking at Ashburton Cookery School in England before learning the ropes in the kitchens of private estates and hunting lodges in the Scottish Highlands. For me, cooking was something best learned on the job – often by trial and error.
After working all over the world, I met Al Reem Al Tenaiji, founder of Kintsugi. We quickly found that we had the same ideas about the importance of a good diet for health and wellness. We are big believers in the immortal words of Hippocrates: ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’
In our fast-paced world, it has become more important than ever to slow down when eating. And I am increasingly interested in the slow food movement. It is important to take the time to be in the kitchen and to enjoy the process of buying ingredients, knowing where they came from, and cooking with love and care.
Wherever you can, I recommend buying organically from farmer’s markets, butchers and fishmongers. Doing so reduces both the risk of consuming pesticides and the need for packaging and waste.
Eating seasonally makes sense for many reasons. Gone are the days where a tomato in London was a rare sight and we had to wait until spring for strawberries, but I often wonder what we sacrifice when we buy food out of season. A tomato grown in a greenhouse in the UK will never taste the same as one grown in summer, or in the Mediterranean climate. Fruit and vegetables are at their best when they are in season and make for much more enticing meals.
When ingredients are local, seasonal and at their best, you don’t need to be an expert chef to spin them into an extraordinary meal. Think of simple tomato pasta in an Italian summer or rich potato stew in an Irish winter. And when they’re in season, fruits and vegetables will naturally be of greater nutritional value than when they are stored for long periods of time.
Consider, too, the environmental impact of eating produce out of season. The carbon footprint of importing fruit and vegetables all year long is vast. Air freight emits more greenhouse gases than any other mode of transport and is a significant contributor to global warming. So it is in all of our best interests to reduce the amount of imported food that we eat. Happily, when you have the right recipes, this is no great sacrifice.
Working with Al Reem for Kintsugi, I focused on creating simple yet tempting menus with bold flavours and minimal fuss; dishes that place the ingredients at the heart of everything. I cook with no grains and little dairy, bar white cheeses and Greek yoghurt, and focus on healthy fats that are essential for a supportive diet – and that keep us out of the snack drawer.
Developing these recipes, I paid attention to core Ayurvedic principles, using only fresh, seasonal and local ingredients and spices known for their health-giving properties. Each dish has a careful balance of the six tastes of Ayurvedic philosophy: sweet, sour, salty, pungent (chilli), bitter and astringent. The result: nourishing meals that leave you completely satisfied.
And those results speak for themselves. Empty plates pile up, often with no mention of the healthy ingredients. To our diners, the food is simply delicious, while those who are interested appreciate the high nutritional value.
I am so excited to share these recipes with you. They are the result of a lifetime of culinary travels and experiences, and the beautiful, nourishing energy arising from the unique connection that I have with Al Reem and the Kintsugi team.
The Kintsugi Life cookbook will be out early 2021.
Alice’s Brazilian(ish) fish and prawn stew (gluten-free and dairy-free)
My mother is Brazilian so I have a strong connection to the country’s vibrant culture and cuisine. This dish is an update on a local classic, bringing together my Brazilian heritage and East African upbringing. Eat with cauliflower rice.
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 white onion, sliced
7 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
10g ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
4 tablespoons tomato paste
600ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
200g prawns, peeled and deveined
200ml shrimp or fish stock
140ml fresh lime juice
Fresh coriander, chopped to serve
Add the oil to a heavy-bottomed pan. Sweat the onion slices for 3-4 minutes until tender but not coloured. Add the garlic, turmeric, chillies, paprika, cumin and ginger. Sweat for another minute or so.
Add the tamarind paste and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly to coat. Cook for another minute, then add the coconut milk and desiccated coconut.
Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the monkfish and red peppers. Simmer for four minutes, then add the prawns. Cook until the prawns are just cooked through then add to the fish stock. Season to taste and add the fresh lime juice when you remove from the heat.
Serve with freshly chopped coriander and brown or cauliflower rice.