Having sold more than 6 million cookery books, launched her own magazine and dreamt up recipes for everything from quail to quinoa, what Donna Hay doesn’t know about food simply isn’t worth knowing. Following the publication of book number 26, Life in Balance, we caught up with the chef and writer for a chat…
You’re a legend in the world of food styling, and have been in the industry for more than a decade. How have you seen it change in that time?
Working in food is so exciting, as there’s always a new ingredient, product, food trend or technique to try. But at the same time, I see a lot of things that don’t change at all, like the way people love traditional baking recipes and simple, nostalgic dishes. The most popular recipe on my website is still my classic banana bread.
You’re constantly creating new dishes. What inspires you?
I’m always inspired by the weather, creating food that reflects the seasons – be it refreshing popsicles for a sunny summer’s day or a slow-cooked stew for a cosy winter afternoon by the fire. A lot of my food is light and fresh, which reflects my own lifestyle, living by the water. We shoot everything in natural light in our studio in Sydney, so it helps that we’re lucky enough to have lots of long days of sunshine.
What are your storecupboard staples?
Eggs, good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, quinoa, raw cacao powder and baby spinach leaves are in high rotation at the moment.
What do you think of the current trend for ‘clean eating’?
My latest book, Life in Balance, captures my approach to healthy eating. It’s all about embracing a wide range of nourishing foods and learning how to incorporate them into simple, delicious and super-satisfying recipes, from breakfast through to dinner, plus desserts and snacks. I aim to give more ideas for eating well so you can still enjoy the things you love – that means no strict rules and still allowing yourself a treat every now and again. I’ve never been great at following strict diets, so this is my kind of eating.
Any tips for making a meal from scratch when you’re short on time?
It makes it a lot easier if you have a well-stocked storecupboard. If you have some eggs in the fridge, you can rustle up something for dinner – a frittata or omelette is a quick, nourishing midweek meal that you can make with any leftover vegetables and herbs you have in the fridge. If I’m just cooking for myself, I love a big plate of sautéed greens – kale, spinach or broccoli – with chilli, garlic and lemon, topped with feta or goat’s cheese and perhaps some quinoa for protein.
What advice would you offer an aspiring food writer?
Find a point of difference, make sure your recipes work and be prepared to work hard!
Which food trends are you loving right now?
Baking with cacao powder – I use it to make a delicious fudgy cake or a raw slice. I’m known for having a sweet tooth, so I feel good that I can create treats that are a little more on the guilt-free side.
Try a recipe from Donna’s latest book, Life in Balance…
Cauliflower pizzas with mozzarella, kale and lemon
- 600g cauliflower florets, roughly chopped
- 90g ground almonds
- 40g finely grated parmesan
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 8 stalks of kale, trimmed
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 20g finely grated parmesan
- 125g buffalo mozzarella, torn
- A small bunch of basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. To make the cauliflower pizza bases, lightly grease two 30cm round pizza trays and line with non-stick baking paper. Place the cauliflower, in batches, in a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl, add the ground almonds, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper, and mix until a soft dough forms.
- Divide the mixture in half and press into the prepared trays. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until golden and crisp.
- Place the kale, oil, garlic, chilli and lemon zest in a bowl and toss to coat. Divide the mixture between the bases and top with the parmesan. Bake for 8–10 minutes or until the kale is crisp. Top each pizza with mozzarella and basil to serve.