Luise Vindahl and David Frenkiel’s life sounds as peachy as their enviably glowing skin – a product of their healthy, plant based diet, no doubt. Their vegetarian food blog has just been turned into a cookbook, The Green Kitchen, after they were approached by publishersHardie Grant last year, and is filled with pictures of idyllic Scandinavian scenes – the kind you only find in travel brochures of summerhouses in the middle of lush, green fields, and outdoor dinner tables, full of green salads and delicious looking dishes. You can understand, then, our quiet contentment when they dished the dirt on their tiny Stockholm apartment and messy kitchen in a recent interview, the hard graft they’ve put into building up their now internationally acknowledged blog, The Green Kitchen Stories, which receives over 750,000 hits a month and is still growing in popularity. And of course juggling all of this with looking after their pre-school-age daughter, Elsa, starting careers in Nutritional Therapy and deciding when it’s ok to have croissants instead of date and carob health bars...
Congratulations on your new book The Green Kitchen. How have you found your book launch so far?
David: Overwhelming. We had very low expectations about how the book would be received by our fans and the press, but had extremely high expectation of ourselves. We were constantly asking ourselves is this good enough? Should we change that recipe? So when we delivered the manuscript, we were really relieved to get rid of it and then, even more relieved when we got it back and we realised that, actually, it looked so good! It’s been great seeing our photo in Stylist magazine and yesterday we had a book signing at Heal's Furniture. Before we left, we did an interview with the Observer Food Monthly who did a huge feature on us – so we have been really thrilled.
You started as a blog The Green Kitchen Stories. How did you decide to create a follow-up publication?
David: It wasn’t something that we actively had a goal for actually. We’ve been blogging for almost 4 years now and it was about a year ago that we were approached by Hardie Grant. If you work with food, like we do with our blog, the thing you dream about is getting a book published. At home we have books piled up to the ceiling, so to have our own, has been a dream.
How much work goes in to having a blog and what advice can you give to bloggers who are thinking of doing the same thing?
Luise: It’s a lot of work to have a blog. And you put such a lot of effort into it, and obviously you work for free for a long time. So it was really great being approached by Hardie Grant for it. In the first stages we were actually approached by a lot of American publishers – I guess as a lot of our followers are American. Eventually we decided to go with Hardie Grant, but the book has just been published in America too about a month ago. If you have a blog I would say just keep doing what you’re doing. We have 250,000 followers and 750,000 hits a month now. But it hasn’t always been like this. At the beginning you have one comment and 25 visitors and then all of a sudden people start talking about you – which is the best feeling. So the best piece of advice I can give is to just keep on doing it.
David: If I was to give any advice to blogger, I would say, try and put as much effort into the photos as you do with the food. It’s about the whole experience for your followers. My sister is actually a photographer and taught me how to style food and how to use light, so the blog was a really good way for me to experiment. For the book, though, I kind of freaked out and asked my sister to do the images. It was great working so closely with my sister for it and Luise and I both helped with all the styling.
The recipes in the book are all lovely. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Luise: I get most of my inspiration from cookbooks with traditional meat-filled dishes and then start thinking of ways to change it into something vegetarian and healthy. For example, the Beet Bourguignon is based on a Beef Bourguignon, but only with healthy beetroots instead. And sometimes it’s just going to a food market and choose great ingredients and build a recipe from that.
You currently live in Stockholm, Sweden. How easy do you find it to lead a healthy life eating organic vegetables in the city?
David: We order an organic vegetable box which is delivered to us from farms around Stockholm. And in the middle of winter we adapt and tend to eat more and more root vegetables. We try to keep with the seasons as much as possible. We would really like to grow our own vegetables but if you saw our flat you would understand why we haven’t yet. It’s so small! I wish I could show you a picture of where we live but they actually took it out of the book. Our kitchen can get messy, especially when I’m in it! In the book there’s a lot of pictures of our friend’s summerhouses which are dotted around Sweden. They lent them to us for a week or two here and there throughout summer last year so it was great to have a holiday away from our apartment and cook at the same time for the book.
Luise is a meat-eater and David you are a vegetarian. How do you manage to work together in the kitchen?
Luise: At home we eat 100% vegetarian. I will only eat meat or fish when I am eating out at a good restaurant or in Asia when I’m by the beach and know I can get the freshest fish possible. So that really isn’t a problem
It’s not every day that you see a couple working together. How do you find it?
Luise: We actually work really well together. I love doing the main courses and the drinks and David does more of the baking and has such a big sweet tooth so enjoys making the desserts and the breads and things.
David: With food, we rarely fight actually. With Elsa around we realised we couldn’t be at loggerheads when it came to food. We’re very clear with each other and I think we’re on the same page with most things. I’ll still go out with Elsa to have an espresso and croissants. I still like my sweet things!
Luise: And even though I wouldn’t do that, I don’t mind Elsa having the occasional treat. I know that the next day I can always go with her to have a wheatgrass juice!
What is your favourite recipe in the book?
Luise: I’m really fond of the drinks chapter. I think it’s really beautiful and shows that you can take something like a chocolate milkshake and turn it into a drink that’s really healthy. I have to say the Saffron, Rosehip & Honey Lassi is my favourite. It’s like a dessert!
If you do ever leave the kitchen and go for dinner, where do you go?
David: we don’t really eat Nordic food when we go out, mostly because you don’t get a good choice of vegetarian options. When we do go out we tend to go for international cuisine – Indian vegetarian curries, middle-eastern falafel – we have a lot of choice in Stockholm!
To you, what are the benefits of eating homemade, vegetarian food?
David: Before I met Luise I was an unhealthy vegetarian. I ate pasta and cream and all the things you shouldn’t eat. I still like the occasional treat but I know how much better a wholefood diet is for you and can feel the difference.
Luise: Homemade food is real food. I don’t want to turn the whole world into vegetarians but I want to teach people to eat more vegetables. I’m actually studying to be a Nutritional Therapist at the moment, so it’s been great to merge my ideas on health with creative recipes.
If I was to look in fridge right now what would I find?
David: If you looked in our pantry right now it would be a mess. We can’t even close it. It’s brimming with wholefoods and at least a hundred different types of flours. I swear Luise collects them!
Do you use any special equipment in your kitchen or is the process as organic as the food – all done by hand!
Luise: We want the blog to be for everyone so there’s not really any expensive equipment in our kitchen. We do have a food processor which is a key tool in our cooking!
David: and since the book launch, we’ve treated ourselves to a Vitamix!
There are a few recipes in your book with really unusual ingredients – like the Spirulina Chocolate Truffles. What exactly is Spirulina?
Luise: Spirulina is green blue algae which I have to admit doesn’t taste that good, but it is extremely healthy and has a lot of detoxing properties. It regenerates new cells in the body and the only way I ever manage to get anyone to eat it is in these truffles. You can disguise it with dates and carob and then it tastes as good as it is for your body.
David, I know your vice – croissants and espresso. Luise, what’s yours?
Luise: I love chocolate. It’s is so easy to get raw food chocolate or organic dark chocolate… I do love Ben and Jerry’s ice cream though! But it’s organic – so it’s ok!
What are your next steps?
David: Well we’ve just launched two iPhone and iPad apps: The Green Kitchen app and Healthy Desserts app. And we have the blog and attending press events for the book. I am also still working as an Art Director for an interior magazine. We want to have bigger plans, but for now we’re just going to take things as they come.
Beet Bourguignon – a recipe taken from The Green Kitchen
Most people are familiar with Julia Child’s classic recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. Talk about making an impression and leaving a footprint. Her Boeuf Bourguignon is made with beef and bacon, so not the most appropriate dish for vegetarians, but we reckoned that there must be a way to transform that rich, wine-oozing hot pot into something more to our taste. After a few experiments it turns out that we were only one letter away. We turned beef into beet. We also added large chunks of mushrooms to give the stew the right texture and flavour. Our Root Mash (see page 149) is also a good companion.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 small beetroots (red beets), peeled
and quartered (we used Chioggia
6 carrots, sliced in large pieces
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp tomato purée (paste)
250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) red wine, use
vegan wine if you are vegan
500 ml (17 fl oz/2¼ cups)
400 g (14 oz/2 cups) puy lentils
a pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2–3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
10 crimini mushrooms
10 pearl onions, peeled
2 tsp arrowroot, dissolved in
2 tbsp water
a few springs of thyme, leaves picked, to garnish
Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over a
medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Toss the
beetroot, carrots, bay leaves, thyme and salt and pepper into the pan
and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the tomato purée, red wine and vegetable stock and simmer
on low heat for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under running water. Bring 1 litre (2 pts/
4 cups) of water and the lentils to a boil. Lower the heat to medium
and simmer gently for 15–20 minutes. When almost cooked, add the
salt. Drain off any excess water, cover and set aside.
Now heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, lower the heat and sear the
mushrooms and pearl onions, stirring occasionally, until tender and
golden in colour. Season to taste and set aside.
Taste the stew and add more wine, stock or herbs if you like. Add
the arrowroot mixture. Stir gently, just until thickened and clear.
Add the mushrooms and onions and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs before serving. Spoon the stew
into 4 bowls together with the lentils, and sprinkle with fresh thyme.
The Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl published by Hardie Grant, £25, Hardback.