Q&A: HELENE HENDERSON, CHEF AND PROPRIETOR AT MALIBU FARM

PHOTO BY MARTIN LOF

PHOTO BY MARTIN LOF

Oh my word, I have serious life envy. There is someone out there who is living my dream and doing if far better than I ever could. That someone is Helene Henderson (wife of actor/director John Stockwell and Florence Welch’s aunt!) who runs the utterly magical Malibu Farm. Producing and serving organic food, and hosting cooking classes just a stone’s throw from the stunning California coastline, Helene explains her enterprise with the following equation: 1 Swedish chef + 2 spoiled goats + 1 fat pig + 23 fancy footed chickens + 2 rescue dogs + small vineyard + 300 raspberry bushes + 36 fruit trees + vegetable gardens  + 28 loud peacocks + the most beautiful beach= Malibu Farm.

Here, she talks to us about how it all began…

 

Have you always lived in Malibu? No, I actually grew up in the far north of Sweden. I have one published cookbook, which is a little love letter to Sweden, it’s called The Swedish Table. I came to America right after graduating from high school and moved to Malibu in 2008.

Where did the idea for the farm come from? My husband loves surfing and he has always wanted to live in Malibu. I love land… more than sand… but when we found an affordable plot just one block from the beach we decided to make the move.

What did you do first? It all started with the weeds, which there were lots of! I’m talking 1.5 acres of weeds. And there was an empty barn, and a corral. After getting a few outrageous estimates for weed removal, I considered the weeds and the barn and the empty corral and decided that goats were the solution.

What happened then? I found a pair of goats on Craiglist for $40 and decided this was the answer. However, the goats looked at the weeds and said, ‘Please feed us alfalfa’. And then they rested in the sun and watched the workers clear the weeds. And then, of course,  we needed chickens, and the kids wanted a pig – the whole thing just grew from there.

PHOTOS BY MARTIN LOF

What’s the concept in a nutshell? One day, two friends asked if I would teach a cooking class, and so I did. Then someone suggested I post the class recipes on a blog. A few months later, I threw a dinner for the cooking class participants and I cooked mostly with the vegetables we were growing, and used local ingredients from Malibu vendors and suddenly we were getting press and blog mentions. I never set out to start a Malibu Farm business, it all just happened…. organically.

What are your rules for eating well? If you know how it is made, if you know how to make it,  if you know how it grows, or if you grow it, then you can eat it. If you do not have a basic clue of how it grows or how it is made, than you should not eat it.

PHOTOS BY MARTIN LOF

What do you think constitutes a healthy lifestyle? Simplify everything; all you really need are great ingredients, and the confidence to do as little as possible to them. Good olive oil, salt, garlic and a splash of lemon is really all you need to make a great meal. Run, walk, hike, yoga – whatever you enjoy – just get out there as often as you can. That, and love yourself, just the way you are, because most of it is genetics.

PHOTOS BY MARTIN LOF

What does your average day involve? It’s always animals first here, so breakfast for everyone…. the pig, then the goats, chickens, cat, dogs and kids last. Once everyone has been fed, I make a black kale berry smoothie for myself, and then I usually go for a run to clear my mind. I walk the yard to see what is ready to be harvested, weeded, planted or watered. By 10 am it is time to tackle the day’s cooking task, which may be a cooking class, (all my class recipes are on my website), a catering job, or a special event here at our place.Then the day ends as it started, by feeding all the animals first.

PHOTOS BY MARTIN LOF

How do you relax at the end of it? I stand and walk a lot, and I am always either cooking or gardening so my feet and my hands get a pretty bad beating on a daily basis. I love to treat myself to an occasional manicure and pedicure – very relaxing. Of course I do buff only, polish would last about a day so it’s just not worth it!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Kids don’t do as you say, they do what you do, which also extends to food. Kids want your iPhone, your iPad, your computer, your favorite handbag and your designer shoes, and they will also crave and desire the food you eat. If they see you eat healthily, so will they… One day.

PHOTOS BY MARTIN LOF

What’s your most treasured possession? My most treasured possession is TIME and being blessed with the opportunity to watch my children, my animals, and the land all around us grow.

What are you coveting right now? I am mostly coveting the ability to swim, a cure for galeophobia (fear of sharks), and a good sense of balance… then I would hit the waves and really take advantage of what Malibu has to offer. Until then I will just have to watch from the sand.

malibu-farm.com

PHOTOS BY MARTIN LOF

PHOTO BY MARTIN LOFMany thanks to Swedish photographer Martin Lof for allowing me to use his beautiful images for this post. Watch this space for a Q&A with Martin himself! See more of his work at martinlof.com

SHIRA’S SUPER AWESOME QUINOA & COCONUT BREAKFAST BOWL

Photo by Shira McDermott

I came across this recipe on one of my favourite foodie blogs, In Pursuit of More, written and compiled by the lovely and very talented Shira McDermott. Her recipes are simple, wholesome, affordable to make, and most importantly, delicious. I was particularly excited to try this one as healthy breakfast options can get a little boring, and as we all know, quinoa is a super food and a perfect slow-burning fuel to kickstart your day with. Shira uses full fat coconut milk for this recipe, which provides richness and flavour and helps to fill you up in a way that low fat options can’t. This morning, I had mine with runny honey instead of sugar or syrup, blueberries (which I warmed in the pan with the quinoa), a few crushed pecan nuts and a sprinkling of seeds. YUM.

Basic ingredients:

  • (1) cup quinoa
  • (1) cup coconut milk
  • (1) cup cold water
  • (1/8) tsp salt

Add per serving:

  • (3) tbsp shredded coconut
  • (1) tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup to taste
  • (1/4) cup fresh blueberries
  • (5-6) fresh cherries, halved and pitted
  • (3-4) chopped pitted dates (optional)
  • (1/4) cup plain yoghurt (optional)

Photo by Shira McDermott

Method:

Combine the coconut milk, quinoa, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat with the lid on, once it boils, turn the heat to low, and cook (covered) for 25 minutes.

Once the quinoa is cooked and all the water is absorbed, remove from the heat and fluff with a fork inside the pan.

To serve, scoop one cup of the coconut quinoa into a bowl, add the brown sugar (or maple syrup), and stir. Top with coconut, fruit, and optional dates and yoghurt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Many thanks to Shira McDermott for dreaming up this fab brekkie. You can find more of her tasty recipes, beautiful pics and inspiring thoughts at In Pursuit of More.

LA TARTINE GOURMANDE

I have completely fallen in love with this fabulous foodie blog by Béatrice Peltre, a French food writer, stylist and photographer living in Boston. Filled with beautiful images and mouthwatering recipes, La Tartine Gourmande offers a veritable banquet of inspiration for foodies and creatives. Unsurprisingly, her work has appeared in an impressive array of publications – Saveur, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Diner’s Journal, and the Boston Globe to name but a few – and she’s just released her first book, Le Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, which I cannot wait to get my hands on!  Have a little look at some of her lovely pics below… and then go and check out her blog and find yourself something tasty to make for Sunday supper. Delish.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage-Flavored Brown Butter

Orange fruit salad with spices

Le Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, RRP £21.91, Roost Books

APPLE CRUMBLE YOGHURT POT

I’d love to linger over breakfast every morning, but it’s just not possible in the week as no matter how early I get up, I never seem to have enough time. That said, I hate tackling the tube journey on an empty stomach, or bolting down a boring bowl of cereal before dashing out of the door. So, I’ve been trying to think up some quick, easy, healthy brekkie options that still feel like they have a bit of treat-factor about them…. and this is my fave so far: Apple Crumble Yoghurt Pot. Delish.

Serves one

Ingredients:

1 apple

1/2 tsp brown sugar

Pinch of cinnamon powder

1 tsp good honey

2 tbsp Greek Yoghurt

1 tbsp muesli (anything by Dorset Cereals will be lovely… or you could use granola but that’s going to up the sugar content)

Method:

1. Chop the apple into slices and chuck into a saucepan with a tiny bit of water (about 1 cm to cover the bottom of the pan – you can always add more if it burns off too quickly), along with the brown sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. Put the lid on and leave to stew for about 7-10 minutes, or until soft. This part is the most time-consuming, so I tend to stew a batch of apples at the weekend and keep them in the fridge. You can then heat up a portion in the microwave when needed.

2. Put the warm stewed apple into a small glass or bowl (old jam jars or empty glass candle holders from IKEA work perfectly – see above pic!), and coat with the honey. Pour the yoghurt on top, and cover with a layer of muesli.

3. Dust with cinnamon to serve.

N.B: It’s also a great post-gym snack and a nice healthy pudding option for those who’ve given up chocolate for lent!

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THE BEST ROCKY ROAD YOU’LL EVER TASTE

Wow, what an exciting life I lead these days… today I took a day off work to go to IKEA because I couldn’t face the weekend crowds, right now I’m curled up on my sofa watching a Home and Away double bill, and this evening I will be staying in and making my fave sweet treat, Nigella’s Rocky Road Crunch (which she recommends as a good energy-boosting snack – love your thinking Nige). It is, quite frankly, unbeatable; seriously chocolatey and seriously moreish. And, what’s even better is that the recipe is basically idiot-proof. Nice!

Ingredients

  • 125g/4½oz soft unsalted butter
  • 300g/10½oz best-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g/7¼oz rich tea biscuits
  • 100g/3½oz mini marshmallows
  • 2 tsp icing sugar, to dust

Preparation method

  1. Heat the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat, scoop out about 125ml/4½fl oz of the melted mixture and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Place the biscuits into a plastic freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin until some have turned to crumbs but there are still pieces of biscuit remaining.
  3. Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan, then add the marshmallows.
  4. Tip the mixture into a 24cm/9in square baking tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula.
  5. Pour over the reserved 125ml/4½fl oz of the melted chocolate mixture and smooth the top with a wet spatula.
  6. Refrigerate for about two hours or overnight.
  7. To serve, cut into 24 fingers and dust with icing sugar.

ULTIMATE BANANA SMOOTHIE

I met the lovely Jo Pratt the other day, only I didn’t realise it was Jo Pratt… and I told her, to her face, that I didn’t like her mackerel salad… without realising she had made the mackerel salad. Very awkward.

I attended a food tasting at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where Jo had prepared a selection of scrummy dishes to showcase different types of British apples. I did keep thinking that I recognised her, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. (A bit like the time SamCam showed me around the new Smythson collection and I said to my colleague afterwards, “Wow, didn’t that lady look like Samantha Cameron?!”) Anyway, so I have two of Jo’s books at home, but I still couldn’t place her. And, unfortunately, I HATE mackerel. But the salad looked so good so I tried it anyway, and then practically spat it out again as she smiled on in a forbearing manner.

So, to make up for my misdemeanour, I’m going to share with you one of my favourite breakfast treats… her Ultimate Banana Smoothie, which I am about to go and make. Just chuck it all in a blender or smoothie maker and blitz until smooth.

Serves two.

Ingredients: 

3 ripe bananas,

400ml milk,

150g banana or vanilla yoghurt,

2 tbsp peanut butter,

3-4 ice cubes.

You can check out her books and find more recipes at jopratt.co.uk

(Photo by John Autry)

A CITRUSSY SOUP TO WARM YOUR COCKLES

With the freezing weather showing no signs of abating, and the billions of winter germs hurtling around on the tubes and buses, I’ve been craving a foodie tonic to banish my winter blues. After a little searching, I discovered this Thai-style recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, which fits the bill perfectly. Zingy but soothing, this lovely chicken, lime and coconut soup offers a healthy dose of citrussy goodness, and feels like comfort food without the stodge-factor. Top marks HFW, my scraggy-haired saviour!

Serves four.

100g fine rice noodles

1.25 litres chicken stock

1-2 red chillies, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 small thumb fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin slices

Grated zest of 1 small lemon

Grated zest of 1 small lime

2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)

350g chicken breast or thigh, cut into thin, 5cm x 0.5cm strips (or use leftover meat picked from a roast)

250ml coconut milk

70g finely shredded cabbage or kale

1 large carrot, cut into very fine matchsticks

60ml lemon and/or lime juice

1 small handful shredded coriander leaves, plus sprigs for serving

Salt and pepper

Lime wedges, for serving

Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions; set aside while you get on with everything else.

In a large saucepan, combine the stock, chilli, garlic, ginger, fruit zest and fish sauce, place over medium heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the chicken meat and coconut milk, simmer for five minutes, then add the vegetables and simmer until just tender. Add the noodles, lemon or lime juice, and coriander, and cook until the noodles are warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more fish sauce if you like. Serve sprinkled with coriander and with lime wedges on the side for squeezing over.

Find more of the same on the River Cottage website