Meredith and I are so flippin excited about this interview. A woman that is so close to our hearts, Jude Blereau is a wholefoods chef, author, food coach, cooking teacher and real food activist from Perth who has been in the industry for over twenty three years. She’s written and published four amazing books, and is currently working on her fifth. For Meredith, Jude’s book Wholefood Baking has been a huge inspiration on how to master the art of baking with wholesome ingredients. For me, Wholefoods for Children has played an integral part in shaping our family food culture and has helped me raise an amazingly healthy son with a hearty appreciation for a diverse range of real-foods. It’s one of the greatest gifts you could give a new mum, and has spread throughout my social group as the best cookbook out there for a young family.
When I sent out the questions for this interview I was really moved by her responses. By talking to her on the phone and reading her words it’s incredibly refreshing to see someone who comes alive as she talks about food and cooking. She has a remarkable way of getting to the heart of what real food is all about. She doesn’t set up a dichotomy, but draws together the physical and spiritual nature of our relationship with food and the earth, in a way that I know will ring true to you all.
Tell us how and why you became a wholefoods chef?
I always had leaning towards food and healing (my mum is Italian and was a nurse), so I guess you could say it was in my blood. But I also had a strong belief and connection with nature, and awed by how holy and sacred food actually is – along with love, it is what keeps us alive, enables us to be all that we can be and I find that quite wonderful.
I have always been driven by what is real and true, and felt the commercialisation, industrialisation, fractionalisation of food a fundamental betrayal – this is what I have set out to change, beginning about 25 years ago. It still drives me today.
Describe your kitchen..
Simple, old, without bells and whistles, but beautiful. I like lots of bench space, and I like to see my tools/bowls etcetera so they are on open shelving. I worry today with the emphasis on expensive equipment. Building a good kitchen (equipment wise) is exactly the same thing as building a wardrobe – yes you do need to spend good money on important pieces – these should last your life time. I consider knives, stainless steel (never, ever non – stick) pots and stockpot, enamel coated cast iron (or not enamel coated) frying pan and stew pots, good chopping board, are what I consider essentials. Given we live with the benefit of electricity, I think a good stand mixer and good food processor/blender count. I have a kitchen aid stand mixer (but they aren’t as good as they used to be now they make them in China) and a Thermomix – love it’s engine.
Finally, I must always have flowers of some kind in my kitchen – even herbs in flower. I need beauty around me.
What does a typical day on a plate look like for you?
Up very early with the sun (I am a morning person), walk or garden, come home and sit in the cool (in summer) outside with a cup of tea. In winter, my tea time will be inside, but it’s a quiet time. Breakfast – generally eggs with seasonal greens and veg.
Work – right now it’s finishing off my new book – morning tea (I like something sweet), work, lunch and finish about 1pm to have a rest and meditate. Then afternoon it’s work that doesn’t require my brain to hold a huge number of things – returning phone calls, emails, and organise dinner. I like dinner early and am generally in bed by 8 ☺
How would you describe the food culture you live by?
All things real and true in balance and moderation – I’m not stressed by having a bit of white sugar from time to time in a cake that my mum has made for example. I think that is fanatical and extreme – I’m not a purist or a fanatic.
What quick, easy & healthy recipes would you recommend for busy people?
Honestly, it’s never about quick and easy – it’s always about having a level of skill. When we are learning to drive, it takes huge amounts of space in your brain and energy, 5, 10 years on you do it without thinking. Cooking is exactly the same. So, quick & easy can be a recipe that may take 30 – 2 hours to be finished, but require about 10 – 15 minutes of your actual time, and one that you don’t have to think. For me, that is Mexican Beans, or a vegetable dhal. Quick , Easy AND healthy – so many things are healthy, actually eating a dinner is healthy, so I would say that yes some wholefoods (grain and legume) do take longer to cook, but again most of that time doesn’t require your input – what it does require is that you understand your ingredient. Also fundamental – BE ORGANISED. THE MORE ORGANISED YOU ARE, THE EASIER IT IS. I believe in MENU PLANNING.
Finally – quick, easy and healthy – choose a meal you can do without thinking. Secondly – FISH. The quickest, most nourishing meal on the planet.
Is baking an art or a science?
It’s an art – absolutely, with a sprinkle of science. Now, when you are working with standardised, highly refined white wheat flour and white sugar it is a science – there is nothing real left there. But when it’s whole, nature is at play – those ingredients, like the Velveteen Rabbit, become alive and real and respond in like. So baking becomes an art, thinking about what will help that particular situation. Don’t get me wrong, number one, still is you MUST KNOW YOUR INGREDIENT, but then apply that knowledge with the situation before you.
What are your favourite wholefood flours to bake with?
Spelt and Barley
What/who inspires your recipe development?
More and more I find I am becoming an elemental person, and find I love simple elemental flavours (e.g. fig syrup rather than a maple syrup). I am surprised (and not) that my Italian heritage is so played out in my food – I am drawn to those strong, elemental, seasonal Mediterranean flavours. But in the end, what / who inspires my recipe development is always the need – I mean that I develop a recipe to suit many requirements – balance, flavour, the place it sits within the book, and a million other things…
So taking one I did yesterday: Winter Vegetable Tray Bake Tart with a Spelt and Barley Pastry:
This needs to sit within the winter season, when little is on hand – it has very elemental and simple ingredients. It needed to be a good lunch dish, one that provided left overs and even freeze well. It needed to be easy and delicious. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze it. It needed to be rustic to convey the elemental feel I am trying to get across. It needed to not be pretentious (so much is these days), it needed to be something that would be nourishing and provide fuel.
50 years ago if you didn’t cook, you didn’t eat, simple. These days if you don’t cook, you are prey and vulnerable to an industry that truly does not care about nourishing your body. Unless you have a lot of money and live in a place that can provide you with nourishing, delicious, sustainable, organic, ethical and honest food (say Berkley in San Francisco), you will be eating shallow, fractionalised and imitation food that your body won’t recognise, and you will suffer the consequences. But more so – to cook is to partner with nature in your life, to take its gifts and prepare them into food that nourishes your body and soul. It is to be empowered. It is also a powerful way to have a say on how we grow and produce our food. To grow your food or to cook your food is to dance with nature, and I love that. I am a part of the whole.
What impact do you wish to leave on the earth?
I’d like to see that we reconnect to a food culture of some kind, that we understand the importance of having less THINGS, and having more time to do the important things like grow food, cook, sew, love our family and self, play, sing. (meaning, I’d like to see children at home with a parent, not in childcare whilst both parents work so they can have every new thing, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and the latest car)
I’d like to see people and society become more understanding of real food (the basis of my new book) so they are not so vulnerable to the latest fads – quit sugar, paleo, raw etcetera.
If you would like to join Jude on her inspiring wholefoods journey, connect with her on
Her new website: http://wholefoodcooking.com.au/
We also have a really delicious recipe to share from Jude’s book Wholefood Baking.
Vanilla and Almond cake with Almond Cream and Raspberry Jam
For the cake:
50g flaked almonds
1tsp golden caster sugar
195g unbleached white spelt flour
1tsp baking powder
¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g ground almonds
185ml maple syrup
125ml coconut milk
80ml macadamia nut oil
2tsp apple cider vinegar
1tsp vanilla paste
1tsp natural vanilla extract
165g raspberry jam
1 quantity of vanilla bean almond cream infused with rose geranium leaves
For the vanilla bean almond cream:
375ml freshly-prepared almond milk
250ml coconut milk
70ml maple syrup
1½tsp agar powder
t1sp vanilla paste
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Line the base of a 20 cm (8 inch) springform sandwich cake tin with baking paper
Make the vanilla bean almond cream by placing 310ml almond milk, the coconut milk and maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the agar over the top and whisk well. Whisk together and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer very gently, stirring frequently for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining almond milk and cornflour to form a paste. When the agar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat. Add the cornflour mix to the pan, shisking rapidly as you do so – it will begin to thicken as soon as you add it. Place back over a low heat, whisking constantly until it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and whisk the vanilla paste through. Pour in to a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Press a piece of baking paper on the surface and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set. When set, put what will be a fairly solid mixture into a blender. To this, add 1½tbsp water. Blend for 5 minutes or until silky smooth, scraping down the sides from time to timeMix the flaked almonds and caster sugar together and set aside
Sieve the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl, add the almond meal and whisk through
Place the maple syrup, coconut milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla paste and extract in another bowl and mix together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Turn into the tin and sprinkle with the flaked almond mixture, taking care to make some end up right on the edges (and even down the side a little) of the batter
Bake for 40–50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. This cake is best well cooked, so the maple syrup has a chance to crisp on the skin of the cake where it is exposed to the heat of the oven
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack until completely cooled before releasing the springform side (it will still have the tin base in place and be sitting on the wire rack). Place a baking tray lightly on top of the cooled cake and invert the cake and wire rack onto the tray. Quickly remove the wire rack, then the tin base and baking paper from the cake. Lightly place another baking tray on the cake and invert again so the cake is right side up
Cut the cake in half horizontally. This cake will not have the same sturdiness as those made with egg, so rather than lifting the top half of the cake off and setting it aside, it is best to slide a flat baking tray, tart tin base or something thin and sturdy between the layers to support the top layer. Using the same technique or two large palette knives, move the base of the cake, cut side up, to a serving platter
Spread the jam evenly over the cake base, leaving a 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) border. Gently spread the almond cream over the top, again taking care to leave a small border. Pick up the top of the cake (on its tray) and carefully slide it onto the almond cream
This cake is best served straight away or within 2 hours as the filling can soften the cake, making the crumb more fragile. Without the almond cream and jam, the cake will keep in an airtight container for 4–6 days