Five Minutes & A Recipe: Renée Elliott
Renée Elliott is a pioneering entrepreneur best known for launching Planet Organic, the UK’s first organic supermarket, in 1995.
Her philosophies on many of the key issues surrounding food, farming, sustainability and the environment are closely aligned with Daylesford’s own. Renée has been committed to wellness and the organic movement for 30 years and has done a huge amount to raise the profile of organic food during this time.
Her new book What to Eat & How to Eat It: 99 super ingredients for a healthy life highlights simple and great ingredients for better health, from broccoli to barley to baobab. On Friday 8th December, Renée will be in our Notting Hill farmshop signing copies from 11am-1pm!
Renée’s second venture, Beluga Bean, is a life skills and business skills academy for women. Courses include Launch if you’re starting a new business, Nest to support you through the end of pregnancy and into early motherhood and Connect, where women gather over an organic breakfast pot for real conversation, learning and inspiration.
She’s a busy lady but we managed to grab her for a quick chat and to share a favourite recipe!
What was it that made you so passionate about organic food in those early days of launching Planet Organic?
I’m always looking for a better way. In the early 90’s, I asked awkward questions about conventional farming, processed foods and unnecessary additives. Then I looked for solutions.
For me, ‘best food’ = organic + healthy. My vision was to offer the best of everything in foods and Healthy & Bodycare. I launched Planet 22 years ago to promote health in the community.
Also, I like simple things that make sense. Growing food with hazardous chemicals doesn’t make sense. Growing organic food that creates healthy soil, plants, animals and us makes complete sense. My passion is empowering people to lead better lives.
What are some ways the food landscape has changed since then? For example, what would a typical shopper be buying now compared to the 1990s?
The range of organic foods available now runs deep and wide. There are also great options in the free-from categories, as well as raw and activated foods. More wholegrain products are also available these days, utilizing grains that are more exciting and nutritious than wheat. Remember corn, barley, millet, oats, rice, sorghum, rye, spelt, teff, wild rice, Kamut and pseudocereals amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, commonly found ingredients such as quinoa and coconut oil were virtually unheard of on these shores. What is set to be the next big thing?
Well, we were selling them at Planet Organic, but I take your point! For what’s coming next, keep your eye on great organic stores.
Is it possible to tell whether new launches or innovations in food will just be a flash-in-the-pan fad, or something with the potential to become and everyday staple?
Innovations in food will have longevity if the products offer real value that is clearly communicated to consumers. The entrepreneur who creates it, the retailer who sells it and anyone who writes about will join forces to inform and inspire people about great new ingredients and foods.
How would you sum up your food philosophy in one sentence?
Eat well and live better by choosing a wide variety of great ingredients and enjoying them (because the stress may kill you before eating badly does)!
In your new book, you talk about how everyday foods may surprise you with their goodness. Can you give an example?
Beetroot is surprising. I like pre-cooked beetroot, but if you eat beetroot raw sliced, julienned, grated in sandwiches, sushi and salads, it is magic. Beetroot lowers blood pressure and makes you run faster because it oxygenates the blood.
You also talk about how some ingredients should be prepared a certain way in order to release their wonderful nutrients. Tell us more!
Sticking with beetroot, my new love, there are loads of nutrients in and under the skin. Scrub well with a veggie brush, peel just a little off the end and leave the rest unpeeled. If you’re cooking beetroot, cook for no more than 15 minutes to preserve the magic in the betalains that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification for the body. And, if your beets come with their greens, wash and rinse well, then steam and enjoy with extra virgin oil and fine sea salt.
What ingredients would you say are underused or underrated?
Nuts, seeds, apples, barley, beetroot, beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, fermented foods, pumpkin/squash, sea vegetables and wholegrains.
What is something you make at least once a week?
What’s on your food “bucket list” (something you want to cook or eat one day)?
I’d like to be able to cook octopus really well. I’ve eaten it rubbery and tough, and I’ve eaten it soft and tender. The Portuguese generally cook octopus beautifully and on holiday there a couple of years ago, I got into the kitchen where we were staying to cook octopus with the chef, but I didn’t take notes!
Which ingredient or item of cooking equipment would you not want to live without?
Clearspring Organic Matcha Powder
Avocado Goddess Toastie in my book on page 73.
Favourite mid-week supper for one or two?
One Pan Noodles on page 212.
What you would make at the weekend for a bigger crowd?
Lentil & Spinach Pie on page 228.
After buying your new book, which recipe would you recommend bookmarking to try first?
Overnight Wholegrain Pancakes on page 146 (and shared here), not the catchiest name, a great, versatile breakfast for any age!