To celebrate the re-launch of my first recipe book, Natural Harry – Delicious plant based summer recipes, I am taking a little trip down memory lane....to where this book really began. Join me.....
Although I did not know it at the time, the seeds of the first Natural Harry recipe book where planted in late 2012 when I began studying interactive nutrition at IIN. The 1 year course had a good basic overview of many different dietary theories. What I began to see as the common thread was more WHOLE, natural food. More WHOLE fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. Less packaged and ultra processed. Instead of a diet focussed on macronutrients ~ high fat, low fat, low carb, high carb I was noticing it was not so much how much or how little of these you could include in your diet but how much WHOLE food you could. Minimally processed and as close to their original state as possible. Rather than a miracle and gimmick diets for 'health' I was realising that a back to basics approach and a diet focused on the natural ingredients as a WHOLE was what made the most sense to me. More about more nutrient bang for your buck! So, I began to experiment in the kitchen every spare moment I had, in between my days as a nanny. (and making mens shorts from up-cycled fabric - but that is a story for another day .. haha) And wow did I experiment. Every dollar I earnt that year went towards my new creative passion. Before this, I was fairly disinterested in food and cooking. It was like a new world had been opened up to me. One full of rich colour and vibrant flavour. Not all trials where a success and friends and family that taste tested the countless treats and smoothies gave honest feedback. It was a quick way to learn. A good old process of trial and error.
Noticing there where no fresh, delicious whole-food smoothie and raw dessert options at local venues in our area, Fraser, my now husband, suggested I start offering them to a wider audience so more could experience them.... But how to do this? We threw a few ideas around over many months and eventually settled on the idea of a wooden vintage caravan. We had not seen an example of one as a food vendor and could not find an old one in good enough nick for sale. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Fraser was inspired to build one from scratch (side note: he is a carpenter by trade, and a clever one). He built that caravan from the ground up, including the chassis. Using a combination of reclaimed and new materials. We fitted it out with a compliment commercial kitchen specifically for the purpose of making and selling scrumptious raw desserts and smoothies. We spent many late evenings after work constructing the caravan, with Fraser sometimes arriving home at 2 or 3 in the morning only to get up at 6:30 for a day as a chippy. While Frase was building, in between being a very unskilled labourer I was sewing curtains for under the bench-tops, Conversing with council for approval, crafting some basic branding, recording my recipes and sourcing 100% organic wholefood suppliers as locally as possible.
With a date (12th December 2013) set as the first day open, we finished painting the outside of the caravan the evening and parked it on the grassy hill at 10pm that night. I spent some time showing Frase how to make a smoothie and we opened at 7:30am the next morning! Our first customers were our friends Clare, Jess and Marcel. Legends!
Frase was meant to help me for the first day. Instead, he was still there for 4 years. oops. Looking back, I realise we were both such perfectionists with each and every smoothie and the experience for people as a whole we found it incredibly hard to deligate. The same 4 smoothies I jotted down on the blackboard the evening before we opened were the same 4 we served for the 3 seasons we were open, but we learnt a few tricks along the way to really perfect them. Interestingly, each was equally as popular as the others. Everyone had their favourite and rarely strayed. I continued to whittle down ingredients and processes to the perfect raw dessert each evening as I prepared for the following day of trade. Eventually having the perfect list of creations to pick from each day. From the first weeks perched on the hill, trying to convince customers to try the plant-based creations when almond milk in a smoothie and avocado in a dessert was still a little fresh, eventually, on the busier days, there was a line down the hill and people making special journeys from Melbourne and regional Victoria for the day. By the second season, we needed an extra pair of hands each day. We had wonderful friends work for us over the years and have the BEST memories of that!
I was asked an overwhelming amount for the recipes to these caravan creations. Of course we had them written down and I had tweaked them over time until I was satisfied they were the best they could be but I was hesitant to go jotting them down for people. I wanted to do them justice. With a background in fashion design and a passion for design in general, I began to entertain the idea of writing a book, after a few customers suggested it to me. The idea of this became more and more exciting as I envisioned packaging up the whole experience and all the recipes into a beautiful book. One that the owner would be proud to have sitting on their kitchen bench or coffee table. So I dove in head first. The months that followed were a steep learning curve. Even though I had all my recipes recorded there was much to do in the way of photography, layout, editing and printing. But it was also wonderful. We turned our tiny house bedroom/living room/study into a mini photography studio and Nikole Ramsay and I styled the recipes I was churning out of our little kitchen. Little did I know that would be the first book of three created in that little space. Knowing that we would not be in the little caravan on the block forever I was keen to craft the book in a way that it could live on in it's pages. And I really feel it does! Each time I open it to make something special from it, be it a birthday cake, some treats, one of the delicious savoury recipes, a staple recipe like a spread, one of the home and body recipes or a classic NH smoothie, I can feel the fresh cool morning air and sunshine on that little hill.
I poured everything from that little caravan into these pages. The smoothie recipes, the most popular and delicious raw desserts, our tasty plant-based savoury meals we enjoy at home, some simple DIY tox free home and body recipes and the most delicious panty and fridge staples. I am SO stoked that after running out of the 4th print run of the published version earlier this year it is now joining my other 2 recipes books with the Hardie Grant family. Which means it is now available far and wide, in all good book stores, boutiques, online, health food and whole food stores. I hope you love the book as much as I loved making it for you! Click on the image below to discover the book. x Harry