How to remain mindful in your kitchen with help from Rebel Recipes’ Niki Webster

Mindfulness is a word that perhaps only entered our vocabulary fairly recently, however, there’s a growing emphasis on weaving this concept into our daily lives.

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Being mindful is the act of focussing on the here and now in order to relax the body and mind and alleviate stress. This can be done through paying attention to what you’re sensing, or feeling, within that moment. Smells, sounds and tastes can all play a role in mindfulness, and this can all come from the kitchen.

A lot of people find comfort or sanctuary from their kitchens, for lots of different reasons. Perhaps it’s the warm, comforting smell of food or perhaps it is the soothing sense of being with family and friends at the dinner table. Maybe it’s the very act of cooking itself.

We spoke to Niki Webster, owner and creator of Rebel Recipes, the vibrant vegetarian food blog and recipe archive, to hear her thoughts on being mindful in the kitchen and how she boosts her mood through time spent there.

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“My kitchen is my happy place. It’s the room that I spend the most time in as it’s also my workplace. Even though I’m sometimes under lots of pressure with recipe testing for books, client work or my own content, I immediately feel more relaxed and happier when I’m in my kitchen.

Over the last year I actually haven’t had my own kitchen which has proven quite challenging, and I have really felt that absence in my life. Now I’m finally back in my own space and I’m loving and appreciating every minute I get to spend in my kitchen. Luckily the space has had a mini makeover, so I’ve had the chance to re-organise and make sure it’s the perfect working environment.

Here’s some things I love to have in my kitchen to make sure it’s a fantastic space for working and cooking in, and to boost wellbeing levels;”

Well organised cupboards and fridge

This is essential so you know where everything is and to help manage stock and ingredients. It makes it much easier to plan recipes if you know what you have and haven’t got and removes a certain element of stress.

A workstation

I love to have an area I can sit down with my laptop and plan, write, and work at the same time. A dedicated workstation that is separate from where I cook or relax in means I can optimise my productivity levels and keep that particular area neat and tidy.

The tools I need

  • All of my props – this is essential for my photography and capturing content
  • Spices - a well-stocked spice rack is fundamental as so many of my recipes just wouldn’t work without herbs and spices
  • Store cupboard essentials in well labelled jars – there’s nothing worse than wasting time trying to identify unlabelled jars, so I always ensure store cupboard essentials are correctly labelled

Music

Mindfulness is all about being present in the current moment so considering what sounds you can hear is a really helpful technique. Music can change an atmosphere in a second so I love playing my music out loud – what it is will depend on my mood.

Light

As with music, lighting can alter a space at the flick of a switch. Cosy mood lighting with lamps can help create a warm and inviting atmosphere, whereas cooler and brighter lighting can be great for during the day when I’m at my most productive.

Because my work centres around my kitchen I usually stick to a daily kitchen routine which I find helps to keep me in the moment.

  • In the morning as soon as I wake up, I pour myself a large water and make a milky tea with oat milk
  • I then sit down at my workstation and make a plan for the day’s recipes
  • I check the fridge and cupboard and make sure I have everything I need and, if not, I make a list and pop out to the shop
  • Then I plan the recipe – I usually make two or three at the same time, so I need to work out which elements to make first
  • I like to cook in the morning then photograph, and then eat/test the recipes for a large late lunch
  • The final stage is a big clean to make sure everything is neat and organised for the next day rather than starting in chaos – this is a huge tip for anyone looking to create a more relaxing kitchen environment, clutter = stress!
  • And of course, take a mindful moment to appreciate the lovely space

Tomato and olive tart with fennel, tomato and caper salad

Here’s a recipe that I created using wholesome and filling ingredients with mindfulness and wellbeing in mind.

Approx. 8 servings
20 mins preparation time
30 min cook time

For the crust;

1 can chickpeas drained
1/2 tsp Sea salt
Pinch black pepper
3 tbsp buckwheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil

To make the filling;

85g cashews (soaked for at least 2 hours)
1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste
1 tbsp rose harissa
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tamari/soy
1 tsp garlic powder
150g butter beans or chickpeas drained
1/2 tsp sea salt

Fillings;

250g heritage tomatoes and cherry tomatoes sliced in half through the middle
Handful green olives
Fresh basil
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Black pepper
Fennel & caper salad
1/4 fennel sliced thinly
4 heritage tomatoes sliced
2 tsp capers
3 tbsp green olives
Handful Basil leaves 

Dressing;

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
Big pinch sea salt flakes

To make the tart base;

  1. Pre heat your oven to 180c.
  2. Add the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until everything comes together into a dough. You may need to scrape the sides a few times.
  3. Grease a loose bottom medium tart pan then add the dough. Shape it over the bottom and up the sides.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.


To make the filling;

Blend all the filling ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.

To compile the tart;

  1. Spoon the filling into the tart base and press into the corners.
  2. Now top with the tomatoes and olives. Press down a bit. Add some basil leaves and press in.
  3. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Bake for a further 20 minutes
  5. Remove to cool a little.

 

For the fennel, tomato & caper salad

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine.
  2. In a jar - mix the dressing ingredients.
  3. Pour over the salad 

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