We're huge believers that when food is made with love, it tastes all the more delicious, and that's exactly what pastry chef, cookery teacher + author Henrietta Inman is all about. Ever since her debut release, 'Clean Cakes', we've been hooked on her wholesome, natural + seasonal approach to the art of baking. With the impending launch of her second book, 'The Natural Baker', she shares what keeps her mind + body grounded, balanced + nourished.
Hi Henrietta. We would love you to tell us little about your story and how you fell in love with cooking and baking.
I’ve always loved to cook. I think I get it from my parents who are both great in the kitchen; my mother is also a gardener and so, with my brother and sister, we were very lucky to grow up on fruits and vegetables from our garden, eggs from our own hens and lots of local meat and fish. I certainly think learning how to bake all the staples with my mother at a young age had something to do with my falling in love with baking. We made sponge cakes, crumble, meringues and pancakes together on the Aga, and I remember watching her make fresh bread, jams, jellies and marmalades too. I loved it all and the way that food brought us together every day, as a family, or indeed, many friends who we would often invite for tea, or dinner parties, in my parents’ case; they are great hosts and entertainers.
I love the convivial side of food; creating a wonderful atmosphere is equally as important as the delicious dishes. After reading French and Italian at Edinburgh university and being surrounded by some of the world’s best bakeries and pastry shops, I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a pastry chef. I’m sure my sort-of sweet tooth had something to do with it too! I also love art and I think the presentation of food is so important – we eat with our eyes and I think with sweet things, one can be that little bit more flamboyant!
After working in professional kitchens for five years in London, I decided to start my own business, selling my cakes at farmers’ markets and in shops and taking cookery classes, back at home in Suffolk. Being surrounded once more by the wonderful local food I had grown up with, I wanted to get it into my baking, applying my newfound skills as a pastry chef to more natural ingredients like local fruits and vegetables, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, proper butter, wholegrain flours and raw honey.
I realised that using more natural and less refined ingredients in my baking, rather than the usual plain white flour and caster sugar as my base ingredients, made it so much tastier, interesting and fun, not to mention more nourishing. I haven’t taken this to the extremes though – if I need to use a little white flour for a slightly lighter texture or golden caster sugar to allow more delicate flavours like lavender or rose to sing, then I will. You can find out lots more about my baking philosophy in my new book, The Natural Baker: A new way to bake using the best natural ingredients.
How do you find your daily source of golden balance?
I love turmeric! I have a little every morning with hot water, half a lemon, juiced, a little cayenne and a good teaspoon of apple cider vinegar; it’s a cleansing mix and lifts me up in the morning. I often add it to root vegetables like carrots, beetroot and parsnip when I’m roasting them and when they’re in season. It’s great in homemade hummus too. If I’m every cooking up an Indian feast, turmeric will certainly be involved! I love Meera Sodha and Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes.
How important is self-care to you, and do you often implement it into your regular rituals?
It’s very important to me and though things can get a little non-stop sometimes as a freelancer, I always try to implement a little self-care every day, otherwise I know that I’ll just burn out. I love swimming, yoga and walking, they all keep me calm and help me to remember to breathe; yoga particularly keeps me centred; I try to do a bit of each every week, and I walk as much as I can everywhere. Moving my body is certainly part of self-care for me, just as much as relaxing and just sitting on the sofa to watch Netflix after a long day is! Trying to keep a work-life balance, seeing friends and family and speaking to them on the phone, going to the cinema and exhibitions, is also very important to me too. I try to get a good night’s sleep every night too. Having a bath before bed is so relaxing and real treat; if I don’t have time, just spraying a little lavender oil on my pillow helps me sleep.
Share with us a quote that gives you daily inspiration.
Perhaps a little predictable but I think ‘carpe diem’ says it all!
We know nourishment from the inside out is fundamental to you. How do you practice this every day?
I always cook for myself, every day! I love it and I like to know what’s going into my body. I love wholefoods – wholegrain flours, lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables, good fats like olive oil, coconut oil and butter, raw if it’s available (Fen Farm Dairy in Suffolk make the most delicious raw milk and salted butter!). I start most mornings with free-range eggs and lots of green vegetables, putting in a good pinch of Wunder Workshop turmeric and I love adding lots of herbs and/or other spices too; sometimes I might have porridge, sometimes a piece of cake which happens if I’m recipe-testing! I’ll have it with a mug of matcha tea.
Mid-morning a love a milky coffee to perk me up a little until lunch when I’ll have lots more vegetables, with fish or chicken or beans or pulses. Supper will be vegetables again with some kind of protein. I don’t believe in being too regimented or denying myself anything though. I’ve been quite controlled about my eating in the past and it’s just not really worth it. Food is one of life’s great pleasures and something to celebrate and be thankful for every day.
What are some of your favourite ways to wind down?
I love seeing my friends and going out to eat with them, whether that’s to restaurants or supper clubs. I also love having them to my house to eat, bringing them together, laying the table with an abundant colourful meal, flowers, music, good wine and food, there’s nothing better! Going to the cinema, often alone, is one of my favourite things; I love going to galleries too and don’t go as often as I would like but I remember when I do, how calming I find it and it’s so great for switching off. Swimming at London Fields Lido is great too or better still, swimming in the sea or any kind of wild swimming! The ultimate way of winding down for me is going back home to Suffolk and being in the country, surrounded by nature, fresh air and my family.
Ingredients-wise, what are your three non-negotiables in the kitchen?
Maldon salt, lemons, good extra virgin olive oil… or butter!
Now tell us, do you have a guilty pleasure?
I eat a lot of dark chocolate! I’ve also been watching Ugly Delicious, a great exploration of food from around the world with David Chang and Peter Meehan, very late into the night/ early into the mornings recently… maybe episodes of Friends too!
What is your favourite way to use turmeric, be it in your beauty regime or recipes?
I love adding some to my eggs in the morning and in the recipe I’m sharing with you for turmeric, cumin and coriander pudlas with baked chilli paneer and fresh mango and ginger chutney.
Coffee or turmeric latte?
Please can I have coffee around 11am-midday and a turmeric latte in the afternoon?!
Turmeric, cumin and coriander pudlas with baked chilli paneer and fresh mango and ginger chutney
HEN'S TURMERIC, CUMIN + CORIANDER PUDLAS WITH BAKED CHILLI PANEER + FRESH MANGO & GINGER CHUTNEY
Pudlas, a type of Gujarati pancake, are made with chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour, yogurt and water. They’re easy to make and a great vehicle for lots of delicious fillings, so feel free to try others, such as meat or fish, if you prefer. I worked on this recipe with my good friend and expert in Indian cookery, Meera Sodha, as I’ve always loved paneer but never knew how to prepare and cook it; as I found out, it’s actually very simple! It’s often fried, but here we baked it, for a pillow-soft interior, encompassed in a garlic, chilli and cumin sauce, which gets a crust as it bakes. The quick chutney, a spoonful of yogurt and lots of fresh coriander (cilantro) lifts everything up. It’s a wonderful, light but filling, flavoursome meal. Thank you, Meera.
For the paneer
8 tbsp natural yogurt
4 tbsp chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated 4 tbsp tomato purée (paste)
2 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp sea salt flakes
3 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely crushed 450g (1lb) paneer, in 2cm (¾in) cubes
For the chutney
1 semi-ripe mango, sliced into fine strips juice of ½ lime, plus lime wedges to serve 10g (¼oz) peeled fresh root ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp light brown muscovado or coconut sugar, or to taste
1 green finger chilli, finely chopped freshly ground black pepper
For the pudlas
100g (3½oz / ¾ cup) chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
50g (1¾oz / scant ¼ cup) natural yogurt, plus more to serve
170g (6oz / ¾ cup) cool water, or as needed
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, plus leaves from 1 large bunch of coriander (cilantro), to serve
½ tsp cumin seeds, coarsely crushed
¾ tsp ground turmeric
extra virgin cold-pressed rapeseed (canola) oil, to cook
Start by marinating the paneer. Mix all the ingredients together from the yogurt to the cumin seeds. Check for seasoning. Add the cubes of paneer and stir until they are all coated with the sauce. Leave in a cool place while you make the chutney.
Mix together all the chutney ingredients and taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and sugar if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Thread the cubes of paneer on to skewers and put on a baking tray (sheet), trying to prop them up on the sides so they do not touch the bottom of the tray (sheet). Bake for 20–30 minutes, until the marinade is getting a bit of colour and the paneer is soft to the touch.
Meanwhile, make the pudlas by mixing together all the ingredients with a whisk. The batter should have the consistency of double (heavy) cream, so add a bit more water if necessary. Heat a large non-stick frying pan (skillet) with a little rapeseed (canola) oil, wiping off any excess with kitchen paper. Cook the pudlas as if they were pancakes, making sure that there is no runny liquid on the surface before flipping. If the pan is not hot enough, they will stick, so make sure the heat is medium-high. You should get 6 medium-sized pudlas. Set each aside on a warmed plate while you quickly cook the rest.
Fill the pudlas up with the paneer, sliding it off the skewers, the mango chutney, fresh coriander (cilantro), a squeeze of lime and a spoonful of yogurt.
Variation: Pudlas are great vehicles for many flavours, so do try them with meat or fish if you prefer, or any Indian-inspired filling.
Photography by Phillipa Langley