‘Oh she glows’ blogger and author Angela Liddon talks about food, health and her second cookbook
After struggling with an eating disorder for over a decade, Angela Liddon decided to set up a blog to spread the word about her journey to health and the powerful transformation that food can make in our lives. In the five years since starting ohsheglows.com, the blogger has won awards for her work, attracted millions of readers every month, and inspired countless people with her positivity and recipes.
Congratulations on your newest book – as well as being full of delicious recipes, it is beautiful. As well as sharing the health benefits of a plant based diet, are you also keen to show how your lifestyle can be really vibrant and trendy?
I find one of the most widely spread and persistent misconceptions about plant-based diets is the idea that meals are inherently ‘restrictive’ or ‘boring’. And I completely get it, because I used to think that too. But in fact the truth is the exact opposite. I truly believe my diet has much more variety now than it ever did when I was an omnivore, because a plant-based diet forced me to get creative in the kitchen and experiment with new-to-me foods. Since starting my blog in 2008, I’ve strived to share my passion for plant-based eating by putting delicious, flavourful, exciting recipes out into the world. When readers write in telling me one of my dishes has won over even the most die-hard meat lover in their family, I smile ear to ear.
Can you tell me a little bit about the health issues that inspired your plant based food please?
During my mid-twenties I set out to heal my relationship with food: I’d struggled with an eating disorder for 10 years and was sick of feeling miserable and tired all the time. Having heard a lot about the benefits of a plant-based diet, I started to experiment with real, whole foods instead of the processed, low-calorie diet foods I had been living off of. Completely transitioning to a plant-based diet wasn’t something that I planned to do, but I felt so amazing eating this way – with boosted and consistent energy levels, a sense of calmness, and overall positive outlook – that I just kept moving forward and never really looked back. The journey wasn’t always easy, of course. Back in the day, I barely knew how to cook a potato. But, head over heels in love with my new approach to food, I was driven and motivated to learn.
What cuisines influence you?
Although I tend to find food inspiration wherever I look, in terms of specific cuisines I’d say that Mexican, Indian, Italian, and Thai cuisines influence my cooking style most strongly. I’ve been delighted to find that many traditional dishes are already vegan, or can be easily adapted.
Who inspires your cooking style in terms of chefs?
Lately, I’m really inspired by the cooking styles of Tal Ronnen, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and Ella Mills.
How do you approach creating a new dish? If you are trying to ‘veganise’ and old classic, do you adopt quite a scientific process?
Once I’m inspired (and inspiration comes from everywhere—restaurant meals, magazines, cravings, current food trends, seasonal produce at the grocery store, special blog reader requests…the list goes on and on), I begin planning out the recipe on paper. I look at my other similar recipes to get a rough idea for proportions, temperature, and cook time. A lot of it is guesswork, though.
And then comes the most important phase: testing, testing, and more testing. I have a passion for great-tasting food and accept nothing less, so I personally test new recipes over and over until I’m 100 per cent satisfied. I also have an amazing group of recipe testers, whose invaluable feedback is absolutely integral to the recipe-creation process. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
When you were compiling the book, how did you decide what recipes went in there?
It was definitely tough deciding what recipes would make the final cut for inclusion in Oh She Glows Every Day. Most of the time I went with my gut; if I really loved a recipe, it was a no-brainer. Also, I try to create a nice balance and variety of recipes in my cookbooks, so having that as a guideline really helped. I’m also so grateful for all the amazing people who offered their input – the opinions of my family, friends, and dedicated recipe testers were a big factor in my decision making. So many amazing people helped bring this book to life, that’s for sure.
What are your own favourites from the book?
It changes day to day, but some of my favourite dishes in the new book include my salted chocolate hemp shake, crispy smashed potatoes, creamy Thai carrot sweet potato soup, fusilli lentil-mushroom bolognese (which my recipe testers also went wild for), and oh em gee veggie burgers. I’m also particularly proud of the ultimate flourless brownies recipe. It took me well over two dozen trials to get just right, and it’s honestly such an amazing brownie. I’m so thrilled that I was able to make accessible for so many different allergies, as it’s vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, oil-free, and soy-free, and there’s even a nut-free option, too.
If someone starting out as a vegan thinks it’s too complicated to make plant based food – or bland, what general piece of cooking advice would you give them?
Take the transition to a plant-based diet slow and steady. It’ll feel a lot less intimidating. And don’t strive for perfection— I think when you take the pressure off of it and focus on having fun, the process is more enjoyable and it’s easier to do it long-term. Sometimes, you have to rely on a bowl of cereal or takeout for dinner…and that’s okay. (Leftover pie for breakfast, I’ve been there). I’d also emphasize that it’s possible to create flavourful and delicious plant-based meals using easy-to-find, everyday ingredients. You don’t have to fill your cart with strange, processed imitation foods; my recipes celebrate real, whole foods as nature intended. And if you’re worried about blandness…spices. Before I transitioned to a plant-based diet I rarely used them, but these days I can’t live without my spice collection. Adding a bit of spice here and there really does make all the difference, and can turn a boring meal into something extravagant.
Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon is published by Michael Joseph, £18.99.