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Book Review: Eat Smart, by Niomi Smart

September 8th 2016 / Anna Hunter

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We’re getting familiar with the health, beauty and lifestyle blogger cookbook genre, but this latest launch is anything but a token tome. Find out what we made of Eat Smart…

Niomi Smart’s book shot to the number one slot on Amazon within moments of her announcing the release on her Youtube channel, well before Eat Smart, went on sale (it launches today). The fact that she has over 1.6 million Youtube subscribers goes a long way to explaining the pre-sale surge, likely fuelled in addition by her 1.6 million Instagram followers and 900,000 strong community of fans on Twitter. Eat Smart would probably fly if it were a so-so mishmash of blog posts, but thankfully, it isn’t. It brings style and substance to the groaning table of blogger and vlogger releases, and it’s clear that an enormous dollop of thought, research, hard graft and passion have gone into the book’s creation. Sure, recipes are Instagram worthy, but the skill, considered styling and technical know-how shines through more than social media opportunism. Eat Smart communicates a labour of love rather than a rushed together media stunt; Niomi is putting a refreshing twist on a formula we’ve become au fait with.

Recipes are inspired by everything from marathon training meals to holiday adventures in Bali, and the global influence not only showcases Niomi’s knowledge and knack for recreating unusual flavours, but also ensures that you view a plant based approach with fresh eyes. Smart doesn’t need to drill home the fact that ‘plant-based’ doesn’t mean bland; she simply marries together a huge variety of inventive recipe ideas so that you almost don’t notice that meat and fish are AWOL. She even goes a bit Heston on us at some points, with the avocado and strawberry on rye and orange and basil tart suggesting a more sophisticated palette thatnblogger naysayers may anticipate. Almost every recipe can be tailored to your individual taste and preferences, with tips abounding and different takes on staples encouraging you to experiment daily and thus avoid getting stuck in a food rut. Basically, boredom is out of the window.

From a health perspective, obviously the nutritional value of many of the recipes within will be a huge selling point to much of Smart’s audience, and her guidance is for the most part sensible. She encourages readers not to be shy or embarrassed about asking for what they want in restaurants (nicely), which is empowering advice for Brits in general, and she satisfies the nosy among us by laying out the details of her workout schedule and ‘day on a plate’ (which is, again, realistic and pretty substantial).

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Niomi’s not carb shy, emphasises the fact that you’re likely already eating the hallowed ‘superfood’ group without even realising by way of nuts and the like, and while she does list some of the more obscure and expensive superfood purchases, she underlines that you don’t actually ‘need’ to buy them, but also the savings you’re making meat and fish wise might free up your funds to do so if you wish. In short, Niomi doesn’t fetishize food, although the date fixation amongst health bloggers is definitely still going strong. There are green juices, but thoughtfully also ‘beginner’ and ‘intermediate’ versions, and while there is a very slight suggestion that food can constitute an element of healing, this isn’t dwelled on, while the fact this this is in no way a diet book is clearly stated from the very first page and reflected in the variety of balanced, filling meals on offer.

As for the actual dishes you’ll be rustling up, Niomi knows her UK audience. Sure there are the obligatory smoothie bowls and energy balls, but healthy makeovers of a full English, jammy dodgers and chocolate cookie dough ice cream appear genuinely appetising rather than meek imitations of the real deal. They’re still ‘indulgent’, but not packed full of refined sugar, trans fats or weirdo preservatives as many of the processed originals are. There is also pie, and it’s hearty, although I do debate that a slice of cauliflower could ever replace a steak. Otherwise, this is a beautiful, clearly laid out, exquisitely shot and crafted book that proves that Smart is in no way jumping on a bandwagon; she’s dotted the ‘i’s’, crossed the ‘t’s’ and created something with real longevity and practical pizzazz. If you’re curious about eating more plant based meals, Eat Smart provides a fun and inviting blueprint for doing so without positioning itself as a bible, and you get a lot of bang for your buck recipe wise. Speaking of recipes, we’ll treat you to one of Niomi’s favourite lunches…

ROASTED PEPPER + ONION PESTO TART

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Serves 6-8

This is a great one to make ahead. When I’m busy I often find it hard to make lunch from scratch, so I sometimes make it the night before so I know I will have something wholesome, filling and tasty ready and won’t end up buying something less nutritious on the go.

INGREDIENTS

Topping

Olive oil

2 red onions, peeled and each cut into 8 wedges

3 red or yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced

Sweet potato tart base

1 small sweet potato (200g), peeled

150g (1 cup) spelt flour, plus extra for dusting

150g (1 cup) wholewheat flour

60ml (¼ cup) olive oil pink Himalayan salt or sea salt

Brazil nut pesto

2 garlic cloves, peeled

225g (1½ cups) unsalted raw Brazil nuts

3 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves

3 large handfuls of spinach

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

100ml ( cup) extra-virgin olive oil

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Grease a 20 x 25cm shallow baking tin with olive oil.

Place the onion wedges and pepper slices in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the hot oven for 40 minutes until cooked through and browned, tossing occasionally.

To make the base, chop the sweet potato into chunks and steam for 15 minutes and allow to cool.

Mix together the flours and a pinch of salt, then stir in the olive oil and 60ml (¼ cup) water. Mash the sweet potato and use your hands to fully combine into the mixture.

Flour a surface and roll out the dough to cover the base of the tin. Roll it over the tin and gently press the outer edges and corners. Use a knife to scrape away the excess from the edges. Add greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes.

Make the pesto by adding all the pesto ingredients except 25g of the Brazil nuts to a food processor and blending for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.

Remove the paper and baking beans after 15 minutes, then return the tart case to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and generously spread the pesto on top of the base. Add the roasted veg, chop and sprinkle over the reserved Brazil nuts and bake for a further 5-7 minutes until golden and cooked through. Serve hot or cold with a lovely green salad.

Eat Smart: what to eat in a day – every day by Niomi Smart (HarperCollins) £20

Check out Niomi’s Youtube channel here

Follow Niomi on Instagram @niomismart and Anna @annyhunter

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