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Pamela Allardice talks to Zita Steyn, a nutritional chef whose mission is to change the way we look at greens.

Who or what shaped your approach to food? Largely my upbringing in an active, unfussy and lively household. My mother had always taken her responsibility of feeding us, her four boisterous children, extremely seriously. When I was at primary school, my mum fell ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for several years, and only managed to claw her way out of the black hole by overhauling her – and our! - lifestyle. It meant studying nutrition and holistic medicine in great depth, drastically reducing sugar and refined foods even more, and preparing meals that withstood the rigorous test of being whole, wholesome, and health-supportive. But amazingly the food still tasted fantastic!

What's the number one question you get asked? Almost all my clients and friends have asked me at some point: “How do I incorporate more green vegetables into my diet?” That was all the inspiration I needed to create my book Good Better Green, a collection of honest, delicious, and interesting dishes based on a real need by real people.

Any parting advice for our readers? Over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said that all illness begins in the gut. And today many experts still believe there is a lot of truth in that. How can we expect to power our hard-working engines if we don't prioritise the fuel we put into them? Anyone can put something on a plate and call it dinner, but only those who know how to combine flavours and use all the varied aromatics nature has to offer, will serve up a meal that is not only medicine for the body, but also food for the soul. It is wonderful to see how the tide is turning and that ever more people are becoming aware of the crucial role that good, nutritious food plays in a healthy life.

aug17fninthekitchenwithzitagazpacho

Green gazpacho

If you have more ripe avocados than you need here, dice them, toss with lime juice and scatter over the soup before adding the ice cubes.
Serves 4
2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large green apple, chopped
2 spring onions, cut into quarters
juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
2 small avocados, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco, to taste
squeeze of lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ice cubes
1 cucumber
juice of 1 lime
edible flowers, such as borage, or mint
sea salt and black pepper
Start preparing this recipe the day before you intend to serve it. For the ice cubes, juice the cucumber, then stir in lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Fill each cavity of the ice tray with the cucumber juice, then place a small edible flower or mint leaf in each. Freeze overnight.
The next day, juice the cucumbers, celery, apple and spring onions. Transfer to a clean blender, add the lime juice and avocados and blend until smooth. Add Worcestershire sauce, then Tabasco, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve on a hot day with a few cucumber ice cubes added to each serving.

aug17fninthekitchenwithzitasalsa

Watercress, mango and avocado salsa

Wonderful with pan-fried or grilled fish or roast chicken, and as an accompaniment to roasted corn, grilled halloumi or toasted sandwiches.
Serves 4
1 large, ripe mango, diced
2 medium avocados, diced
about ½ bunch watercress, leaves picked and stems finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
a good handful dried mango (not the soft, rehydrated kind), cut into strips
sea salt, to taste
juice of 3 limes
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir.

This is an edited extract from Good Better Green by Zita Steyn published by Quadrille RRP $29.99 and is available in stores nationally. www.hardiegrant.com