Imagine living on the outskirts of an inner city forest, cooking for your family from your own organic garden- using eggs from your prized heritage chickens, honey from your own beehives and pork from your brother’s farm. I often find myself daydreaming of living the farm to table, simpler life- and for the last year and a half I’ve been living this dream vicariously through the Instagram feed of Unna Burch @the_forest_cantina.
The self taught home cook and tattooed mama of two manifested her love of food, family and photography through her Instagram gallery. Along with a loyal following, came a publishing deal for her first cook book MY GARDEN KITCHEN – a beautifully styled and photographed journal of Unna’s favourite recipes for “easy weekdays & slow food weekends.” So much more than a cookbook, every recipe has a story, allowing us into Unna’s world where food is an experience that connects family and friends through love.
Unna shares her Wellington home with her husband Aary, two boys Jah (13) and Leo (3), Couscous the cat, 17 heritage breed chickens, and thousands of bees. I just had to know more about Unna and her amazing ride from Instagrammer and mother to published cookbook Author. And of course, I had to share one of her recipes too- the most simple and delicious Apple Crumble (that even I can make).
HOW DID YOUR PASSION FOR FOOD BEGIN?
I grew up spending a lot of time with my Grandparents. My Gran was an amazing home cook, making everything from scratch, always baking for church fundraisers, jubilees and town fairs. So she was my first cooking inspiration. My Grandfather was the gardener – he had very neat methodical rows of vegetables always framed by boxed hedging. His gardens were beautiful. Im more of a ‘bung it in and hope it grows’ kinda gardener haha. He was also a photographer, capturing all our childhood photos on his Leica and developing them by hand in his home darkroom. I think its kind special that my love for food and also photography was first influenced by my Grandparents.
Alsom, I come from a family of cooks. My mum and mother in-law are both great home cooks and both my brothers are chefs. We are a family who love to eat.
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE OFFERED A BOOK DEAL?
It all happened kinda fast! I started blogging in January 2014. A few months after creating my blog I was discovered by Alana at Fancy! New Zealand Design Blog (who I think first found me on Instagram) She featured me on her blog, the publishers saw that post, and a few weeks later I was offered a cookbook deal. To be honest, I think other people saw something in me before I even really knew it existed. I was always comparing myself to other blogs and food people and would often think, “my work doesn’t look like theirs”. The beginning point was hard. I feel much more comfortable within my work now. I now know that that is a good thing to not look like the others, to find your own way of sanding out. You hear it all the time, but as soon as I relaxed and just allowed to create and share what came naturally, it became a joy – and therefore easier.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM MY GARDEN KITCHEN?
My Garden Kitchen is a collection of my favourite things that I love to feed my family and friends, from brunches to breads, dinners to desserts. I like to use home grown and home sourced ingredients where possible (organic vegetables from our garden, multi coloured eggs from our chickens, honey from our bees, pork from my brothers pigs) and I also love to support FairTrade ingredients too. There is an image for every recipe in my book – and I hope that the recipes and words inspire to cook, grow and create good food as much as the photos that go with them.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FAMILY TIME ?
Well in the weekends, most Saturdays my parents pick up the boys for the day. It’s a day Aary and I get our mammoth amount of never ending jobs done (anyone with kids knows how much you can hustle and get stuff done when you are child free for a few hours!) My parents are great with the kids, they are always off doing stuff, catching the train into the city and going out for lunch, going to the library or the swimming pools, or just pottering around home. Jah often stays the night, Leo is a mammas boy and hasn’t quite mastered sleepovers. So we pick Leo up at around 6pm and often stay for dinner. My parents and one of my brothers and sister in-law, we all live about a 15min drive from each other, so sometimes we all eat together at Mum and Dads on a Saturday.
On a Sunday we have ‘family days’ where we all get to choose something we would like to do. I always choose an eating spot – yum char or a café, sometimes it’s just an ice cream if we are short of money that week, Aary chooses things like a bush walk or building something with the kids (sometimes Jah likes to collect nails from the ground in the work shed, putting them into a milk bottle and saving them to take to the scrap metal yard for some money. Leo likes to bang stuff with hammers…boy stuff) Jah always wants to go to the mall (teenagers!) and Leo loves the park – especially the bike track! So we all choose something different – it’s fun. Weekends come and go too fast though right!?!
RECIPE | APPLE CRUMBLE WITH CRÉME ANGLAISE
. cup rolled oats
. cup FairTrade unrefined sugar
. cup flour
. cup organic coconut chips (or desiccated coconut)
1 teaspoon FairTrade cinnamon
. teaspoon mixed spice
75g (3 oz) butter, soft but not melted
6 apples (I used 4 Granny Smith and 2 Braeburn)
Time: Quick preparation but slow cooking
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Mix the dry ingredients, the oats, sugar, flour, coconut, cinnamon and mixed spice together in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips so that you have a nice crumb.
Grate the apples, washed and unpeeled and put into an oven proof dish discarding the core and seeds. Cover with the crumble and bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Serve with your favourite accompaniments.
2 cups milk
4 free range egg yolks
1⁄3 cup FairTrade unrefined sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod
Makes: 2 cups
Time: Easy as
Heat the milk in a pot over a medium/high heat until hot but not boiling. While that is coming up to heat whisk the eggs, sugar, cornflour and vanilla (if using a pod, split it, and scrape the seeds) in a bowl. Add a third of the milk to the yolk mixture to begin with, whisking well, and then add the rest of the milk while continuously whisking.
Pour the custard back into the pot that you warmed the milk in and cook over a medium heat stirring until it thickens. You want to remove it when it’s just thick enough, if you over cook it, it will curdle and go lumpy. It might seem like it needs longer to cook – but it will thicken more when it cools. To test if it’s ready take a metal spoon and dip it into the crème anglaise. On the back of the spoon, run your finger through the middle to make a line. If it holds its shape and the sides don’t run to the center, it’s ready. If you over cook it – it can curdle and have an ‘eggy’ flavour. Pour immediately into a jug (or a milk bottle) so it stops it cooking.
Purchase My Garden Kitchen HERE.
Lifestyle photos by Benjamin & Elise Photography . Food photography by Unna Burch.