If you enjoy cooking but don’t know where to start, Bettina Campolucci Bordi, the plant-based chef you may know from her popular Instagram Bettina’s Kitchen, explains vegan cooking 101: Advice for beginners, kitchen tools to always have on hand, the best way to cook tofu, best oils to cook and bake with, and her all-time favorite dish.
Bettina’s first piece of advice starts with using the best quality ingredients. Don’t go running to the grocery store and stock up on produce and plants. Instead, Bettina suggests buying fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts that are in season at your local farmer’s market. Cook food you enjoy instead of eating something that you think is healthy.
Bettina first caught The Beet’s attention with her beautiful feed of recipes on Instagram. She recently shared her delicious banana split recipe, a nostalgic dessert for The Beet readers to recreate with their loved ones. She makes a variety of different cuisines since she grew up in Africa, moved to Sweden, and now resides in London, filling her plates with regional flavors.
The self-taught chef who has been vegan for eight years now helps beginners and advanced chefs who want to learn how to cook amazing food without any animal products. The Beet chatted with Bettina over Zoom to learn more about her journey and find out the easiest way to cook vegan food, from a famous plant-based chef.
The Beet: Why and when did you become vegan?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: “I attended wellness retreats, eight years ago, when the wellness industry was alive and cooking but it wasn’t what it is today, I learned how to cook plant-based, and I started living this way.”
“Eight years ago, I co-founded a retreat and started running it in the south of Spain. I always had a life long passion for cooking and I saw it as my opportunity to cook for a living. It was popular to have juice detoxes at the time, so we started cooking plant-based food at the retreats.”
“First, I started cooking plant-based and gluten-free rather than becoming vegan, then made my way down that route. It was more of a career move for me. The more I cooked plant-based the more I included it into my lifestyle.e I don’t label myself as vegan, id much rather uses the word plant-based. However, my food is categorized as a vegan because that’s how you know it doesn’t contain any animal products.”
TB: Where do you find inspiration to cook these beautiful recipes?
BCB: “Well, I come from a mixed background, my mom is Bulgarian and Danish, my father is Norwegian and I grew up in East Africa in Tanzania and eleven years later moved to Sweeden. I think I have a good travel background so I mix lots of flavors together also I’m really passionate about seasonality and local produce. Wherever I go, whenever ever I’m cooking I always find inspiration from what’s available. So, I go to farmer’s markets or contacting producers, figuring out what grows really well in the areas I’m in then I base my cooking on that.”
TB: What’s the best thing to cook this summer?
BCB: “Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries. Summer is abundant with so many different colors, textures, hundreds of different types of peas, and leafy greens.”
“Summer is when you top up your nutrient levels and when you can eat as fresh as possible. The colder it gets, you start to cook an earthy way with vegetables like carrots, beetroot, potatoes, and the heart of vegetables, apples, pumpkins, and pears. Summer is fresh and crisp.”
TB: What kinds of oils do you cook with?
BCB: “I lived in Spain for twelve years so I’m a massive fan of good olive oil, the greener the better, I live in the UK now and there are amazing producers of grapeseed oil. I use coconut oil for baking you can use avocados and nuts and seeds that are high in good fats, you can use these for raw food or dressings.”
TB: What’s your favorite dressing recipe?
BCB: “My favorite dressing is simple: Olive oil, ACV, maple syrup for sweeteners, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, spring onions, coriander, parsley, dill, basil, shallots, red onion. Make a big jar and use it on a weekly basis. My favorite oil at the moment is Odosy, they’re based in the UK.”
TB: What’s your favorite dairy alternative to use for baking?
BCB: “I use oat cream and oat milk. I’ve been using Oatly but there are amazing brands that have popped up on the market–giving Oatly some competition!” I like oat-based milk because there is no aftertaste, it has a great consistency, and from an environmental point of view, it’s better to use oats than nuts and it’s cheaper.”
TB: What’s your all-time favorite dish to make?
BCB: “Sourdough bread with olive oil and local seasonal tomatoes with good sea salt.”
TB: What’s one ingredient you can’t live without?
TB: What’s your favorite way to cook tofu?
BCB: “I like to barbeque tofu–it’s delicious. It really changes the texture of the tofu and makes it really nice, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I marinate the tofu in a bbq sauce and grill it until it becomes nice and charcoaled. When you serve it, cut it into slices just like you would with steak.”
TB: What advice fo you have for people who are just learning how to cook plant-based?
BCB: “My biggest piece of advice is don’t go to a shop and buy lots of ingredients that package. start with the basics, go to the farmer’s markets and invest in good quality ingredients, they don’t have to be expensive, we’re talking potatoes, carrots, nuts, beans, seeds, chickpeas, grains, and rice. Invest in the basic ingredients first and cook food that you like instead of food that you think is good for you.”
TB: What is one kitchen appliance everyone needs to have on hand?
BCB: “A good knife. One that’s well sharpened and it doesn’t have to be expensive. There’s nothing worse than cooking with a dull knife.”
TB: What’s your favorite smoothie recipe?
Bettina: “The smoothie that I love right now is made with frozen bananas, mushroom powder, reishi, frozen blueberries, acai berries, and a couple of dates.
The Beet: Do you have a mantra you live by?
BCB: “Persistence. You never know what’s going to happen so staying positive and persistent is key and especially important right now.”