Plant Feasts by Frankie Paz – Book Review by Women in the Food Industry Ambassador Antonia Lloyd

Plant FeastsFrankie Paz’s debut cookbook (published by Nourish Books / Watkins 9th April 2024) is reviewed by Ambassador of Women In the Food Industry and TV Producer, Antonia Lloyd, who talks candidly with Frankie about her overcoming drug addiction and then appearing on Jamie Oliver’s Cookbook Challenge for Channel 4.

Frankie Paz author of Plant Feasts

All shots of Frankie Paz by Hannah Bodsworth & used with the permission of  Watkins

The debut cookbook by Frankie Paz is a unique journey into the world of plant-based cookery born out of overcoming addiction and her time living in sustainable communities in South America, it invites you to consider the power of nature, community and self-discovery where cooking becomes an act of self-care and opportunity to bring people together. So far so hippy you may say, but this open-hearted, authentic new voice is a refreshing addition to the plant-based genre sharing energising potions that have changed Frankie’s life and her infectious consideration of the beauty of nature on a plate.

The recipes are infused with Frankie’s approach of nourishment and self-care whilst living life to the full, all on a caffeine and sugar free, plant-based diet. Frankie recommends a daily hit of magic in a mug aka ‘Cosmic Chocolate Potion’ full of raw cacao, fresh ginger, and cinnamon which is delicious – I tested it with my daughter revising for GCSEs and we both felt well pepped up for the day!

Cosmic Chocolate Potion by Frankie Paz

There’s also ‘Stay up till Sunrise Potion’ rich with cacao, maca powder, cayenne, allspice and coconut sugar – this has been instrumental in helping Frankie maintain her party lifestyle and is an alternative way to channel your inner witch/wizard. As Frankie says, ‘It’s an absolute must; I’m the most vibes in the festival.’

Photography by Jodi HindsPlant Feasts by Frankie Paz - Cosmic Chocolate Potion

Frankie’s cooking style is inspired by the home cooking of her mum, the approach of her 97-year old vegan nan and homeopathic nurse during WWII, all fused with her learnings in South America. Salads, soups, grains, and big plates are not trying too hard for the sake of it, they bring together natural, colourful ingredients in a creative way often displaying a deeper, personal connection. For Frankie a good salad ‘should make you dance’ if the dressing and textures are right; and nourishing soups bring us closer to our ancestors and the meals they cooked over fire to soothe the soul.

One of her favourite big plates is the loaded sweet potato with spicy bean frijoles that Frankie used to make her ex-husband in their Hackney bedsit to remind him of his home in South America: ‘Sweet potato is said to root and ground you, to bring peace, and is a gentle reminder that, like this sunny root vegetable growing under the earth, sunshine can grow in the darkest places’.

Banging Boat Dhal by Fankie Paz

The recipes have stories that reflect Frankie’s experiences and many are from her time living in the jungle of Colombia– the ‘Banging Boat Dhal’ is a go-to dish when funds are low and also chimes with what an elder, Juan, told her about the importance of coming together not just for celebration, but in moments of pain and hardship too.  ‘Red lentils are said to symbolize the circle of life, a reminder to stay humble and give thanks for what we have’ with the addition of creamy coconut and fresh tomato giving it an extra kick!  I ask Frankie what she’d advise starting with in the book, ‘look no further than the Boujie Broccoli’, she says, which is roasted and then drizzled with spicy tahini sauce, ‘When I’m having a hard time, out comes this Boujie Broccoli to remind me that everything is alright. My friends love it, it’s 25 mins, and you’ve got this banging broccoli.’

Frankie Paz

Today Frankie emanates healthiness with a glowing complexion and natural energy. This is a far cry from her twenties when she was fully committed to a fast party lifestyle. So, what was the catalyst to change? She candidly tells me: ‘I was at an after party and someone said to me something like, “you’re not going to end up dying like your dad did.” (Frankie’s father had died of substance abuse when she was 12). ‘And for the first time, I was like, oh my God, I actually have a choice. I don’t have to just numb myself. I knew then that I was never coming back to this life.’

She then met her ex-husband in the Amazon: ‘He was like “what the f**k are you doing to yourself? You’re part of Mother Earth, you are so beautiful and you were just killing yourself. We had arguments along the way because at the time I was trying to find drugs and he was throwing them out the window – it was crazy. But then when I was in the jungle’ (living in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador), ‘I started to learn the beauty and see nature is the thing that holds us and the more we connect to us, the nature, the more we connect to ourselves.’ Frankie learnt from the elders about the ceremony of food, connecting over meals, and how to prepare simple dishes, even living off raw food alone, before returning to London.

Green Vibes Soup by Frankie Paz

She started up the Moody Mango supper clubs to share her passion for plant-based cooking and as a way to connect people at a deeper level- sharing stories, and focussing not just on what you eat, but the importance of connection.

Jamie Oliver's Cookbook Challenge - Channel 4

It was at this point, back in Hackney, that she had a call about Jamie Oliver’s Cookbook Challenge for Channel 4. After an interview with the casting team, she bagged herself a place on the series. ‘I remember, going on there basically having a panic attack.’ She describes the experience as intense although she loved it, and ‘Jamie is an absolute G’. Despite not winning, she found it encouraging with Jamie making it clear he thought she had a good basis for a book, just needing more time.

It turns out he was right and in true Frankie style, she found her agent –‘She’s like a spiritual mother to me’- who could offer the support she needed. Her community also rallied around helping her. Her close friend and neighbour four boats down did the photography, friends came round to chop and measure – ‘I’m s*** at numbers’, she admits – and she managed to just about cope with the deadlines: ‘I don’t know how people do it!’

Nourishing Grains by Frankie Paz

The totality of Frankie’s experiences is a very unique cookbook with reflections, conversation starters, potions, and more. This isn’t just for the vegans, Frankie says, ‘It’s for anyone that has addiction issues, anyone that wants to numb, anyone who wants to find balance, anyone that’s just interested in mental health, anyone sharing at a dinner table with their parents and wondering, what can I say to these guys?’ 

Frankie hopes that people bored of conventional cookbooks will find something more authentic in it: ‘It’s more real, I want to hear how something made you feel. I want to know when you broke down and when you found yourself. So I guess it’s for everyone. Also, it’s not too complicated, and everything’s quite quick.’  Frankie’s Plant Feasts is a sure-fire way to bring more everyday harmony and cosmic energy to your life.

Plant Feasts Book Cover

Plant Feasts by Frankie Paz is published by Nourish Books. It’s available to buy from Waterstones.

You may also like to read Antonia’s review of Easy Wins by Anna Jones, our review of Recipes for a Better Menopause by Jane Baxter & Dr Federica Amati and our book review of Modern South Asian Kitchen by Sabrina Gidda

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