You know that face right? Feel like you've met her before? Probably because she's already been in your living room. Renae Smith shot to fame in Masterchef 2014 as the veggie chef with loads of sass. Her successful audition eventually saw her place 8th overall where she became known for her love of local ingredients, healthy cooking and vegetarian food. Labelled the “Mystery Box Queen” by the other contestants, Renae’s ability to create dishes full of flavour with minimal ingredients ensured she gained the judges attention - with many of her dishes being credited as ‘perfectly balanced.” A gal after my own heart.
Since leaving the program Renae has worked closely with Barnardo’s Australia and created the “Cooking From The Cupboard” concept whereby she teaches children to create healthy, cheap meals with whatever ingredients are in the cupboard. She has also been refining her skills and cooking in India, Singapore and across Australia as well as being a freelance writer for some of Sydney most popular online media.
I caught up with Renae to delve deeper into her pantry, and find out what gets her motivated on busy mornings.
1. HOW DID YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH JOURNEY BEGIN?
I have been healthy most of my life - my mother raised us very strictly and ‘liver cleansing’ and ‘sugar-free’ diets featured heavily in our day-to-day routines. When I left home I went CRAZY on junk food! I made up for lost time. When I fell pregnant at 18 I changed my diet. I considered everything I ate and how that would benefit my baby - from that day forward I have tried to make healthy choices. Sometimes i get distracted and after a week or so eating bad I am tired and depressed and realise it’s diet related!
2. WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I have a friend, Annie. She’s the same age as my mother but is one of my best friends. She not only is a fantastic friend to me, mother to her daughter and partner to her husband, she was the one who inspired me to be a better cook! On a professional level, she inspires me to strive harder in my business and she is my sounding board whenever I have any problems or issues or concepts i need to research. I trust her judgement without question and I couldn’t live without her in my life. She has become one of the most inspiring, important people in my life.
3. YOUR DAY ON A PLATE?
I wake up at about 7.15am and the first thing I do is make a coffee… I then go and wake up the kids, potter back to the kitchen and start making school lunches. By this time the kids are up and eating breakfast so I grab a shower. I don't usually eat too much, dependent on how I feel, I will have either a protein shake, or some granola.
For lunch I almost always have some sort of soup that I make in the kitchen in the morning. I always top my soup with toasted seeds and chilli to add extra nutrients to it.
At about 5pm i start dinner and whilst that is happening I try to discuss things with the kids, play around or check on homework. For dinner as I am a vegetarian and my children and I only eat vegan food at home, we usually have something with roasted vegetables and is there a Quinoa grain or a pasta. Our dinners are usually warm salads or something similar to that, I cook very rustic homestyle food at home
4: FAVOURITE WAY TO GET MOVING?
COFFEE! I know it's not the most healthy way - but its my one cheat!
5. THREE THINGS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
- Summer! I hate the cold.
- TOFU - love it - it's an addiction.
- My children - they give me a purpose and since the age of 18 it's all I have known!!! If I’m not a mum, I don’t know what I will do with myself!
6. YOUR SECRET VICE
Oooh, a secret vice…. Hmmm - well coffee isn’t a secret - but I would probably say my secret vice is singing in the car. When I am stressed or upset, I often go for a drive and turn the radio up SUPER loud, on some cheesy pop station, and SING so loud that sometimes my throat hurts when I get home. I'm often busted at traffic lights - but I don’t care.
7. TOP SONG ON YOUR PLAYLIST
Oh, it’s breaking my heart - the song “Do you remember” by Jarryd James.
8. YOUR MANTRA
“If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it"
FINALLY…YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPE
NOT Lemon Meringue
When life gives you lemons....make this cake.
- 2 cups raw nuts (I used equal parts almonds and walnuts)
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- 1 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 3/4 cup lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 cans x whipped coconut cream solids
- sliced lemon
- Place all the ingredients for the crust, except the dates, in a food processor and pulse it until you have a coarse meal. Add in the dates and resume pulsing until you have a crumbly and sticky dough. Press this firmly into the bottom of a spring-form pan (lined with parchment).
- Now to making the lemon filling. This is done simply by placing all the ingredients in a food processor and run until you have a smooth and creamy paste. It should have about the same texture as the picture below. Pour the filling over crust, flatten with a spatula and transfer the pie to the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Once the filling has set and just before serving, prepare the whipped coconut cream according to said recipe. Spoon the cream on top of the pie and spread it evenly with using a spatula. Do not add the whole amount of cream at once, since you might have a bit left over. Start with half of it and add dollops of more as you go along. Garnish with a few slices of lemon.
Tip: You should add the cream right before serving, however you can store any left-overs in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Very excited to see what Masterchef 2015 has in store for us (airs tonight!), and who we'll meet along the way. Such amazing talent and lots of foodie inspiration - hopefully a few healthies in there too!
In 2013, Renae Smith opted for a new career path launching her own events, PR and brand strategy business, The Atticism. In 2014 she shot to fame in MasterChef Australia. A regular at Sydney’s Eveleigh Farmers Market, Renae spends time with close friends whom she considers as family.