Niki Webster, founder of Rebel Recipes, the delicious and easy to follow vegan blog and the author of cookbook Rebel Recipes. We caught up with Niki to discuss what really goes into creating a debut cookbook, whether she believes the plant-based movement is here to stay and the challenges and misconceptions about making that leap from food blogger to author.
Welcome Niki, first things first, congratulations on the launch fo your first cookbook Rebel Recipes. To create a book full of recipes must take time and research. How difficult was the process of making the book and where did you draw inspiration from?
Thank you so much! I didn't really find the process too difficult, definitely hard work but I actually loved the process. Creating, developing and testing recipes is something I do on a daily basis, so it just felt like an extension of that. It was trickier just trying to narrow down the recipes as there were so many I loved. I guess the hardest part for me was writing the recipe intros - I really wanted to create a narrative around the recipes.
The inspiration for the book comes from my absolute love of vegetables and turning them into delicious healthy and exciting dishes. I'm super excited by Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines having spent lots of time exploring these countries. The inspiration for a lot of my dishes stem from there.
You have been a vegetarian for a large majority of your life. How do you feel about the rise in plant-based living in the UK, especially in the last 5 years? Do you feel we are in the midst of a trend, or we have turned a corner in the way we choose to dine?
It’s actually a really exciting time to be in; I honestly believe that plant-based eating is here to stay. The sheer amount of information (and misinformation) about the environmental benefits of eating less meat can be pretty overwhelming but I'm super excited to see so many people doing their research and just trying, even if they don’t fully commit. Veganuary is a great example as it allows people to at least try incorporating more veg based meals into their diet without having to go all in at once.
You started Rebel Recipes in 2015. Your site went from a food blog to a full-time job and now you are a published author. What advice can you give to individuals creating sites, hoping to take it into a full-time job? What have been the challenges and misconceptions about making that leap from food blogger to author?
When I first started, I couldn’t have dreamt that I could actually achieve it. Publishing a cookbook has been a dream for many years, so I'm overjoyed. I was working in food marketing and juggling my blog and social channels for about 18months before deciding to take the plunge and go freelance. It wasn't an easy decision, giving up the security of a regular income is pretty scary. But I really felt like I wanted to at least try and knew I would give it my all and if it didn't work out, I could return to marketing.
I think one of the misconceptions is that blogging is an easy job - it’s definitely not. I work many more hours than I used too and have to wear so many hats. For example, I do all of the following; recipe development, food styling, food photography, retreat chef cooking, workshops, influencer work and of course my cookbook. I think that’s one of the keys to success - not having a firm or set idea of what you will be doing. I still say yes to crazy projects way out of my comfort zone all the time. But unless you try you don't know what you love doing, or what areas will be your main income.
Why the name Rebel Recipes?
When I started my blog, it was all about non-conformity. Unfortunately, there are still unwritten rules that dictate the way we eat, and these tend to imply that all indulgent food is bad for you and healthy food (especially plant based) must be boring.
As a passionate vegan foodie, I have always refused to accept this status quo. My food is unashamedly for foodies. It’s about pleasure, vibrancy, and flavour.
For me cooking is about challenging convention and rebelling against the rules in a fun way, creating accessible, inventive and delicious recipe ideas; Rebel seemed to encompass that ethos.
Since launching the blog, you have also trained to be a Holistic Health Coach and Food Consultant. What has been your biggest WOW moment?
It’s got to be the moment I had my final book offer. Amazingly there was a bit of a bidding war and I was on the way to Wales with my friends, terrible signal and my agent was negotiating - it was high drama and when I was agreed, I was in shock. I knew the thing I’d hoped for for so long was finally going to happen.
Who inspires you in this industry?
So many people inspire me! Jamie Oliver - I think he's done an incredible job at inspiring people to cook using fresh ingredients and incorporate more vegetables. I personally get inspired by Yottam Ottolengis flavours - just gorgeous. And all the amazing people incorporating food with sustainability; the tireless work of the Soil Association and Organic UK.
Which three recipes from your latest book should we recreate first, and why?
Oh that's hard! I love my Roast Aubergine Sahib - which is a loaded middle eastern flatbread sandwich. Layers of yummy veggies, hummus, salad and spicy zhoug. So good.
For a quick but super tasty meal - my roast broccoli with satay dressing is delicious. Combine with dips, rice, salad, flatbread.
And my choc peanut butter chickpea fridge bars. Unexpected ingredients, no cooking and absolutely gorgeous.
A Quick Chat:
Your favourite restaurant? Flax and Kale in Barcelona
Food Hero? Jamie Oliver