Foodie Eleonora MacBonaccorsi’s motto is that we are what we cook. She shares her passion for spices and new flavours with Simonne Pace.

When Eleonora MacBonaccorsi is not cooking, she is eating. When she’s not eating, she’s sharing her knowledge of spices and flavours. The 29-year-old food lover and chef with an educational science degree, who has moved to Malta, was born in Verona, but has family roots in Forlì, Rome and Brussels.

“So, yes, cooking has always been in my veins,” says the Italian, who has globetrotted substantially before making Malta her home.

She has always enjoyed observing her grandparents cook traditional Italian food. Growing up, she worked in a restaurant but hated the pressure within that work environment.

“Cooking is all about pleasure without stress. It’s the heart of the soul that absorbs its fuel through the art of the chef, a gift to the palate and to others.”

Having created her own little project Chez Moi, literally meaning ‘at my place’, Eleonora’s days are packed planning cooking courses and cooking lessons, preparing private meals and helping restaurants with vegan options.

“My philosophy is that people eating or cooking in my company should feel at home,” she says.

Also a people lover, Eleonora spent most of her time in London cooking for friends of friends who lived with her in Fountayne Road. “Ballet dancers, restaurant managers and chefs used to turn up at dinner time, all eager to learn about food and new recipes.”

Working at the London borough of Tower Hamlets and specialising in youth work practice at St George’s College exposed Eleonora to a world of malnutrition and easy accessibility to junk food, so this is when she decided to turn vegan.

“Our work should not be a reflection of society’s expectations. The way we eat and what we consume today is unacceptable and unsustainable. Everything we buy and consume has additives and chemicals which are slowly killing us and the world we live in.”

After spending almost a decade in London, both Eleonora and her fiancé, who works in technology, looked forward to starting a family in a quieter and warmer place. He was offered a job in Malta and that was it.

“Crossing Europe from north to extreme south is quite something but I was determined to go for it. The Maltese are gorgeously friendly and helpful. After a month in Malta, my neighbour gave me a bagful of lemons. I baked her delicious lemon muffins in exchange,” she recounts.

Making the journey to Malta by boat, the harbour was the very first thing Eleonora saw. “I was delighted. It was in the evening and seeing the fortified city lit up felt surreal.”

Every weekend the young chef makes it a point to explore old temples and take in the beauty of some of the island’s views. Living in Malta makes her feel safe, “away from crimi­nality”, and being in contact with nature and history gives her “inner peace”.

“Local food is served in massive portions and I love the native vegetables.” However, as a vegan, Eleonora admits she sometimes struggles with the food served in restaurants and sees huge potential for more vegan choices.

“The selection of food is amazing here. Prices are excellent. Many people are into the slow food movement, organic food and better eating. However, there’s still a lack of awareness on food and eating, especially among the younger generations. My advice is to buy locally, prepare what you eat and get to know where your food comes from. I would also love to visit a few schools to talk to children about food.”

The way we eat and what we consume today is unacceptable and unsustainable

Eleonora shifts from one favourite dish to another every week according to seasonal ingredients. One week it’s parmiggiana, the next it’s Brazilian black bean soup, followed by shortbread sweet pie or her version of pastizzi – obviously all vegan dishes made from scratch.

“There is one ingredient and one herb I cannot live without: tomatoes and basil. I eat fresh tomatoes almost every day and I need to eat a simple pasta dish with cooked tomatoes and fresh basil at least twice a week. It cures me from anything. I need it for my well-being.”

Eleonora discovered a new love and passion for spices while giving cooking classes to youths in London. Due to the multicultural aspect of the city, she learnt about a variety of different and unknown spices. Having also worked in a spice shop and becoming close friends with the owner, she learnt how to mix hundreds of spices to create versatile dishes.

“Apart from curing body, mind and soul, spices also help reproduce any flavour, just like cooking. You need to free your mind and use the hob as a paintbrush to reconcile body and soul,” says Eleonora, whose dream is to one day open a chain of outlets offering vegan food on the go.

Utterly convinced that a different outlook on food can start a revolution in our life and help make a better world, she suggests we grow what we can, avoid causing suffering to other species, eat wisely and use products with more awareness.

“Everything starts from what we cook. Simply look at our human history.”

Eleonora MacBonaccorsi, who runs Chez Moi, regularly holds cooking courses and can cook for any special event. Look up ChezMoi on Facebook.

Eleonora’s tips

Why don’t you cook? Do you hate the mess that comes afterwards? Do you have a problem with timing?

I always cook in a very tidy and clean kitchen. If tools are used, they must be washed immediately.

Kitchen set-up is also very important: salt next to the hob, spices away from steam and hot sources, tomatoes out of the fridge...

Simple recipes

Salad dressing
Place four tablespoons of mustard in a bowl and whisk energetically with a fork. Add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and keep whisking. Slowly add six tablespoons of sunflower oil (canola oil, walnut oil, sesame oil will do as well) and keep mixing. Add a pinch of salt and mustard sprouts.

Beetroot salad
One beetroot, one carrot and half a Charlotte salad potato finely chopped. Season with the mustard dressing.

Easy cauliflower
Chop half a cauliflower into small and medium pieces. In a pan, melt some coconut oil and chillies. After 30 seconds, add the cauliflower and cook for 15 minutes, add salt and pepper.

Wash and peel a few Trentino (small, juicy and sweet) pears, cut in half and remove the unwanted parts. Place the half pears in a pan and cover half of them in water and cinnamon. Let them simmer on low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Enjoy the pears with some mung bean sprouts and cover with melted chocolate.

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