Ada Velonis of Marmalade + Kindness on mindful cooking and the products getting her through lockdown

Ada Velonis, founder of Marmalade + Kindness

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm the founder, editor and culinary writer behind Marmalade + Kindness (marmaladeandkindness.com), an online mindful cooking journal that encourages people to explore mindfulness and creativity through home cooking. I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, and have always had a passion for baking and cooking. Being of Greek descent food has always played a prominent role in practising my culture and shaping my identity.

What's the inspiration behind Marmalade + Kindness?

In 2019, my partner and I moved to the UK for our careers. While the move was joyful, it also presented its challenges - mainly the distance and isolation we experienced being away from family and friends. During this period of adjustment, cooking became my outlet, giving me a sense of purpose and a way to reconnect with my roots. It also gave me a chance to better understand the culture of my new home. And so, Marmalade + Kindness was born.

What is mindful cooking, and what do you aim to achieve with Marmalade + Kindness?

Mindful cooking (not to be confused with ‘mindful eating’) challenges us to bring awareness to the providence of ingredients, our intention during the cooking process, the rituals of sharing meals and ultimately the impact of our food choices on our body and the planet. It uses the cooking process to create a mental ‘pause’ – similar to a formal mediation practice – where you are focused on the task at hand and enter a ‘flow’ state. This is beneficial because it creates distance from negative thoughts and the space to process emotions, while the cumulative effects of honing our culinary skills, builds confidence that can be translated to other aspects of life.

As a certified mindfulness coach, I have personally experienced the benefits of applying the principles of mindfulness to cooking. Despite the stresses of a corporate career, the kitchen has always been a safe space to experiment and be present. Since the pandemic, there has been a rise of home cooks and an increased appreciation of the mental health benefits cooking offers.

Through Marmalade + Kindness I am inviting people to change their relationship with cooking, and see that it's not so much what they cook, but how they approach the process that can be the most rewarding. Rather than treating cooking as a chore, it can be an opportunity to practice self-care. By sharing seasonal recipes, each featuring a unique self-development tip, I hope to inspire readers to find the time to create, reflect and celebrate the present moment.

We hear you've also got an exciting project to hand, can you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, I recently launched HARVEST, a mindful cooking quarterly e-journal from Marmalade + Kindness. It is devoted to mindful cooking, using products sourced from Oxford. The journal celebrates winter with 10 seasonal recipes, an essay from beloved London food writer, Jenny Linford, poetry by Faber poet, Elaine Beckett and an exclusive interview with Greek cookbook author and 2019 winner of Masterchef UK, Irini Tzortzoglou. The winter debut issue is available for purchase now.

The project is a deeply personal one, as it is also about empowering other women. The entire editorial and creative team is female. I have worked with female freelancers and female-owned businesses to produce the journal. I am proud to be creating jobs for women, at a time when the pandemic has seen freelancing opportunities evaporate. COVID-19 has also disproportionately affected women in their role as care-givers. I hope to create a community that supports and connects women by sharing expert information on mindful living, showcasing female leaders in a multi-dimensional context, and elevating the value we place on domestic activities.

Ada Velonis, founder of Marmalade + Kindness

You mentioned Oxford, tell us how has lockdown 2.0 been for you, and what’s your shopping guide to Oxford?

Lockdown 2.0 has been a chance to enjoy the simple pleasures. A brisk walk. Visiting the cygnets at the park. A cup of tea and a good book. Autumn is a time of transition, and Oxford has been the perfect place to observe nature’s rhythms.

As 'non-essential' shops shutter their doors, one of the joys we still have is buying our ‘daily bread.’ My food philosophy is focused on a sense of place. Living in Oxford I have had the opportunity to connect with shop owners and suppliers for whom the quality and providence of their produce is paramount. Happily, local food stores remain open, providing not only nourishing, seasonal produce, but also a sense of community.

Here is my personal shopping guide to Oxford, sharing the products getting me through lockdown 2.0 and the recipes they inspired.

Brew

No day is complete without an early morning visit to Arthur and his team at Brew. The coffee is on point, and they stock an extensive line of speciality coffee beans and teas. Thursdays are now the best day of the week, as you can add a fresh Pippin doughnut (my pick is Apple and Blackberry Custard) to your daily brew. Oh, and did I mention they even have special treats for four-legged friends?

No 2 North Parade

Further up the street, you'll find Pete and Vicki at the No 2 North Parade Food Store. They stock all your cupboard essentials, from dairy to local, organic fruit and vegetables, from Worton Organic and North Aston Organics. The queue is long, but worth the wait, as you anticipate your turn at the window. Like the grocers of yesteryear, the team is ready to provide seasonal updates and recommendations. A few items regularly appear in my bag over winter: buttermilk from Ampersand Dairy for weekend pancakes, and Ossa Chicken Bone Broth. I warm it and drink it neat with a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Make: Roasted Beetroot & Lentil Salad with Lemon & Olive Oil Dressing

Branca Restaurant and Deli

At the end of Observatory Street in Jericho, you'll find Branca restaurant and deli. While sit down service may be closed, for now, you can take away their range of salads and lunch meals, including baked gnocchi with spinach, mushroom, goats cheese and mozzarella.

Make: Fennel Sausage Pasta with Roasted Pear & Romanesco

Like their fresh food, their range of Italian provisions is second to none. Here, you'll find quality Italian sausages, cured meats and the full range of Seggiano products (including their Sicilian cherry tomato passata and seasonal panafortes). Their selection of cheeses never fails to transport me to another time and place - from German smoked ham for a midday snack to Tuscan truffle pecorino for a lazy weeknight pasta.

Make: Spaghetti with Truffle Pecorino

Manos Cafe and Deli

When I am craving a taste of home, you can find me in Manos, sinking my teeth into a slice of homemade spanakopita. Layers of crisp phyllo pastry, encase crumbled feta and mixed greens. They have a rich selection of Greek olive oils, and I always stock up on Aoritiko Cretan honey, with its notes of thyme, pine tree and wild herbs.

Gail's

In the heart of Little Clarendon Street, you'll find Gail's Bakery. The one is an oldie but a goodie. It was one of the first places I fell in love with when I first visited Oxford over 2 years ago, and their London stores were a constant companion when we lived in town. Their earl grey tea is balanced and floral, and it is the perfect companion to one of their many scones; traditional, cherry and chocolate or, my favourite, maple and pecan. Their brownies will take you back to your childhood dreams, while their blueberry custard brioche bursts with comfort and joy.

And if your sweet tooth hasn't had its fix, you can pop next door to the Jericho Cheese Company and pick up an assortment of Pump Street's craft chocolate (a chunk of their Grenada 70% with notes of bitter blackberry will hit the spot after dinner).

HARVEST will be released in December and will be available for purchase through the Marmalade + Kindness website at marmaladeandkindness.com.

Image credits: Nina Mucalov (profile images) and Monika Grabkowska (recipe images)