Meet New Zealand’s Eleanor Ozich as she transports us to her seaside town of Piha Beach. With six cookbooks under her belt and the 7th in the making, Eleanor has slowed life down, dancing with the waves almost every day and running delicious online cookery classes. Find out what’s bringing Eleanor joy from healthy foods for summer and how she curates her capsule wardrobe!
Photographer: Josie Gibbs
Can you share your story with us? How did you begin writing about food and surfing?
I first started writing about food almost a decade ago when I was in my early twenties. I had a recipe blog called 'Petite Kitchen' named after the tiny art deco apartment we were living in at the time. Inspired by our daughter Bella and my mission to heal her health issues naturally through whole foods and natural living, it was a journal of sorts.
What followed was a whirlwind couple of years. After writing six cookbooks, doing various cooking shows, and co-owning a whole foods cafe in central Auckland, I felt an immense yearning to slow down and enjoy a much calmer way of life. With three children in tow, my family and I spontaneously purchased a home in the wild seaside town of Piha Beach. Little did I know that the joy of surfing would come tumbling back into my life so energetically!
One cold and blustery day a few winters ago, a new friend invited me to come out for a surf on a borrowed longboard that hung outside the boot of her car. That morning I picked up a wetsuit from the op shop for five dollars and tentatively followed her into the waves. As soon as I stood up, my feet gripping onto the sticky wax of the board, my childhood love of surfing came rushing back. This was the beginning of a new era. A new way of living that would transform my life!
Fast forward to now, and I'm dancing with the waves almost every single day. It's become a beautiful addiction that has changed the way I feel about everything. Even about food and the joy of eating!
How do you like to dress in the warmer seasons and how do put your wardrobe together?
Wearing lots of colour makes me happy! I've never been a 'black and white' kinda gal. I'm also all about natural, feminine pieces that have plenty of movement. Soft printed cotton blouses paired with vintage worn jeans, wide leg linen pants with spaghetti-strap singlets and leather sandals. It's an easy kind of style, yet a playful one!
When I'm looking to add something new to my wardrobe, I always consider what pieces I currently own and ensure that I have at least 2-3 items that I'll be able to mix and match. I never have more than 15-20 pieces at any one time. I guess you could call it a capsule wardrobe! Having only what I need brings me lots of joy. I'll usually wear a piece over and over again until it's literally falling to pieces!
Can you share your tips for the best surf spots in New Zealand?
My most favourite surf spot of all is of course Piha Beach. Despite having a reputation for big, dangerous waves, I've learned to surf here and feel more comfortable in the water than anywhere else!
I'm also a big fan of Raglan - a quirky beach town with plenty of brilliant eateries, boutique shops, and a laid-back vibe that's contagious. Raglan is known for its incredible left-peeling wave that breaks for what seems like forever along with various rocky points. If I didn't live in Piha, I'd probably live in Raglan!
What are you eating this season? Do you have a favourite spring recipe?
I'm a big fan of throw-together salads, particularly those that are a little more hearty than most and can be enjoyed as the main affair. See below for a recipe that's insanely easy to make and can be adapted in a gazillion different ways!
Fabulously bright and zingy, this effortless grain salad is pretty much everything I want to eat when insatiable hunger strikes. It's a beautiful jumble of contrasting colours, flavours, and textures - each forkful as interesting as the next.
What's lovely about this recipe is that it's easily customisable. Use whatever grains you have on hand instead of wild rice. A can of chickpeas or lentils will even do! Throw in a handful of fresh herbs, switch out the sun-dried tomatoes or artichokes for olives. Even a handful of toasted seeds or nuts can make an excellent addition.
Furthermore, It can be fully assembled in advance and transported with you to the beach, if you like. Hearty and satisfying, this recipe will quickly become your new favourite!
When we're able to travel where do you like to visit?
My ultimate dream would be to own a beautifully restored vintage camper-van and take as long as I desire to drive along the coast from one surf town to the next. I'm told there are over 200 excellent surf spots in New Zealand!
If I had to pick one place, however, it would be Christchurch. I've lived in New Zealand my entire life and have never been there!
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