Cooking with plants

Simone Hayward has an inflammatory disease that led her to a plant based lifestyle. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to hear how she’s doing now, and how she turned her journey into Simone’s Plant Based Kitchen.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do
I’m Simone Hayward. I’m married to Stephen and we live in Inglewood with our 3 children who are 12 yrs, 3 yrs and 23 months. We also have a cat and a puppy.

My business is named after me and my love for cooking plant based foods; Simone’s Plant Based Kitchen. I founded Taranaki’s first and only Plant Based Catering Company & Cookery School in 2018. I use locally grown and organic produce to create tailor made menus for my clients’ event. I cater everything from morning tea’s to weddings and can cater for just one person’s dietary needs or the whole parties! I specialize in platters, grazing tables and raw desserts.

I also run cookery classes, workshops and in home dinner parties.  My ethos is also my business tagline – whole food simply. I believe that whole foods, cooked simply are the best for our bodies and the environment. By educating through entertainment, people learn about and are inspired to try plant based foods. Simple doesn’t mean boring either! By using simple cooking techniques, fresh ingredients and lots of love we can create beautiful, flavourful, nourishing food that everyone will enjoy. 

When did you first start looking at a plant based lifestyle?
We first started our plant based journey in December 2017 after a friend talked to me about veganism. It was the health benefits that interested me most, as I have a condition called Sarcoidosis.

It’s an inflammatory disease which causes abnormal masses to form in my lungs and lymph nodes. I’ve had it for 9 + years and had been relatively symptom free, but in 2015 I developed a severe cough and wheezing. I had regular imaging and lung function tests, until in 2017 I was advised that the disease had spread to my abdomen and that I needed to start steroid treatment.

Simone Hayward

I was keen to find a more natural way to treat the disease and since food is medicine, the plant based diet seemed a perfect fit. It’s all about eating food in it’s most natural state and reducing or eliminating meat, dairy, refined sugar, salt and oil as these foods have been shown to cause inflammation.

The lifestyle fits with the way we live, as I try to grow as many of my own vegetables as I can and limit the amount of plastic we use. I also run a food co-op, so we share the cost of freight, reduce our food miles and our use of plastic and support local and ethical growers.  

What’s the best thing about a plant based lifestyle, and what’s the hardest?
The best thing about the diet is the improvement to my health. My symptoms disappeared, I lost weight, I have more energy, my skin looks amazing and I feel vibrant and healthy. Our children eat a huge variety of different foods and rarely get sick.

It has also reduced our food bill as I batch cook and plan our meals based on seasonal vegetables.  The hardest thing is eating out. There are lots of amazing cafes and restaurants who offer plant based options, but none are as good as what I can cook in my kitchen! 

What’s your vision for Simone’s Plant Based Kitchen?
My vision is to inspire people to incorporate more plant based foods into their diets. To help them realize that cooking with plants is more than just salad and that the food is exciting, delicious and easy to make.

I want to see every child being taught how to grow their own food and learning how to cook in schools. Cooking is a life skill and involves making healthy choices, sustainability, nourishing our bodies and caring for the environment. Teaching children is not only a joy, but it is also the way to change a family’s choices. I aim to start a programme this year in Taranaki.

What are you top five go-to ingredients?
1. Beans – any kind of beans. You can use them in a chilli, make a burger out of them, make a dip and they’re really filling! 
2. Fresh herbs – any dish is livened up by the addition of fresh herbs
3. Nutritional yeast – It adds a cheesy flavour to food which we all love! 
4. Liquid seasoning – I use it for cooking veggies, flavouring food and in place of salt 
5. Buckwheat – It’s amazing sprouted in a salad, makes delicious porridge and risottos and I mill it for flour and use it in muffins and pancakes.

HyperFocal: 0

Do you have an easy plant based recipe you could share with us?
My polenta fries are delicious. Children will love cutting them into shapes and dipping them into their favourite sauce. 

Oven Baked Polenta Fries
These fries are very morish but very filling! If you don’t cook the whole batch, keep the uncut portion covered in the fridge for 1 day

Serves 5

1.5c polenta
3c water
1tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Masterfoods All Purpose seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Braggs Liquid Seasoning

Pre heat your oven to 220 degrees

Line a rectangle pan with baking paper (it needs to be at least 1 inch deep)

Bring the water to boil, turn down the heat to low and add all the ingredients at the same time

Keep stirring it until all the moisture is absorbed (about 3 minutes) be careful, as the mixture may spit!

Put the polenta mix into the lined pan

Smooth the mixture out so its even and place in the freezer for 15 minutes (if you’re not going to cook them straight away, leave the mixture to cool then place in the fridge)

Turn the mixture onto a board and cut into uniform pieces

Line the fries on the tray and spray with the liquid seasoning

Bake for 15 minutes on the top shelf then turn the fries, spray again with the seasoning and cook for another 10 minutes

*Serve with your favorite dipping sauce as a snack or with a pizza or burgers for a meal.


The Details: Simone’s next set of classes are on at The Collaboration pop up shop from 15th April. Her next worshop is at Peihana Farm on 29th March and is about making the transition to plant based foods

You can follow Simone’s Plant Based Kitchen on Facebook and Instragam.