Meet and greet: Copper and Cloves

A backpacking trip to India at the age of 21 was the first of Sarah Nicole Edward’s many visits to India. Months volunteering at a community project in Kerala were her first toe-dips into this country’s incredible culture, cuisine and landscape. About 10 years after that first visit she decided to make the big shift. She currently works in the education not-for-profit space but in her free time cherishes cooking fresh, colourful, nourishing food. Armed with a Masters in International Development that opened her up to India’s economy and politics, she’s a Londoner invested deeply in cooking that reflects the melting pot that London is—different regional flavours coming together in unusual and complementary food pairings. “Well-being is more than just the food on our plates, it includes our mindset, emotional wellbeing and lifestyle,” she said of the overarching philosophy that surrounds her wellness venture Copper and Cloves, an online repository of all things homemade, natural and oh so good-for-you. “I think most people know what they need to do to be healthy, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to actually follow through with the changes. My approach is to support people to take small steps towards more healthful living, from whatever starting point, meeting them where they are,” she says.

Why Copper and Cloves?
When I moved to India, I started exploring all of the fantastic ingredients here—new fruits, vegetables, different millets and red rice. I started cooking for friends here in India and found they liked my food; they felt it was something different and new to them. So I set up Copper and Cloves to share my food with more people, on a mission to show that there is no reason why healthy food should be bland and boring. In addition to the cooking side of things, I am training to be a Health Coach. I have a degree in Psychology—my interest lies in behaviour change and how to support people to adopt healthier behaviours. I wanted the name of my venture to be contemporary and not too twee. I wanted to include a spice to represent India and the journey my cooking had been on. Visually, I find copper very appealing. So the name somehow fell into place.

Tell us about your recipe-making process.
I get inspired by the produce that is available. I really do believe in eating local- I had a steep learning curve when I moved to India, learning how to cook all the amazing produce available here. Learning how to make dosa was a challenge, but I loved it. I’ve learnt a lot about spices as well. It is all still incredibly exciting to me.

My aim is to use locally available produce and ingredients and incorporate those into my style of cooking which tends to be plant based, happy and nourishing- think warming oats, colourful salads and grain bowls. I bring in Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern and Asian flavours. I like creating different textures and contrasting flavours. For example I’ll roast some vegetables to get some caramelisation, whilst lightly steaming others to keep a crunch, and mix these with some warming, comforting lentils and quinoa. A fresh dressing brings tangy sweetness whilst crunchy nuts and seeds roasted with salt and spices bring texture and contrast. The combinations are endless.

Talk to us about the synergy between your personal brand of wellness and Nicobar.
Nicobar is described as a contemporary collection that is fresh, aspirational, curious about the world. There is a strong synergy between this and my style of food. I celebrate Indian ingredients and cooking styles, but prepare them in a fresh way, bringing in new flavours or methods.Nicobar’s focus on natural fabrics, the origin of raw materials and fairness in the supply chain really resonates with me. I believe when we connect with the origin of our food, and take the time to appreciate what it took to get it to our plate, we are naturally driven to make healthier choices and eat fresh, whole food.
For me Nicobar is about balance- beautiful items, a little bit of luxury but grounded in natural fabrics and styles. I strongly believe a pursuit of wellness does not need to take over your life, and can include all of your favourite things.

There’s a section called Healthy Events on your blog. What are those about?

I strongly believe that we need more healthy events available, so that people can do interesting things on the weekend, socialise with friends and meet new people, that don’t all revolve around going to bars. I love collaborating with other brands- I’m working with Bare Necessities Founder Sahar Mansoor on an Ethical, Healthy Living Workshop to help people move towards a more sustainable way of living- followed by a big nourishing brunch of course! I’m always looking out for other opportunities to work with wellness brands to collaborate to create unique experiences that centre around movement or healthy food- from yoga classes in interesting spaces, rooftop supper clubs, and cooking demonstrations. The Yoga Brunch we hosted together was a riot. Tell us about it.
It was such a great morning. It was a collaboration with Nikaya Yoga Founder Namrata Sudhindra as well as Nicobar’s Bangalore Team. The event gave people the opportunity to practice yoga in a spacious, beautiful environment. Namrata led a Hatha Flow class and then we all sat together to enjoy plant-based three course brunch- including turmeric ‘overnight oats’ topped with homemade granola and fresh fruit, and a three-grain ‘upma’ salad with roasted pumpkin, green beans and coconut.
Repurposing the Nicobar space for such a positive, healthful morning was very rewarding. I met so many interesting people that morning that I have since gone on to work with on different projects. I think we need more fun opportunities to come together and be active and healthy, either with friends or to meet new people.

Do you see wellness as a way of life catching up in India? Where do you think Copper and Cloves figures in?

I do see the wellness trend increasingly taking hold here in India. However the ‘wellness movement’, or whatever we want to call it has, in the West, transformed into a bit of a beast- creating pressure to look and act in a certain way. I think an element of striving to be perfect has taken hold. Wellness to me means people feeling healthy and happy and that also means people feeling included and valued. Any wellness ‘trend’ should be an inclusive movement that gives people information and opportunities to live in a way that makes them happier and healthier.
I think we have a chance to really shape the wellness trend into something more positive here in India, something that truly focuses on people's wellbeing, recognising that wellbeing means different things to different people. So wellness just becomes about giving people more options and opportunities to practice health in a way that works for them. I hope Copper and Cloves can play a role in shaping that, through organising a range of events and bringing new styles of nourishing food to the table.

Did you find practicing wellness in the UK easier than here in India?
In some ways it was easier- in London there are more health focused events, wellness fairs, almost every café and restaurant will cater to people who are looking to eat fresh food or plant-based food. On the other hand, as I mentioned, the ‘wellness trend’ in the UK puts intense pressure on people to be thin, and toned, and glowing, and eating ‘clean’ and exercising religiously. That pressure and mindset can be unhealthy.
So in many ways it is easier in India, because wellness hasn’t become mixed up with those things yet. Let’s focus on a wellness trend that is about supporting people to feel good now, not one that holds up an ideal that people feel they need to live up to (and feel bad when they don’t, it becomes a never-ending pursuit of wellness).

What’s next for Copper and Cloves?

I would love to set up more events, working with interesting venues and meditation or yoga teachers to create unique experiences for people that are both fun and promote wellbeing. I want Copper and Cloves to become a hub for living well, by supporting people to eat well and adopt healthy habits through my blog and online content; hosting fun, inclusive wellness events; and by cooking up tasty, nourishing food whenever I can.

Talk to us about your daily routine.
I really try to start my morning with a morning routine as it sets me up for a day. I start by practicing mindfulness while I am getting dressed and making the bed (awareness of my walking, awareness of brushing my teeth). I fit in some exercise in the morning- but I try and mix it up, sometimes I run with a friend, sometimes I do a resistance workout at home, sometimes I do yoga at home or attend a class. I try and meditate every day- I use the 10% Happier app but I am still learning, I try to do at least 10 minutes but sometimes it is less. While I have my breakfast (usually some form of avocado, greens and eggs or oats with elaborate toppings of nut butters and fruit) I write in my gratitude journal- at least three things that I am grateful for. After a shower I start my day- I work from home and my days look quite different- sometimes I am working on my computer either writing for Copper and Cloves, organising collaborative events or working on a proposal for the NGO that I work for. Other times I am in the kitchen or taking photos of food!
I think it is really important to acknowledge that everyday is not like that. Sometimes I hit snooze and don’t feel like exercising. Sometimes I procrastinate and find myself unable to focus on work and waste time. I still find meditation really hard and give up halfway through. The reason I am saying this is because I think it is too easy to paint a picture of being some sort of wellness person who glides through this cliché routine with ease. I often feel inadequate when I read about other people’s routines. I do think all of those activities are valuable to my health and wellbeing that is why I try to fit them in but I often don’t and that’s ok too- daily routines should not be about perfection. And reading about people’s routines should not create unrealistic standards!

For three recipes from the kitchen of Copper & Cloves, head here.