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The link between plant-based diet and sleep with chef Chantelle Nicholson

The multi-award-winning chef and owner of Apricity Restaurant in London, Chantelle Nicholson, talks to Savoir about how plant-focused eating can improve sleep, why sustainability is important to her and how she creates new dishes in her dreams.
Plant-based food

You might think chefs would all naturally be night owls, but, I love the early morning light. When I can, I get up first thing. I don’t often have problems falling asleep after a long shift – I’m usually exhausted, but the quality of my sleep is a different matter, on busy days I sometimes wonder if I get into a deep sleep.

One of the things I do to improve my sleep is to focus on what I eat, food is so important to your sleep. I find that if you need to eat close to bedtime, then a plant-based meal can be easier to digest, so it’s helpful to have that as the last thing at night. During colder months it’s nice to have comfort food, but it needs to be something nourishing, like warming stews made from squashes and celeriac, along with lentils and pulses and other complex carbs that keep you sustained until morning.


Chantelle's seeded granola

Chantelle’s poached plum and granola recipe from her latest book, ‘Planted’. IMAGE CREDIT: NASSIMA ROTHACKER.


It’s not just your sleep that benefits from a plant-focused diet; it helps so many other aspects of your health, from increasing your gut diversity to helping your heart health. I love vegetables, so it never feels like a hardship to eat them. You can get so much out of vegetables – if you beautifully chargrill some broccoli or roast cauliflower with spices, then you get a different flavour profile than just steaming them. They are so immensely satisfying.

One important way to ensure your veggies taste amazing is to eat seasonally. Growing up in New Zealand, we naturally ate what was in season. I remember looking forward to the first of the asparagus and the first of the strawberries. Because the season was so fleeting, it felt special.

“One important way to ensure your veggies taste amazing is to eat seasonally. Growing up in New Zealand, we naturally ate what was in season.”

Another reason for eating seasonally is that it is more sustainable, which is something important to me. I try to be as sustainable in all areas of my work and life as possible. Too many things are designed to be thrown away when we should be investing in things that last a lifetime. It helps me sleep better at night knowing that I’m doing something good for the planet.

Honestly, it’s worrying about packaging waste that keeps me awake at night – but when I do manage to sleep, I dream a lot and often remember them. Sometimes I even create a new dish or use an ingredient in a surprising way and wake up and think “that was a great idea!” I think your dreams are an important part of how you process your day and when you recharge your creativity.


Chantelle Nicholson

Chantelle Nicholson

Left: portrait of Chantelle Nicholson, Right: Image of Chantelle’s Beetroot & Pine Nut Tartlets. IMAGE CREDIT: NASSIMA ROTHACKER.


For her first solo cookbook, titled ‘Planted’, Chantelle created an array of exciting, fresh plant-based dishes. She shared with us one of her favourites – the Beetroot and Pine Nut Tartlets, which are a great addition to a winter menu. Sweet and nutty, this dish makes a delicious and vibrant start to any meal. Discover the recipe for the season’s most impressive starter below.


Pillow Talk Recipe: Beetroot & Pine Nut Tartlets

Serves 4

For the pastry:


Preheat the oven to 180℃.

Place the beetroot on a sheet of tinfoil and drizzle with the oil, season well. Wrap the foil around the beetroot and place it in the oven for 1 and a half hours.  Remove and open the foil, allowing the beetroot to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot, using a small knife. Slice each beetroot into 8 wedges.

For the pastry, place the flour, butter, rosemary and salt into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add approximately 1-2 tablespoons of cold water to form a stiff dough. Shape into a ball, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place the ball of pastry on a floured surface and roll it out to 3mm thick. Place on parchment and then onto a baking tray, and put back in the fridge for 20 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 190℃.

Place the baking tray with the pastry into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and cut out 4 circles, approximately 10cm in diameter. Place back in the oven for a further 8-12 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and place the pastry on a rack to cool. Place 3/4 of the pine nuts in a blender, adding 25ml of water. Blend until smooth and creamy, seasoning with salt, adding a little more water if needed to form a smooth paste. Finely chop the remaining pine nuts.

To assemble, spread the bases of the pastry discs with the pine nut purée. Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a large bowl. Add the beetroot wedges and slices and season well with salt and pepper, coating well in the dressing. Place 1/4 of the beetroot slices, overlapping each other, on top of the pine nut purée. Pipe a little more purée on top then garnish with the slices and the pine nuts.

To learn more about Chantelle’s plant-based recipes order her latest book, ‘Planted’.