Sheryl Nicholson and Janine Tait are friends and business partners who this May will release SAVOUR - a vegetarian recipe collection of tasty, savoury one-pot meals which celebrate local, organic, seasonal vegetables. Kathryn Overall had lunch with them to discover the story of survival, friendship and vision behind this special recipe book.

On a rainy, autumn day of cyclonic proportions, Sheryl Nicholson's little home in Otumoetai is a refuge of nourishing warmth.

Colourful, vintage homeware, welcoming furniture and leafy green plants create a cosy backdrop.

But it's the rustic wooden tray, with navy soup bowls, thyme-fried mushrooms and fresh herbs, that draws the eye, while the fragrant promise of something hearty and flavoursome wafts out from the kitchen.

Sheryl - foodie, designer, photographer - and her business partner, Janine Tait of Janesce and Bestow, are celebrating the imminent arrival of their fifth Bestow Recipe Book, SAVOUR - a collection of vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free recipes which rescue vegetables from bland side dishes and make them the star of the show.


"One-pot savoury meals, bursting with flavour are my favourite type of meals to cook," says Sheryl, dishing steaming bowls of Roasted Cauliflower Goodness Soup flavoured with turmeric, cumin, paprika and sumac and garnishing them with the thyme-fried mushrooms.

"I like lots of flavour and colour in my food, and I like the creative challenge of cooking without meat for the majority of my meals."

There's no shortage of flavour in this warming winter soup, or in the crunchy iceberg lettuce parcels filled with sultana sweetened turmeric brown rice and walnuts.

SAVOUR will be released in May, but the story behind the book really begins on a Tuesday afternoon in the autumn of 2011. While strangers went about their business, Sheryl sat stunned, in her car outside MedEx on Eleventh Ave, having just been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

It was one week after her 45th birthday and her youngest child was only 5-years-old.
"I bawled my eyes out," says Sheryl. "I just couldn't believe it. When someone says you've got cancer, you think of death."

But, as Sheryl would discover, many women recover from breast cancer, and she is grateful to be one of them.

Three weeks after her diagnosis she had surgery to remove a golf-ball sized tumour from her right breast. She went into the valley of chemo and radiation and came out the other side, depleted, but determined to improve her diet and reduce stress in her life.

For Sheryl, cancer was a catalyst for change. "A lot of breast cancer is hormonal, and I began to look at things that could cause hormones to become imbalanced," she says.

Reading the book Your Life in Your Hands by scientist and cancer-survivor Jane Plant kick-started Sheryl's exploration of cooking for health.

"I immediately started eating a lot more fruit and vegetables and cut out heaps of dairy. I'd always created my own recipes, so it was natural for me to experiment with more plant-based cooking."

Sheryl's wellness education continued from an unexpected source as one of her design clients, Janine Tait, began to feature more in her working life.

Janine is New Zealand's leading dermo-nutritionist and a beauty industry leader who champions a holistic and nutrition-based approach to skincare.

Nutrition protocols are an essential part of healing skin disorders, and Sheryl was working with Janine to design blog posts and recipe cards to help clients make positive changes to their diet.

"She was very interested in my ideas of pursuing skin health through nutrition," says Janine. "When I would send her blogs, she would read them as she was designing, and then ask me questions about it. She was educating herself."

This client connection blossomed first into friendship and then into a business partnership, when Janine convinced Sheryl to create the first Bestow Recipe Book with her in 2013. "What I admire in Sheryl is that she is incredibly creative and multi-talented. She can cook, create recipes, take amazing photographs and do the design," says Janine.