What does Azahar mean?

Azahar means orange or citrus blossom in Spanish. The etymology of the word comes from the Arabic al-azhar meaning white flower blossoms. Azahar is synonymous with Andalucía, a land that is a cultural marinade of Moorish and Spanish influences and stereo-typically represents the whole of Spain.

Why did you rename your blog from The Saffron Girl, since you were well known before?

I’m a different person than when I started this blog. I’m leaving up the old posts for history’s sake and for the recipes. But the changes I’ve had in life – which have been many in a short timespan – have catapulted me onto new roads; and I wanted to reflect this here as well. Thus a name change was a prerequisite to embracing my new life and the new direction it is taking.

Where are you based now?

I live in Seville, Spain.

What is your food philosophy?

I believe in traditional, home-cooked meals made with the freshest, seasonal, and local, whole-food ingredients. I love spending hours at farmers’ markets; perusing the local fishmonger’s shoppe or chatting with and buying from the fishermen who bring their daily catch to the lonja — or when I’m visiting my brother, indulging with immense satisfaction in the bounty from his fishing escapades; going to the local butcher to get the freshest cuts of pasture-raised beef, poultry, lamb, or pork; hanging out at a chicken farm to get huevos de picoteo (pasture-raised eggs); driving to the Sierra de Huelva to get a leg of acorn-grown, black-hooved jamón serrano; or checking out the local beekeepers for my supply of raw honey.

I believe in the Slow Food Movement, enjoying the sourcing and the preparation, just as much as the pleasure of eating what I make.

In addition, I follow a Paleo lifestyle.

But isn’t that hard to follow with today’s frantic life that most of us lead?

Yes and no. For me, cooking almost every day is my way of life. It’s part of my daily routine.

Food and nutrition are a top priority, and I make a point of organising my time sourcing my ingredients weekly and spending time in the kitchen on a regular basis to ensure all my meals are home cooked, healthy, and nutritionally balanced and seasonally varied. During the week, my meals are less elaborate ~ and usually take less than an hour to prepare and make ~ than on weekends or holidays when I have more time. And also during the work week, I cook my meals in advance to ensure I have healthy options to eat at work every day.

What type of diet do you follow?

More than a diet per se, I follow a lifestyle philosophy.

I grew up on the Andalusian version of the Mediterranean diet, which I still enjoy today but have modified it to be Paleo. For more on my take of what this means, please visit my Paleo page.

I also love to create dishes inspired by my travels and expat experiences with new and exotic ingredients, always gluten- and mostly grain-free, refined-sugar free, soy-free, mostly legume-free,  dairy-free, and always nutritionally balanced.

What ingredients do you use and where do you find them?

Check out my Alacena page for a list of typical ingredients and where to find some of them.

Speaking of travel, how do you manage to keep a Paleo diet away from home?

The short answer is: I don’t obsess.

It’s not always easy if you want to be strict. I only have a couple of food allergies that have always affected how I eat even when I’m at home; I’m lactose-intolerant and am allergic to oats. So indulging in a pasteurised, dairy ice cream is truly off limits unless I don’t mind dealing with the aftermath. And now, after years on the Paleo ‘diet’, I’ve discovered that whenever I try grains, I usually get an upset stomach and heartburn.

Nonetheless, when I travel, I will try literally almost any food. For me experiencing local food is an elemental component of discovering the culture and just as important a feature of any travel adventure as visiting museums and sight-seeing. I also believe in stress-free living and balance in life. And travelling should be as stress-free as possible. Therefore, I don’t obsess about food choices when I’m on the road. In fact, I’ll go as far as drinking a traditional cup of the luscious Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk!

In my opinion, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not about breaking my rules every once in a while, but about sticking to those rules on a daily basis, the majority of the time.

You mention a lot of Arabic words, why?

The Spanish language and culture are highly influenced by the many peoples who settled and inhabited the country. One of these people were the Moors, Arabs from far distant lands like modern-day Syria or the closer Maghrebi areas of Northern Africa. The Moors were in Spain for over 800 years and left behind a mark that is still pulsating today in the language, the culture, the customs, the architecture, and the food, especially in Andalucía.

What camera equipment do you use?

Up until July 2016, most of the pictures on the blog have been taken with my iPhone 4S, my Canon EOS M (with a 18-55mm lens and a 22mm lens), and my Canon Rebel T3i (with 50mm 1.8 lens and 18-55mm lens). As of August 2016, I shoot with a 24-70mm f/2.8L and a 100mm f/2.8L.

Are you available for working with companies and trying out their products?

I do not review products on the blog; however, I am happy to trial products and provide personal and honest feedback via my social media channels. The companies and products I engage with must follow my personal ethos of being organic, sustainable, animal-friendly, non-GMO, and environmentally-friendly. In addition, any food, skincare, or household items must be Paleo-friendly.

I have a Media Pack outlining how I work with brands, available upon request. Please contact me at debravdorng@gmail.com to discuss your proposition.

Do you engage in other work?

Yes, I’m available for writing, photographing, and content creation for online & print publications. Please contact me to discuss your project.

How can I contact you?

Please send me an email at debravdorng@gmail.com.