Interviews with restaurateurs, food writers, fellow bloggers, food and drink producers and others.

 

A health-focused, almost-vegetarian wellbeing blogger (not me) and a hedonistic lover of all the things that are bad for you (that’d be me, for the avoidance of any doubt) might not be considered natural bosom buddies and yet, Monica Shaw and I have become dear friends. We’ve even had drunken conversations about bosoms, come to think of it. We first met during a press trip to Cornwall a few years ago and have remained friends ever since, meeting up for gentle weekends of cooking, eating, drinking, playing board games, listening to music and generally relaxing. Everyone needs weekends (and friends) like this in their life.

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

My name is Monica Shaw – I’m an American – and a Brit! I hail from Chicago but moved to the UK about 7 years ago, got my citizenship, and I guess now this place (the Wiltshire countryside) is home to me. I make my living doing social media and web analytics for small and large companies, and while I’m a geek at heart, I’m equally crazy about food and, for lack of a better word, wellness.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

SmarterFitter is all about how to be awesome by making sound choices. My content focuses on recipes, stories and tips for living a “smarter” and “fitter” life in all aspects: food, fitness, work, play… as a geek, I come at it from a sometimes nerdy angle. But my aim is to use my logical mind to not only make sound choices in my own life, but also to pass on reasoned, quality information to my readers.

My blog mostly focuses on vegetarian, vegan and raw food but I myself am not a vegetarian (though I was for over 10 years, and why I’m not anymore is probably the subject for another interview!).

Monica_with_merengue

Why did you choose to blog about vegetarian food?

Simple: I’m obsessed with vegetables, and my diet is about 90% plant based, so this is what comes naturally to me.

Does blogging about vegetarian food present any particular challenges?

Only when people realise I’m not a vegetarian and get a little huffy!

Rachel and Yotam Sweet potato and black bean chili

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

I’m very lucky to work with Rachel Demuth who runs Demuths Cookery School in Bath. Her vegetarian and vegan cuisine is a revelation. Many vegetarian cooks focus on replacing meat. But for Rachel, it’s all about the veg, and creating beautiful dishes that are inherently vegetarian, drawing on her experiences travelling all over the world. Her Mexican cookery is a particular favourite. In fact, hers is the best Mexican food I’ve ever had (particularly her tamales and her frijoles refritos negros), and that’s saying a lot – I used to live in Austin, Texas where Mexican food was a staple!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Avocado. Avocado. Avocado. Well, I could live, but there would be an avocado-shaped hole in my heart if I had to go without.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

Mark Bittman and his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Warm tofu with sesame garlic sauce, because I know you love it!

katehill

What’s been your favourite destination thus far and why did you love it so much? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

By far, Kate’s Kitchen at Camont in Gascony for a food photography workshop with two extremely talented people – Tim Clinch and Kate Hill – in one of the most beautiful places in the world. A favourite memory is the “apricot tart moment”. We spent the day photographing Kate as she went through the process of making an apricot tart. It was a stunning dish and made for beautiful photography. Then went out to the night market in Vianne, returned home drunkenly in need of sustenance, so we hacked into the tart, eating it off of napkins. I took an Instagram photo of the tart, on the napkin, half-eaten, totally unstyled, and launched into a rant about how “this” is what food photography is all about: the moment in which the food is actually enjoyed, not some super-styled setup that bears no resemblance to how the dish is actually shared and consumed. But you know what, after the rosé wore off, I realised that my rant was the manifestation of a subconscious belief that I had repressed (food styling pressure and all that). Now, I am to make my photography a reflection of what’s real, even if it isn’t always pretty.

apricot apricot_tart_moment

Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list? (nb: can make it a top 3 if prefer)

India.

What’s the very first trip you remember taking?

Road trips to Ohio from Chicago to visit my dad’s side of the family. Amazing pies. Terrible tinned vegetables.

Where are you going next?

Camont again for Christmas!

What three things can you never travel without?

Keys, wallet, phone.

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

Japan, of course.

Raw Raspberry Cheesecake Chargrilled Romanesco Cauilflower Salad

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Time. I work full time and some of the work I do is very brain-intensive, so often at the end of the day I feel too zapped creatively to write anything worth reading.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

Trying to keep up with all the prolific bloggers out there who have an amazing capacity to keep cranking out content.

Hemp Protein Green Smoothie

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

I’m currently on a 7-Day Juice Feast so I’m all about the fresh-pressed juices and smoothies at the moment. My favourite thing is taking fresh juice and blending it up with avocado for a silky smooth creamy meal in a glass, which I eat with a spoon. Garnishes are also one of my big loves – on smoothies, the best thing ever is a trio of pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes and bee pollen. Ok, and maybe a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

DIY Vitamin Water

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

32 Natural Ways to Flavour Water though I much prefer the runner up, 11 Immediately Gratifying Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Health.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

My beloved (and extremely photogenic) dog Rocky recently passed away. As a tribute, I’ve created a book and calendar of Rocky photos, both of which I’m selling to raise money for Hope Rescue, a charity and rescue centre where I adopted Rocky from. The calendar costs just £6 – a small price to pay for a little Rocky in your life, and a little £££ to help those precious pooches who haven’t yet found their forever home.

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Blog URL http://smarterfitter.com
Facebook page http://facebook.com/smarterfitter
Twitter handle http://twitter.com/monicashaw
Pinterest profile http://pinterest.com/smarterfitter
Instagram handle http://pinterest.com/smarterfitter

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

Sometimes I find myself pondering odd little questions… such as “Can peoples’ names have some weird kind of influence over their hobbies?” That particular question popped into mind when I noticed how many of the baking blogs I follow are run by people called Kate. “Do Kates have a predisposition to bake and blog?”

Regardless of the answer, I’m happy to present my next Meet The Blogger interview with Kate from What Kate Baked.

BannerHello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

I have the sweetest tooth of anyone I know. And I love baking. So I thought I’d put together What Kate Baked documenting my trials (and often tribulations) in the kitchen as I strive to satisfy my sweet tooth. The recipes on the blog are about 99% sweet, the odd savoury bake makes an appearance once in a while

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

My sister helped me come up with the name- a twist on What Katie Did, a favourite book of mine during my childhood- I think she hopes she’ll get 10% of all cakes I bake as royalties!

Kate

Why did you choose to blog about baking and does blogging about baking present any particular challenges?

The only time of year when I struggle is January when my husband and I try to eat healthily after all the indulgence over Christmas – this is never conducive to keeping a baking blog up to date! Fortunately, I’ve many appreciative hungry colleagues at work who will always, always polish off any sweet treat in ten minutes flat!

What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

I remember making peppermint creams and coconut ice with my Nana and Grandpa as a child and Mum used to always make the most inventive birthday cakes for us- one year I had a doll’s teaparty cake while my brother had a pirates treasure chest cake. I definitely get my sweet tooth from my Mum’s side of the family…

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

I think the internet – be it pinterest, other blogs, established foodie websites- is an absolutely treasure trove of inspiration and ideas. Although I have a rather large collection of baking books, I can spend hours whiling away my time on exciting new recipes on the net.

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I once gave food poisoning to an ex-boyfriend after a poorly made lemon meringue pie…. This was many years ago and suffice to say the relationship was very short lived!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

From a baking point of view I love baking with almonds and zesty flavours

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

Ohhh, this is a tough one! Delia is my go-to for classic recipes, Nigella for utter indulgence and decadence, Nigel Slater for prose and narrative and Dan Lepard for the science behind baking!

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

I make a mean chicken and leek pie! How does that sound?

[It sounds wonderful to me! Kavey]

What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without?

My spatula – well, I have five all together, all red.

Do you have a current favourite restaurant or top 3?

We love Dishoom at the moment- a new one has opened in Granary Square in King’s Cross. Kateh, a Persian restaurant, is round the corner in Little Venice, London and the best roast in all of town can be found in our local, The Truscott Arms

What’s been your favourite destination thus far and why did you love it so much? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

Foodie wise probably our month travelling around Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam a few years back. We spend a day at a cookery school run by the ex-Head Chef for the King in Vietnam. He was incredibly patient and kind. Following an insightful visit to the local market we spent the day making all sorts of delicious Vietnamese cuisine

Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list? (You can make it a top 3 if you prefer.)

French Laundry, California; Noma, Copenhagen and a tour around the Champagne region in France (greedy, moi?!)

Elderflower Syllabub

Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

I think the photos are better since we bought a great camera a few months into starting the blog. I’ve hopefully got a little better at presentation/styling but I know there is a lot of work to do in that department! My content has stayed pretty much the same, although the frequency of posting is less.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Time! I initially started doing two posts a week for the first year or two…I now blog every fortnight, much more achievable and I figured quality over quantity…

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

Its a great hobby- absolute escapism from the day job, a chance to meet lots of interesting people and join various foodie events/activities. Also the blogging community is really friendly and welcoming – I’ve made lots of virtual friends since starting who share a similar interest and enjoyment. Finally, I love it when I get a tweet, email or message from someone saying they’ve tried a recipe of mine…and its been successful!

Christmas Wreath Cake

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

Lots of lovely warming, comforting slow-cooked meals at this time of year plus LOTS of Christmas baking. Its such a great time of year to spend time in the kitchen.

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

In the summer months – elderflower syllabub and in the winter either mulled wine cupcakes or Christmas Wreath Cake.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

I was really chuffed with how well this Christmas Cracker Cake turned out last Christmas.

Christmas Cracker

Spread the love

Blog URL www.whatkatebaked.com
Twitter handle https://twitter.com/whatkatebaked

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

Like many of the bloggers I’ve invited to this little series of interviews, Urvashi Roe aka The Botanical Baker, has fast become a dear friend. We first met in person (along with her two gorgeous daughters) on a press trip down to Cornwall and bonded over a shared interest in food (of course!), Japan and much more.

Botanical baker banner

Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

I’m Urvashi and I’ve been blogging for about three years. I started after appearing on The Great British Bake Off Series 2 as people kept asking me to write my recipes down and share some of my obsessive knowledge of fruit and veg. I blog about food, my allotment, food from my allotment, my travels and events I get invited to as well as books I am sent for review. Writing about food is a nice form of stress relief from my busy day job.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

The ‘botanical’ comes from being mainly vegetarian. When I was weaning my girls, I got rather obsessive about what the nutritional value of certain foods was. Why did my mum tell me one thing and Annabel Karmell say the complete opposite. So I guess writing it down is a good way to help others see the research. The ‘baker’ element comes from Bake Off but I soon found it a little limiting as I don’t just bake. In fact more often than not I cook vs. bake! I’ve thought about changing the name to encompass the foodie travel that I do more of now my girls are older. But that’s another adventure of its own that needs thinking through.

me by monica
Image by Monica Shaw

What are your earliest memories of cooking?

My mother taught me to cook. There was no choice in the matter at all. She had to go to work early and came home late so she taught me the basics of Indian cooking so I could feed my sisters before she came home. When I had finished my O’ levels, all my friends went off to Greece as a reward. I was not allowed. I had to stay home and learn to cook. My mother taught me a dish a day and how to perfect my chapattis so I could impress my future husband! I was so angry at the time but am very grateful now to have the skills she instilled in me but also the mindset to cook and feed and not exist on fast food and takeaways.

Who or what inspired you to cook?

My husband inspired me to cook. He’s English and until I met him I’d had very few encounters with foods other than Indian. At university I had a few sparks of interest as I lived with international students and I loved trying their different cuisines. But it was my husband who inspired me to try different dishes and learn to cook different ingredients. He was a chef in his early career and I admired the way he could just rustle something up out of a cupboard of what seemed like nothing. Of course now it’s me who is the better cook ;-)

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

I’m reading a book called Cook it Raw at the moment and I’m fascinated by the concept of these world class chefs creating magnificent meals of different textures and layers using just raw ingredients which are mostly foraged.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Red chilli flakes. I’m not quite that Indian that I carry them in my bag at all times but it’s a habit I have to have a bowl of chilli flakes at the table. I cook mild food for my girls but I like a little more heat so the chilli flakes get liberally sprinkled on curries for example. But sometimes after a week away eating Western food or if I’m feeling tired I find a sprinkle on pasta or even salad just wakes me up!

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

One of my favourite books is Paula Wolfert’s Food of Morocco. It inspired a whole trip a couple of years ago. I love how she has taken the traditions and captured the variety of this cuisine. Another book I will cherish is Nigella Bites. It was a Christmas present years ago and kick started my love of baking. She makes it all look so glamourous and easy. The book has so many memories because we’ve used it for so many years. In fact her chocolate cake has been our go to birthday cake since the girls were born.

Another writer I admire is David Thompson. Again his book inspired a trip to Thailand last Easter but what I love is the way he has adapted the dishes to modernise them without losing the thirst for knowing where they’ve come from. I ate at his restaurant in Bangkok and was so inspired by how he has become a mainstream chef that holds the respect of a nation.

nostalgia urvashi roe

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

That’s easy. Japanese food. I know you are as obsessed as I am. I lived there for nearly four years but sadly at the time I didn’t eat fish so I am longing to go back and just eat!

What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without?

Oh the KitchenAid. My friends clubbed together and bought it for my 40th. There’s a little plaque on the back and I use it everyday with fond memories of my 40th birthday year.

What’s been your favourite destination thus far and why did you love it so much? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

Without a doubt my most favourite foodie travel highlight has been Morocco. I planned it meticulously for the food. I have so many memories from the trip but the best one was re-living the fish stalls in Essaouria with my daughters. My husband and I visited years ago when we were newly married. I had just started eating fish but had never been brave enough to eat sardines. At the fish stalls in Essaouria, they looked so fresh and I could smell their lusciousness from the charcoal grills. Soon enough I was tucking in with fish juices running down my chin. We’ve told our girls about this experience many a time so taking them there and seeing enraptured in the taste of freshly grilled sardines was just priceless.

fish in essaouira urvashi roe roses in morocco urvashi roe

Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list?

I want to go back to Japan but aside from that and linking back to the Cook It Raw book, I’d like to try Norway and Sweden. It’s such an alien cuisine to me – no spice, little cooking – it’s just intriguing. I also love the fact that these countries are so sustainable. I want to visit food producers over there to learn how they do it. I’m also inspired by their coffee and cake culture and want to learn a few new bakes.

What’s the very first trip you remember taking?

I went to France, Chambery, with school. It’s such a vivid memory because I ate nothing all week. It was all so bland and so boring I think I existed on salad leaves. At the time, as a 13 year old I had only really eaten Indian food so it was all a bit yuk to me. I’d kill to go back now and have that home cooked food!

Where are you going next?

I’ve recently been to Spain on a press trip and have been plotting a road trip with the family. The tapas just blew me away but I also loved the wines and cheeses.

What three things can you never travel without?

My iPhone just in case my camera breaks. My camera. My tea tree oil. A little dab under the nostrils prevents any germs being breathed in on flights and trains.

What’s the best travel experience you’ve ever had?

Travelling with my girls to far off places is just a blessing. I’m so lucky to be able to take them to some of the loveliest places in the world and see them through their little eyes. A trip to Paris comes to mind. I had been commissioned by Eurostar to write about ‘My Paris’. The girls had seen me sharing pictures on facebook all day and when I got home we instantly booked a trip back. We spent the weekend eating éclairs, macarons, gaping at patisserie windows. They gaped at all the things I had been dumbfounded by. They ate with gusto all the patisserie I had found so delectable. It was just the most brilliant set of memories.

paris patisserie urvashi roe

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

We would go to Japan of course! I would take you to Kichi-joji Koen and the little Thai place I used to go to. We’d go to Akabane station and slurp Tempura Soba. We’d take a train up to Niigata for Maple Leaf Tempura with local honey. I’d have to take you to the little sushi place in Shiinamachi where I ate sushi for the very first time. It only took me 5 months of walking past every day before the owner took me under his wing and shared different sushi with me each evening. We’d have to go to the very dodgy bar in Ikebukuro where I used to teach Yakuza how to speak English and drink Ume Sours all night while dodging the drunken businessmen. And then maybe we’d take a trip down to Yokohama to have dim sum and buy pottery as you are as obsessed as me about both!

Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

Very much so. I write about all sorts of foodie experiences now rather than just share baking recipes. My photography has got a lot better as I have learned to take better shots. My confidence in sharing things that are quite personal has also grown as I have developed a following.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Time. I have a full time job, two girls at school and growing evening commitments so it’s hard to always find the time to write about an idea that comes along. I drive to work now so it’s hard to write on the commute. That used to make me very efficient. I have so many things I want to share but just not enough time to get them all posted on the blog.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

Reading other people’s posts and recipes. I love the way the blogging world shares so openly and I am learning all the time about what makes a good post, what people will want to read, what I could also write about. It’s all such an interesting environment so different to my day job that it brings a nice balance to life.

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

I am loving my allotment. I’ve recently started writing for Thompson and Morgan and this has really inspired me to do more on my allotment and just get outside. I was weeding in the rain this weekend and loving every minute of it. Seeing something shoot up from the tiniest of tiny seeds is simply magnificent. I also love the company of the little robin who seems to visit our plot regularly.

strawberry canapes urvashi roe xmas deco urvashi roe

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

I have no idea! The stats side of things is something I really should get better. I think this Strawberry Canapé recipe is a popular one though. It’s always in my top ten pages list which is the only stat I do look at!

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

That’s very kind. Seeing as it’s Christmas soon, how about this post about Baiserringe – Meringue based Christmas ornaments?

beetroot pasta urvashi roe nasturtium gnocchi urvashi roe NYC doughnut urvashi roe

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Blog URL www.thebotanicalbaker.wordpress.com
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Botanical-Baker/108033572628999
Twitter handle https://twitter.com/BotanicalBaker
Pinterest profile http://www.pinterest.com/botanicalbaker/
Instagram handle http://instagram.com/botanicalbaker

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

I’ve known Judith for a few years, as we share a love of chocolate and happily meet often at chocolate and other food brand events. Unlike me, Judith’s blog focuses almost entirely (hence the name) on chocolate, with the occasional foray into other foods and drinks.

MACtop

Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself, tell us a little about the kind of content you share and the story behind your blog’s name?

I’m Judith Lewis and I ‘run’ Mostly About Chocolate. I’m a huge fan of chocolate for its wide variety of flavour notes but I also enjoy wine, spirits, coffee and tea for similar reasons! The reason I chose ‘Mostly About Chocolate’ was because while I mostly talk about chocolate I talk about other food and drink as well.

Why did you choose to blog about Chocolate?

Chocolate is something everyone loves and bonds over. I’ve been interested in and learning about chocolate for over a decade and at the point I started the blog I was already over five years into my casual education. I love chocolate myself and used it as a neutral point of research for my day job in Search. I spoke at conferences using chocolate as my examples and people started asking me for my recommendations. I added some top chocolate to my personal site and finally relented and blogged as a way to point everyone to where my pick for chocolate were.

VIPjudith

What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

My mom – my mom is my biggest inspiration. My earliest memories are of her letting me lick some chocolate batter from the bowl and wanting more. I also remember making bullet proof chicken by leaving it in the oven too long. I also remember burning most things because I have no patience so went off and did other things, forgetting about the food I was cooking – an unfortunate trait that continues to this day so I have a timer I carry with me.

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I once accidentally combined the cheese filling of a cheese-stuffed manicotti with the tomato sauce. The stuffing involved cottage cheese so you can imagine what it looked like! Despite the barf-like look, it tasted great!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

CHOCOLATE! Of course ;-) I made some whisky ganache chocolate balls with Paul Wayne Gregory at a World Duty Free event and it just reminded me how much I love chocolate with everything – even whisky!

whiskytrufflesimade

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Probably I’d start with a decorative plate covered in hummus, drizzled generously in olive oil and a tiny dash of cayenne pepper with warm pita bread. I’d then move on to a salad I used to eat when I was in the Middle East of chopped cucumber, tomato, parsley, a generous dash of roasted pine nuts, and a squeeze of lemon juice with some special spices. I’d do a main of a gorgeous eggplant disk my younger brother invented combining sliced eggplan on a bed of a special mixture of spiced chunky tomato sauce and cheese, topped with grated cheese after being cooked through as a broiled topping. It is absolutely delightful! Dessert would be a chocolate mousse made from Original Beans Cru Virunga chocolate because they plant a tree for each bar you buy. I’d add some espresso from Alma de Cuba because I think their roast is perfect for a light chocolate dessert. I’d probably do a light sparkling white English wine for starters, a bold Pinot Noir red maybe from Switzerland for the main and of course, a sweet Canadian ice wine for dessert.

originalbeans

Is there a particular cuisine or style of cooking that you seek out most often?

Thai. Believe it or not I get to sick of sweet things and having to keep my palate is such tip-top condition that I get fed up with it and seek out something massively flavourful that will kill my palate for a time. That would be the spicy Thai I love and seek out. It looks weird reviewing things like that on the blog but there needs to be a balance!

How do you decide where to visit next?

I try and review restaurants from around the world but often end up with so much chocolate or wine or rum or whatever to review that I struggle to fit in a restaurant to. I still have an absolutely gorgeous Dominican Republic rum to review that is just too special to do anything but dedicate a few hours to.

What are the biggest turn offs for you, when eating out?

Recently a place I frequent had such bad customer service that I swore I’d never return. The staff were surly, grumpy, and someone serving left for their break mid-service. I can cope with a lot but bad service is my bugbear.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you in a restaurant?

On the bad service theme, the worst thing that happened was one restaurant where we went and waited 40 minutes to be given menus. We had no drinks, no nibbles and no nothing. We waited as we had been there before together for a press review and this was without PR intervention. We watched others come, fail to be noticed and leave. It was possibly the worst thing that happened. Worst still was the food was not great. There was no apology, no excuse, just shoddy customer service. I don’t know if it was because they were busy serving the other people who were clearly British whereas my friend and I were visibly not or what but I have never been back.

What’s your take on the never-ending “discussion” about taking photographs in restaurants?

I do see people whip out massive cameras and take forever photographing every dish and really, it’s pretentious. It’s like saying to the restaurant “hey look at me I’m so important I’m a blogger and this meal had better be free because otherwise I will ruin this place”. I don’t use a flash, I use my phone and I do it quickly. I find bloggers who take endless photos and use a flash to be among the most annoying people and *I’m* a blogger who takes photos!

If we were meeting for a meal out, which restaurant would you choose?

Probably the Rabot 1745 restaurant as it had excellent service and great food.

restaurantreview

What’s been your favourite destination thus far and why did you love it so much? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

Probably my favourite destination was my to brief visit to the Niagara wine region in Ontario and not because I am from Toronto. It was the combination of perfect weather for the day, good friends and grwat (and not so great!) wines. I love Trius wine now and having seen it up close I’m just forever in love with it.

Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list?

Dominican Republic because it is all about chocolate and rum, interesting culture and amazing fod. Next would be St Lucia again because it is all about chocolate and chocolate cuisine and there is an amazing hotel there run by Hotel Chocolat. I can’t imagine a better trip. Of course my third is Ontario – well, Toronto., There are so many different places to discover in Toronto from chocolate to Italian to French to Chinese to a great Hungarian/Thai fusion place called the Hungary Thai. Toronto is full of food waiting to be discovered!

What’s the very first trip you remember taking?

We had a cottage and we used to drive up there when we were kids with my parents – something that may have contributed to their divorce ;-) It was amazing to see the bedrock blasted through as a kid and be allowed to walk to town alone. It was an amazing thing and even better was visiting a friend’s cottage in the winder because there was a sugar shack nearby where they made maple syrup. The first foreign trip I remember is to Acapulco because we didn’t often go anywhere but to the cottage. I remember how amazingly different it was, the food, the beaches and the virgin cocktails!

Where are you going next?

Toronto because my baby sister is pregnant and I’ll be an auntie to a girl at last!

What three things can you never travel without? 

Moulton Brown soaps, special super conditioning conditioner and hand scales to weigh my luggage!

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

We’d to go the Niagara wine region of course!

vineyards

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Keeping up with it. I now run my own consultancy as well as having a part time job and blogging comes way down at the bottom of the list of important things sadly. I usually end up working instead of blogging.

cookies

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

I have a recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies ever on the blog which is brilliant because you freeze the batter you don’t use and have the perfect chocolate chip cookies any time!

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

Absolutely without a doubt it is Hummingbird Bakery chocolate muffins and that’s including all competition posts and everything (not including the home page).

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

This is a post about the importance of aging in fine chocolate. Not sure why but it has had little love :-(

chocolateshop

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Blog URL – http://mostlyaboutchocolate.com/
Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/MostlyAboutChocolate
Instagram handle – http://instagram.com/mostlyaboutchoc
Twitter handle – https://twitter.com/mostlyaboutchoc
Pinterest profile – http://www.pinterest.com/MostlyAboutChoc/

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I first met Ren a few years ago at a blogger event and have been an admirer of her blog ever since. Her recipes are always appealing, her writing is warm and engaging and her photographs show off a her very elegant personal style.

Early_Header4

Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello, my name is Ren, and I’m the writer and blogger behind RenBehan.com . My blog has just turned four years old, which is quite unbelievable really, given that I started it as a hobby/creative outlet whilst on maternity leave with my second baby. We’ve now got three children and the blog is growing from strength to strength.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

There is a bit of a story behind my blog name, in that it used to be called Fabulicious Food! – though the URL was always renbehan.com. For various reasons (mainly spelling issues and a book being release in the USA called Fabulicious) I decided to re-brand to my name, which meant that my blog name and domain name matched. I do slightly miss having a quirky blog name, but as I have gone on to become a professional food writer, I think it has helped to use my personal name across the board.

RenBehan

For those who specialise in a particular cuisine, diet or technique why did you choose to blog about your niche and does it present any particular challenges?

The biggest challenge for me has been narrowing down the topics I write about! When I first started my blog, I wanted to write about cookery courses I’d been on and about places that I had eaten. I quickly also decided to focus on seasonal and local food, as I had always enjoyed shopping at local independent places and food markets. I launched a community blog event called Simple and in Season, which attracted (and continues to attract) entries from all over the world. Hosting a blog event is always a great way of generating a community feel.

As a mum of three, I also share family-friendly recipes – really, the food we eat at home. And, since I also have Polish heritage and a love of Eastern European food, I have sometimes blogged my Polish family recipes and I’ve hosted a few pop-ups under the banner of My Polish Kitchen. As it happens, my Polish recipes are the ones that tend to attract the most attention, and I’ve had recipes published in delicious. Magazine, in BBC Good Food Magazine and more recently on my weekly features column for JamieOliver.com.

In 2015, I’ve decided I’m going to place a bigger emphasis on my Polish recipes as I love sharing them and have been receiving lots of positive feedback. However, at the same time, I don’t want to lose readers who enjoy the seasonal and family-friendly aspects of my blog so there’s a fine balance to be found.

I think that in order to stand out, it can help to focus on one topic or type of cuisine, but equally, I’ve been very keen not to box myself in. Plus, I just love any food so I will always have more things to write about than I have time to write!

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

The hardest aspect of blogging for me is being short on time! I’m constantly playing catch up with posts, there is so much more I’d love to write about and a whole bunch of recipes that I simply never seem to find the time to post. Also, writing for external platforms now takes precedence, which means that I have a bit less time for my own blog. However, what I would say is that blogging has opened up so many doors for me and so many opportunities. A blog can be many things; a personal diary, a place to share recipes, a creative outlet and increasingly for me, a professional portfolio. The work I do now (food writing, photography and styling) is flexible and I mainly work from home.

Polish_Apple_Cake
Polish apple cake for BBC Good Food

What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

My earliest memories of cooking are at home with my Mum (Mama) and Grandmother (Babcia) who loved cooking and used it as a way to hold onto memories of their homeland in Poland. We kept Polish traditions (for example, a huge twelve course meal on Christmas Eve called Wigilia) and food was always central to any family gathering or celebration – and still is.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

At the moment, I’d say my children are the biggest influencers of my cooking. I want them to be healthy and to have a good appreciate of food and of varying cuisines. My mother always tells me that I was weaned on Polish beetroot soup, so at the moment I’m just debating whether or not to feed our youngest baby some beetroot as his first taste at six months. It didn’t seem to do me any harm!

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

Gosh, I’ve had lots of kitchen failures. There have been a fair few #bingates in my time! Most recently, I baked a cake I’d seen on a friend’s blog and forgot to check whether the middle was cooked. When I took the cake out of its tin it collapsed into a big sloppy mess. I had a second go at making it and it turned out fine – my oven settings are not particularly reliable and I should have checked the middle. Baking and cooking disasters happen to us all!

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

I adore cook books and have amassed quite a lot of them over the last few years. If I had to pick one author, I’d say that Diana Henry is incredibly inspirational – she’s a cook and writer who always pens and creates the most interesting recipes and anecdotes. A big ‘blog’ highlight for me was meeting Diana at her home and interviewing her. She gave me some very sound advice about food writing and has always been very encouraging.

I think I own every cook book written by Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and by Jamie Oliver – who were very much my early inspirations and they are the most thumbed and well-used books on my shelf.

For Polish cookery books I like ‘The Polish Kitchen’ by Mary Pininska, ‘Rose Petal Jam’ by Beata Zatgorska, and ‘From a Polish Country House Kitchen’ by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden.

I also love keeping up with ‘up and coming’ food writers and I’d say that Sabrina Ghayour’s ‘Persiana’ has inspired me the most this year.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Ooh I’d love to have you over for dinner Kavey. I think I’d cook you a Slavic feast and introduce you to some hearty Polish food. We’d start with either a very rich and velvety beetroot soup or autumnal mushrooms soup, then I’d serve up some Polish Kopytka – little dumplings similar to gnocchi, with bacon and sweet onions, then we’d move onto either duck or venison with a vodka and cherry sauce. For dessert, we’d have a baked Polish cheesecake.

My Polish Kopytka recipe was recently featured on my column for JamieOliver.com.

Kopytka

What’s been your favourite destination thus far and why did you love it so much? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

I adore travelling, but having three small children has meant that the majority of our family holidays most recently have been spent in North Wales, which is where most of my childhood holidays were spent. However, I’ve also had some great opportunities through blogging, including a trip to Martell’s Chateau de Chanteloup to follow the process of making Cognac. That was really an amazing trip, a particular highlight being a Martell-inspired meal where I sat next to David Lebovitz.

I also flew to Seattle last year to join in with IFBC – an International Food Blogging Conference. Seattle is very special to me as I have a sister who lives there and I met my husband on a plane flying over there, so we’ve visited quite often. I loved visiting Pike Place Market and I still crave ‘Seattle Dogs’ – a street food made with Polish sausages. I also loved visiting my other sister and her family in Emilia-Romagna last year; the foodie city of Bologna was a particular highlight.

Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list?

Next on my list is most certainly Poland. I’ll be working on a big Polish project next year and I’m very much looking forward to getting some more trips in.

Ren_Work

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

At the moment, the burger trend has really caught my attention as a lot of new restaurants have opened up in St Albans featuring really good burgers. I also love street food, things like pulled pork, steamed buns, meatballs and so I look out for that type of thing, especially linked to farmers’ markets. I’m also hoping that Polish food will make a bigger impact, as it has always been huge in America, with big Polish communities – Pierogi restaurants and stalls for example. I also love a good mooch around a Christmas Market – mulled wine, Nutella crepes and roasted chestnuts all make me feel very warm and cosy!

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

The single most popular post on my blog is my Polish Spiced Christmas Cookies – Pierniczki. I’m hoping to give them a bit of a revamp in time for Christmas this year!

PolishSpice

What’s the one question you wish I’d asked you but didn’t?

Would you recommend starting a food blog and what advice would you give?

Please go ahead and answer it!

Absolutely, I’ve managed to forge a new career path by starting a blog – having left the law behind during my first stint on maternity. It’s quite a change, but I love what I do now and I find it allows me a great deal of creativity. My blog has enabled me to travel, make new blogging friends, meet chefs and writers I hugely admire and take on paid recipe work.

My advice for anyone starting a food blog would be to focus on a skill and to try to improve it. Don’t focus on trying to make money, or on getting free stuff, and don’t give up your day job! What pays is improving your skills, investing in yourself and working hard.

When I started my blog, I did so because I enjoyed writing and wanting to be a better writer. I found an online writing course and gained a Diploma in Food Journalism. Then I moved onto wanting to improve my food styling, so I took a short course at Leiths School of Food and Wine. Most recently, I’ve focused on developing my photography, so I asked a local family photographer to spend a couple of hours with me to teach me how to use the manual settings on my camera. Building a successful blog takes a lot of hard work, too, so don’t expect it to happen overnight, but do enjoy the process and only blog because you love it!

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Blog URL http://www.renbehan.com
Facebook page www.facebook.com/renbehanfood
Twitter handle www.twitter.com/RenBehan
Pinterest profile www.pinterest.com/RenBehanFood
Instagram handle www.instagram.com/RenBehan

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

Today, I welcome another friend to participate in Meet The Blogger. Please say hello to Sian Reynolds, who writes the wonderfully named Fish Fingers For Tea.

FFFT header Kavey Eats

Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello! I’m Sian from Fish Fingers for Tea. I’m a huge fan of the Meet the Blogger series so it’s a real honour to be here today. Fish Fingers for Tea is all about family friendly, time friendly and budget friendly food. I blog what we eat so what you see is the kind of food we dish up on a regular basis. I used to be a parent blogger, setting up yet another blog when Izzy was born but over time it was taken over by recipes for cake so I took the plunge properly into the world of food blogging.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

The name refers to one of our all-time favourite teas – a fish finger butty (which has to be with pappy white bread and ketchup), though I am often asked if it has any connection to Dr Who!

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What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

Food and cooking seem to have been in my life for as long as I can remember. Weekends at my grandparents meant bowls of thick porridge and brown sugar, piles of fluffy scrambled eggs and always a roast on Sunday. Both of my parents cooked from scratch and threw regular dinner parties. No matter where I was I was always given little jobs to do and that’s how I learnt – just watching and having a go. I think perhaps that’s the best way. Cooking was just what you did but it more than just a way of getting something to eat, it was time together to chat and laugh.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

I think the biggest influence on my cooking at the moment is the weather! It’s my favourite time of year food wise – there’s little better to me than the comfort of autumn and winter food – steaming bowls of soup, thick stews and tasty pies. Izzy is also developing a liking for spicy food so we’re experimenting a lot with comfortable levels of heat for her.

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

Oh god, so many! We waited hours for a joint of beef one Christmas after I got my timings completely wrong and was battling with an ancient cooker. Stuck cakes, burnt offerings and dodgy combinations have all happened on a regular basis – I get distracted easily. I did melt a plastic sieve at school once as well, that didn’t go down very well.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Ingredient wise it would be Maldon sea salt, I throw it on and in everything and hot pepper sauce if I’m cooking for Rich. You will always find an abundance of cheese and chocolate in our fridge as well.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

I’m a huge Nigella Lawson fan, I like her relaxed style of cooking and How To Be A Domestic Goddess is one book I turn to time and time again. My parents often cooked from Elizabeth David and I have a complete set of her books and though I rarely cook from them myself I wouldn’t be without them on my shelf, purely for sentimental reasons. Strangely though I rarely cook from cookery books. I have a large collection but I read them more like novels and to gain inspiration rather than following a recipe.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Can we cheat and get a takeaway? No? Ok. I’d probably throw together an oven baked risotto – they’re always tasty but I wouldn’t be stuck in the kitchen. Oh, and I would have made a batch of my gluten free hazelnut brownies earlier that day so that’s pudding sorted.

leftover gammon roast frittata 3 ingredient nutella cookies

Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

I think the blog is constantly evolving. As our eating habits as a family change then so does the content. I’ve reached a place where I’ve developed my own style of photography (something that I’m always working on) and my own way of talking to my readers. I work with brands and on recipe commissions much more now so that obviously has some effect on the content, I try to only work with brands that fit into my own ethos though. A year ago I may have shied away from admitting that I use packets and tins in my own cooking, there is, I think, some pressure to cook everything from scratch but now I’m more than comfortable in showing that shortcuts are welcome in most family kitchens.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Time. Life is busy for everyone and some weeks finding that half an hour to write a post is incredibly difficult, not to mention the time it takes to photograph each dish.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

The never ending subject matter and feeling quite passionately that feeding your family well doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, one thing that I know a lot of readers worry about. I’ve had the occasional time when I’ve considered stopping but I usually find myself camera in hand, snapping photos of a dish within a day or so.

 date walnut granola basic meatballs and tomato sauce

What are you absolutely loving cooking and eating right now?

I took the slow cooker out of the cupboard a couple of weeks ago so we’re dishing up a lot stews and casseroles packed with seasonal veggies. I’m looking forward to my first bag of Brussel sprouts so I can demolish a plateful of them roasted with parmesan and lemon juice and of course cake is always to be enjoyed!

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

For a long time it was one for an oven baked risotto but crispy oven baked courgette fries have taken over now!

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Marmite is very much a love hate thing but I thought these puff pastry marmite whirls might be more popular. But we are very much a marmite loving family so I suspect my judgement is clouded!

courgette fries marmite and cheese whirls

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Blog URL: http://fishfingersfortea.co.uk
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fishfingersfortea
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/fishfingers4tea
Pinterest profile: http://www.pinterest.com/fishfingers4tea/
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/fishfingersfortea

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

This week I’m introducing another beer blogger that I once again met through Pete Drinks. Matt is an exuberant lover of beer, which is evident from his blog Total Ales and in his responses below.

Total Ales Banner

Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello! My name is Matt Curtis and I’ve been writing a beer blog called Total Ales for almost three years. I started writing the blog because I was boring my friends by talking about beer all the time as I became more and more obsessed with it. I though it would be a good way to curb my enthusiasm a little but in fact it only served to reinforce it! I try to write about my personal experience of beer rather than just straight reviews of what and where I’m drinking and there is a healthy dose of both comment and opinion in there too. Hopefully people find it entertaining, enjoyable and informative as that’s the balance I’m trying to achieve.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

The blog is called Total Ales because when I was visiting the town of Fort Collins in Colorado, a true beer paradise, I went to an incredibly huge liquor store called ‘Total Beverage’ which was the base for the inspiration. It’s also a small homage to the video games magazines I read in my youth such as Total Play and Total Amiga.

Matt Curtis Headshot

Why did you choose to blog about beer?

I’d started blogs on other subjects I love before but they always seem to fall by the wayside. Something about beer just keeps the fire, the desire to write, burning away inside me. There are so many stories waiting to be told, I literally can’t wait to get home from work and start writing about beer. Sometimes just a single sip can inspire me to write thousands of words!

Does blogging about drink present any particular challenges?

Trying to vary the pace of the writing and keep things fresh is always on my mind, I think this is something that all bloggers deal with regardless of their subject matter though. I think the biggest problem outside of the writing is that I blog about alcohol and this leads to a lot of drinking (what a nightmare) which is something I have to think about. It also takes up a lot of my time, especially as I get to attend a few press events but I’d rather be doing this than anything else.

Total Ales 1

Is there a particular style of beer you seek out most often?

I like hoppy American style pale ale and IPA and there are lots of good ones but I’m mostly seeking ones with clean, balanced and distinctive flavours that have a well-rounded juiciness and these are at the pinnacle of beer for me.

Which single beer could you not live without?

At the moment it’s Beavertown’s Gamma Ray pale ale. It’s my fridge staple and one of the best beers being brewed in the UK right now. Thankfully the brewery is only 10 miles from my flat!

Are there beer styles you don’t like or think are overrated?

I’ll try anything once, there can easily be good and bad examples of the same style. I mostly struggle with sweeter beers such as malt forward bocks or marzens. Another struggle is going to the pub with friends who aren’t interested in beer at all and finding something decent on the bar I want to drink. Thankfully great beer is exponentially rising in popularity so this is become less and less of a problem.

Total Ales 3

What are the current trends in the beer scene? How do you feel about them?

Right now the beer scene is more exciting than it’s ever been and I still think it’s going to get even better! Since the late 80’s craft beer has been slowly bubbling away, gaining gradual momentum. Now this has spread all over the world and the UK is perhaps one of the most interesting places to be a beer lover. We have a strong traditional beer scene and a modern craft beer scene that’s growing incredibly quickly. This is now spilling out into the mainstream with even the Wetherspoons chain completely updating their offering. The trick is, like with great beer, finding the perfect balance.

Tell us about your pet controversy in the beer world.

I think my biggest problem is with breweries trying to cash in on the hard work of those that ‘get it’. People stealing anything from branding through to falsifying their own ethos so they look like another brewery. A common thing I see is that a lot of new breweries have a ‘Brewdog Complex’ where they copy the in your face marketing tactics of the cheeky Scottish brewery. This is in fact the antithesis of what Brewdog did in creating something quite different, in the UK at least (it could be said that Brewdog simply copied the ethos of their favourite American breweries.) I think a lot of newer breweries (and some older ones) would do better to find their own path rather than walk somebody elses well trodden one.

Total Ales 5

What are your top three criteria for a great pub? Do you have a favourite pub? Why?

Great beer, good food and vibe. The first two are obvious but the third is really the trick. It’s tough to create the perfect atmosphere that ebbs and flows with the mood of your patrons, few really have it but the best example in the UK is probably North Bar in Leeds. It just has a certain magic that makes it hard for me to leave when I’m in there.

What are the biggest turn offs for you, in the pubs you don’t like?

Sticky tables, smelly toilets and bar staff that are selling craft beers but have little interest in having a conversation with me about what I’m drinking. If you don’t want to chat you could at least be wiping down the tables.

What’s the strangest / funniest thing that’s happened to you in a pub?

I once drunkenly haggled with Masterchef winner Tim Anderson when he worked behind the bar in the Euston Tap. My friend picked a bottle of imported American beer that wasn’t priced on the till so he said we had to haggle for it. I think we probably paid over the odds but we were pretty drunk and didn’t care too much!

Total Ales 2

Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

I think my writing has improved markedly since I began this blog in particular. I always feel like I’m learning and improving but this blog has dramatically improved my writing. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned it how to edit a post properly and cut the crap that no one wants to read out! I’ve also learned that the most important thing is to blog for yourself, if you’re happy with what you’re creating then people will come and read what you’ve created and share the experience with you.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Keeping things fresh and keeping the momentum going can be challenging. As with any creative pastime sometimes you can write for days on end and sometimes you have nothing. I try and keep writing through the dry spells, which have been thankfully few and far between, just to keep the momentum constant. Blogging moves so quickly that I find you can soon fall by the wayside if you stop writing.

What inspires you to keep blogging?

Beer! Honestly the beer scene is so vibrant at the moment that there is so much to write about and I’m constantly discovering stories or tastes that I have to write about.

Blogging killed the newspaper star. What do you think bloggers bring to the arena that differentiates them from traditional journalists?

The best bloggers are a combination of a great journalist, a great editor and a wonderful storyteller. The best blogs are the newspapers of the future!

Total Ales 4

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

I wrote a post on the price of imported American craft beer coming into the UK. This was picked up by the US beer blogging scene which is exponentially larger than the one we have here and it got a lot of attention and started a lot of conversation.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

I wrote a short story based on an experience I had out in Colorado a couple of years ago when I had some absolutely incredible pulled pork at a roadside diner. No other pulled pork I’ve tasted since has come close but a lot of that was to do with the experience. It’s probably the piece of writing I’m most happy with and I still enjoy reading it. http://totalales.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-best-pulled-pork-i-ever-had.html

What’s the one question you wish I’d asked you but didn’t?

What’s the best beer in the world?

Please go ahead and answer it!

Russian River Pliny The Elder of course! Except its nearly impossible to get hold of outside of California. It’s exactly what I look for in a beer; clean, bright, distinctive flavours of grapefruit and pine resin and a booming aroma to match. Perfection!

 

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Blog URL: http://totalales.blogspot.com
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/totalcurtis
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/totalcurtis

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

Oct 272014
 

Married to a drinks blogger, it’s inevitable that I dip my toe into the world of drinks blogging too. One of the first drinks bloggers I met through Pete was Simon Williams, the founder of CAMRGB. I’ll let him tell you more about his mission to get us drinking really good beer in his own words…

CAMRGB-WEB-HEADER

Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello, I’m Simon and I write about beer and run a small organisation that tries to promote and celebrate beer regardless of particular dispense methods.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

I called the blog The Campaign For Really Good Beer purposefully to annoy CAMRA (The Campaign For Real Ale) as the blog started as a rant against that particular organisation’s lack of support for new UK breweries.

The name also works well graphically – Really Good Beer is Red Green and Blue, RGB, the colour breakdown on an image used online.

I expected more people to make the connection straight away, but many still look surprised when I explain, and I still get people saying, “It should be red white and blue,” meaning I then have to explain again that I’m not interested in any weird nationalist agenda.

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Why did you choose to blog about beer?

As I already mentioned, it was a direct result of what CAMRA were (or weren’t) doing. They were not supporting (and still aren’t supporting) new breweries who were making what has started to be termed “Craft” beer and not brewing to CAMRA’s definition of what “Real Ale” is.

Does blogging about drink present any particular challenges?

For me, blogging about anything presents certain challenges as I have a young family and a full time job.

Once a blog becomes more than just a blog (as CAMRGB has) it’s imperative to keep the interest for the group and to grow the group.

Online this means regular new content, and so my days have become a process:

I get up at 5am and publish any beer reviews from the night before, answer emails etc., get the kids up, feed them, get them ready for school, get myself ready and off to work, get home at 5:30pm and pick the kids up from the child-minder, get them home, feed them and get them ready for bed, then I choose a couple of beers to drink and write about, eat and go to bed.

It is, put frankly, a bit boring.

Is there a particular style of beer you seek out most often?

Nope

Which single beer could you not live without?

Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo

Are there beer styles you don’t like or think are overrated?

Not especially.

What are the current trends in the beer scene? How do you feel about them?

The current trends seem to be in ridiculous facial hair more than anything.

To be serious though, you can watch the brewing industry and see where things are going.

A couple of years ago everyone was making Black IPAs, then they were all making Saisons and now everyone is sticking as much beer into as many casks and barrels for ageing as they possibly can, with sometimes amazing and sometimes hideous results.

Tell us about your pet controversy in the beer world.

Ooh, I couldn’t possibly. There would be blushes and finger pointing amongst a certain group of, shall we say, traditional ale drinkers.

Chainsaw-Ale-Double-Sawtooth-300x300

Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

Not really, it’s about beer and about trying to connect people.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Fitting it into everyday life.

What inspires you to keep blogging?

Meeting people and connecting people.

Seeing photos being posted on Twitter last night of people at IMBC 2014 who had struck up conversations because they were all wearing CAMRGB T-shirts is fantastic.

They know that whatever their differences they can agree on beer and share a certain ideology and can have a chat and have a good evening.

I think that that is just brilliant.

Blogging killed the newspaper star. What do you think bloggers bring to the arena that differentiates them from traditional journalists?

Bloggers are the new fanzine writers.

Passionate amateurs writing from the heart.

The downside of that – and I remember from dealing with fanzine writers in the 80s ad 90s – is that lots of people who start blogging do it to get free stuff and the result is they will only ever say things are great as they believe that that will get them more free stuff.

I try to always be honest in my writing and some people don’t like when I say their product isn’t very good, forgetting it’s just my personal opinion, but most take it on the chin and continue to allow me to get things to review.

Barley-Mow-300x300

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

I don’t know. The blog gets over 9000 hits a month right now, so I don’t really check to see who is looking at what.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

I still love the two articles I wrote on Greene King: Insurgency Over The Front Line and Greene King Do The Wrong Thing

 

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Blog URL: http://camrgb.org
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CAMRGB
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/CAMRGB
Pinterest profile: http://www.pinterest.com/crayolasarandon/

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

For this week’s Meet The Blogger, I’m happy to introduce Laura, the author behind How To Cook Good Food. Based in Surrey, Laura is a very seasonal cook, and she enjoys growing her own fruit and vegetables, as we do.

ES4U-Logo-Design

Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello, I’m Laura. My blog has a tag line, recipes for food lovers. It is for fellow food fans and cooks who appreciate good food. I write recipes using the influence of the growing season. I also like to create recipes that are influenced by different food cultures and I love to use spices and fresh herbs. I also attend the occasional chef masterclass or food event/show and I review these along with food related products. I will only mention these products if I genuinely think my readers will want to hear about them and they are of good quality.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

The blog’s name came from an idea by my husband of combining “How to Cook” by Delia and “Good Food” magazine by the BBC.

Laura sepia headshot-1

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I once had some friends over to dinner and forgot I had brownies baking in the oven. I blame the wine! When I spotted them, completely burned I decided to knock up another batch whilst the guests were sitting happily drinking lots more wine in the sitting room. The next batch turned out perfectly and we were able to eat them warm. I never admitted this was because I burnt the first batch.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

I could not live without sea salt, garlic or chillies.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

My favourite cook books are by female chefs. One in particular is “The Cook’s Companion” by Stephanie Alexander. It is a huge tome which I bought years ago when I lived near Books for Cooks and I refer to it regularly more for personal use than for the blog.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

As I know you are a huge fan of Japanese food, as am I, I would cook you a Japanese feast. Gyoza, tempura, sushi, okonomiyaki and some teryaki and yakitori meats with pickled vegetables.

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What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

The hardest aspect of blogging is the time it takes to put a post together. Even when I keep them short and sweet, there is still the lengthy process of editing photos and naming them. Then there is the time spent promoting the posts on social media and checking comments. Not to mention the shopping for ingredients and composing half decent photographs, a skill I am always trying to improve on. Also, the proof reading takes quite a bit of concentration.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

For me it is about CPD (Continual professional development). As a cookery tutor, I am always striving to learn and improve my skills both as a cook and as a teacher. I find that blogging helps me keep up to date with trends, developing my cookery skills and techniques as well as learning from others by attending cookery masterclasses and reading a huge amount of food blogs plus the odd cook book.

I aim to blog a recipe once a week but on a good week I can stretch to two as long as one of them is short on words and pictures. I do struggle to fit in the reviews I must say and have been pretty poor with hosting blog challenges. These are things I will try to rectify next year.

In reality, there is always something I could be doing more of for my blog but life, 3 kids and a ridiculous amount of after school activities not to mention cooking every day for the family tends to get in the way. And my teaching work too!

smoky black bean chorizo soup sml

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

There are two types of influence that I have when cooking and eating. One is seasonal and the other is cultural.

Seasonally, I am loving pumpkin, butternut squash, apples, pears, chard and kale.

My seasonal cooking includes loads of soups and bakes. I have been making pumpkin soup and bread, roasted butternut squash enjoyed with gran Luchito chilli honey, Kale in my superfood salad or stir fried with garlic & chilli and crumbles aplenty with the fruits.

Culturally, I am obsessed by both Japanese and Korean food. I have a cupboard full of ingredients that I come back to using regularly. I bought a mammoth selection of seaweeds, vinegars, noodles and sauces and I have a new found love of tofu and an ongoing love of anything chilli’ed and pickled.

I have been making lots of Japanese pancakes (okonomiyaki) and miso noodle soups but also some Bibimbap and Korean fried chicken. I find Japanese food subtle and light whereas Korean food satisfies my chilli habit.

Roasted vegetables sm

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

Roasted Mediterranean vegetables – This never ceases to amaze me. Every day it is top of the most viewed pages. The weird thing is, it has absolutely no comments on it!

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

My tagliatelle with flower sprouts & chorizo. This is such a tasty dish, and if you haven’t tried flower sprouts you really should, They are so much better than regular sprouts and are a perfect partner for chorizo. The post also happens to have one of my better photos from the early days of blogging. There is still one shocker on there which I keep meaning to replace but I won’t draw your attention to it!

Tagliatelle flower sprout sml

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Blog URL – http://www.howtocookgoodfood.co.uk
Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Howtocookgoodfood
Twitter handle – https://twitter.com/laura_howtocook
Pinterest profile – http://www.pinterest.com/laura_howtocook/
Instagram handle – http://instagram.com/laura_howtocook

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

 

For this week’s Meet The Blogger, I talk to Sally Prosser, author of My Custard Pie. Based in Dubai, Sally shares a mix of British and local cuisine and recommendations for visitors to her adopted home.

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

My Custard Pie is about food at the centre my everyday family life as an expat in Dubai. It includes recipes which I try to base on the seasonal local produce that’s available here – I’d sum this up as British influenced comfort food with a twist. Visitors to Dubai usually have an idea of a modern, blingy place – I try to offer an alternative view through food stories and reviews (although I did try an £800 cocktail with gold in it once). Travel is also viewed through a food lens…. or wine (a life-long journey to learn and taste more). My motivation…? I’m a keen eater

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

It’s metaphor for life: delicious, inviting but unexpectedly might hit you in the face. It reminds me of childhood squabbles with my sister over the skin of the custard (Birds) and the Phantom Flan Flinger. I do have a bit of a custard obsession.

Sally-My-Custard-Pie

What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

Rolling out bits of pastry with my Mum on the kitchen table… and she inspired me to cook, although she’d be astonished to hear that. It was basic food on a budget but all cooked from scratch, a lot of produce from the garden. She taught me to value good ingredients, for instance we ate bread from the baker rather than ‘rubber bread’ (white-sliced) which was the norm for the rest of our street.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

The changing dynamics of our family. My daughter has just gone to University so the vegetarian vote in our house (my younger daughter) has increased to one-third! I’ve acquired a slow-cooker so expect lots of gently-cooked but spicy pulse-based recipes. I also love the flavours and ingredients I experienced in Georgia and I’m learning about the cuisines which spread from the Caspian sea to the Black Sea and down to Iran.

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

Probably when hot fat from some pork rind dripped onto my oven floor and caught fire while I was cooking for 10 people. A friend threw water on it, which sparked off huge flames – I thought the house would burn down. It didn’t and we still ate the roast potatoes that had been in there… outside in the garden.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Garlic – my Polish grandma ate a raw clove every day which may account for my high tolerance levels and love of the stuff. Lemon, I would choose lemon over chocolate any day.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

Tamasin Day-Lewis is the cookbook author I turn to most. She is so in tune with the seasons, good simple food and great produce that’s available locally. One of the absolute highlights of my blogging journey was being invited to Diana Henry’s home. Her writing style is warm, inviting and her recipes meticulous. She manages to have her finger on the foodie pulse without succumbing to fashion or transience. Claudia Roden shaped the way I cook Middle Eastern food, was my companion in Saudi Arabia and I still refer to her New Book of Middle Eastern Food regularly. Dubai-life has meant I’ve been lucky enough to meet many celebrity chefs including Giorgio Locatelli several times. His dedication to achieving the best flavours with simple ingredients is impressive, and his genuine concern for the environment and his enthusiasm for great produce sets him way apart from so many who pay lip service. Oh, and his truffle risotto is sublime.

Sally and Giorgio2

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Usually something I’d never cooked before. I love having people round as it gives me carte blanche to try things out. Probably quite a high risk strategy. Perhaps a full-blown Georgian feast, or an Iranian rice dish…although I might change my mind. We’d have good wine and great cheese at the end and I always over-cater…

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If we were meeting for a meal out, which restaurant would you choose?

In the UK I would return to the Riverford Field Kitchen in the middle of their Devon Farm. Huge sharing platters of delicious simple dishes which are very veg heavy (and picked outside that day) and traditional puds with loads of custard of course. In Dubai it would be a tiny Morrocan restaurant in an obscure part of the city where the chefs sing and ululate from the kitchen to welcome you, and the waiters slice the enormous sugar-coated pastilla with a ceremonial dagger.

What’s been your favourite destination thus far, from a foodie perspective? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

Definitely Georgia in the Caucasus – a beautiful country with five micro-climates, stunning scenery and warm, kind people with a unique culture and heritage which has survived almost miraculously. Opening a qvevri (a clay vessel) which is buried in the ground and tasting the new wine with the people who had picked the grapes and made the wine was really special… as well as many banquets with heart-felt speeches, myriad courses and haunting polyphonic singing.

Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list?

The Caucasus beckon again with Armenia and Azerbaijan tied in top place.

Ladyinmarket Tbilisi market Georgia - My Custard Pie-1 Tbilisi market Georgia - My Custard Pie-10

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

We’d drive from Dubai to the Mussandam coast in Oman. A dhow (wooden boat) trip would show us the splendour of the coast line which is like Norways fjords but barren and rocky. We’d eat freshly caught fish smothered in herbs hot from the barbecue.

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What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

Endless subject matter (I have over 150 draft posts) and the wonderful online community. Fooderati Arabia in the UAE and many, many friends I’ve met online and off from all over the world… all with a passion for food.

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

I’m on a preserved lemon kick right now, the vibrant, sharp, saltiness enhances so many things. It’s peak pomegranate season now and I bought some wild, organic fruit picked in Oman. Such a fresh and delicate flavour.

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

Where to take visitors to eat out in Dubai on a budget – based on the reactions of a stream of friends and family visiting for over 14 years.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

I spent a year researching my Desert Island Dishes post and it includes Georgio Locatelli, Antonio Carluccio, Clovis Tattinger (all interviewed personally) and many of my very favourite bloggers. This courgette cluster bread deserves some more love too.

courgette-cluster-bread

What’s the one question you wish I’d asked you but didn’t?

What’s my biggest concern about food?

Please go ahead and answer it!

The control of our food chain and supply system by ‘Big Food’, Chemical companies and those solely motivated by the bottom-line and share-holder value.

How to make microwave custard - My Custard Pie-1 How to make microwave custard - My Custard Pie-2

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Blog URL: http://mycustardpie.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MyCustardPie
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/mycustardpie
Pinterest profile: http://www.pinterest.com/mycustardpie/
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/mycustardpie

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

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