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

 

I’ve told before the story of how my husband Pete’s beer, whisky and coffee blog came to be – for a year he wrote a series of guest posts here on Kavey Eats before I finally kicked him off in October 2011 to launch PeteDrinks.com. Not long after that, we both went along to the 2012 European Beer Bloggers Conference in Leeds, a weekend long conference focusing on the beer industry.

There we met many many other beer bloggers, writers and industry professionals including blogger Steve Lamond, who writes Beers I’ve Known. Since we met, we’ve kept in touch online and both Pete and I read Steve’s blog regularly. We hope to meet up at another beery event soon.

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

I’m Steve and I’ve been writing Beers I’ve known since May 2011 with 300 posts since then. I mostly write about beer and pubs but also feature other drinks when it takes my fancy. I try to provide a focus on beer in Northern Ireland as there wasn’t much to document this when I started. Since then there has been an explosion of breweries and bloggers; so my original goal is now somewhat moot but I still enjoy writing about and trying new beers! I’m also a cheese fiend; so that often sneak’s into the odd post too.

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Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

I used to help organise a zine fest in Brighton; one of the interesting ones was an anonymous booklet called “Nuns I’ve Known” cataloguing the various nuns who taught the author at a Catholic school. A fellow organiser suggested I begin a zine called Beers I’ve Known (such was my verbosity on the subject even then!) but due to (mostly) laziness and the ability to reach a wider audience that became a blog.

Why did you choose to blog about beer?

I write about beer because it interests me and generally people seem interested in what I have to say. I don’t think knowledge is something to be hoarded. I also like the social side of discussing with other bloggers/ readers some of the topics that arise. As touched on above I want to show the locals here in Ireland and further afield that we do produce some fantastic beers and ciders here and its not just about the macrolagers and ubiquitous black stuff produced in Dublin. But overall I just enjoy trying new beers, expanding my palate experiences, travelling and searching for that elusive “perfect beer”.

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Does blogging about drink present any particular challenges?

Its important to keep notes because it can be difficult to remember the following day, especially if a few beverages have been consumed! In Northern Ireland the difficulty is finding beers to write about because most pubs/bars do not stock anything of note. Thankfully I rely on a selection of decent mail order firms and the occasional trip away to keep me armed with plenty to write about. The challenge now is finding the time (and motivation!) to write the posts!

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

I’m polyamorous when it comes to beer, there isn’t one particular style I stick to above all others but of course I have my preferences. A decent session strength porter goes down well at any time of year, I love Belgian farmhouse styles (saisons and flemmish red/ oud browns) hop-forward beers like IPAs and wild/sour ales.

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Which single beer could you not live without?

A tricky question; I could probably live without any given beer as there are plenty that do a similar job to my favourite examples. I’ll pick Butcombe bitter here as it was my first cask beer which led me on this journey in the first place and I still enjoy after having sampled 4000 others.

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

I’m not particularly keen on doppelbocks and dunkels, nor anything OTT on the booze front. Something to do with the sugars used to hit the higher ABVs perhaps. Nothing is over-rated other than perhaps macro lager! Of course there are trends in productions of different styles but that helps to keep things fresh and interesting.

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

The current trend is canning beer; I think this a fantastic development and have an upcoming blog post to discuss why. There is always a “flavour of the year”, some of which I enjoy, others not so much. In recent years they have included, goses, black IPAs, fruited berlinner weisses and session IPAs

Tell us about your pet controversy in the beer world.
I’m a defender of Wetherspoon for bringing variety in beer choice and increased recognition of cask beer to the UK and now to Ireland at affordable prices. Many people do not agree with this…hilarity ensues.

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How did you get into whisky?

Whisky was the first booze to pass my lips at a mere 46 days old; though it would be a good 16 years before I’d try it again! I enjoy the breadth of flavours possible from a single ingredient and exploring what different ageing regimens can bring to the table. Whisky is of course just unhopped distilled beer; so its not that unusual to be interested in both drinks.

What is your favourite style of whisky?

I love Scotish Single Malts and whilst I’m now a big fan of the peat-forward smokey Islay drams, there will always be a place in my heart for the spicey and warming highland malts.

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

A great pub first and foremost needs to be comfortable to drink in, both in terms of furnishings and facilities but also the atmosphere of the place. A real fire or historic features help but not as important. Second most important is a good selection of beer at reasonable prices. But what will turn a good pub into a great pub is the level of service and welcome received. That’s what is likely to turn a one-off visit into a repeat occurrence. I have favoured watering holes up and down the country but I think the York Tap has to be my most favoured, because it satisfies the above three criteria in abundance plus is easy to get to, sells tasty snacks and a great atmosphere.

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

If a pub doesn’t have anything interesting to drink I’ll turn around and walk back out again. Cleanliness is important though unkemptness is forgivable.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in a pub?

The generosity and hospitality of fellow drinkers is the best thing about pubs. When I was a poor student I’d often be bought drinks in my local, an oil rig worker I struck up a conversation with in a Scottish pub picked up my bar bill and a chap we met when celebrating our engagement bought us a round. I try to share the love now I can afford to!

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

I’m not sure that it has changed all that much, though I have made a conscious effort to make sure my posts have a point behind them, rather than just being a collection of reviews.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Finding the time and motivation to write the posts. I have a number of posts in draft that just need polishing and pushing into the light.

What inspires you to keep blogging?

The amazing variety and enjoyment of beer and other drinks and the community of people involved in producing and writing about them.

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

Bloggers can often react more quickly to breaking news, especially as blogging isn’t a 9-5 job. There’s also the aforementioned social interactions but also the lack of financial motivation means topics covered interest the author and often that leads to a more interesting story.

What are you absolutely loving drinking right now?

I am enjoying well made British lagers, hop-forward session beers and playing with my new Aeropress for my coffee fix.

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

Somehow it’s the roundup post after hosting #TheSession (a beer blogging monthly chosen communal topic) for the second time. Topic – beery yarns.

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?

Its always surprising which posts do get the views but I’d have thought more people would be interested in where to get good beer in Vienna.

Anything else?

After long-suffering my blogging affliction my wife Daisy is going to join me in writing a blog Drinks We’ve Known to cover all our travels, cocktail experimentations and other non-beery libations. Coming to a computer screen near you soon!

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Blog URL www.beersiveknown.com
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/officialbeersiveknown
Twitter handle @beersiveknown

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

In the world of food blogging (and professional journalism too, let’s be honest), there are a lot of spurious health claims from those who simply don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ll resist the urge to list some of the examples that usually make me cross-eyed (in disbelief and shock) and just say instead that it makes me angry to see people disseminate downright rubbish which, in some cases, could do harm to those who take it at face value.

So it’s an enormous pleasure to introduce Food To Glow, a healthy food blog written by someone who really does know what she’s talking about; indeed, she runs professional nutrition workshops for cancer patients as a day job. Kellie Anderson is committed to sharing nutritional advice that is accurate and targeted to help readers improve their health via their diet. The big plus is that Kellie’s recipes are not only good for you, they look and taste fantastic too, proving that food doesn’t have to be bad for you to make you glow with happiness.

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

I’m so bad at this, Kavey… I am an ex-pat American cancer health educator and recipe developer blogging on healthy global food made with fresh, seasonal British ingredients. My recipes tend to be those for those with adventurous tastebuds, but I try and give alternatives for those with milder palates – my current obsession with Korean food notwithstanding. I also usually have a long-winded preamble where I try to be vaguely humorous as well as give some nutritional chat. I think only my Dad finds me funny. I try and sneak in the occasional terrible pun just for him.

Food To Glow is mainly ‘plant-based’ (I hate that phrase but most people know what it means) and savoury, but I do post the occasional sweet treat, usually – but not always – with a healthy tweak. If it is a ‘full-fat’ recipe then I will just say to eat a smaller portion! I don’t do diet food, but the health educator in me feels compelled to keep the portion sizes and sugar content in check. But no one has to listen to me, of course.

Although I’m an omnivore, many of my recipes are naturally vegan, as that is the way my family and I tend to eat most of the time. Many of my non-vegan recipes will have vegan alternatives, as well as gluten-free and soft food diet options where appropriate.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name

I wanted my name to represent what I hope my blog offers: healthy, colourful food that makes you feel good. But I do have to spell it out if I am telling someone the name as it sounds a bit like Food To Go. A different proposition altogether…

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Why did you choose to blog about healthy food?

I started my healthy recipes and nutrition blog to reach people who couldn’t attend one of my cancer nutrition workshops. People on my courses would ask if I had information and recipes for their friends and relatives elsewhere who were either going through cancer treatment, or wanted guidance on how they could help protect themselves from cancer. Now when people come to the blog they see healthy colourful recipes, and most people don’t know what I do ‘in real life’ unless they read my bio. The cancer aspect isn’t in your face but is there if anyone wishes to know more.

Does blogging about healthy food and nutrition present any particular challenges?

The only challenges to blogging about healthy food and nutrition are that I almost have too much to say, and need constantly to rein in not only my enthusiasm for the subject but also my word count. I have got better though. I can’t even bear to read over some of my earlier posts. Too cringey. Oh, and like Elizabeth over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, my pet hate is the short daylight hours up here in Scotland. By March it gets much easier not to take terrible photos., but right now we have a short window of opportunity and I am usually at work for it…

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

My earliest cooking memories are not in my mother’s kitchen (although she was a fantastic home cook), but in my grandmother’s. She and my grandfather had a big farm outside of Nashville Tennessee, and she cooked almost exclusively with produce from the farm. She even made butter and cheese from their small herd of dairy cows. Some of my most vivid memories are of helping out during the school holidays, sorting the late-summer harvest: picking corn, lots of varieties of beans, watermelons, tomatoes; grading tomatoes by size on a huge battered trestle table (some were absolute whoppers); stringing beans and podding peas; helping out with canning and preserving. By the time my sister and I went back to school in late August, my grandmother’s larder and ice house would be lined with bright colourful jars of stewed tomatoes, squashes, pickles of all kinds, jams and jellies. I think that I might have subconsciously chosen my blog name through these colourful memories. Although I loved her ways with produce – and a perfectly ripe tomato straight from the vine is still my best-loved food – my favourite food memory is her light and flaky homemade biscuits – the savoury American kind that don’t really have a UK equivalent. Heavenly, and very buttery. Unfortunately she never wrote down her recipe. That has probably saved my waistline.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

The ingredients that I currently can’t do without are – in no particular order: lemons, good olive oil, some kind of bitter green, levain bread from Peters Yard bakery (one small loaf a week. When it’s finished, it’s finished), avocados, matcha tea, tortilla chips (the cheapest plain ones, ie the 49 pence ones), whole spices, cooked grains and beans in my freezer, thick Scottish heather honey and kimchi. But it will change I’m sure once we warm up here. Or I will add more must haves because I am naturally very greedy.

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 love Diana Henry’s books, and I think I have all but one – I even have her ones before I knew who she was, if you know what I mean (her book for M&S). With her it is not just about the recipes, it’s about her exquisite sense of place and her warm writing style. It draws you in like the best fiction. But it is real, and it is food.

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

Well, I know you are into far-east food like myself, but as you are a bit of an expert on Japanese food I would veer over to South Korea. We would start with a giant carrot and kimchi pancake (kimchi jeon) each, with loads of spicy mayo, then follow it with a veg-loaded spicy tofu japchae (a kind of Korean stirfry – but better). We would be too full for pudding but I might make a stab at some matcha ice cream. Typing this is making me hungry! Come on up to Edinburgh so I can make this for you!

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

Because it is cold I am really into my lunchtime soups and noodle dishes just now, but four days out of seven we will have something spicy-ish for dinner. Mostly Asian influenced, but sometimes something more typically British (my shepherdess pie for instance) and just dollop some Sriracha on it. My daughter and husband wouldn’t forgive me if we didn’t have a variety of hot sauces in the cupboard.

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

Weirdly it not a food recipe, but a drink one. It is for Spiced Golden Turmeric Milk, and is something I drink a lot of in the winter months to ward off chest infections and keep my joints from aching too much. It is just my spin on an Ayurvedic traditional medicine recipe to reduce inflammation, but with extra tasty bits to enhance the bioavailabilty of the active ingredient, curcumin.

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?

Most of my first-year posts are unloved (except by family and close friends, and sometimes not even by them!) but my very first recipe is special and is one I should make more often because it is so flipping delicious – Quinoa and Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes. I have 17 comments on it, which probably represents the sum total of those who have seen it. I have very few non-vegetarian recipes on the blog, and this is my favourite. But terrible, terrible harsh photos.

 

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Blog URL http://kelliesfoodtoglow.com
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Food-To-Glow/1449568475292519
Twitter handle @foodtoglow
Pinterest profile http://www.pinterest.com/foodtoglow/
Instagram handle @food_to_glow

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

For many of us who blog, our blogs were our first foray into writing for a (potential) audience. Some were simply looking for a way to record their efforts (in the arenas of food, craft, poetry, DIY…) for future reference; some wanted a way to share an aspect of their lives with real life friends and family in other towns, countries or even continents; others were drawn to the idea of an outlet for creativity and self-expression. And those motivations continue to be the key inspiration for many. Others have gone on to make blogging (or related activities such as writing, photography, styling and recipe development) their full time careers.

But there are also blogs that are written by those who were already professional journalists; those who continue to write for traditional print publications, but have also embraced the new world of blogs, online magazines and social media platforms.

Fiona Beckett is one such blogger, an established and well-respected journalist who also chooses to publish content via blogs.

Where some traditional journalists are openly hostile to bloggers, dismissive of those who are not writers by career, Fiona is inclusive, encouraging and open with her advice; she’s run popular sessions at blogger conferences and is quick to recognise that blogs have given a voice to some excellent writers and photographers.

Here, she talks to Kavey Eats about her blogging experiences.

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Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your blogs.

Hi everybody. My name’s Fiona Beckett. I’m a food and wine writer and, more recently, a blogger. I’ve been working as a journalist for the past 23 years (I currently write the Guardian’s drinks column) and as a blogger for about the last 10.

I have a ridiculous number of blogs spurred by serial enthusiasms or books I’ve been working on, some of which I’ve regretfully abandoned. The ones that are still going are Matching Food & Wine for which I won an award from the International Wine & Spirit Competition last year, a blog on sleep called A Good Night’s Sleep which I publish jointly with a health writer friend Patsy Westcott and a couple of other ones I occasionally update, The Frugal Cook and Wine Naturally which is about natural wine. “She’s nuts!” I can hear you say, and you are absolutely right.

The topics you blog about are very different to each other, can you tell us how you came to start both blogs?

Well the food and wine one was a natural. I’ve always been interested in pairing wine and other drinks with food. I started as a food writer so I always think of wine in the context of food. Sleep, I admit is a bit more random. I was telling my editor on Twitter he ought to get a more comfortable bed (he was complaining about a bad back) then said in a flip way “I should have been a bed blogger!” It seemed such a brilliant idea that I just did it. It is but I haven’t really got time to devote the attention to it I should.

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How does writing content for both differ, and what aspects are the same for both?

The discipline is much the same for both though I rely more on guest posts for the sleep blog. It’s all about commiting yourself to write valuable content.

Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?

Unless you’re entirely writing for your own satisfaction – and there’s nothing wrong with that – think what the reader is going to get out of your blog.

Does blogging about your chosen topics present any particular challenges?

Er, weight gain (though I touch on 5:2 in the Frugal Cook). I also haven’t resolved completely to my satisfaction the issue of paid for trips and meals. I’m open about when I’ve accepted them but wish I could afford to pay for everything myself. That said blogging shouldn’t be the province of the super-rich.

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

Well certainly not Indian. It never does to attempt a cuisine on which your guest is an expert. Probably something Middle Eastern or a classic French daube.

You know I have a sweet tooth! What drinks would you suggest to match with that meal?

If it was Middle-eastern a fruity rosé, if French a generous southern Rhone or Languedoc red. Then I’d treat you to a gorgeous dessert wine with the pud.

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Is there a single piece of equipment you couldn’t be without? (It doesn’t have to be electrical)

A corkscrew, obviously ;-)

Blogging killed the newspaper star. What do you think bloggers bring to the arena that differentiates it from traditional media journalism?

I think it’s brought a lot of new voices into food and drink writing which can only be a good thing. And some very talented ones too. I’m amazed at how professional most blogs are these days. The standard of photography is amazing too.

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

Well – cue for a quick family plug – I might take you to one my son’s Hawksmoor restaurants – but otherwise I’d suggest one of the new more casual restaurants I like in London. Koya for example or Palomar. And Mission E2 is a great place to drink wine.

Marmalade cocktail Spitalfields Cellar Bar

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

That’s a tough one. There are so many fantastic places. I think I’ll go for my most recent trip to Chile and Argentina because we got to drive over the Andes, something I’ve always wanted to do. It should definitely be on your bucket list. (That was an invite from two wine producers Errazuriz and Vina Montes btw)

Where are you going next?

New Zealand – in two weeks time. It’s the first time I’ve been for 15 years – I can’t wait!

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

India. I’ve never been and I’d love you to show me around.

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

I’m obsessed by the Honey & Co book. Everything I’ve cooked from it is wonderful and the writing is an absolute joy.

Drinking? Sloe gin and whisky (not together). It’s, miserable, cold and I don’t believe in dry Januarys!

What’s the single most popular post on each of your blogs?

I don’t think the sleep one has really been going long enough for that but one of the popular posts on matchingfoodandwine.com has been 20 food and wine pairings to learn by heart – an easy-to-remember guide you can master in 5 minutes.

Can we give a shout out to a post you loved and would like to share with my readers?

Well I enjoyed writing up my experience on how to book a last minute (and I mean the same day) hotel room on New Year’s Eve. It was quite hairy

Anything else?

Thankyou for asking me!

 

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Blog URLs
http://www.matchingfoodandwine.com
http://thefrugalcook.blogspot.co.uk
http://winemadenaturally.blogspot.co.uk
http://secretsofagoodnightssleep.com

Facebook pages
https://www.facebook.com/matchingfoodanddrink
https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Good-Nights-Sleep/409661682510268

Twitter handles
https://twitter.com/food_writer
https://twitter.com/winematcher
https://twitter.com/sleep_secrets

Pinterest profile
http://www.pinterest.com/winematcher/

Instagram handle
http://instagram.com/food_writer

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

I’ve absolutely loved introducing you to some of my favourite bloggers, and their blogs in 2014, and will be continuing to share these going forward. However, I’ve decided to drop the frequency from weekly to fortnightly for the time being, to give me more time to focus on other content I have in the pipeline.

The first blogger I’d like you to say hello to in 2015 is Elizabeth, who writes Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, a blog heavily rooted in its locality, with a strong emphasis on supporting local producers.

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

Hi! My name is Elizabeth and I am (as far as I am aware – well, I’m going to wear this hat until someone tells me otherwise) Britain’s most northerly food blogger, an ex-pat Canadian located in the wild and remote Shetland Islands.

Where is this place, you ask? It’s a small island archipelago 200 miles north of Aberdeen, Scotland, midway between Iceland, Norway and the mainland of Scotland. Most of you might vaguely recall a little island sitting in a box on the weather maps (if we’re included at all) off the east coast of Scotland – there. We’ve got dancing ponies, burly bearded Vikings and lots of puffins.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

My blog has had several incarnations since I started writing it in 2011 – first it was a private online recipe site for me to store recipes I’d tried, along with images and notes. Then I discovered a whole wonderful world of supportive food bloggers, and I changed the name to Elizabeth’s Kitchen, opened it to the public and haven’t looked back. In the Spring of this year I made the big move from blogger to self hosted WordPress and since the Elizabeth’s Kitchen URL was already taken I changed the blog name to Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

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

What inspired me to cook….. well, I grew up in rural Canada to a single mother who, although she could cook (she made a mean roast beef dinner!) her recipe collection was very, very basic and unseasoned. Meat and tatties, mostly, with very little fresh vegetables to be seen. Someone had given her a cookery book for Christmas one year when I was around 12 years old, and I remember seeing a recipe for pork chops with orange sauce in it. I made it. It was gorgeous. I started experimenting; flavours, textures, anything. Goodness me the things I have experimented with… the kitchen was like a chemistry lab when I was a child!

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

At this moment the biggest influence on my cooking is the fact I put on two stone over this last year. Following a severe crush injury to my foot early last year, the running and five days at the gym habit I had to keep me trim and fit after having three children ended. Permanent damage to my nerves and ligaments meant I had to find a new way to keep the weight off while eating what I want. I’ve finally found a great intensive non-impact exercise program I can do at home and it’s working, but while I shed the remainder of this weight and regaining my fitness I’m eating simple, unprocessed whole, nutritious foods with plenty of fresh juice and smoothies.

Banana Nut Protein Smoothie

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

Oh which one to pick?! The one that sticks out the most just now, because it’s the Christmas season, was last Christmas morning when I lovingly made my entire family home made waffles for breakfast. Clotted cream, blueberry preserve, freshly squeezed juice, the whole thing. Yet still my family made faces (they do that, frequently, I’m becoming immune to it!). I was grumpy at them for being ungrateful for their waffles which I’d slaved over to make. After they’d all been served I sat down to eat my own and realised the waffles tasted awful. Proper… awful! How could someone mess up a waffle recipe? Well, replacing the baking powder with cream of tartar will do it. I’d mistaken the very similar labels and confused the two ingredients. Plan B: cornflakes for Christmas morning breakfast!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Spices! They go in absolutely everything. My favourites are whole cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and ground (never buy ready ground!) and whole black mustard seeds. Freshly ground black pepper is a must too. I love it – can’t get enough!

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

I’m keen on using local produce as much as I possibly can. So, if you came over this weekend I would cook you a homely roast leg of Shetland lamb, roast Shetland black potatoes and veg from my gorgeous organic vegetable box. For afters, a gorgeous cheeseboard featuring the finest cheese from Britain’s most northerly cheese producer Shetland Cheese Ltd and some Valhalla Ale chutney from Shetlandeli. To wash down afterwards, perhaps a wee nip of the newly launched Shetland Reel Gin!

Shetland Cheese

What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without? (It doesn’t have to be electrical)

I love my Froothie Optimum 9400 blender. I love it so, very, very much – more than I ever thought it was possible to love a blender. It does everything and it looks just so damn sexy sitting there next to my Optimum 600 juicer on the kitchen counter.

Honestly, check out the video my husband I made about our blender!

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

My style and content has definitely changed over time. It’s taken me three years but I have finally found my voice. I can write about anything these days – so much so that I’ve gained quite a bit of non-blogging freelance writing work. I’ve also learned how to take semi half decent photographs too. Freelance work enabled me to buy myself a new camera earlier on this year, and about three months ago I switched from manual to automatic. One of these days I hope to be able to call myself a photographer, in the meantime, I am a blogger who takes photos! So very, very much to learn!

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

This time of year it’s the short days. In Shetland, at mid-winter, we only get 5 hours and 49 minutes of daylight and these hours are usually filled with gloomy oppressive clouds, rain and gales. Sometimes it just forgets to get light out, meaning taking photographs or even being inspired to be creative with food becomes difficult. I am still baking and cooking, but it’s mostly shared with instagram snaps instead of full blog posts.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

The positive feedback I get from my readers inspires me to keep blogging regularly. Knowing that there are people out there who actually read what I write… it’s a fantastic feeling. I am indebted to you all – thank you!

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

Right now I’m loving making fresh fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies. Keep an eye out in the New Year for a fantastic blogging series on this theme.

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

Bizarrely enough it’s not even food related! It’s a tutorial for a sweater cat bed which wasn’t even my original idea, but I photographed what I did and it went viral!

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 Middle Eastern Spiced Campfire Chickpeas recipe. This is one of those ideas in my head which came together perfectly during a family camping trip to the Lake District last summer and the photograph turned out so much better than I had hoped!

Middle Eastern Spiced Chickpeas

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

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

Some people are quick to blame the internet for the downfall of courtesy, culture, community, the breakdown of society… you name it. Social media in particular is singled out as a poor substitute for “real” social interaction, dismissed as a tool beloved by the socially awkward. But many of us know this for the fallacy it so clearly is; having supplemented rather than replaced our real world social lives with a global web of friendships based on shared interests and discussions held online, we understand that the internet has simply opened up more of the world to us. Instead of struggling to find people within our local communities that share a love of the topics that arouse our interests, we can look further afield and make connections with folks from far-flung places. I know that these connections are true and meaningful; having met in real life many very dear friends I first found online. To me, it feels like a modern version of penpals; I enjoyed corresponding with several when I was a little girl.

Celia, based in Sydney, Australia is one such friend. The chances of us meeting in real life are probably remote (though I live in hope), but somehow we connect via our shared love of food, growing our own fruit and vegetables and our family experiences. I adore Celia’s blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. And in the few short minutes that we’re both online at the same time, early morning for one of us, late at night for the other, we exchange a snatch of giggled messages before one of us starts their day and the other heads to bed.

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

Morning lovely Kavey!

My husband Pete and I live with our now adult sons in an old house in the Inner West of Sydney, Australia. We bake our own sourdough bread, have chickens in the backyard and try to make as much as we can from scratch. A few years ago we ripped up the backyard lawn that no-one ever mowed and converted the space to large vegetable beds – we now have a messy, occasionally productive garden with mutant squash, rampant tomatoes and a resident frog.

We share our adventures through our blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. It’s an inconsistent rambling record of our lives with recipes, photos and the occasional post about cats pouncing on testicles.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

Not really! We were making fig jam and lime cordial the weekend that I started the blog, so that became the name!

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Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

Oh the infamous “Apricot Lamb”. For some reason, I decided that since I’d enjoyed my mother’s apricot chicken as a small child, I was sure to love apricot lamb made with tinned apricots in syrup. It’s become a standard warning now whenever my food combinations get a little too “creative” – “beware the apricot lamb”…

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You blog regularly about bread baking and chocolate-making; what is it about bread and chocolate that appeals to you so strongly?

You know, after tempering and baking for nearly ten years, I *still* feel clever whenever my chocolates pop out of their moulds cleanly, or when a loaf of sourdough rises and browns to perfection. I find it incredibly soul-satisfying – there’s something very rewarding about seeing the finished products lined up on the bench!

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish more than the others on your shelf?

I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan from his Naked Chef days – I find his recipes work consistently well. Adore Hugh FW – his River Cottage series inspired much of our lifestyle. Lately I’ve been drawn to chef authors such as April Bloomfield, David Tanis and Fergus Henderson. Oh, and I’ve always been a Jacques Pepin fan – the very first cooking show I ever watched was his Today’s Gourmet series. In bread terms, I’m particularly fond of Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf and Richard Bertinet’s Dough – both were integral to my baking journey.

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

Ooh, now there’s a question Kavey. Hmm. Chestnut flour brownies for dessert, and I’d work backwards from there. Lots of sourdough, baked that morning. Maybe a pulled pork based main – I’ve been a bit obsessed with pulled pork this year!

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What’s the single piece of kitchen equipment you wouldn’t be without? (It doesn’t have to be electrical)

I had the perfect silicone spoon – it had a wooden handle with a silicone head with *just* the right amount of resistance in it when pushing food around a frypan. Eventually the head cracked and the handle splintered, and I spend a year looking for a replacement. I eventually found the perfect substitute by Chasseur – and bought six of them. As one does.

What’s your kitchen white elephant?

The bloody box grater. It’s not a true white elephant in that it does get used, but we can’t seem to get one that does what we want! The first one was sharp, but all the plastic cracked when it went through the dishwasher, and the one we bought to replace it was rubbish. The quest continues…

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Is there a particular cuisine or style of cooking that you seek out most often when dining out? What about when cooking at home?

When we do dine out, which isn’t very often, we look for culturally interesting cuisine – something new and interesting that we haven’t tried before. I would happily never eat at a fine dining restaurant again – I’d much rather have large shared platters and pots of stew!

Which single dish could you not live without?

Hainanese Chicken Rice

What do you love about eating out?

I’ve finally figured out that I don’t like eating out much at all. I love spending time with friends, but honestly, we could eat in a food court for all I care. I’m rarely excited about restaurant food, and even when I am, I often can’t remember what I ate the next day. Cooking at home is different – those taste memories seem to be stored in a different part of my brain.

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

Snobby service first, followed by bland food.

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

I think I’ve become better at structuring a post, but I don’t think the style has changed much. My friends often tell me they can “hear” my voice in my posts, which makes me very happy. I’m not very consistent with content – I’ve always just blabbed on about whatever I’m interested in at any given time, and that’s not always food. Or it might be three bread posts in a row, which probably bores many of my readers silly (the ones I know ring me up to tell me).

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

Playing with crystal beads and turning loops in wire – I’m having a brief jewellery making revival at the moment. I’ve sent out a heap of sourdough starter to friends and we’ve all been baking virtually over Twitter – I’ve been loving that! I’ve discovered the most perfect candied orange segments and have been dipping them in tempered origin dark chocolate – I can’t seem to stop because I keep eating the ones I’m making to give away.

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Blog URL: http://figjamandlimecordial.com/
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/celiafigjam

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

Few blogs make me as hungry while reading as baking blogs, and London Bakes is another of my favourites. Kathryn focuses on gluten-free baking, sharing a wide range of delicious baked treats.

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

Hello, my name is Kathryn and I write the blog London Bakes. I describe it as a mostly gluten free baking blog – so many people are intimated by gluten free baking and recipes that call for seven different types of flour but I like to keep my approach as simple as possible and show that baked goods without gluten can be just as good, if not better, than their flour-filled counterparts.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

I actually can’t remember what my blog’s original name was! It was something that I set up years ago and was more reflective of my aim at the time to write more of a personal/lifestyle blog than a food blog. As my focus narrowed to baking, I decided to change it to something which represented that better and so London Bakes was born.

Why did you choose to blog about baking?

For the last year or so, nearly all of my recipes have been gluten free. Whilst I can tolerate gluten without any problems, I often bake for family members who have coeliac disease and I like to make sure that they can eat everything that comes out of my kitchen. The more I bake gluten free, the more I enjoy the challenge that it presents and I find it so much more interesting than regular baking.

Does blogging about baking present any particular challenges?

Gluten free flours can be temperamental so it often takes a while to get a recipe that I’m happy with and there are some recipes that I just can’t seem to get, however hard I try (a good gluten free lemon tart eludes me, for one).

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Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I have a bad habit of dropping cakes when taking them out of the oven and it’s nearly always when they’re for a specific event rather than just because I fancied baking a cake. One Saturday morning I was making a two layer chocolate cake for a family party and I dropped both layers on the floor. I’m afraid I burst into tears and went to wake my boyfriend up so he could clean up the mess while I sulked in the other room!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

I use a lot of nuts in my baking – the bottom drawer of my fridge is filled with them in various states (whole, chopped, ground) – and I couldn’t be without a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. I use it often in place of butter in my baking and love drizzling a little over vanilla ice cream.

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?

Definitely Nigel Slater. I use his book a lot and if I’m googling to find a recipe and one of his pops up, I’ll inevitably use it (and love it). He just makes the kind of food that I like to eat.

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

I’ve learnt my lesson from too many dinner parties where I’ve been stuck in the kitchen all night, trying to plate up an excessively complicated meal – now I’m much more likely to serve up something like a big lasagne with a side salad so that I can spend more time with you and less time stressing out in another room!

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

I know this is a restaurant that Kate mentioned in your interview with her but I’d have to say The Truscott Arms too. Maybe we should organise a big blogger meet up there! [sounds good to me!]

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

I’ve loved reading all the posts that you’ve written about Japan and the enthusiasm that you have for the country (and the food!) so maybe you could show me round? It’s not somewhere that I’ve ever been and I would love to go there.

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

I definitely blogged more frequently when I first started but I soon realised that wasn’t sustainable. Now I focus on getting out a post every week or so but ensuring that it’s something that I’m proud to post rather than just posting for sake of it. I hope that my photography has improved over time as well but it’s one of the parts of blogging that I most struggle with.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

For me it’s definitely balancing blogging with work/home. I’ve been travelling a lot recently with my job and I’ve had to neglect the blog a little as there’s just hasn’t been enough time to fit it in.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

I think blogging pushes me to get more adventurous in the kitchen and experiment with new ingredients and techniques. I also love the fact that having to come up with a new post forces me to think about something other than my fay job for a few hours a week.

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

I have a long and enduring love for using buckwheat flour in my kitchen – I use it for muffins, cookies, cakes, waffles, pancakes, everything really! It’s the most well-behaved flour I’ve come across and I love the slight grassy flavour that it has; it works so well with chocolate and winter spices like ginger and cinnamon.

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

I’m not sure if it’s the most popular post ever but the most popular post this year by far is these flourless salted dark chocolate cookies. They’re very easy to make but super, super chocolate-y which is all that I really want in a recipe!

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?

Maybe the plum, ginger and almond cake that I made earlier this year? I think it’s one of the absolute prettiest cakes I’ve made (although I haven’t set the bar particularly high) and it’s really delicious.

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

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

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!).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?!)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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

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