It’s been far too long since I published a Meet The Blogger interview, the series I started last year to share my favourite blogs with you and learn a little more about the bloggers behind them.
Lisa, the author of Cookwitch Creations, is one of my dearest blogging friends; we bonded over a shared love of food and quickly discovered that we share many interests.
Lisa’s food is just like she is – comforting, generous, full of warmth and love. She loves big flavours, with a particular interest in the cuisines of Cyprus, Turkey and the wider Mediterranean, and her cooking is driven by instinct and inspiration more than copying exact recipes. She is a born feeder, something her family, friends and work colleagues have all come to know and appreciate!
Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.
My little blog was started simply to have a place to put the recipes and restaurant write-ups that I’d been driving my friends on LiveJournal crazy with. My LJ was – and is – locked down, but I really love to share the things that I find tasty, in the hope that other people will find them tasty too. Finding out that one of my recipes got someone else cooking is one of the best things, ever. It still excites and gratifies me when someone tells me “Your recipes are staples in our house.” Food excites me, and I had to get that out somewhere!
Is there a story behind your blog’s name?
Cookwitch started many years ago, when we first got the internet at home, so around 1992. I wanted to use Kitchenwitch as my handle on AOL, as a friend had bought me The Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook because she says that I put magic in my food. I just loved the book.
KitchenWitch was too long for AOL, so Cookwitch I became, and I’ve been that ever since. Adding on the Creations part just seemed natural.
What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?
My Nanna Molly, whose cakes made in her 1950s yellow kitchen defied gravity and whose pastry I can never hope to replicate. She had such a deft hand for anything baked. Though her stews were also a wonder. Celery soup with parmesan will always remind me of winter days in her kitchen.
My Mum, who cooked just about everything from scratch as I was growing up, and bless her she learned about Cypriot cooking the hard way, with no help, just books and guesswork. (She’s British) Being faced with coming home and finding a gently defrosting octopus in the sink – thanks Papa – she beat it to death with a steak hammer as she thought it was still alive, then rang Dad and asked him how to cook it. There’s always a good natured tussle about who is going to cook when I stay with her in Cyprus.
What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?
Holidays in Turkish Cyprus, and the huge resurgence of interest in salads and vegetables here. Turkish food is full of such colour, and freshness, please don’t just think of kebabs. They made me love red cabbage, and I never thought I would, but now I am addicted.
Instagram is also a brilliant resource for inspiration. I sometimes go to Borough Market early in the morning, on my way to work, and the vegetable stalls are the ones that draw me in. And make me late for work…*ahem*
Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!
I cooked a leek and potato soup for my step dad when I was 15. I can’t remember what I did, but it set. Solid. Pete sliced it with a knife, and said it was lovely. We may have had to ditch the pan afterwards.
Which food or ingredients could you not live without?
Olive oil, pulses and legumes. If I have those, I am set. Yellow split peas cooked down with garlic and onions, then pureed, is one of my standbys. Very good topped with piece of lamb, or just eaten with olive oil and bread.
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?
Ottolenghi, with those scattered rainbows on his plates, full of vibrancy, and Jamie with his untidy piles of crunch/salt/sweet/tang. They never fail to make me want to cook. No more can the UK be said to be the home of Webbs Lettuce and a few stripes of salad cream. (Even though I have a fondness for that.)
Nigel Slater is the one I always come back to though. His recipes give me comfort. I am safe in the knowledge that everything he cooks works and works well, it isn’t just for show. Reading his books is, for me, like reading a letter from a friend. There is warmth and honesty there, plus a fair bit of cheekiness.
I read them all like novels. They are by my bed, by my armchair, looking like a haphazard coffee table.
If I want to go to Italy, I read Carluccio. The Middle East? Claudia Roden. Cyprus? Tonia Buxton. I’m currently reading Ottolenghi’s NOPI, Gizzi Erskine’s Healthy Appetite, Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries III and Tori Haschka’s Cut the Carbs. Yes, all at once and yes, I have cookbooks on my Kindle.
If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?
I would probably do a very slow roasted shoulder of lamb, with lots of garlic, wine and lemon, and potatoes cooked around it in the juices. 12 hours cooking for lamb was my record, and oh my it was amazing. Soft, pull apart meat with a hefty glisten of fat, and the zestiness of the lemon all mellowed to a caramel.
I would love to do stifado, but I know you don’t like cinnamon![Note from Kavey: I do like cinnamon, especially in savoury dishes; I’m not a fan of it in many desserts – it’s become over-used in recent years – but I do love cinnamon buns! Bring on the stifado!]
What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?
Finding the time to sit down and do it, and do it justice. My job is very full on, and my brain is pretty much leaking out of my ears by the end of the day. I am, sadly, an irregular blogger, but real life, as they say, gets in the way. I spend a lot of time travelling about, so the blog has suffered. I keep meaning to, and then Something Happens and I get whisked away.
What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?
Cooking: The humble cauliflower. I’ve been using it as a rice and potato substitute for the last 16 years, and I love that others are doing it now too. Plus, it’s more than just a carrier for a cheese sauce. My Dad used to make it for me, steamed and dressed while hot with olive oil and lemon. Simple, clean and fresh. I’ll often do just that for my dinner, or roast it with cumin, or ras el hanout. It’s a happy making vegetable for me. (And stir fry those leaves with garlic. Heaven!) I am so, so happy that all of the flavours of the Middle East are coming in to play now. Cypriot cooking has those flavours, they feel so familiar to me, and now they’re coming to the fore.
Eating: Figs. I used to dislike them, but suddenly, I am in love with them. The season is ending now, but oh I made the most of them while they were here. Roasted with a dressing, raw with goat cheese, baked, toasted, made into jam, made into molasses, the works.
Doing: Reading Instagram. I love connecting with people that way. Seeing snapshots of their days starting, progressing and ending. Sunday mornings are so lovely, watching everyone wake up and post their breakfasts, or their babies/toddlers discovering their favourite foods as they grow. I’m not a huge fan of the pro style photos, beautiful as they are. I like a bit of roughness around the edges. I’m a cook, not a chef.
What’s the single most popular post on your blog?
In terms of page views, it’s one about baking bread, 4684 views! Maybe because I am no bread baker, so I had to share that I could, finally, thanks to one recipe, produce a decent loaf…maybe others identified with that. I know of someone who was so happy with it, that it’s now their standby loaf.
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 would like to share this one. The world needs to know about Halloumi Pie. It’s an easy alternative to the Flaounes on GBBO, and just as delicious.
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Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.