What can we expect from your new cookbook, A Year in My Real Food Kitchen?
It showcases how I cook and highlights beautiful produce available in different seasons. In a time of all-year-round growing with hydroponics and glasshouses, it’s easy to forget that each fruit and vegetable has its own time when it’s at its prime, as nature intended.
Yes, you can buy a peach in the middle of winter, (a far cry from my childhood memories of peaches eaten in the summer sun with juice dripping down my face…) but if you knew how far that peach had travelled, how much pesticide residue sat on its skin and the amount of radiation it’s had,
you’d probably step away from it rather quickly!
Who inspires you the most with your cooking?
First and foremost, my parents. When I was growing up, they had a big fruit and vegetable garden in Raglan. They are from the era of living off the land; that was their main motivation. I call them total hippies. In Raglan there have always been alternative families but we were definitely a minority.
My parents grew pretty much all of what we ate and sold any excess produce to the Raglan fruit and veggie store. They would also make veggie boxes for locals who needed food. We had sweet corn, potatoes, strawberries... My siblings and I would sit with Mum and Dad in the garden and feast on raw corn off the cob.
You worked as a chef for eight years before having children. What drove you to create your food blog, My Darling Lemon Thyme in 2010?
I borrowed American chef Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Cooking from the Raglan Public Library and discovered her website, 101 Cookbooks, which inspired me to start my blog. I didn’t know of any other New Zealand food bloggers then.
My blog is a place to share gluten-free, vegetarian and real food recipes, as well as stories and tips on organic gardening. In April 2014, my first cookbook, My Darling Lemon Thyme: recipes from my real food kitchen was published with Harper Collins.
I wanted my first book to be set out in seasons but didn’t want the simple little things, like drinks and breakfasts to get lost, so instead I chose to arrange the recipes by meal times.
In it I shared why I eat like this and provided an in-depth look at all the different ingredients that grace my pantry shelves.
What prompted you to lead a gluten- and diary-free lifestyle?
When my children came along, allergy tests revealed gluten and dairy to be a problem for not only them, but for me as well. My daughter Ada, now 9, wasn’t sleeping and would cry in pain. It took us years to pinpoint the problem and we didn’t find the culprit until my son Kye was born two years later. When I first changed our diets, it was hard but I wouldn’t go back now.
Your blog and cookbooks have received international success and you’ve even had a recipe feature on Oprah’s website. What are some of your biggest ‘pinch me’ moments?
Heidi Swanson, who inspired me to start my blog, listed it as one of her favourites. I ran around the house screaming; I was so excited. Another was winning the Best Original Recipes Category in the 2014 Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards.
What’s the process of creating a cookbook?
I worked on my new cookbook over six months and love that Harper Collins gave me free range. I take all my own photos and style everything myself. I chug away at home making recipes during the day and edit at night.
In this edition of AA Directions we focus on the importance of family ties. You’ve just moved back to Raglan after five years living in Perth, why did you come home?
You just can’t beat the lifestyle here. I’m not a city person. I love how the beach is on our doorstep; we don’t have to drive half an hour on a motorway. And I love how the kids can go barefoot. It’s home here.
Reported for our AA Directions Autumn 2017 issue