I met one of my favourite food bloggers Lorraine Elliott from Not Quite Nigella in Coonawarra on a food and wine road trip – it couldn’t have been more perfect. I got to eat and she told me what I was eating, why it was special and how I could try and do it at home.
Lorraine has created a huge following to her site through her yummy recipes and honest reviews. I started visiting her site for the cakes. They are ridiculous! She gives very, very good cake.
I asked her to share a little of her cuisine (and blogging) wisdom and then later she came over to my house and we cooked gnocchi (but you’ll have to wait for Part 2 for that recipe).
The Baker & Blogger.
Just some of the cookbooks in her collection.
Where did you learn to cook?
By trial and error and at the beginning, using Nigella Lawson cookbooks!
What is your favourite dish to cook?
Cakes. I love seeing smiles on people’s faces.
Does your family have a signature dish?
Yes, it’s Singapore chilli prawns (my mother’s recipe).
What is your ultimate comfort food dish?
I love baked items as I usually look for comfort food in winter. Baking food makes the place warm and smell intoxicatingly good. Or perhaps a lovely rich stew (I recently made a dark chocolate and red wine beef stew) with some celeriac or potato puree. The beef was tender and soft and the puree silky.
Talk us through a typical day for you.
I really wish there was a typical day for me! Every day is different because it’s just me doing this so it might be hanging out and cooking with the gorgeous Paula Joye in the morning and then going home and experimenting with a recipe, trying to tweak it to get it just right. Or I could have meetings or phone calls with sponsors or I could be on the way to the airport to explore a region of Australia or a country overseas that is doing wonderful things with food.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Just being out and about provides inspiration but often produce is inspiring. I’ll want to create a recipe around a particular item.
Who is your cooking hero?
The Business Of Blogging.
A sneak peek inside her home.
How did your blog ‘Not Quite Nigella’ begin?
It actually began as an accident and was really just meant to be a hobby. I wanted to relieve the boredom of a dull corporate job in advertising. My husband thought that a blog might allow me to be creative and do something interesting and new. This was about five years ago when blogs were quite new so we were all feeling our way around things.
How long did it take before you started to get a loyal following?
I didn’t look at my stats for the first six months and one day my husband did. He asked me how many readers I thought I had and I guessed about 20 or 30 and he told me it was 30,000. I was shocked!
What was the best lesson you have learnt along the way?
To value yourself. With blogging, there are so many people and companies that ask you to do things for them and you really should try to be selective.
What are your top 3 do’s and don’ts for blogging?
- Be yourself
- Think of your readers foremost
- Understand that a blog is different from other mediums and make the most of it
- Accept ad or sponsorship deals that aren’t right for you and your blog
- Think short term
- Write for free -it devalues the whole industry
What has been your most popular recipe on your blog?
Haha, my bacon jam is notorious! It’s one of those recipes that people initially turned their nose up at but it honestly is delicious. If you like bacon and maple syrup with your pancakes or pork with apple sauce then it has a similar flavour profile.
Top Cooking Tips.
What kitchen implements should everyone own?
I love my cordless mini food chopper from Braun which has an immersion stick for soups which I have used a lot this winter. I also have a spatula fetish it seems and have three containers with kitchen implements and spatulas seem to feature highly. A good whisk, a microplane grater (fine and coarse), a range of mixing bowls, a stand mixer (I use both a Breville and a Kitchenaid), baking tins, measuring spoons, chopping boards and a stocked pantry.
What are the top ten ingredients everyone should have on hand in their fridge?
Ooh an interesting question! I had to look in my fridge for this.
5. Nuts (I keep 3-5 types in the fridge)
6. Sauces and spreads (mayonnaise, jams, tomato sauce, bbq sauce, dressings)
Inside her pantry.
How can a cooking novice build their kitchen confidence?
I’d suggest starting on easy items from trusted and trialed recipe sources. Failures are inevitable but if you have them early when you start cooking, they can hurt your cooking confidence.
Also having your “mise en place” or ingredients chopped and prepared always seems to make things go much smoother and avoids any panic -I know this from first hand experience!
Best tip for throwing a dinner party?
I’d suggest making things that don’t require you to be in the kitchen while everyone is talking in another room. Usually dessert is easy for this (or just put out a lovely cheese platter). Entrees can be a cold salad or a soup warmed up and mains can be things that you put in the oven as guests are there. Also people take their cues from the host and/or hostess and if you are stressed, guests won’t relax. At my first dinner party, I was stressed and spent most of the time in the kitchen and vowed that wouldn’t happen again.
The LifeStyled List.
Tea or Coffee? Tea.
Favourite Flower? Freesias or gardenias for smell, Arum lilies or peonies for look (can you tell that I love flowers?).
Heels or Flats? Heels.
Style Crush? Morticia Addams.
Favourite City? Rome.
Reading… The Fifty Shades trilogy.
Listening… Snow Patrol.
Wearing… High heeled boots.
I need… rest and sleep.
I want… a spa day.
The Rainbow Cake.
I know what you’re thinking. Where is the recipe for that cake in the first picture? Just look at this thing. I mean…. I’m going to give it a try but maybe one of you will beat me to it.
19 oz or (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
1 cup granulated or caster sugar
7 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups (400g) sifted cake flour (to make cake flour, place 2 tablespoons cornflour in a 2 cup measuring cup and top fill up the rest with plain flour)
2 teaspoons (10g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
Food colouring gels in: Royal Blue, Violet, Sky Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red
Fondant in the colours of your choice
Mini white marshmallows
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the centre. Butter and line a 21cm round springform pan. Weigh the bowl of your electric mixer and record the weight-this is important.
2. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well-it may look curdled but it’s ok, it will come together once you add the flour. Then add the vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture and baking powder at low speed until just combined.
3. Now comes the tricky part. Get your food colouring and get 7 bowls or containers. Figure out how much your batter weighs. To do this, you weigh the bowl with the batter and subtract the weight of the bowl that you recorded. Mine weighed about 2 kgs. Divide into seven which was just less than 300grams per container. The last colour that you put in will dominate so gradually put a little less for the last colour (which for me was red). I started with 280grams for the Royal Blue and ended up with about 220grams for the red.
4. Take your lined pan. place a circle of the Royal Blue batter in a circle shape. Then in the centre of this place another circle of batter in the Violet. Keep doing this with the rest of the colours until you reach the last colour, red. My dough was a bit too thick so I pressed it down with a sheet of parchment so that it reached the sides. Place it in the oven, being careful not to tip the tin sideways.
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then cool.
The Vanilla Buttercream
125g butter, soft at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1. Beat butter in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Gradually add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time along with the milk to help it bind. Beat for about 5 minutes on medium to high speed. Add vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Spread onto cooled cake.
1. Roll each fondant colour into a long sausage shape and then flatten out with a small rolling pin. With a sharp paring knife or a pizza cutter, trim it to make a rainbow shape and place on cake.
For pictures and Lorraine’s explanations CLICK HERE