Let’s Talk: An Interview with Moi

A few weeks ago, the lovely Ann from Grubbs n Critters interviewed me and posed some interesting questions. The premise was a more in-depth take, apart from what’s on my ‘About’ page. Check out Ann’s full post here, but for now, here are her questions and my obliging answers:

1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself..outside what you have written from your about page.

I studied Marketing & Business Management at university and my first full-time job was at an online trading company. Snooze. I then, after a few years, ended up (purely by chance) doing QA and testing for a company that builds and maintains websites. I was quite amazed at how much I loved my job. Being a perfectionist definitely helped! I never thought I would do anything IT-related but I was in my element! Another thing I never thought I would do: enjoy cooking! Those were two huge things that happened within the same year and those experiences really opened my mind (and stomach) to trying new things. It was pretty cool, unexpected and rewarding, and completely serendipitous.

2. What are your cooking inspirations? A famous chef, your mom, a cookbook or a blog…?

Honestly, I needed a hobby and wanted a challenge and in no way did I ever think I would succeed at cooking. There were no books or movies or TV shows that inspired me. I simply decided to challenge myself to do something I thought I couldn’t. However, I would say, in terms of people who influenced my cooking once I got started, my gran was a key inspiration. She was a master at the craft and my happiest childhood memories are of all of us doing the traditional Sunday lunch roast at my grandparents’ house. She did very traditional meals, which were my focus for quite some time when I started cooking, and that provided a very solid basis. I’m definitely more adventurous though and like to push my boundaries.

In terms of chefs, although Gordon Ramsay looks like a bit of an ass and I don’t watch any of his TV shows, I really enjoy his recipes. Jamie Oliver is someone whose books I actually buy – a rare occurrence because I mostly Google recipes. You also can’t go wrong with Nigella and Ina Garten. (Ann: Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Nigella…my favourite inspiration too! That’s kindred spirit!)

3. What inspired you to start  your blog? And how did you end up with Eat, Play, Clove?

It’s pretty simple. I love cooking and I love talking and writing, so I decided to parlay them into a cooking blog. The reason I started my blog is because I sucked balls when I started cooking and I followed online recipes to a T, even better if they had pictures, so I thought I would share my recipes and take pictures of every step in case there are some newbs out there who need visual assistance!

4. Name your 3 favourite bloggers and can you explain why they are your favourites?

Three of my favourite bloggers are you (Ann: awwww! Thank you, Gen!), Sally’s Baking Addiction and Jane’s Patisserie. Yummly is a cool site too. I love learning and getting inspiration for new recipes. With yours, it’s so interesting to me to see how you incorporate the different cultures in cooking. It’s also enlightening learning about your culture, watching you find a balance between working your ass off, cooking, being a mom and wife, travelling AND blogging regularly. Wow, I’m tired just thinking about it.

Sally’s Baking Addiction – she makes the most amazing sweet stuff and  takes incredible photos, which is something I’m pretty useless at. I’ve recently discovered Jane’s Patisserie – that girl knows how to bake! Yummly has the yummiest recipes too. (Ann: I couldn’t agree more. Yummly is an awesome resource!)

5. What’s the one kitchen tool you cannot live without and what’s your biggest failure in the kitchen?

Oh, that is such a good question! My dishwasher is right up there. It saves so much time and I can do my nails and not have them chip from washing dishes (priorities!). My food processor is a thing of beauty and again, saves so much time and effort (I’m a bit lazy, I think you can see this). Also, my very sharp knife. I would almost rather have a good knife than a dishwasher. Almost.

My biggest failure was a roast lamb I made about 13 years ago. The Husband had a convection microwave when we met so I decided to do a roast and, instead of just cooking it in oven mode, I also microwaved it on high for about 1.5 hours. When I took it out, it was smoking and literally shattered. It was like a large piece of coal. He still rips me off about it to this day. At that point I decided I was terrible at cooking (because I was!) so I had a mental block against it.

6. You have lived your life in South Africa, to most of us, it’s synonymous with “safari” and nature”. What else are there, what’s unique about it, dos and don’ts?

Apart from an abundance of mountains, deserts, oceans and wildlife, there is wine. Lots of wine. It’s an incredibly beautiful country packed with diversity. We’re pretty into mining here and export a lot of fruit. The sunsets are magnificent.

Do – go on safari, take the cable car up Table Mountain, visit our many beautiful beaches and explore our wine farms. Eat lots of fresh fish, steak and try the babotie – a traditional Cape Malay dish.

Don’t – drive around with your doors unlocked, feed the wild animals or expect a fast-paced life. We’re super chill in coastal towns and cities.

7. Cooking or baking? If there are 3 recipes from your blog you think readers should try, which would you recommend and why?

Crap. I’m very indecisive. I’m better at cooking but I love baking, although I need to work on my presentation, but baby steps! Three recipes I recommend are:

Baked camembert in phyllo – cheese, butter and phyllo. Heaven! It’s an excellent starter and pretty easy to do.

Tomato bredie – it’s a traditional South African dish and you can use beef or lamb. You can make it the day before because it gets better the longer it stands, so it’s convenient too. It feeds quite a few people and it’s a one-dish meal.

Baked vanilla cheesecake or cupcakes, any kind, although red velvet is my favourite. The cheesecake is vanilla-y and I’m obsessed with vanilla and will find any excuse to use vanilla beans. The red velvet is a mild, incredibly smooth chocolate cupcake but with a hint of vanilla too, and my preference for any cupcake, regardless of flavour, is vanilla cream cheese frosting.

I interviewed Ann in return, and you can find it here. If you have a fast-paced life and time is a precious commodity, I highly recommend reading this interview with a mom of two who works crazy hours, runs a home and still finds time to cook amazing meals and be consistent in her blogging!

 

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Baked Camembert in Phyllo Pastry

This dish is perfection, if I may say so myself. And I just did. I’m not joking when I say your guests will be talking about it for months, if not years, to come. I have friends who are still talking about it, three years later. The beauty of this recipe is, well, absolutely everything but I will be more specific.

Gooey, creamy camembert wrapped in crispy, buttery phyllo pastry accompanied by sweet cranberry sauce. It literally melts in your mouth. Three ingredients, that’s it. A few minutes to prepare and 12 – 15 minutes in the oven. Winner, winner, winner. It’s not complicated. In fact it’s almost too easy. I have a good friend who is a very fussy eater. She does not do cheese. Like, ever. I made this recipe a few years ago and she relented after hearing the “ooohs” and “aahs”. She has subsequently converted. She still doesn’t eat cheese, with this exception.

It’s the perfect starter because it’s quick and delicious. You can prepare it ahead and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake it but I’d suggest doing it fresh.

It only takes these three ingredients plus cranberry sauce for serving

It only takes these three ingredients plus cranberry sauce for serving

Baked Camembert in Phyllo Pastry

Servings: 4     Prep time: 10 minutes     Cooking time: 12 – 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 wheels camembert, halved
  • 6 sheets phyllo pastry
  • 1 cup melted better
  • Cranberry sauce

Method:

Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F).

Cut the camembert in half. You’re going to use three sheets per whole camembert, with those sheets then halved for both half wheels of cheese.

Melt the butter and lay one sheet of phyllo pastry on the counter. Paint the sheet with butter, drizzling butter across the sheet and then using a brush to paint it. I use my turkey baster and it works really well but you can drizzle the butter across the phyllo and then use a brush to spread it, making sure you cover the entirety of each sheet. Lay a second piece of phyllo on top of the first and repeat the process until you’ve painted three layers. Cut the phyllo down the middle by gliding a sharp knife down the centre, vertically.

Place one half of camembert in the bottom of the phyllo sheets and roll up, folding over each time. Tuck the sides of the phyllo under the parcel and paint the top and bottom with more butter.

Place half the camembert wheel on the phyllo and wrap it up

Place half the camembert wheel on the phyllo and wrap it up

Once the camembert is tucked into the phyllo pastry, fold over

Once the camembert is tucked into the phyllo pastry, fold over

Place in a roasting tray and bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve with cranberry sauce.

Creamy, buttery baked camembert with cranberry sauce. It will melt in your mouth!

Creamy, buttery baked camembert with cranberry sauce. It will melt in your mouth!