Nope, not mine, but a new recipe book I was involved in testing a couple of recipes for way back when, is now finally out in print! (Or actually, was out in print on the 22nd May, but I had to wait for mine to cross oceans and continents to get to me 🙂 ) May I present…….. Recipes from Brixton Village! A book of recipes compiled from, and inspired by, the flavours and traders of Brixton Village. Available from all good bookshops, online here, and of course in Brixton Village! Doesn’t it look awesome! While some recipes are some that, particularly as a vegetarian, I can pass on – Cow Foot Soup anyone? I can’t deny that they are all part of the personality and atmosphere of the area, reminding me very much of wandering through St Paul’s in Bristol when it is carnival time! So, here’s little bit of background for you, Miss South (along with her brother, Mr North) blogs at NorthSouthFood.com, among other things, and to quote her bio: “Miss South lives in South West London, and has the world at her fingertips due to the global range of her local market and the city beyond. Her grocery budget is small enough to be found only with a magnifying glass, but she has all the time in the world to dedicate to cooking and eating, as well as exploring the breadth of places to eat out in South London. She’s becoming addicted to baking and offal, though rarely at the same time…” I got involved in testing in a kind of strange way, we were both part of a group of foodies on Facebook (where we could share pictures and links etc. without annoying other people who don’t appreciate lots of random food pics in their feeds!). The lovely Miss South asked for volunteers to test some recipes, and of course I pretty much instantly called dibs on cake 🙂 Now of course the book is finally out, and culinary greatness awaits, so I thought I would take the opportunity to put to her a few questions (with assistance from my lovely Rivka, who is much better with words and thinking up these things than I am 🙂 )
What made you decide to start a blog, and how did it come to be a collaboration between yourself and your brother?
I’d love to say I had this masterplan about blogging and brought my brother along for the ride, but it wasn’t my idea at all. My brother came up with the idea of a food blog as a way to chat to each other about what we were up to the kitchen as it was all we ever talked about on the phone and I thought why not? Having grown up together, but then lived apart for a long time, we thought it would be fun to see how much we had in common! He came up with the names too after some brainstorming!
You and your brother talk about the north/south divide between foods on the blog. What is the divide? Is it cultural or is it the flavours and techniques? Is there an actual border or is it just that the local food is so different for each of them?
I think of some the divide comes from the north still having a strong rural community like where Mister North lives compared to the south east of England especially. For me the south is trying to shake off its old fashioned dishes and try new modern stuff like a teenager finding its feet in the adult world. The north seems more comfortable with its identity and ingredients and has its own straightforward path which is less fashion led. It’s hard for me to tell as a Northern Irish incomer to England though and I’ve become fascinated by regional cooking of all kinds in the British Isles since starting blogging.
You makes a lot of fusion food – which cultures does you think blend particularly well? Do you have a particular favourite food or cuisine that you just can’t resist?
I think the more I cook, the more I think all food is fusion really. Mister North made black peas recently which are popular around Rochdale. Turns out they are very closely related to the pigeon pea which is eaten widely in the Caribbean. Most dishes and ingredients have a cousin in another country and it seems natural for me to keep mixing Irish and Caribbean or English and African things as a cook. I have an inability to pass up starchy veg or seafood when I’m cooking. Both are so versatile.
How do you strike a good balance between buying fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and not overspending on the budget?
It took me a long time to get it right and the way I manage it is to know when to shop where. Sometimes the market makes sense. I got asparagus for £1.50 a big bunch yesterday and cherries for £1.50 a pound. But a bag of porridge oats was nearly £3. Popping into a supermarket reduced that to under £1. It’s time consuming and requires a constant list about my person. I had to learn when to vary that list to fit the seasons or offers. I have a core of ingredients and dishes I use that means I rarely make total impulse purchases but have enough variation not to get bored. I also have to admit I’m not that fussed about local stuff. I’ll buy British where I can, but nothing’s that local to Brixton in the same way Mister North can do in West Yorkshire.
Do you have any tips for families with fussy children, who want to eat more healthily, but struggle to win over the children?
I’m childless and most of my experience of feeding kids comes from being the nice lady who gives her friends’ kids things like their first chip or marshmallow, but the one thing I do notice is how kids love to be involved in decisions about food. That doesn’t mean giving them jam sandwiches or pizza everytime they ask, but asking them how much of a portion they’d like to eat or to help you prepare the food. Something as simple as cooking broccoli a different way or cutting carrots in sticks not rounds can make kids keener on them. Let kids stir or break an egg for pancakes or that kind of thing. And if they have one or two things they really hate, don’t make them eat it. No one likes every single food, taste or texture in the world!
Is there a dish that’s particularly close to your heart?
I love to make soda bread. I feel like it connects me to the women in my family and it tastes of my childhood. It’s also very easy and cheap and disproportionately impresses people!
Did you grow up in a family that loves to cook, or did you come to it later in life through other means? Have you ever done any formal training or is it grass roots cooking?
My family are all good cooks and both parents cooked when I was a kid. Food was important generally. I was however an abysmal cook in my teens. I was vegetarian and rebelled by not being very interested in what I ate. There was a lot of toast and dry cereal. My interest in cooking was sparked by watching daytime TV cooking shows in my late teens and thinking ‘I could do that.’ Apart from the odd Home Economics lessons at school, I’ve never had any training at all. I’m a home cook through and through.
What’s your vision for the future? You now have the blog and the cookbook. Are there plans for world domination on the horizon?
I have a second book coming out in November 2014. It’s my first recipe book giving 200 ideas for the slow cooker. I love mine as it’s a great way to cook with a minimum of fuss and effort, but I wanted to show you can still make it tasty. I’m also involved in blogging for the Brixton Blog and Bugle and some new magazine projects. I’d love to write another book and I’m plotting a few ideas as I go. Food writing is becoming my job and it’s the best one I’ve ever had!
There are a lot of people still raised in families with only traditional ‘British’ cooking who want to expand their horizons. Sometimes it can be a little daunting to not know anything of flavours or ingredients. Would you have any advice, or know of any good resources, for people wanting to be a little bit more adventurous with their eating?
I’d say start small. It could be something as simple as putting some chilli with your eggs for the first time rather than buying everything in the world food section and then staring at it blankly. Use some of the food sites like BBC Good Food and their ‘3 ingredients’ search to get an idea of what else goes with things you usually buy. Food blogs are also a great way of learning more as they tend to be easily searchable and quite specialist. I also like to wander the aisles of supermarkets and see what they are selling in their ready made food and get inspiration from that. They aren’t going to put all that effort into creating those things unless the combos work at a basic level. You can make them fresher and less sugary at home usually once you have the idea.
If you could try one food or restaurant in the world, regardless of cost, what would it be?
This question was the most difficult for me to answer. I enjoy eating out when I can but restaurant cooking interests me less than home cooking. I think the thing I’d really like to try is proper Southern and soul food cooking from America. Its fascinated me for a long time and I worry it’s being replaced by the dude food trends for burgers and pulled pork or generic fast food. I think I’m brave enough to try chitterlings…
Thanks, and Congrats Miss South!