It's always lovely to come across somebody who shares your passion - and there is no doubt that a passion for good food and good writing practically radiates forth from Scrumptious Blog. But it's even nicer when you meet the person behind the blog and find them to be as warm, funny, caring and interesting as their blog would lead you to believe. I was lucky enough to meet Scrumptious Blog's Juno earlier this year on a flying visit to Johannesburg and she was all these things! Although you may not be lucky enough to meet her in person, you can follow her gorgeous recipes on the blog, and find out more about her in this short interview:
1. Where are you – in South Africa or out in the wide world?
I live in Forest Town, so close to the Johannesburg Zoo that we can hear owls hooting in the morning, and the lions roaring at night. But not for much longer - we are moving to Cape Town at the end of 2009 and I am looking forward to a whoe new chapter in my cooking and eating career.
2. How long have you been blogging?
In May 2007, I was researching a magazine article (I'm a freelance writer ) about blogging and I wanted to find out how easy it was to create your own blog. It was an incredibly quick and simple process. Once I had set up a blog, which I called Salmagundi , I thought I might as well put something in it. A year later, when recipes were starting to crowd out the other posts on the blog, I started a second, off-shoot blog, entirely devoted to food and cooking. It was first called 'What's for Supper?' and some months ago I changed its named to 'Scrumptious Blog'.
3. What do you enjoy the most about food or wine blogging?
I love inventing dishes and writing about food and cooking: it's fun, interesting and a good creative outlet. In particular, I enjoy writing recipes. I am hopelessly pernickety when it comes to how recipes are worded and structured: I try to make my own ecipes accurate and concise, but at the same time entertaining and informative. It is a real challenge for me to write an original recipe in plain English that is clear enough for any beginner cook to follow with confidence, yet not so detailed that it annoys and patronises experienced cooks and foodies. Another particular joy of writing a food blog is that there are none of the normal limitations set by magazine editors: no restrictions, no word counts, no fears about offending sponsors or advertisers. I can say what I like, and bang endlessly on my drum.
4. Any downsides or frustrations?
My biggest frustration is that, because I usually cook in the late afternoons (I make an evening meal for my family every day) the light fades before I've had a chance to take good-quality photographs.
I'm also very annoyed that my ancient double oven has no knobs, and that someone (who shall remain nameless) keeps pinching the pair of pliers I use to turn the ovens on.
I used to get very frustrated about not having the right ingredients on hand to make any recipe I fancied, on impulse, but since I've bought a new, fast, brutally cold freezer, I've taken to quick-freezing virtually every flavouring ingredient I might ever need, with considerable success. I have a good supply of exotic ingredients in my freezer, including every sort of nut, spice, herb, leaf, paste, stock and sauce you can think of. Okay, there are a few ingredients that don't freeze well (bananas, cream and line-fish, for example) but anyone who tells you that frozen food is rubbish hasn't explored the possibilities of a freezer, or is just being a snob.
5. What or who are your inspirations to cook, drink and write?
My mum, Jenny Hobbs, is both a wonderful cook and an accomplished writer and novelist, and I learned the basics at her elbow. I am a devoted fan of of the cookery writers Jane Grigson, Claudia Roden, Richard Olney, Marcella Hazan, Maddhur Jaffrey, Simon Hopkinson and Elizabeth David. I don't much like TV chefs when they are cooking on camera – they always seem so terribly pleased with themselves, and they hardly ever admit it when they're ripping off other people's recipes - but I do have great admiration for those TV chefs who are thoughtful, original writers and who espouse good, fresh, non-fussy home cooking: Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Delia Smith, Rick Stein, Heston Blumenthal, Rachel Allen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver. My favourite cookbook is the
brilliant Lady Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book, by Hilary Spurling, which is a scholarly and inspiring treatise about Elizabethan food. I have also learned so much about cooking from South Africa's wonderful but largely unsung women cookery writers, who, through their magazine and newspaper articles and books over the past four decades, have inspired generations of South African cooks: Philippa Cheiffitz, Annette Kesler, Lynn Bedford Hall, Abigail Donnelly, Ina Paarman, Carmen Niehaus and the various cook-journalists who've been The Star's 'Angela Day' since 1964.
6. Where and when do you like to blog?
I usually blog in the evenings , in my home office, once homework is done and supper is cooked, using notes and photographs I've taken over the previous weekend. A glass or three of wine helps.
7. What's your signature dish or favourite wine?
I don't really have a signature dish but if I had to choose one it would be probably slow-cooked roast lamb with garlic, oregano and lemon juice, served with crunchy golden roast potatoes. Or braaied beef fillet with mashed potato, topped with rocket, lemon juice, olive oil, shaved Parmesan and flaky sea salt. I am mad - utterly besotted – about salads and vegetable soups, and make one or the other every day. I have an insatiable passion for deep-red, freshly made tomato soup, and I adore strong, salty, pungent flavours. My favourite ingredients are garlic, olive oil, lemons, cumin, cheese, plain white yoghurt, chillies, biltong, pork sausages, rare beef and all types of fresh and smoked fish. If I had my way, I would put anchovies into everything, but I'm the only person in my family who likes them.
8. What other food or wine blogs do you read?
I haven't really got round to reading other food or wine blogs, but since I've discovered the South African Food Blog Directory, I'm looking forward to connecting with other South African food bloggers.
9. Favourite restaurant?
We don't eat out a lot because we have a limited budget and no babysitter on hand (my mom and sisters inconsiderately moved from Johannesburg to the Cape and to Sydney a few years back). And, to tell the truth, I almost always end up feeling ripped off when we splurge on a good meal. I just loathe cheffy food, especially if it's dished up in a vertical stack, or with foamy sauce that looks like spit, or served on a square plate with little dribbles of sauce or frizzled twirls of this and that. For down-home, inexpensive meals, I love the pub food at my local (the Zoo Lake Bowls Club); fragrant mutton curry and crispy samoosas from Johannesburg's Oriental Plaza; and the truly sublime, faintingly good Eggs Benedict at Salvation Cafe at 44 Stanley Avenue, Auckland Park. If I were as rich as a troll, I would fly to Franschhoek every weekend to eat at Reuben's Restaurant and Bar.
10. For my last meal on this planet I would order…
Beef or venison carpaccio with rocket, shaved Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice and Maldon sea salt, then Eskort pork bangers and mashed potato with onion gravy and peas. No pud, because I don't much like sweet things – but I would die happy to finish up with a slice of creamy Gorgonzola with melba toast, a few ripe figs or grapes, and a little glass of sweet Cape dessert wine.