What a joy it is to write about my friend Amanda McInerny who travels, cooks and bakes at Lambs’ Ears and Honey. Over the past 12 months she’s gone from being a really good cook, baker and writer to one who flits around the globe as a culinary star and travel blogger.
Look at that photo to the left. That is the happiest woman I know and she instantly puts everyone she meets in their comfort zone. I met her in person at the Eat, Drink Blog 2012 food bloggers conference in Adelaide last year. She was very busy but the time and I look forward to a quiet conversation one day.
Amanda also fiercely promotes South Australian food and wine wherever she goes. She’s passionate about the region she lives in and it shows every time she puts fingers to keyboard.
Normally I send out questions and write a story around the answers and I’m breaking with tradition on this interview. Her answers to my questions make me happy and I want to share them with you. She writes from the heart and I always feel like I’m sitting across the table from her.
How far are you comfortable stretching yourself in a culinary sense? What’s the oddest thing you’ve cooked or eaten?
While I enjoy cooking, I’m terrifically lazy so my favourite approach to food is usually the easiest. I find that my most popular meals are made with lots of fresh, seasonal produce and generous amounts of herbs or spices – that seems to be all you need in many cases to boost a dish to new levels.
As far as stretching myself goes – I generally don’t. I am mortally afraid of chilli (except in very tiny amounts) and struggle to understand why anyone would want to eat something that causes such discomfort.
Food is a joy for me so I stick to what I know I will love, although last year my husband and I went to a very traditional Yum Cha restaurant in Hong Kong. The place was, crowded, chaotic and devoid of any English speakers to help us out with our selections – to this day, I have no idea what it was we ate. And perhaps that is for the best.
What’s the biggest challenge for a full time mum in producing a top quality blog like yours?
Creating the blog took me on one of the biggest learning curves of my life as I wrapped my head around formats, SEO, analytics, engagement & social media. It has all taken enormous amounts of time and energy, but has given me the perfect excuse to ignore my domestic tasks – which never held any real fascination for me in the first place.
There’s no challenge in finding inspiring food producers and their stories – there’s a ton of them out there, but the challenge to produce quality writing and to improve my photography is ongoing. There’s always room for improvement so I expect that to be the case for the rest of the life of my blog.
What’s your most memorable food event – one that makes you swoon just thinking about it?
Gawd – that’s a really tricky question! I’ve eaten so very many sublime meals in some gorgeous restaurants, but have had just as many swoony moments with things like a plate of ridiculously fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and olive oil sitting in a sunny little square in Rome, or a perfect poached egg on my own sourdough, gobbled down while in my pj’s in my kitchen, or that first cup of tea of the day – the one that gets my heart started.
You and your husband are food producers yourselves. How much time does the cattle business require of you personally?
We live in the Adelaide Hills, so enjoy a mild climate and (usually) a good rainfall which creates plenty of feed on the ground. Our cattle tend to look after themselves, mostly. We check them regularly for water or any signs of illness, but as long as they have feed they are a pretty contented lot and require very little time on a day to day basis. My husband is a professional who works in town, so has limited time . Our kids help with the stock and we have a lovely neighbor who helps my husband on weekends when the boys (we fatten steers) have to be yarded for tagging, drenching etc. We keep Black Angus who are very handsome cattle so I contribute by admiring them, taking their photos occasionally for my social media accounts and talking to them.
The Eat Drink Blog conference in Adelaide was a huge success and an event I’ll never forget. How much work did it require and would you do it again?
I’m so glad you enjoyed the conference. It was a massive undertaking and one I personally had never attempted before, but was a unique opportunity to showcase South Australian producers and product that I just couldn’t pass up. The support we received from the SA food and wine community and South Australian Tourism was brilliant and EDB3 would never have been the success it was without them.
My husband and family grumbled continuously about neglect, my son had a life-threatening medical emergency that took some time to resolve in the week before the actual conference that left me very shaken and I was completely shattered by the time the event was over but, all things considered, I was very proud of the achievement and would happily have a crack at event management again.
You’ve done public speaking, freelance writing, recipe development, event planning amongst other endeavours. What do you enjoy most apart from your blog?
As previously mentioned, I’m quite lazy and get a great deal of satisfaction from lying on the couch reading. When I’m not doing that I love to bake, and I’ve got the hips to prove it. I dread to think what will happen when the last of the kids move out and it’s just me and The Bloke left to do the eating!
How involved does your family get in your blog/food business? Are they all supportive?
My husband has been hugely supportive of this strange journey of mine. He has always encouraged me, been willing to take up the domestic slack when I’ve been traveling and has never once complained about the costs incurred when a new cookbook, camera, lens or electronic device has caught my eye. My children are teens and young adults and, as such, exist in their own exclusive universes to a certain extent. They are quite proud of what I’ve achieved and are very happy to eat my work, but struggle to contain their impatience when I place food on the table then forbid them to touch it until I’ve photographed it.
You have a wonderful conversational style to your writing – what advice would you give to a brand new food blogger/writer?
There are three things I would suggest to any aspiring writer, food or otherwise. The first would be – just do it – write. Like any craft, practice will improve your skills. We all have to start somewhere and, if you are serious about it, the more you do it, the better you will get.
Try not to copy anyone else’s voice. With application and practice you will find your own voice. Again, the more you write, the more your own style will begin to develop and show through.
Get a thesaurus – a good one.
Anything coming up you’d like us to share with everyone?
I’ve been travelling a bit of late, and will be doing more of this during the year so will be sharing some food finds and inspirational producers from further afield in the coming months – both domestically and internationally. Culinary travel is a growing field of interest and I’m excited to be sharing my experiences with my readers.
I like all of the food on Lambs’ Ears and Honey but her Dulce de Leche Ice Cream with Salted Maple Pecans is a winner for me.
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 600 mls pouring cream
- 300 mls milk
- 275 gms dulce de leche
- ½ tsp vanilla paste
- 1 good pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 170C.
- Combine the pecans, maple syrup and salt in a bowl, stir to coat thoroughly.
- Scatter on a lined baking tray and put in oven.
- Stir around to ensure even browning after 10 minutes, cook for 10 minutes more or until golden. Cool on a rack.
- Combine cream and milk in saucepan over moderate heat, bring just to the boil, then remove from heat.
- Whisk in dulce de leche, vanilla paste & salt. Pour into bowl and refrigerate until cool.
- Churn in Ice cream machine until frozen.
- Sprinkle with the pecans before serving.