Charles Smith from Five Euro Food

by Maureen Shaw

Charles Smith

Charles has the dreamiest voice of any blogger I’ve been privileged to listen to.  Seriously, click on his link and watch one of his videos and then tell me I’m wrong.  Dreamy.

I’ve you’ve been watching food blogs very long, you’re probaby as curious about Charles as I have been. He sort of sneaked in to my awareness. I’d see a comment from him to another blog I followed or I’d see his name on social media and one day last year I realized I’d never been over to Five Euro Food to check him out. I went and I’ve followed every post since.

Most of his food isn’t pretentious and it’s not expensive but it IS delicious and the pictures will make you hungry. I’ve tried licking the screen but it just doesn’t do the food justice. One of the things I like best about Charles the man are the wonderful comments he leaves on blogs he follows.

You don’t often see a comment of, “Nice pie,” from him. He shares a story, asks a question and definitely shows that he’s read the post and is leaving a comment because he wants to, not because that blog owner left a comment on his blog. He told me that people spend a lot of time on every blog post and they deserve to know he’s read the whole thing. I really respect that.

Aumônières de Poires Flambées, Sauce Caramel au Beurre Salé et Ganache

Aumônières de Poires Flambées, Sauce Caramel au Beurre Salé et Ganache

Charles is originally from England and went to university in France to study French literature and as he says, “other ‘exciting’ things too.” He lasted two years before deciding it really wasn’t doing it for him and he packed up and headed back to England and worked at a bank for a year or so. In 2005 he moved back to France to work at a videogame company. His claim to fame is that his name is in the credits of 5 titles which are popular around the world. He didn’t tell me which ones, though.

I wanted to know if it’s really possible to live in France and eat for five euros a day. He says it’s totally possible but not if you eat out. Even McDonalds is €7. While it’s possible to eat for €5, he agrees that it’s difficult to eat at that price and eat ethically. Vegetables are fairly inexpensive but not the organic ones. Free range eggs are twice as much as battery eggs and organic meat is up to 3 times more expensive. I know for some, any egg at all is better than one you cannot afford but as someone who used to have her own chickens, I could never eat an egg from a battery hen.

Warm Tunisian Salad by Charles Smith of Five Euro Food

Warm Tunisian Salad (Their name, not mine!) Only €1.80 per serve

If you’re okay with eating vegetables, grains, pastas, pulses and fruit, then €5 will work for you. Meat is still possible as long as you reduce the quantity you buy. For instance, Charles says a reduction in the beef from 500 grams to 250 grams will still give you the taste you want and you can bulk up the sauce with mushrooms.

He’s been cooking 3-course meals since he was about 13. As kids everywhere, his first meal was macaroni with cheese and he was only 7. He loved cooking and would often cook for his parents and their friends. He thought about a career in food but he prefers to keep it fun and do things on his own terms. Maybe one day he’ll start a catering business, he said that’s something he would love to do. He’s also exploring options of studying at some pastry schools in France.

When I asked what part of blogging he likes the most, he stirred the pot up by saying it wasn’t the cooking or photography or the blogging but the social aspect of it all. Charles loves meeting people around the world who love preparing food, smelling tomato vines, enjoying the flavour of a slice of perfectly roasted aubergine. He also loves that he’s got a huge archive of food he’s created over the past two years.

Spotted Dick by Charles Smith of FiveEuroFood.com

You didn’t think I’d leave out Spotted Dick, did you?

He’s married and I asked who does the cooking at home. It used to be that Charles did the cooking but his wife was sad that she never got a chance to play with food so now they take turns and each cooks for a week. She helps Charles with the blog by giving advice and eating the food he prepares. The best piece of advice? Proofread. Good advice for us all.

“A post which hasn’t been proofread really sticks out – typos, sentences which don’t make sense – it can sometimes make it hard to read. For me blogging is an iterative process – I’ll start a post on Monday, write some more on Tuesday, delete some and rewrite some more on Wednesday, finally post on Thursday. This disjointed method of writing isn’t conducive to good thought flow sometimes. I never used to bother proofreading and some of my posts were terrible.”

Oat Cakes by Charles Smith of Five Euro Food

I asked Charles if there was a creation that he was particularly proud of and he’s got two. One is Oat Cakes, something his mother used to make but he hated them so he managed to reproduce the oat cakes he loved from the store.

Mango and Beef Salad with Rice Noodles by Charles Smith of Five Euro Food

Mango and Beef Salad with Rice Noodles

The other thing was his beef and mango salad because it has a ton of awesome flavors bursting out.

Because his blog name is Five Euro Food, I wanted to know how many people base their meals solely on budget. I would love to say that I do but I’d be lying. I see something on a blog or in a magazine or in a cookbook and I’ve just GOT to have it. Then I go to the store and see things that look tasty and figure I’ll use it somehow and too often I don’t get time.

I’m the worst shopper. I go looking around buying all sorts of things which I think “look nice” in the belief that “I’m sure I can find a use for them”. I guess I prefer to buy so much because I hate feeling limited in the kitchen – I don’t want to make something, decide it would be fantastic with a bit of x, y or z in it, only to find I don’t have any x, y or z. The wisest people make a menu for the week, check what is already in the cupboards and then buy accordingly (my wife rocks!) – that way you don’t end up with 3 boxes of ground cumin :p

Given a choice he prefers savory over sweet. He said that his most popular post of all time was a chocolate cake. “If you throw something out there made from courgette, it’s a lot harder to get people excited.” I love his sense of humor but I must agree with him. I would choose cake over zucchini too.

Sometimes I have a great deal of difficulty with spelling. I WAS the town spelling champion when I was a kid. (okay, small town and a million years ago). Do I use eggplant or aubergine, flavor or flavour, cilantro or coriander, savory or savoury, list temperatures in Fahrenheit or Celcius – and the list goes on. I asked Charles if he feels compelled to translate for his American readers.

“Oh God yes – I was thinking of making a special page on my site just for some translations – “snow peas”, “turbinado sugar”… it makes my dainty British brain confused… don’t even get me started on cups as measurement…”

Charles isn’t good at everything in the kitchen. That surprised me because he comes across as very clever in the kitchen. The truth is, he makes a crap curry – maybe not the worst in the world but when he sees the incredible food created by Indian bloggers, he really wants to learn the proper techniques and base recipes so he can make some awesome Indian dishes.

Paris Photography by Charles Smith of FiveEuroFood.com

An Adventure to Paris by Charles Smith

There are fantastic photos on Five Euro Food. One of his passions is photography and he loves to get out and about taking photos and sharing them with us all. He’s looking forward to doing more of that because he says that when people post personal photos it gives readers something to relate to. I couldn’t agree more. I could get recipes in a cookbook so I follow blogs because I love the stories as well as the food.

He would love to do a Five Euro Cookbook one day. He says there are a lot of cookbooks out there these days and getting a publisher is nearly impossible. He might consider self-publishing. I hope he does. Imagine if he realized his dream of having a home and garden with a few chickens and wrote about his life and food.

Calissons by Charles Smith of Five Euro Food

Calissons

Since he lives in France and he loves food, I asked if he’d ever consider giving food tours there. He’d love to try it. He’s going to do more French food like the calissons and chouquettes and would like to dedicate 5 posts to a specific region in France along with photos.

I asked how he sees food blogging evolving over the next few years and he says he certainly hopes to see more men because it’s a pretty female-centric food blogosphere. Nothing wrong with that but as a guy he’d like to be able to follow more than 2 blogs by other men. He says sites like “BlogHer” don’t encourage men.

What makes a great meal in the Smith household? He made me go all ‘awww’ when he said, “A fresh salad, good baguette, glass of wine and the best dinner partner – my wife.” See? you went all ‘awww’ too, didn’t you? Women adore a man who loves his wife and says so proudly.

UPDATE:  After writing this interview last year, Charles disappeared from the net for a few weeks and we were all wondering if he was traveling for work or whether he was in Sweden visiting his wife’s family or in England visiting his family.  Well, none of that.  He showed up sporting a new baby!  He and his wife were busy delivering their first child.  What a lucky man.

Cinnamon Buns by Charles Smith from fiveeurofood.com

Kannelbullar – Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Next time I head to France I’m going to send Charles an email that says, “I’m coming over, start the cinnamon buns.” That’s what everyone asks for when the visit. Charles’ wife is from Sweden so that’s why you’ll see a sprinkling of Swedish recipes on his blog. One of his favorite chefs is Swedish Leila Lindholm along with River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Delia Smith and Gary Rhodes.

I was curious if he had any funny stories about being a Brit in France. I cracked up at this and I can see this scenario happening.

“Aside from being constantly mocked for being British and obviously having no taste in food and boiling all my meat and eating it with mint sauce, you mean? Well, one time I wanted to buy a piece of pork to make pulled pork with. The butcher could not comprehend why I would want to slow cook the meat for 10 hours. He was convinced I’d gotten confused with ham and said I could buy some “jambon” if I wanted, but I said that all I wanted to do was cook the pork with salt and spice for 10 hours… he looked at me like I was insane. I think they’re not big on slow-cooking meat here!”

Charles tries to post on his blog every 3 days. Like all of us, he was religious about it when he first started but he’s learned that the world doesn’t end if he misses a day or so. He says it’s important to keep the content fresh but not to turn blogging into a chore. I see that way too often when I read a blog post that starts out with an apology for being away. If I have to apologize it’s a job not a fun hobby.

I wondered how he gets everything done with working, blogging, cooking, photography, chores, wife, family – and all those comments he leaves for everyone. It’s a healthy dose of burning the candle at both ends, staying up way later than she should. Not only doesn’t he mind the long hours, he loves it because food and people are his passion.

He is NOT a gadget collector. He prefers to spend his money on “buy it for life” stuff like beautiful saucepans – thick, heavy copper and wonderful craftsmanship. Much more useful to him than an egg boiler or orange juicer.

What food can’t you put down?

“Hummus! Oh yeah!”

Who’s your favourite chef and why?

“I actually just bought “River Cottage: Veg” on iTunes the other day and really enjoyed watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I don’t really watch too many chefs – I appreciate a bit of Delia Smith and Gary Rhodes because they both do great things for British cookery. I like watching a Swedish cook as well, called Leila Lindholm”

Coming up on Five Euro Food, Charles will be doing cookbook reviews as well as monthly round-ups of delicious things he’s found on blogs that are in keeping with the “five euro” theme. He’s also going to be working on his photography and videos.

I always like to end with a memory recipe and here is the one Charles wants to share with us. His mother made these mince pies and he says while they’re simple, they just rock. When he was a kid there were enormous tins of them, all dusted with sugar and he’d eat until there was no tomorrow. Little sweet, delicious parcels of festiveness. “Family Christmases… it’s a really nice thing, isn’t it?” I couldn’t agree more.

Mince Pies by Charles Smith of FiveEuroFood.com

Mince Pies

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mince Pies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An English staple during the Christmas festive season.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: English
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 340g Plain Flour
  • 85g Butter
  • 85g Vegetable Shortening or Baking Margarine
  • ~4 tbsps Milk + ~4 tbsps Milk for glazing
  • Mincemeat
Instructions
  1. Start by pre-heating your oven to ~190 degrees Celsius, and then cut the butter and shortening into cubes. Add into a large bowl with the flour. Combine with your fingertips for a few minutes until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. I find the best way of doing this is to grab two large handfuls of flour and fat, press them together and rub it between your palms/fingers until it’s it’s all dropped back into the bowl and then start again.
  2. Once you reach the “breadcrumbs” stage, add the milk, a little bit at a time, mixing well in between each addition until you have a manageable dough which is still a bit crumbly but forms a good ball if pressed together. Transfer about half of the pastry to a well floured surface and start to roll out. Roll it a couple of times, and then rotate the pastry 90 degrees to ensure no sticking and even rolling. Continue rolling until the pastry is about 4mm thick. Assuming your mince pie tin has twelve slots, you’ll need one pastry cutter which is a little larger and another cutter which is slightly smaller than the slot itself. Cut twelve of the larger sizes and press the pastry discs gently into the slots, being sure to push into the corners. Place a heaped teaspoonful of Mincemeat into pastry cases and then cut 12 discs using the smaller cutter – re-rolling where necessary – and press the pastry circles gently onto the top of the mincemeat-filled cases.
  3. Brush the tops of the pies with the milk for the glaze and place into the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes, or until starting to turn a golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before popping out onto a wire rack to cool using a knife. Repeat the process for as long as you have pastry remaining.
  4. Enjoy as they are cool, or warm them gently in the oven before serving. They make an excellent accompaniment to tea, coffee, a dessert, or just a snack. Dust with icing sugar for best results and serve with cream!

If you aren’t a friend of Charles now, please visit Five Euro Food, follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. He’s just a lovely guy and you won’t be sorry. We need to be supportive of our men friends.

 

Maureen Shaw
Maureen is the owner of OrgasmicChef.com, EasyRecipePlugin.com, Fooderific.com and shares FoodWriterFriday with Helene Dsouza from MasalaHerb.com. She loves to cook and really loves to eat and entertain. She's on a quest to prove there ARE recipes better than sex. She's come close a time or two so she's still searching.
Maureen Shaw
Maureen Shaw
Maureen Shaw
Maureen Shaw

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