Last year I was honored to interview the charming and talented Lorraine Elliot from Not Quite Nigella. She’s the busiest food writer ever known to mankind. Check out her blog NotQuiteNigella.com and you’ll quickly understand what is meant. She adds a new post every day — well before any of us is up! One day it’s a beautiful cookie resembling her mother’s embroidery and then the next day it’s a massive detailed post about a recent restaurant visit or a super special feature about a product or a useful article on where to buy quality produce.
Not Quite Nigella is the most famous and popular food blog in Australia and that’s for a good reason. (Lorraine Elliott is the Pioneer Woman of Australia minus the ranch, the kids and the cattle, however she does have the hat.) With over 200,000 monthly readers and nearly 400,000 page views, it’s no surprise that Lorraine has been planning a book release this year with Penguin Books — a memoir of the adventures of her blog. The title is still a huge surprise and we are all awaiting it impatiently so that we can be one of the firsts to get a hand on it.
Back in 2007 she was working as an advertising media strategist, but fate and her family had other things in mind with her and her kin coaxed her into creating a blog. To our joy and luck she turned into a full time writer in January 2009.
Our friendship progressed in a slow but sure pace and the more I visited her blog, the more I felt I knew who she was, not just Not Quite Nigella. Her writing style takes a reader on a journey and I swear that as a reader I was able to imagine meeting, Mr. NQN, Queen Viv and Miss America in any restaurant and I would fit right into the fun round. They seem like old friends and not every food writer can sound so convincing.
Check out this post about Mulligans Psychic Thursdays and you’ll see what I mean about Lorraine’s writing style and how I’ve come to care about all the characters. They also eat at the most amazing and interesting places!
Then one day she visited MY blog AND she left a comment.
I asked her how she got from the corporate world into writing full time and I was wondering who had taught her to cook. I just loved her answer!
“I think my background in advertising helped me understand brands and where they sit in the marketplace. Although I’m the first to tell you that I have no food experience or journalistic experience (I don’t think the year 10 Journalism certificate was going to get me very far 😉 ). I think I approach things as an enthusiastic home cook.
I’m a perfectionist and if I have my name on something I need to make sure that it is as good as I can do it. Although thankfully not everything takes 4 goes-a lot of things work out in the first or second attempt. Also I get quite cranky when I try a recipe from a cookbook and it doesn’t work out. And the reason why I called the blog Not Quite Nigella was because Nigella, through her cookbooks, taught me how to cook.”
When I asked her what part of her blog “work” she enjoyed the most – the writing, the photography or the cooking, she couldn’t choose just one. She enjoys all three of them simply because they are all creative but in different ways.
Guess with whom she would love to have dinner with? If you’d given me a list of 100 names I wouldn’t have guessed any of these 5, and they all make sense if know her blog. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall next to that table?
Sacha Baron Cohen
While I was reading through Lorraine’s reply to my questions, my husband came into my office and asked, “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing!” I replied.
“Why are you yelling?”
“I wasn’t yelling. I was saying YAY! Lorraine doesn’t clean as she goes, she’s a cook like me.”
I saw him rolling his eyes and he said, “ok, dear,” and walked back to his office. It’s probably a good thing that he loves me. Seriously, I look at the photos that Lorraine takes and I think, “geez, she must be taking a break and take the time to clean up and then start again to get those photos.” But she doesn’t, she does it like me, only better – she cleans up the spot she needs to photograph and then when she’s all done she hoses down the kitchen. (Okay, she didn’t tell me that she hoses down the kitchen after cooking, I might be a tad bit messier than she is.)
As you probably know, one of the things that interest me the most about food writers and anyone who eats are the food memories behind each person. What foods trigger the best memories in your mind? As a child Lorraine was often unwell and her mother used to prepare this congee for her, the chicken soup of Asia, and it’s something she still loves nowadays. Who doesn’t love chicken soup in the winter or when they’re not feeling to well?
Doesn’t the congee look amazing? I feel better just by looking at the photo. Click over to Lorraine’s post to find her Congee recipe. I’ve added her recipe below but her clever comments are missing here. From Lorraine about congee:
“For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a soupy rice porridge into which other ingredients are added like egg omelette, mince, meat, eggs, fried bread sticks, shredded BBQ chicken as well as soy and ginger. It’s whatever you really fancy and I can imagine many a mum found it useful as that meant she could add whatever she wanted into it.”
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 10 cup chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)
- a little salt
- Peanut oil
- 315g minced pork or lean beef (or choose fish etc.)
- 1 cup spring onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup water chestnuts (available frozen or in can at Asian shop), finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- Condiments: (optional add what you like)
- Bowls of spring onion
- small bowl of sweet cucumber (char gwar)
- small bowl of sichuan preserved vegetables
- small bowl of finely shredded ginger
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- Or things like preserved eggs etc.
- Dark soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil OR
- I had on hand: sliced spring onion, a Hainanese chicken rice seasoning of ginger and sesame oil, Tofu cubes, fried gluten balls, sweet potato cookies, stir fried chicken, Lup Cheong (chinese pork sausage), stir fried eggplant and stir fried capsicum. I usually add an omelette too sliced into strips but didn’t have time. I had hungry people to feed!
- Wash the rice. Drain off water. Work in a bit of salt and peanut oil with your fingers or a spoon. Stand for 1 hour.
- Bring the stock to boil. Add rice, stirring until it comes back to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours. I stopped here as I was making it for vegetarians.
- Beat in the mince (or you can make little pork or beef balls). Cook until the meat is done.
- Adjust salt to taste.
- Ladle into serving bowls. Each person adds their own favorite condiments.
Lorraine and her food apathetic husband, Mr NQN, live in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia with her collection of over 140 pairs of shoes. You can follow her on Twitter @notquitenigella. I am looking forward to meet her in person one fine day.