What can I say about Lorraine Elliott that most people in Australia and many parts of the world don’t already know? She’s the busiest food writer I’ve ever known. Follow her blog at NotQuiteNigella.com and you’ll instantly see what I mean. She adds a new post every day — well before I get up. One day it’s a beautiful cookie that looks like her mother’s embroidery and then the next day it’s a post about a recent restaurant visit or a special feature about a product or where to buy specialty produce.
Not Quite Nigella is the most popular food blog in Australia and it’s for good reason. (Lorraine is the Pioneer Woman of Australia minus the ranch, the kids and the cattle. She does have the hat.) With over 190,000 monthly readers and nearly 400,000 page views, it’s no surprise that Lorraine has a book coming out this year by Penguin Books — a memoir of the adventures of her blog. I don’t know what the title is yet but I’m sure I’m going to be one of the first to buy it.
Back in 2007 she was an advertising media strategist who was coaxed into creating a blog by family and friends. In January of 2009 she went full time with her food writing and aren’t we glad she did.
Our friendship began slowly. The more I visited her blog, the more I felt I knew who she was and not only Not Quite Nigella. Through her writing I swear I could meet her, Mr. NQN, Queen Viv and Miss America at any restaurant and fit right in with all four. They seem like old friends and not every food writer can do that.
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 them all. 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 blogging full time and who taught her to cook. I love 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 to 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 the blog was called Not Quite Nigella was because Nigella, through her cookbooks, taught me how to cook.”
When I asked her what part of her blog she enjoyed the most – the writing, the photography or the cooking, she couldn’t choose just one. She enjoys all three parts because they are all creative but in different ways.
Guess who she would most like to have dinner with? If you’d given me a list of 100 names I wouldn’t have guessed any of these 5, but they all make sense when you read her blog. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall next to that table?
Sacha Baron Cohen
As I was reading through Lorraine’s reply to my questions, my husband came to my office and said, “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.”
He rolled his eyes and 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 think, “geez, she must stop everything and 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 is about the food memories they have. What foods do you eat that trigger the best memories? When Lorraine was young she was often unwell and her mother prepared this congee for her, the chicken soup of Asia, and it’s something she still loves today. Who doesn’t love chicken soup in the winter or when they’re not feeling 100%?
Doesn’t that look great? I feel better just for looking at the photo. Click over to Lorraine’s post about her Congee recipe. I’ve added her recipe below but not all her clever comments. 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
- 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
- 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 favourite condiments.
Lorraine and her food apathetic husband, Mr NQN, live in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia with her collection of 140 pairs of shoes. You can follow her on Twitter @notquitenigella. I look forward to meeting her in person one day.