Category: Interview with an expert

Ask the Expert: Lindy Smith

Lindy Smith - cake decorator extrordinaireLindy Smith is a world renowned cake decorator with a ton of books under her belt. And when I say a ton I mean A TON!! The latest Creative Colour for Cake Decorating  has won her the prestigious International Gourmand Cookbook Award.

I met Lindy at a press launch a few months back. She was doing a demonstration and the PR girl kept saying ‘Lindy has been doing this with the sugarpaste cutters’ and ‘Lindy has been doing that with the cookie shapers’ and I just stood there thinking – “that’s not THE Lindy Smith? Is it?” but it was and I couldn’t believe it. She was so down to earth – but then let’s face it all cakey people are pretty lovely (aren’t we?)

Me & Lindy

We chatted for a while and I told her about the cake Darcey requested for her 7th birthday party last year. Not one of mine, not a Darcey imaginative idea but one of Lindy’s. She wanted the whale from Lindy’s book Party animals . The girls love to pour over cake books whilst eating their morning cereal choosing what they want next year. Usually they change their minds on a daily basis but not this time. The whale was very cute and I was happy with the end result.

Whale cake

  So, never one to miss an opportunity I asked if I could interview Lindy for this here blog and she kindly said yes so here it is. Lindy  shares her passions and inspiration behind her beautiful cake designs with us.

How did you get into baking and cake decorating?

I have baked ever since I was old enough to hold a wooden spoon! I was lucky, both my mother and grandmother were keen bakers so learning to bake cakes was all part of growing up. As for cake decorating, I was inspired by my own wedding cake to take evening classes in cake decorating. I fell in love with the craft right from my very first lesson, which was how to make sugarpaste – no manufactured paste available then!! I have tried many crafts over the years but sugarcraft is the one that I love the most, it combines my love of baking, art and design and colour, what could be more perfect?

Who inspires you most in the cake decorating arena?

I have had the privilege of meeting many many talented sugarcrafters from around the globe from Brazil to Australia, Canada to Portugal.  These peoples work is amazing, but when it comes to inspiration for my own cakes I like to look to the world of art and design and beyond. I strive to be different and take influences from what I am drawn to, whether it’s a flower in my garden, a piece of wrought iron work or an elaborate wall paper.

What do you do for fun?

To de-stress and relax I like to spend time outside in my garden, cultivating colourful and scented flowers and tasty organic vegetables. My garden is where I forget all the trails and tribulations of everyday life and just concentrate on the job in hand whether its pricking out delicate seedlings or attacking an over grown bush with a pruning saw.

Lindy Smith Owl cake

owl cake detailWhere is your favourite place to go out for dinner?

Well, I recently moved house so I’m in the process of finding new places to eat out. But a place we discovered whilst house hunting and one we’ve been back to on numerous occasions for lunch is the Ludlow Kitchen. It serves amazingly tasty, local fresh food – fabulous

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

My Kenwood mixer, my old one packed up at Christmas after 25 years service and I was totally lost without it!

What’s your favorite meal?

I like to eat a wide variety of food from grilled fish to marinated venison, food that is fresh and full of flavour. I love sampling new dishes and trying new flavour combinations. But actually what I miss most when I’m working away from home is beautifully cooked fresh vegetables!

What’s your favorite dessert?

I have two favourite desserts: the fabulous sticky toffee pudding served with a really good vanilla ice-cream and the gorgeously decedent baked but gooey chocolate fondant – what a treat!

Are you a Tea or coffee drinker?

Both! If I am out I will always try and find a good local coffee shop – a real treat for me is a superbly blended cappuccino, it’s an art! I’m quite experimental when it comes to tea, in my kitchen at any one time I will have between 6 and 10 varieties of loose leaf tea ranging from say a first flush darjeeling tea to jasmine silver tip china tea. 

How long did the book take to write?

This was quite an involved book so from conception to repro took 16 months. Although I created the cakes and wrote the text over an 8 month period

Were there any major disasters when working on the book?

 No major disasters per say but I did start afresh with the peacock cake. Originally I was using much stronger colours and larger cakes but the overall effect wasn’t elegant enough so I scaled down the cake sizes and brought a fresh look to the colours – I’m thrilled with the result

What is your favourite cake design in the book?

I am really pleased with how the peacock inspired cake turned out but my favourite has to be my carved owl cake, he has such character.

Tell us about the International Gourmand Cookbook Award for Best Pastry Sweets Book in the UK.

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were started in 1995 by founder and President Edouard Cointreau, whose family have owned vineyards since 1270 and are probably best known for Cointreau liqueur and the Frapin and Remy Martin cognac brands. The awards are seen by many to be the Oscars of the food industry, so I am really thrilled to have won the Pastry Sweets category for the UK, especially as its such a large category and cake decorating only constitutes a small part 

What’s next on the Lindy Smith to do list?

 I have a lot happening this year, but I’m currently working on my next book which is being launched at the Cake international exhibition at the NEC in November. I am also in the process of finalising images and text for a Lindy Smith 2015 calender which is being produced as a licensed product – my first foray into licensing, which is all very exciting.

Creative Colour for Cake Decorating, Lindy Smith (David & Charles) available from all good booksellers or online at www.stitchcraftcreate.co.uk

Lindy Smith peacock cake Lindy Smith Peacock cake EmmaMT

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My fave baking bloggers Interview: Frugal Feeding

Frugal Feeding Blood Orange Cake
Blood Orange Cake : FrugalFeeding.com

Meet Nick from Frugal Feeding.com.Nick from FrugalFeeding His is one of the first blogs I ever started following. I remember seeing his Welsh cakes whilst sitting on a train platform heading into London wishing I was back home so I could make them immediately, melt some butter on top and devour right away! I also made his tiramisu for New years eve last year and it went down a storm.

Although the main theme for the blog is obviously frugal food that isn’t why I’ve been following him for years. It’s the amazing variety of dishes from egg fried rice to sour dough French toast. You never know what is coming next but I’ll tell you what, it always looks delicious and it’s always a really easy to follow recipe with ingredients you can find in your supermarket easily.

Nick kindly took the time to answer a few questions.

 What made you start your start your blog Frugalfeeding.com

Being a poor student and wanting to save some money while still eating well. It helped a lot and I actually started eating a lot better!

 How long have you been blogging for?

Since January 2011

How did you get into cooking and baking?

It’s always played an important role in my family – my Grandmother and Mother were/are great cooks – so it’s kind of carried on from there.

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena and why?

I can’t really narrow this down to any one person. No one person really inspires me. It’s more about the whole blogosphere, be it on Pinterest or the masses of other blogs I follow.

What’s your favorite cook/ baking blog?

Again, it’s difficult to really single one out. Whenever people ask me this I tend to choose different ones. Today it’s going to be Cooking in Sens. Written by a lovely woman called Rosemary, this blog features some wonderful food (not always or even usually frugal) and fantastic photography.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a copywriter for an organization called Localworld. So, I do things like write SEO friendly copy for businesses around the UK.

What’s the best part of blogging?

It helps me improve my writing/photography/website skills, amongst other things.

Tell me about your Blood Orange cake recipe?

This Blood Orange Cake (above) is topped with a simple cream cheese and sugar mixture. It’s divine, simple, light and delicious. You can’t really go wrong. The orange slices in the middle add a fantastic, refreshing element to the whole cake.

What’s been your most successful post?

My recipe for Mocha Mousse is by far and away my most popular recipe. It’s simple and contains a lot of chocolate – that’s the key.

What do you do for fun/ to relax?

I cycle a lot, anywhere from 30 to 130 miles in one go. We actually have a 200 mile ride planned for April, hopefully.

Are you a Tea or coffee drinker? 

Coffee. And lots of it.

 Where is your favorite place to go out to eat? 

There’s this little pub/restaurant in Bristol called no.1 Harbourside. You guessed it, it’s near the harbour and serves up some amazing seasonal food for very little money. You even get a free bowl of soup as a starter, free of charge!

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

My all-in-one stick blender. From hummus to soup and peanut butter it can accommodate any sort of blending/food processing.

(Emma here- This one is great )

What’s your fail safe dinner party dessert?

Again, my mocha mousse – you can’t really go wrong. Though tiramisu is also a good choice and it’s perhaps even simpler.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

Marmite and soft cheese spread together on toast. I don’t really know if that’s guilty, but it is amazing.

What is your best baking tip?

Be patient.

 

Big thanks to Nick for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing his amazing Blood Orange Cake recipe with us. You can find Nick at FrugalFeeding.com  Be sure to check it out and say hello.

EmmaMT

Meet the expert: Jane Curran, Editor of Feel Good Food

Jane curran FEELGOODPICJane Curran is the Editor of Feel Good Food Magazine and the Food Editor on Woman and Home. I’ve known Jane for about 10 years now. I can’t believe it’s that long but it’s true. She came to work at Woman and Home while I was on maternity leave with Beau. I was lucky enough to sit opposite her at the magazine’s offices and let me tell you as a baker sitting opposite the food editor is a GOOD thing! Apart from the fact that she would need dishes to be ‘taste tested’, she is a font of all knowledge and I used to grill her all the time! I was lucky enough to be able to interview Jane at this busy time of year.

 

How did you get into cooking and baking? 

Because my Mum could burn water and was an atrocious cook! Then I went to France when I was ten and fell in love with great food.

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena and why?

Probably Simon Hopkinson whose accuracy, attention to detail and sheer brilliance as a (former) chef and writer makes me think I can achieve anything. He also rekindles my love of classic French food. But I also admire Yotam Ottolenghi for his fabulous flavour combinations.

What’s your favorite cook/ baking book?

There are many but I love Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries  I and II. Great cook books are as much for me about the writing as they are about the food.

How did you come to be at Woman & Home / Feel Good Food ?

I had worked for the Editorial Director years before as her food editor, so when the vacancy came up she gave me a ring! We launched FGF together 6 years ago.

How long have you worked at FGF?

We launched it as a one-off magazine for Christmas 2006 and it did so well we just kept going! Now we produce six a year.

What does your job entail?

The whole package from recipe development, design concepts, photography, content and commissioning extra features such as table inspiration or gadgets. And being my own PR and marketing machine!

What’s the best part of your job?

Working as a small team to bring out the best and most beautiful magazine we can.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Anything which involves admin!

What recipe should we be making from the latest issue of FGF?

Make the cover recipe – it’s super simple, delicious and looks great – how food should be. (EmmaMT here- this recipe is will be in the very next post! Check it out)

Have you had any big baking disasters?

I did “lose” a rich and sticky chocolate cake which slid off its base to the floor on the way to the table. And failed 3 times to make a simple Victoria sponge in the test kitchen until I finally realised that a freelancer had put plain flour in the self-raising flour container…Oh and I tried to make macaroons on a boiling hot day – the humidity just made them collapse when they came out of the oven!

Will you be cooking this Christmas?

We are 12 this year and are round at my sister’s house – she has a huge table. I am doing the starter (gravadlax with home made rye soda bread), the cheese (actually that’s Harry, my husband’s job as he is the expert) and pudding (traditional Christmas pud plus a frozen chocolate and mocha parfait with salted praline). I am leaving the turkey to her!

Where’s your favorite place to go out to eat?

This does change on a regular basis but as a treat, it’s currently Trullo in Highbury which is the most fantastic Italian restaurant. We have never had a bad meal there, the staff and service are faultless – their food is what Italian food should be; the simplest but the best ingredients put together with care and love.

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

I would have to say my Santoku knife – without a great knife I just can’t chop!

What’s your favorite dinner party meal and dessert?

Hard question for such a greedy person, but possibly spaghetti alla vongole for a starter or main and a classic lemon tart with raspberries and passion fruit cream.

What’s your guilty food pleasure? 

Heinz tomato soup with loads of grated Cheddar in it – my poorly comfort food!

Are you a Tea or coffee drinker? 

Both. I am a Nespresso addict in the morning then my addiction moves on to Twining’s Earl Grey tea after 11am.

Check out Jane’s White Chocolate cheesecake recipe in the next blog post. It’s perfect for Christmas as she says!

Interview with the experts: Lucy Young

Lucy YoungI was lucky enough to interview Lucy Young a couple of weeks ago for AchicaLiving.com Lucy has been Mary Berry’s right hand girl for over 23 years, testing recipes and writing books with her, as well as writing a few of her own including Secrets From A Country Kitchen: Over 100 Contemporary Recipes for Conventional Ovens and Agas and The Secrets of Aga Cakes.

 

 

 

 

Her latest book ‘Mary Berry and Lucy Young –  At Home‘ by BBC Books, is fantastic and bursting with great ideas and as you would expect delicious cakes! Here’s how the interview went……

Baking with Lucy Young

How did you get into cooking and baking?

At 18 I went to Corden Bleu college to do training as I enjoyed cooking at home, two years later I was lucky enough to get my job with Mary Berry as her assistant.

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena?

Anyone who thinks of the person they are writing for, it is so important when writing a book to reach everyone, not be too specialized….. James Martin and Nigel Slater are wonderful

How did you come to work with Mary Berry?

I live fairly locally to Mary and my mother heard through a friend of a friend that Mary was looking for an assistant, I had completed my training and worked elsewhere for a few years and jumped at the chance when I heard …. I went for an interview at Mary’s home, that was 23 years ago and I am still working with her!

What do you do for fun/ to relax ?

At home I love gardening, my husband and I have a little Victorian house and the garden needs a lot of work so that’s the way I relax at the moment or by the sea if we get the chance to go away to Devon for the weekend, as soon as I see the sea I relax.

Where is your favorite place to go out to eat?

I love pubs, we have some great local pubs around us, which I prefer to go to than restaurants which try too hard. For tea Fortnum and Mason is divine, makes me all nostalgic and romantic !

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

Set of scales, it is so important especially when baking that the measurements are accurate.

What is the last item you bought for your home?

A wood burning stove for our kitchen its next to our little sofa so cosy too. I love buying things for our home, we have renovated our house over the past year and I love the combination of old and new, I have an 18th century French mirror next to  chrome modern station clock.

What’s your favorite meal?

Fresh in season asparagus or Beef Wellington followed by Lemon Meringue Pie

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

Guilty food pleasure would be a fresh homemade burger and chips, because I do not cook this type of food it is a guilty treat when I go to the pub.

How long did  ‘At Home’ take to write?

About a year while doing other work too, but testing and writing from start to finish is about a year.

 How do you approach a new book?

When starting a book we break the book into chapters and work our way through it together. We discuss each recipe and then have a days testing together, I then type it up for us to discuss further, we test it again making tweaks here and there. When the whole book is written and we are both happy, I send it off to the publishers and then the editing, proofs and photography start… the book comes together as if by magic by the publishers. Seeing the completed book, with colour photos the jacket and design for the first time is always very exciting, however many books we have done.

How do you test the recipes

For a new book we start from scratch, so we think what can be do with a chicken breast or new cake recipe. We get inspiration from eating out, our friends and new ingredients which are available which is fun to try new ideas.

Were there any major disasters when working on the book?

Disasters not really but we did get in a muddle with a chocolate cake, different techniques mean the ingredients react differently, 5 cakes later and the chocolate cake is perfect, but at stage 3 we were a little worried it wasn’t going to be perfect ! Mary never gives up and will get up at dawn to get a recipe perfect.

What is your favorite recipe in the book?

Red pepper and fennel pissaladiere and mini banoffi pies

(Emma here- The recipe for Lucy’s Mini Banoffee pies is coming to a cake blog near you tomorrow!)

Why is it so important to weigh your ingredients carefully?

Baking is a science so if the quantities are not accurate the cake will fail.

What is your best baking advice/tip?

Keep it simple, especially if slightly nervous about cooking, do not over challenge yourself, its only food and should be fun and enjoyable and of course follow a good recipe.

What do you always have in your store cupboard?

Tomato passata, caster sugar, self raising flour and baking powder

What should the first cake a novice baker attempts be?

A simple cake with a short cooking time…… fairy cakes or a traybake

What’s next on the Lucy Young to do list?

I work with Mary Berry pretty much full time organizing her working life, she is filming the new series of the Great British Bake Off at the moment so that is keeping us both busy. We are also doing another Mary Berry book to go with a new TV series which we will film this summer, at her home. I hope to do another book too but maybe next year, this year is a bit full already ! I just love my job and am very lucky to share it with lovely people.

Lucy Young with Mary Berry 

EmmaMT

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