It takes a special sort of person to make chocolate and chickpeas sound like natural partners. Nicola Galloway – chef, author, gardener, mother and general all-round good egg – is that person.

Nicola’s lovely blog, Homegrown Kitchen, has just turned two. Here’s how – and why – she manages to fit writing it into a very full life.

What’s Homegrown Kitchen about?
Seasonal & wholesome recipes and the occasional homemade craft. I think the word ‘homegrown’ encompasses many things, partly it is about cooking with food we grow in our garden, but it is also about keeping things simple, eating local where possible, making food from scratch, getting back to the basics.

When did you start it? Why?
Almost exactly two years ago. I already had a website with recipes from my cookbook, Feeding Little Tummies, and other seasonal recipes but it didn’t have much energy or rhythm to it. I was wondering how to make it more interactive and around the same time was introduced to food blogging. It was quite a new thing in New Zealand at the time and it has taken a while for people to catch on. However, I really like the interaction and regularity blogging adds to my week and my writing and photography skills have improved immensely.

What’s your day job? What else do you do?
I am a food writer for several magazines, and author, and I run cooking workshops in Nelson and around New Zealand. I am also a Mum to two young children so most days I am juggling work and family life.

30-minute pad thai (photo: Nicola Galloway/Homegrown Kitchen)

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
I am a trained chef [dip, professional cookery 1999]. I travelled and worked as a chef for about five years before changing direction into food writing and running cooking workshops.

Who’s your food hero?
My Nana taught me to cook and will always be my no.1 food hero. I also love Nigel Slater’s rustic cooking style, and Sandor Elli Katz and Sally Fallon give me regular inspiration from their exceptionally researched and thorough cookbooks.

Describe your kitchen in three words.
Rustic, wooden, the heart of our home.

Salted caramel coconut flan (Photo: Nicola Galloway/Homegrown Kitchen)

Who do you cook for? 
My family of four (husband and two young children) and anyone who visits, there is always food going on around here. As I said, our kitchen is the heart of our home, it is a large open plan kitchen / dining room that spills out into a sunny conservatory. I am often recipe testing and have extra food that needs to be eaten if friends drop around.


Masterchef and TV food shows – hot or not?
Not for me, I don’t have a lot of spare time to watch TV. But if they increase the interest of home cooking it has to be a good thing for those who do watch them.

What’s the last cookbook you bought?
The Unbakery Cookbook by Megan May – absolutely brilliant if you want to learn more about raw food.

Cauliflower crust pizza (Photo: Nicola Galloway)

What has been the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Oh gosh that is a hard one… let me think. We had some pretty memorable meals on our trip to Cuba last year. I remember one cooked by ‘the Aunties’ – my Mum is married to a Cuban and lives in Havana – it was very simple, beans and rice with a special goat curry [although not spicy], and large platter of the creamiest avocados I have ever eaten dressed with lime and olive oil.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
Of course just talking about Cuba one of them would have to be from our trip – Salted Caramel Coconut Flan, also 30-Minute Pad Thai + Behind the Scenes and Yogurt & Honey Panna Cotta w/ Roasted Strawberries.

Tell us about another blog you love.
My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway – one of the first food blogs I started reading. I am asked often if we are related and recently found out we are distant cousins but have never met (yet!)

Roasted strawberries with yoghurt and honey panna cotta (Photo: Nicola Galloway)

What’s for dinner tonight?
Lentil dahl with yogurt sesame flatbreads – I learned the recipe from a Pakistani woman about 12 years ago and it is still my favourite dahl recipe. I must share it on the blog one day.

Would you like to be my guest? Drop me a line…

I stumbled upon JJ of 84th and 3rd just under a year ago. I was in Berlin, awake in the early hours of the morning, scrolling through Instagram (note: not recommended if you are trying to get to sleep) when I spotted her amazing photos. Then I discovered she ran the #eatfoodphotos photo challenge – and my life hasn’t been the same since.

JJ of 84th and 3rd (Photo courtesy of 84th and 3rd)

But there’s more to JJ than just Insta-fun – and she’s kindly shared some of the secrets of her success below.

What’s your blog about? 
Unprocessed, allergy-friendly recipes, daring adventures, and a touch of mad-science magic.

When did you start it? Why?
I started in December 2010 with little idea about what 84th and 3rd would become, I didn’t even post a recipe until three months in! Then in October 2011 we completely changed the way we ate and my experimental approach to food really kicked in. I use the blog as a creative outlet to develop recipes, improve my photography, and write. I hope that it gives others ideas and perhaps a bit of inspiration to look at food differently.

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
Other than growing up in an Italian family and spending most of my teens and twenties glued to Food TV, not a drop. I baked from a really young age and Mom is a ‘dash of this and a dash of that’ type of cook so I learned early that cooking isn’t something to be afraid of. Now I do commercial recipe development among other things.

What’s your day job? What else do you do?
Almost two years ago I left advertising agency-land to do my own thing… these days that includes commercial recipe development, some food photography and styling, a bit of writing and content creation, web design and build, social media consulting and business strategy. Pretty much all of it is in the food industry for chefs or producers.


Masterchef and TV food shows – hot or not?
I love TV food shows that are about recipes and food-related travel. Unfortunately most food shows on Aussie TV are more about drama these days, so you’re more likely to find me watching design or renovation ones.

What’s the last cookbook you bought?
I found a used copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day when I was in Adelaide recently and couldn’t pass it up. On the wish list are all of Ottolenghi’s books.

Tell us about the best meal you ever ate?
Lobster, cooked in a huge pot on the front lawn of a beach house outside of Boston where my entire extended family was staying. We ate it with our hands, dunking it in obscene amounts of butter and washing it down with gin and tonics. Perfection.

Who’s your food hero?
I have a soft spot for Alton Brown from years of watching Good Eats. Anthony Bourdain is a fave too – both his shows and books (see previous answer re Food TV – ha!).

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
It’s like choosing a favourite child! I have a thing for rainbows and creative distraction as evidence by these Food-Based Easter Egg Dyes and Rainbow Whole-Fruit Ice Pops. While I eat far more savoury foods than sweet it seems that desserts get posted more – one of my faves is a truly mad-science inspired twist on Lemon Custard Cheesecake Bars. The post that means the most to me is probably my Vegan Pumpkin Pie. Four is close enough to three, right?

Tell us about another blog you love.
To be truthful the only blog I read religiously is The Bloggess. There are so many blogs out there that I float through from time to time and wish I read more. I’m a fan of London Bakes, and Jane from A Shady Baker always makes me feel so calm when I read her posts about living in the country.

Who do you cook for?
RJ (my husband) is the usual suspect although any time you put me near a kitchen, even if it isn’t mine, I’ll find some way to cook or bake. I do have a habit of testing out new recipes on people I barely know, it usually works out for the best.

What’s for dinner tonight?
What ever I can rummage from the fridge… probably eggs of some description with sautéed greens and avocado. We eat eggs fried, scrambled or baked about three times a week.

Thanks JJ! Now, who wants to Be My Guest next?

One of the most serendipitous things that happened to us on our great European adventures last year was meeting up with Karen Burns Booth of Lavender and Lovage. There we were, mooching around in southwestern France, when Karen replied to an out-of-the-blue email I’d sent her. When we worked out there was less than 100km between us, we hopped in the car and sped over.

It was blisteringly hot – the photos we have of that day make us all look like we’re on the verge of heat exhaustion – yet Karen and her husband Malcolm welcomed us with open arms and a sumptuous afternoon tea. It was one of the nicest, least expected, things that happened to us.

Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth

When she’s not hosting impromptu visitors, Karen is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a freelance foodwriter, an extremely prolific blogger, a social media whiz and the proprietor of a charming French B&B. She also makes an extremely fine cup of Yorkshire Tea, even in rural France in 40-plus degree heat. In case you haven’t come across her blog, here’s a little bit more about her.

What’s your blog about?
Seasonal and local recipes with the emphasis on French and British cooking, with the odd drop of gardening, vintage kitchenalia, historical recipe research, book reviews and travel. Sort of food and European lifestyle!

When did you start it? Why?
After I lost my regular byline in a monthly UK magazine, Country Kitchen, I needed a creative culinary outlet to share my recipes and photos, so set up my blog. Regular readers of the magazine followed me and I am now writing for magazines and newspapers again, as well as online food sites.

Lavender And Lovage Strawberry Curd Recipe  Photo Credit: Karen Burns Booth
Fresh Strawberry Curd (Photo: Karen Burns Booth)

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
I am self-taught and have my grandmother and mum to thank for an early start! They were and are in my mum’s case, both amazing cooks and incredible bakers, all of which seems to have passed down to me, for the most part! I have taken short cookery courses, but nothing major.


Who’s your food hero?
I know it’s a bit old hat, but Delia Smith was my first food hero and inspired me to try new things, as well as Elizabeth David and Dorothy Hartley.

South African Street Food Photo Credit: Karen Burns Booth
Karen’s ‘Bunny Chow’ (Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth)

Masterchef and TV food shows – hot or not?
Masterchef used to be hot, but not now so much, well for me anyway… and although I like some TV food shows, there are TOO many of them now, which has diluted the quality in my humble opinion.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
My most recent post about Bunny Chow, South African Street Food, a post about Fresh Strawberry Curd and the last post I really love is my Little Victoria Lemon Daisy Cakes Recipe.

Little Lemon Daisy Cakes Photo Credit: Karen Burns Booth
Little Victoria Lemon Daisy Cakes (Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth)

What’s your day job? What else do you do?
My blog is almost my day job now, along with recipe development for major UK brands. I am also a freelance writer and have more and more work nowadays, so, my day job is a food writer and food stylist. We also have a B and B in SW France that we run with cookery school courses, fine dining weekends and local wine tasting trips.


Tell us about another blog you love.
I hate questions like this as I LOVE so many blogs and follow hundreds! But, a recent discovery, that I LOVE is Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things – she is an Aussie blogger who is generous with her comments on other blogs, is a fabulous photographer and has some amazing recipes. But, there are lots more out there that I love too!                

Low Calorie Cauliflower Crust Pizza Recipe And Photo: Karen Burns Booth
Low-calorie cauliflower crust pizza (Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth)

Who do you cook for?
I cook for Malcolm, my husband, and my daughter Hannah when she is home, as well as some feisty free-range chickens and two cats – Cherie who is a Korat cat and Nina who is a Burmese Blue. I also cook for my parents when I am back in North Yorkshire in England.

What’s for dinner tonight?
It’s a fast day today (I am on the 5:2 diet) and I am making my famous Low-Calorie Cauliflower Crust Pizza, but for yesterday, which was a feast day, we enjoyed good old bangers and mash with a shallot and cider gravy!  

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Like many people I follow more blogs than I can ever hope to keep track of on a daily, or even weekly, basis. But there are some I check in with nearly every day because I’ve come to think of them, however embarrassingly, as my friends.
Top of this list is dear Dom from Belleau Kitchen. I ‘met’ Dom through Choclette (another favourite) and I fell in love with his blog instantly. Now I’d like you to meet him – but I have to warn you that his blog will lead you to more lovely people and their various projects. There’s no way you’re going to be on time for anything once you start reading it…

Chicken thigh Yakitori      Image: Belleau Kitchen

What’s your blog about?I guess my blog is really about my life but with hefty helpings of what I cook thrown in. I’m hugely influenced by where I live, in the heart of the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds, as I’m surrounded by a plethora of wonderful fresh produce and some very inventive producers.

When did you start it? Why?
I started in May 2010 after watching Julie and Julia on the aeroplane back from visiting my dad in California. Belleau Kitchen was born the next day.

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
No, I regard myself as a cook, not a chef and I think that anyone can make the stuff I make – although I did once go on a ‘Cooking for Money’ course, learning how to run a catering business.

Pumpkin, walnut and white chocolate loaf cake           Image: Belleau Kitchen

Who are your food heroes?
My Mum – naturally – then Delia Smith, Keith Floyd and Dave Smith who makes cider at Skidbrooke Farm in North Lincolnshire. He is my hero because he works so damn hard to make such a lovely product.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
My first-ever post– it’s embarrassingly naïve.
My wild garlic and mushroom quiche– I love quiche – and my post about a very large birthday cake. It gets the most views every week, even now.

Wild garlic and mushroom quiche       Image: Belleau Kitchen       

Tell us about another blog you love.
I want to live with Susan in her Spice Garden.

Masterchef and TV food shows: hot or not?
Do not get me started on food programmes – they are a pile of s**t at the moment and if we’re not careful they will die a death… I HATE food programmes and I’ve been on some of the s**t ones, so I should know!

Who do you cook for?
Me, The Viking, the neighbours and anyone who heaps praise on me.

A very large birthday cake                                          Image: Belleau Kitchen

 What’s for dinner tonight?
Cake – I’m at mums and it’s late and I forgot to eat but she always has a slice of cake on the go somewhere…

I am currently caught in a frustrating battle to figure out what exactly has gone wrong with the connection between my camera and computer. I can’t imagine anything so basic happening to Vanessa and Ingrid Opera, the sister act behind New Zealand food blog Foodopera.
These two juggle blogging with babies, magazine shoots, day jobs and photography – but Vanessa still found the time to fill in the blanks for this week’s Be My Guest.

Vanessa and Ingrid Opera (Image: Gemma Cathcart Neuendorf)

What’s your blog about?

Our blog is about food, recipes we love, recipes we have created and beautiful photography. It also features some behind-the-scenes posts relating to lighting and how to get published, as well as a list of child-friendly cafes.


When did you start it? Why?

Our blog started when we created a few sets of recipe gift cards sold in boutique gift shops. We wanted a place to share our recipes and photographs and, over time, wanted to create a portfolio of work.

We are busy working mums so our food reflects things that are relatively easy, not too heavy on your wallet and of course delicious to eat. We have also added a few posts that feature behind the scenes of our photoshoots and tips on becoming a published food blogger. One of the best things that has come from our blog has been the chance to meet other bloggers and attend the first New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference.

Peach Pastries (Image: Foodopera)

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?

Nope, neither of us are professionally trained. Our father, who is Italian, probably sparked our interest. I have been really keen on cooking from a young age, while Ingrid has found her feet in the last few years.

Both of us have spent time working in hospitality, ranging from a fish and chip shop, bakery, rib and wedge joint, brasserie-style restaurant, a Pizza Express in Dublin, running a cafe in a golf course in an English village and finally cooking in an upmarket French ski resort.

Who are your food heroes?
I know Ingrid quite likes Bill Granger, his simplicity and freshness. I used to be really into Nigella Lawson, I just loved her appetite for everything food. Rick Stein is also a bit of an old favourite too. However currently I am into anything Asian, I love Kylie Kwong, her books and TV show.
I own HEAPS of cook books so its actually really difficult to have just one hero. My aunty recently gave me the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi that has amazing ways with vegetables and I picked up “Dinner at Matt’s” by Matt Moran at the library. It features fancy pants food that you could cook at home. The photography is great too.

Chilli choko chutney (Image: Foodopera)

Masterchef and TV food shows: hot or not?
Ingrid’s not too fussed on Masterchef, however I LOVE it. I have a series link booked on MySky and watch it most nights. I actually auditioned for New Zealand’s second series but nerves got the better of me and I told one of the judges (Ross Burden) how to make scrambled eggs instead of custard.
The food channel is one of my favourites too. I will watch anything food-related.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
The balsamic mushrooms one, in which we try to recreate the mushrooms at Dizengoff café in Ponsonby, Auckland.
How to love brussel sprouts – they really are delicious done this way.
And for pizza and pie lovers, our sister vs sister cheese food fight.

Brussel sprouts sauteed in wholegrain mustard (Image: Foodopera)

Tell us about another blog you love.
This is a hard one as there are so many awesome food blogs.

A favourite from when we started is Cannelle et Vanille – it’s pretty, romantic and it looks like she is living the dream.
We like the simplicity of Spoon Fork Bacon and the great styling and design.
I have also been checking out Sips and Spoonfuls recently – it’s lovely.
What’s for dinner tonight?
You have me on this one. I don’t know what Ingrid is having but it’s got to be healthier and more exciting than dinner at our house tonight. It’s oven chips (if you try hard you can imagine they are hand-cut and fried in goose fat!) and pork sausages with a good squirt of tomato sauce and mustard. There is a glass of chardonnay in my hand too.

Crispy fried calamari (Image: Foodopera)

What are your day jobs? What else do you do?
I am a teacher at a North Shore intermediate school, currently teaching graphics/design and English to mostly Korean students.

Ingrid is a graphic designer/art director for a large publishing company. We are both currently on maternity leave having had our second babies nine days apart – how convenient is that?!

We are currently juggling our time looking after our kids, writing our blog and growing Foodopera the brand. We are currently writing our third food fight spread in New World’s REAL magazine and have just finished the Christmas shoot.

Who do you cook for?
We both cook for our boys, both little and big. We get a list emailed at every family gathering saying who’s cooking what and Ingrid is stoked to be elevated from the regular ‘green salad’ to more complicated fare. We also cook for our nanny (Nana Val) whenever she is around helping us out (always). She loves her coffee and often specifies exactly what she would like for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I used to mix dried herbs into our family cat’s jellymeat and would always bring her treats home from a restaurant I worked at. She would hear my car down the drive and come running.