How to turn your blog into a book

Scratch a blogger, any blogger, and most of them will admit a yearning to write a book.
I’m not sure why the thought of writing captures so many people’s imaginations, especially when many published writers complain about how tortuous the process is. Unless you’re Jamie or Nigella, it’s no way to get rich, either.

I started my blog even though I wrote for a living because I wanted to be the boss of something, to have complete editorial control. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that to be a heavier responsibility than I thought it would be. It’s a bit like expressing a desire to build your own house and then realising you don’t know how to wield a hammer. I recently read about this blog and felt very amateur-ish, not least because it is put together by a chef, a photographer, a stylist and an art director. (Yes, an art director. Don’t you have one for your blog?)

In the meantime, I’ve already ticked something crucial off the list. I’ve turned my blog into a book. No, I haven’t enticed a publisher to throw lots of money in my direction (though, you know, if there are any out there, don’t be shy…). Instead, I’ve done it myself, in a matter of minutes.
I used this service – which turns your blog into a downloadable PDF in about five minutes. It’s really simple and it’s free, though for the sake of good karma and helping the internet keep working, it’s only kind to make a donation for their trouble.

Quite apart from having a ‘book’ under your belt, the best thing about doing this is that you have a handy copy of all your work – text, images and even comments from readers. Because I might not lie awake at night worrying about whether or not I’ll ever get a book deal, but I do occasionally panic that my blog will vanish, never to be seen again.

Now that’s sorted, I’m going to direct my thoughts to a bit of homepage improvement for The Kitchenmaid. No, I’m not about to ask my HR department to start advertising for an art director, but it’s time for a refresh. Any advice on that front (or indeed, any art directors looking for work experience), do let me know…

Treat me: Yoghurt Banana Fool

It’s not exactly on the scale of Grand Designs, but we’re currently planning a few changes here at chez Kitchenmaid and as a result, my office (aka the room of doom) is piled high with cookbooks destined for new homes. At least, I think they’re destined for new homes. I’m so horribly sentimental about some of them that I can’t bear to think of them languishing in op shops, unloved or (worse) discovered by the people that gave them to me to start with.

In the meantime, I negotiate my way past a pile of them every time I go to my desk. When ‘100 Dishes For Two’ fell on my toe yesterday, I decided it was fate. I was going to choose a recipe from it for this month’s Random Recipe challenge, then find it a new home. I think it was a joke present when we got married, along with ‘Cosmopolitan’s Guide For Living Together (Married Or Not)’, which I have recently regifted to a newly shacked-up friend. I was thinking I could regift ‘100 Dishes’ to her two, but on reflection I think this is the only decent recipe in it. Love may be blind, but it still has a sense of taste.

Yoghurt Banana Fool
This is very simple and surprisingly delicious. It also makes an excellent treat for breakfast, not least because you can pull it out of the fridge with a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ flourish. Quantities below serve two – well, what would you expect from a book called ‘100 Dishes For Two’? – but can be easily multiplied.

2 small bananas
2 Tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
25g roasted almonds, finely chopped
4 pieces of crystallised ginger, finely chopped
150g Greek yoghurt
3 squares of dark chocolate, finely chopped

Mash the bananas, caster sugar and lemon juice together in a small pot. Bring to the boil over gentle heat, then simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the bananas are caramelised. Set aside to cool. Fold in the nuts, ginger and yoghurt, then divide between two stemmed glasses. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top and chill for at least 30 minutes, until ready to serve.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Five favourite Instagram food feeds

I wasn’t exactly an early adopter when it came to Instagram, but now I’m completely hooked. While we were on holiday – and therefore in several completely different time zones – I discovered lots of fun people to keep an eye on. Now that we’re home again, the list is growing but I’m trying to keep a lid on it because there are only so many images you can look at in a day and still manage to function in the real world.

So, here are my current five favourite feeds. I’ve restricted it to food – regular readers will know I’m unlikely to fancy any Instagram accounts that feature too many cats (though I do make a couple of exceptions – including this one) – but I have lots of other must-sees in other fields. That’s a subject for another time…

1. David Lebowitz – American pastry chef, Francophile, Paris resident, author – David Lebovitz could post photos of Parisian poubelles and his followers would ‘like’ them. While he posts plenty of shots of la vie quotidienne in Paris, the food shots will make you swoon.

2. 84th and 3rd – JJ (aka Jennifer Jenner) is another multi-tasker with a killer IG account. She’s also the brains behind one of my favourite things on Instagram, the monthly ‘Foodie Photo A Day’ challenge, in which you take a photo a day to fit into a theme. You can find out more about that here. It’s very addictive.

3. Food52 – It’s no surprise that one of the world’s best food websites (according to a poll I just conducted in my dining room) has a great Instagram. I really, really love Food52. It makes me wish I was young and brave and monied enough to pitch up on its New York doorstep and say, ‘hi, I’ll be your intern!’ It’s one of the few websites where either the readers are really smart and considerate, or they have a team of gun moderators.

4. Passports and Pancakes – Megan Fleiner’s IG feed (and her website, Passports and Pancakes) are both so dreamy you’ll want to hate her. But instead, you’ll find yourself wishing that a) you took photos that were as pretty as hers and b) that you travelled as often. Sigh. Cute dog, too, if you like that sort of thing.

5. Sugar And Spice – Shirleen DOES post lots of pics of her cat, Cyrus, but I forgive her because I love seeing where she eats in Wellington (and, don’t tell anyone, but that cat is kinda cute). Her restaurant/cafe photos are great, but what I love best are the shots of the amazing food she cooks at home.

Are you an IG-er? What are your favourite accounts? You can find me here – or I’ve also just embedded my photo feed here. Such fun!

Middle Eastern meatballs

In Lois Daish’s 1993 book, Dinner At Home, one of the chapters is called ‘I Wish There Was Another Name For Mince’. I know just what she means. (There’s also a chapter called ‘Rice, Not Glue’, but we’ll save an exploration of that topic for another time.) Mince couldn’t sound less appetising if it tried. It needs a fancy marketing campaign dreamed up by a room full of consultants on six-figure salaries to change its public image from drab to fab. Alternatively, it just needs more recipes like this one, which I dreamed up to convince the anti-mince brigade in my house.

Middle Eastern meatballs
These are inspired by my absolute all-time favourite meatloaf recipe – a recipe I love so much I wrote it down in a proper notebook. I love all of Paula’s blog, but that meatloaf is a true gem. These meatballs are a good way to a) coax the non-meatloaf-loving eaters at your table to eat mince and b) stretch a little meat into a feast for four.

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp tomato ketchup (or chutney)
3 Tbsp honey
zest and juice of two lemons
a handful of sultanas
a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
500g good lamb mince
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup cold water
100g stale ciabatta or sourdough, blitzed to crumbs
sesame seeds, optional

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until it is soft and golden. Add the salt, spices, tomato ketchup, sultanas, lemon zest and juice and cook, stirring all the time, for about five minutes, or until it thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and tip the mixture into a large bowl to cool completely. While you’re waiting, line a large roasting dish with baking paper and turn the oven to 200C.
When the onion mixture is cool, add the mince, chopped parsley, beaten egg, breadcrumbs and water to it. Mix gently with your hands – don’t squish it all together, keep it light. Form tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on the prepared tray. When they’re all shaped, bake the meatballs for about 35-40 minutes, turning them halfway through. If you can be bothered, sprinkle them with sesame seeds about 10 minutes before they’re done.
Serve with hummus, yoghurt mixed with a clove of crushed garlic, some salt, finely diced cucumber and lemon juice, some green leaves and pita breads.

What’s your favourite thing to do with mince?

Treat me: Overnight cupcakes

Last week, when I issued a desperate call out for birthday party food ideas, I was inspired by many of the responses. But my favourite by far was the suggestion by Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen that I make her vanilla cupcakes.
Now, I know cupcakes are, like, soooo 2009 and eclairs are where it’s at in 2013, but I can assure you that for small children, little cakes with big amounts of icing will always be in vogue.
The other thing that intrigued me about this particular recipe is that it requires the batter to rest in the fridge overnight. Among other things, this means you can have freshly baked cupcakes for breakfast, which is a trend worth setting.

Overnight cupcakes
Janice originally used a recipe from Le Cookie, a book by French pastry whizzes Mickael Benichou and Benoit Castel, who set up luxury cookie brand Moon St. So this cupcake recipe, by a French chef who designs recipes for a bakery in New York, came to me from a Scottish food blogger. Don’t you love the internet? Here’s the New Zealand version. Just a note – the icing sugar in the cupcake batter is not a mistake. I’ve made them with caster sugar and icing sugar and the icing sugar version is definitely superior.

3 eggs
150g icing sugar
finely grated zest of two lemons
150g white spelt (or plain white) flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g butter, melted and cooled

Put the eggs, icing sugar and lemon zest into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and beat on high for five minutes, until the mixture is pale and very fluffy. Sift over the flour and baking powder and mix in on low speed for a minute or two. Fold in the melted butter.
Cover the bowl and leave overnight – or for at least eight hours – in the fridge.
The next day, heat the oven to 160C and put cupcake cases in a 12-hole muffin pan. Divide the mixture evenly between the cases, smooth the tops gently, and bake for about 15 minutes until risen and pale gold. Let sit in the tin for five minutes, then remove the cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.
When they are cold, ice as you see fit. The ones pictured above have swirls of raspberry buttercream – recipe follows.

Raspberry Buttercream Icing
This generously tops 12 cupcakes. Go ahead and use raspberry flavouring/pink food colouring if you like – I was just experimenting with ways to avoid it ahead of tomorrow’s birthday party mayhem. Leaving out the sugar would probably be a safer bet! Using a freestanding mixer is the easiest way to do this and gets the best results, though a food processor comes a close second.

150g very soft but NOT melted butter
300g icing sugar, sifted
6 raspberries (frozen is fine)
2 Tbsp boiling water

Put the butter and icing sugar in a freestanding mixer/food processor and beat on high speed until very pale and fluffy. Set the mixer going, make yourself a cup of tea and sit down for five minutes (getting up occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl). Crush the raspberries in a cup and add the boiling water. Keep the mixer going and drizzle in the raspberry mixture, about a teaspoon at a time, until the icing is very fluffy and light.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Tomorrow our house will be filled with the sound of a dozen children, at least a dozen adults, and popping balloons. I am going to spend Sunday in a darkened room with a cold cloth on my forehead. At least, that’s what I’m planning!