Baking goddess, recipe developer, stylist, television presenter, teacher, writer and cookbook author of 6 award-winning books – this woman needs no introduction. Her calming voice and encouraging demeanour makes any nervous cook empowered to attempt even the hardest of recipes…snow egg anyone? I remember watching Better Homes and Gardens as a child just waiting for Mr Burke to get along with his garden segment and Dr Harry to get his hurry on as he trained another dog to stop chasing cars. What I was really waiting for however was Belinda Jeffery’s beaming face to appear on my television screen and show me what was on the menu this week.
After a mutual following on Instagram the inspirational Belinda continued to encourage and motivate my culinary pursuits. Her elegant food encapsulates an array of styles from indulging desserts to home-style recipes to deliciously impressive baked goods. Her repertoire of beautifully published Lantern cookbooks only continues to enthuse and tantalise.
Belinda’s food is honest, wholesome, achievable and most importantly utterly delicious! After connecting with Belinda I just had to reach out to her and chat about her passion for food, how she started and advice she would give to a fellow foodie. Following a great casual chat I hung up the phone with pages of notes and felt completely inspired. Her willingness to collaborate in any way was refreshing – especially in an age where assisting a fellow foodie could be a competitive disadvantage. It really just reinforces her passion and enthusiasm for good food.
It has been a great privilege to get to know Belinda, so I thought, why don’t we all get to know the mastermind behind the amazing cookbooks, recipes and images. I managed to steal a few moments of her precious time in an interview that allowed her to update us on all things food!
What did you have for dinner last night?
This isn’t going to sound very exciting - we had leftover roast chook! I took all the meat off the bones and tossed it with loads of rocket, a couple of handfuls of sourdough croutons that I’d crisped in olive oil, and the last of some slow-cooked tomatoes I had in the fridge. I tossed the lot with an eschalot vinaigrette, and we polished off an enormous bowlful between two of us!
How did your passion for food all start?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in food. Mum was a good home cook, and I loved to cook with her. She was always happy for me to do so, and I have lovely memories of standing on a stool next to her, ‘helping’ her to bake a cake, or make dinner. (I suspect I was more of a hindrance than a help, but she was always remarkably patient.)
It feels like you have been in every part of the food industry from café owner, chef, author, television presenter to teacher. How has your career developed?
I feel I was really fortunate to start in the industry when I did, as being involved in food back then wasn’t really something that was the norm for women, but it was all I ever wanted to do. Basically, one thing just lead to another – I certainly can’t say I planned it! I started in restaurants, which lead to me writing, as a number of food writers were regulars at our café and asked me if I would consider writing for them. That put me on the path of writing and styling, and I ended up being food editor of Better Homes and Gardens. They started a TV show, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to be part of it. However, the one thing that I had always wanted to do was write a book, and when I decided to leave TV, that was what I worked on, and managed to find a publisher for. I would have to say that writing books is my greatest love.
You have written hundreds of recipes over your career. What makes a great recipe for you?
I think I fall in love with the writer first – their philosophy, the way they talk about food, their pleasure and understanding of food and cooking – those are the things that matter to me most, for somebody who really loves and understands flavours will invariably put together terrific dishes. I would also have to say that because of what I do, I like to see a well-written recipe where there is obvious care taken to make sure it works and is clear.
From edible flowers to gels, to kale – what’s your food trend predictions?
Oh, I don’t know that I’m the right person to ask about trends! That said, I tend to think the focus will be on more and more pickled and fermented foods; native Australian ingredients; tea used in both cooking, and as a simple daily ritual – it still really hasn’t had its heyday; home-grown anything; and bitter flavours.
What is the best part about your job?
The way food cuts through any barriers and allows a warm, genuine and meaningful exchange between people. I have been very fortunate to have met many remarkable farmers, writers, cooks, chefs, home cooks, conservationists, environmentalists, authors and more through my work, and to sit and break bread with them. What could be better!
So Belinda the BIG question is: What would you rather?
Sweet or Savoury? Savoury (but then again I have to finish every meal with a tiny bit of something sweet - just a square of dark chocolate will do it.)
Chicken or beef? Chicken . . . . I cant go past a good roast chook
Red or White (wine)? I'm a white wine girl and I do love a glass of champagne
Fine dining or a picnic? Picnic every time!
Dark or milk chocolate? Both, thanks very much.
Ice-cream or sorbet? Can we have gelato too?
Summer or Winter? I love all the seasons as they each bring their own wonderful produce.
Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson? I'm a fan of both, but I will go with Nigella
Cake or tart? I love a good pastry, so a tart it is
Asian or French (Cuisine of course)? Asian
Beach or country? Considering we live in a rural spot 10 minutes away from the beach, i'm going to have to say both!
Vegemite or peanut butter? Crunchy peanut butter please
Salt or pepper? Definitely salt
Kwah-sohn or cras-ont (French pastry pronunciation)? Kwah-sohn
Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift? I'll go with Taylor Swift
To see what Belinda is up to lately be sure to follow her on instagram @belindajefferyfood or check out her beautiful website. If you don't have a copy yet be sure to get her latest cook book Utterly Delicious Simple Food it is sure to get you inspired!