This is part of a series featuring food bloggers from all over the world, to show off our fabulous food blogging community! This time round it’s Jeanne of the blog, ‘Cook Sister!’, which was featured as one of 50 of the world’s best food blogs by The Times.
Name: Jeanne Horak-Druiff
Blogging since: May 2004
Location: London (the far east of London, that is…)
Blog address: www.cooksister.com
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a born and bred South African and I fully expected to live out my days under African skies. That is, until fate intervened and I was persuaded to follow my husband who wanted to fulfil a lifelong dream of working abroad. We came to London with the intention of staying a year. It’s now 10 years later and we are still here, which goes to show that life is indeed what happens while you are making other plans. I have truly fallen in love with London and although it can be a right royal pain in the backside sometimes, it is a constantly stimulating place to live.
Over the years (oh dear, that makes me sound old!) I have been a criminal barrister, defending people on trial for murder; a commercial law lecturer; a software proposals writer; a PA (briefly!); and now work in legal knowledge management. I have never cooked professionally, nor do I want to – I am a writer who likes to cook rather than a cook who likes to write. I have recently been presenting talks at food blogging conferences on topics as diverse as copyright, writing style and recipe editing, and this is something I hope to do more of in future.
How would you describe your blog?
I think that I come from a blogging generation where you could start a blog without having a particular vision or theme in mind at the start. Nowadays it seems that new blogs have already defined an image or a path for themselves before they put up their first post (a baking blog; a restaurant blog; a vegan blog), whereas I was just happy to see anything I had written up on the web. I suppose this means that my blog has developed rather haphazardly – I never set out to be a recipe blogger, but this is predominantly what I have become. I never set out to be the blogging postergirl for South African food abroad, but in a sense I suppose I am.
One thing has always remained constant though: for me, blogging is all about the story behind a dish, whether that be a factual history or a personal anecdote. Even though my blog is predominantly a recipe blog, you can always expect quirky writing and a side order of humour, rather than just the recipe on its own. And on my blog, as in my life, I straddle the divide between the two places I love: South Africa and London, so you can expect recipes and reviews relevant to readers in both countries. Call it an Anglo-African food blog with a sense of humour!
Where do you find inspiration for your cooking and blogging?
I love the fact that food forms the backdrop to all the milestones in our lives – a christening breakfast, a wedding brunch, a graduation dinner, a wake. It ties us to our past and our future and our family with cords that cannot be broken. This means that I draw my inspiration for posts from things like memories of unforgettable meals or people who gave me specific recipes; from travels I have undertaken and from family members back home. I never really struggle for material – only for the time to write about all the wonderful things I want to write about!
As far as cooking is concerned, my greatest and earliest inspiration remains my mom who passed away a few years ago. She taught me the basics of cooking, clearly more by osmosis than anything else because I remember a lot of hanging out in the kitchen watching and chatting to her (usually equal amounts of English literature and cooking!) but not a lot of hands-on experience until I actually left home and had to feed myself. She always said that if you can make a killer omelette and pour a glass of wine, you never have to worry about elegantly feeding people who drop by unexpectedly, and she was right.
What do you like the most and the least about blogging?
What I like least about blogging is the fact that there is never enough time to hold down a day job and lavish as much time on my blog as I’d like to. It’s a constant battle between priorities and what usually loses out is my beauty sleep! I always think my blog can look better, but I have also learnt that I detest fiddling about with html code. I presume that people come for the content, not the minutiae of my blog “design” 😉
Without a doubt, the best thing for me about blogging is the collection of amazing, eclectic, funny, smart, talented, inspiring people from all over the world that I’ve met. I started blogging to give my writing an audience, and I never imagined the unintended side-effect of meeting people on other continents as well as in my own city that share my passion. Some remain online friends; many I have met in person; and a couple feel as much like family as my own flesh and blood. And if that isn’t a good reason to blog, I don’t know what is.
Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share?
The very first things I ever learnt to bake were my mom’s scones. She did not go in for neat cookie-cutter, egg-washed scones but for more wild, free-form ones and that is how I make them to this day. When she taught me the recipe, I learned by doing, rather than by reading a recipe. In fact, I was quite disconcerted the first time I made these at a friend’s house and without my mom’s Pyrex measuring jug as I’d never learned the exact quantities, only up to which mark on that particular jug I had to pour! Luckily I knew what consistency the dough had to be and my first attempt to make these at a friend’s house, aged about 10, was a roaring success.
Both the old Pyrex measuring jug and my mom are no more. One met a fatal accident when my father decided to heat milk in it… on the stove. And the other met with an incurable and equally fatal kidney disease. But the recipe, it seems, is imprinted in my DNA and when I miss my mom the most, I make these scones and let the taste and the smell carry me away to another time.
Makes about 10
2 cups plain flour
3.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup of oil
2/3 cup of milk
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease or spray a large baking sheet.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the egg together with the milk and oil.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid into it. Then mix using a wooden spoon, making cutting motions as if you were drawing a noughts and crosses grid. Turn the bowl after each grid.
Mix until all the liquid has been absorbed but do not over-mix. If there is still some dry flour visible, add milk a tablespoon at a time and mix till all the flour is absorbed. The mixture should be sticky but firm enough to hold its shape when you form the scones on the baking sheet.
Form a rough balls from the dough and place them on the baking sheet, evenly spaced. You can make them as neat or as free-form as you like but remember they are not going to look like cookie-cutter, egg-washed scones!
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden – test with a toothpick to see if they are done. They are delicious with sweet or savoury toppings – in the picture, I have gone for butter and red cherry jam. In the unlikely event that there are any left over from breakfast, slice in half, top with grated cheddar and pop under the grill for a tasty mid-afternoon snack.
What a lovely interview with my friend Jeanne.It is always so nice to get to know more about bloggers this way. Thank you. And thanx for that killer scone recipe. Similar to mine but I learned some time back to use a sour milk product like yoghurt or better still buttermilk with my scones to soften the after taste of all that baking powder that goes into them. Makes a huge difference. Love Jeanne, and love her Cooksister blog. She is a great ambassador for SA overseas. xx
A true icon of blogging and I am so proud to know Jeanne. Thank you for this wonderful interview and showing off one of SA’s proudest exports!
Julia, this is a wonderful series! We all love getting to know more about our favorite bloggers. This is a wonderful interview with Jeanne. Jeanne is a dear friend of mine and an inspiration! I love her writing style, her stories, each one so full of humor and emotions and life. Her blog is unique and wonderful and she is an extremely generous and talented person. Thanks so much for highlighting her and her blog. And Jeanne, thanks for a great scone recipe!
What an interesting person! Great interview and subject.
What an interesting person! Great interview. Am back from my break and plan to catch-up with all my fav blogs.
Lovely interview! I so enjoyed learning more about a fellow food blogger. At it since 2004, Jeanne is quite the veteran. A magazine writer for years, I’ve only been blogging 6 1/2 months, but I can tell I’m in it for the long haul. I like that Cook Sister evolved over time, unlike those that start out ultra-professional, high tech and with a clear focus. I’m in the US, but my mother’s family came here from the Lake District; so I cook a bit English and enjoy reading UK blogs.