The Food Blogging Community: Food StoriesNovember 25th, 2010
Let me introduce you to Londoner Helen ‘Gravy’ Graves of the blog Food Stories. Make yourself comfortable and read on!
Name: Helen ‘Gravy’ Graves
Blogging since: July 2007
Location: Peckham, South East London
Blog address: www.foodstories.co.uk
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a proud Sarf Laahndan gal. I live and work here. By day I do psychological research so I live a kind of double life split between that and food.
How would you describe your blog?
It’s predominantly a cooking blog. I write recipes and spend most of my spare time in the kitchen. I also write about restaurants, but you’re more likely to find local restaurants or street food stalls rather than central London hotspots. I’m feeling the love for local people like The Meatwagon, Chocstar and Mongo Denoon and the OK Catering Success. I enjoy eating in fancy restaurants too of course (The Ledbury being my favourite) but it’s the local vibe that gets me excited. There’s so much more interaction between the cook and the customer; it puts the focus on community, which is what I try to do with Food Stories.
I also try to keep the blog fun. I’m not a professional chef and I don’t take myself too seriously.
Where do you find inspiration for your cooking and blogging?
Much of my inspiration comes from Peckham and I cook a lot of Caribbean and Middle Eastern food. There are some brilliant local food shops which stock unusual and exciting ingredients such as Persepolis and Khan’s. We also have a good Asian supermarket, Wing Tai and new places are opening all the time. Peckham is one of those places that will become more and more trendy but I hope it doesn’t lose its chaotic charm.
Some students made a brilliant film shown here last year called ‘Consume Peckham’ which focused on many of the people behind the local food shops and other businesses. It’s the mixture of different cultures which makes Peckham such an exciting place to live, and cook.
Inspiration also comes from other places of course: the changing seasons, conversations with other people, the discovery of a new ingredient or requests from other people. Travelling to different countries always gets a cook fired up too; my recent trip to Catalonia inspired me to create dishes like pork, squid and clam stew.
What do you like the most and the least about blogging?
What I like most is the interaction with other people and what I like least is the er, interaction with other people. On the positive side, the idea of a blog is that readers can get involved, leave comments and start conversations. I also get great tips about new restaurants and nothing makes me happier than receiving an e-mail from a local saying they’ve found the blog useful or fun. I’ve made some of my closest friends through the blog too, which is something I could never have predicted.
The downsides are the same as with any community I suppose. Some bloggers can be very competitive, which is dull. I’m more a go with the flow kind of girl. Let’s all sit down and have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.
Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share?
Well usually I say jerk chicken but people are probably bored of me banging on about jerk chicken so I’ll give you another: Jamaican corn soup. It’s warming, with a fuzz from the scotch bonnet chilli that is tempered by creamy coconut milk and sweet corn.
Jamaican Corn Soup
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli
150g yellow split peas
1 litre stock (I used vegetable)
400ml tin of coconut milk
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cobs corn
1 red pepper, diced
1 large potato, diced
Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil in a pan and add the onion. Let it sweat over a low-ish heat for about 8 minutes then add the garlic for a couple of minutes more, taking care not to let it burn. Make a cut down the length of the chilli, but keep it intact and add it to the pan with the split peas, thyme and stock – simmer for 30 minutes.
Prepare the corn by shaving the kernels from one of the cobs, running your knife down the sides, top to bottom. Slice the other one into 2cm thick slices. Add the corn, coconut milk and potato and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the red pepper for the final 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Allow the soup to cool a little then remove the chilli, thyme and corn slices (reserve the corn slices) and blend half the soup. If it is still quite hot then make sure not to fill the blender more than half way and hold the lid down because if you don’t you will end up with soup all over your kitchen. It will blast the lid off the blender. Return to the pan and add back the corn slices. Reheat if necessary, adjust the seasoning and serve.