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My Darling Lemon Thyme
Emm went to culinary school and worked as a chef for almost eight years in restaurants, the pastry section of cafes, and catering companies in Australia and New Zealand. She left when she became a parent and discovered that not only do her children suffer from gluten and lactose intolerance, but so does she. Emm started her blog in 2010 to share gluten-free vegetarian real food recipes, and stories and tips on organic gardening. Since then, she has written a book, My Darling Lemon Thyme – Recipes from My Real Food Kitchen, and her blog was the 2014 Saveur Blog Awards Winner for Best Original Recipes Blog.
I’m so excited to have Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme here with me today.
(*All photos below are Emm’s.)
On Her Interest in Cooking:
I grew up on quite a large property, where my parents grew heaps of vegetables and fruit that we had. And being vegetarian, my mom used to put a lot of time and effort into preparing most of what we had from scratch. So it was part of who we are, and my family, I mean, we’re all into cooking, and from a very young age, I knew that I wanted to be a chef. So, even though a few people told me not to, because that’s a pretty crazy profession, long hours and stuff, I didn’t listen and I just followed my heart and did what I wanted to do.
On Working in Restaurants, Cafes, and Catering:
My preference was working in smaller cafes, so that’s where I worked in New Zealand, mostly it was smaller cafes. Smaller cafes, you generally have only a couple of you in the kitchen, so you’re basically covering all bases yourself, you’re doing everything. Sometimes, even doing the dishes as well, which is actually how I started off in the industry. Restaurants tend to be divided into sections, so you’re only in charge of the one section. And catering companies are quite similar. So I was in charge of the pastry section when I worked for two catering companies in Sydney years ago.
They all have their challenges. It’s a pretty high stress environment, working in the kitchen. Especially when, like I said, if you’re working in a cafe, where there’s only one or two of you in the kitchen and you’re doing two, three hundred covers a day, it’s a lot of work and a lot of stress and a lot of running around. So, yeah, they’re all pretty high stressed.
I think cafes in the winter time generally are nice and calm and that’s when you have your time to play and be a little bit more relaxed. I don’t know if it’s the same in the States, but in New Zealand in summertime, if you work in a cafe, it’s extremely busy, especially if you’re in a cafe anywhere near the ocean, which is where I used to work. People are always going to the beach in the summer and then they’re wanting to go and eat, so it’s pretty busy.
On Starting Her Blog:
When I left the kitchen when my daughter was born, I didn’t even know what a food blog was. We’re a little bit behind in New Zealand and Australia. Five years ago when I started my food blog, there was probably only two of my friends that had ever heard of a food blog before. Even though, I mean, there’s people like Heidi Swanson in the States, who have been blogging for well over 10 years. We’re a little bit behind here, so I had no idea when I left the kitchen at all. And it was actually from finding Heidi Swanson’s cookbook in the library and then getting onto her food blog that I even discovered what food blogs were. So that was only five years ago.
For years I’ve always recorded recipes. If I find a great recipe in a magazine, I was always the crazy person who would be frantically writing out recipes and trying new things. And after I got onto food blogs, I thought, “Well, I’m at home.” Just looking after my kids, my kids were four and two at the time when I started it, so I wasn’t working professionally. And then I missed that creative side of cooking, where you can just experiment. So, at the start I had no clue of what I was doing, didn’t really know how to take photos, but just started.
On Recognizing Her and Her Children’s Food Intolerances:
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had basically just a sore tummy the entire pregnancy. I just thought that’s just what happens when you’re pregnant. Being my first pregnancy, I had nothing to compare it too. And then when my daughter came along, she was extremely upset 24/7, wouldn’t sleep and was just in a lot of pain, basically. And so, my midwife at the time suggested that maybe I try cutting out some of the foods in my diet that might be affecting her through my breast milk. So, that’s when I cut out gluten and dairy, but I’d always been interested in alternative food. Being vegetarian, I’d always look to vegan foods and loved seeing how people get creative with vegan food, but the whole gluten-free thing was quite a challenge at the start.
I didn’t really know what I was doing and I don’t think I was 100% gluten-free, because I hadn’t figured out that it’s in basically everything at this stage. So, when my son came along two years later, and showed a lot of the same symptoms as my daughter had, I got quite serious and went and got us allergy tested. That’s when it showed up that we can’t handle any gluten. We can handle small amounts of dairy, and more so as the kids have gotten older, but yeah, gluten is not our friend.
On Tackling a New Approach to Cooking and Food (with Food Intolerances):
I think the easiest way to approach it, is to focus on what you can eat, rather than being all upset that you can’t eat that donut in the store. Although, there are a lot of gluten-free donuts and things around these days, but I think focusing more on what you can eat, and naturally gluten-free and dairy-free things.
I’m very lucky in that my husband is Vietnamese, and so, all of our night-time meals are based mostly around rice, which is gluten-free and dairy-free. So I find that eating a more Asian-inspired diet or a Mexican diet, where the core ingredients are naturally gluten-free is usually the easier way to go to begin with, until you get your head around working with different gluten-free flours and dairy-free alternatives.
I’ve never really used the pre-packet gluten-free flour mixers, I prefer to just use my own individual flours. I think, when you’re first starting out, by all means, if you’re overwhelmed by gluten-free, then going that way is totally acceptable. You’ll probably get to a certain point where you would love more flexibility to add different flavors or different nutritional qualities to what you’re making. So that’s when you can use your own flours, but it’s totally acceptable at the start. When it all feels too much, I just think, do whatever you can do to make it easier for yourself.
On Some Good Resources to Learn More About Gluten-Free Cooking:
The main one that I have used over the years is glutenfreegirl.com. Shauna’s recipes are extremely well-tested. I guess with her teacher background, she’s extremely good at explaining everything, and why she uses certain flours, and for all the basic things that you’re missing, like pizza and bread and all those things. She has brilliant recipes on her site and in all of her books as well.
On Her Book, “My Darling Lemon Thyme – Recipes from My Real Food Kitchen”:
After a couple of years of blogging, I pretty much had made up my mind that I wanted to try and get published. Over the years, there were a lot of recipes I had been holding back from putting on the blog, because I thought they’re too good to share in this capacity and I wanted to save them for a book.
And so, I spent about a year trying to approach publishers and see if they were interested. And I got turned down by every single one. Basically, at that stage, this was probably going back at least three or more years, probably four years nearly even. At that stage, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian food was a little bit too specialized for most publishers, so they turned me down saying, “It’s just all too hard.” And basically, I was in talks with one publisher in New Zealand at the time, who said, “We’ll publish a gluten-free baking book if you’re interested in that.” But that’s not really what I wanted to do for my first book.
And so, I was extremely lucky when I was nearly giving up hope, Harper Collins, New Zealand, who I hadn’t approached, because you had to have an agent to approach them and I didn’t have one at that stage, they actually approached me from seeing my blog. So it all worked out well in the end – very, very happy and thankful.
The book is filled with a hundred of my favorite recipes. Most of the recipes in there are recipes that I have been making for a long, long time. Some are inspired by recipes my mum made when I was little and I’ve adapted them to be gluten-free. And there’s a lot of base recipes, which is what I wanted my first book to be, so that anyone can pick this up, that’s new to gluten-free, and it covers all the bases.
There are numerous breakfasts to choose from. There’s pizza. There’s a homemade sourdough. There’s how to make your own yogurt from scratch. Tomato sauces, everything like that. The whole book is vegetarian and gluten-free, and then most of the recipes are dairy-free also. There are little bits of yogurt and butter, which is what my body tolerates, so that’s in there.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I do watch MasterChef.
There are a lot of professional chefs that think cooking shows like that are just slightly embarrassing, but there’s a lot of talented people that go on MasterChef. Some of the dishes they make a lot of professional chefs would struggle to make. So, I quite like it.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I’m terrible, I don’t actually read heaps of food blogs. So, 101 Cookbooks is the number one, I don’t think I’ve ever missed a post of hers in the five/six years that I’ve been reading it. I love The Vanilla Bean Blog, Oh, Ladycakes, The First Mess and With Food and Love. All of those blogs, they make food that I want to eat, even if I can’t, like The Vanilla Bean Blog, my friend Sarah writes it. Most of it I wouldn’t even be able to eat, because it’s not gluten-free, but I just love looking at her gorgeous photos.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
Green Kitchen Stories Instagram’s feed is amazing, absolutely amazing. Tara O’Brady, Seven Spoons. Luisa Brimble, Australian food and lifestyle photographer, her stuff is always amazing, and both on Pinterest and Instagram, she has amazing stuff on there. And Sarah Kieffer as well, from The Vanilla Bean Blog, her Instagram and her Pinterest even more so, it’s just amazing.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
That would probably have to be all the vintage props that I’ve acquired over the years. I have a wee thing for bowls and plates and glass jars.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Mushrooms. That would probably be one of the vegetables I didn’t like as a kid, but now I can’t get enough of them.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I love, I’m not sure if it’s available in the U.S., but it’s called Vegies, by an Australian chef called Simon Bryant, that’s one of my favorites. Heidi Swanson’s book, Super Natural Every Day is another favorite, and Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry is another good one. I have so many cookbooks it’s hard to choose. I have stacks of them all around my house.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Anything reggae. So, I really love listening to Burning Spear, any of his albums when I’m cooking, it just makes me happy.
On Keeping Posted with Emm:
Instagram is a daily update, so probably Instagram. On Facebook as well, but yeah, Instagram is probably the best one.