Another champion London foodie blogger this week, Helen Graves of Food Stories, who's already thoroughly beat the Londonist crew at chilli cooking, so we decided to pick her brains and pick up some tips.
Helen trouncing the competition at the Tipped Chilli Cook Off. (Image owned by Helen)
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
Diary of a professional eater, amateur home cook.
Why did you start blogging?
Blogging brings a different dimension of fun to cooking and eating, it invites people to get involved, start conversations and spark ideas. I enjoy meeting other food loving people. I also started Food Stories because I wanted to share my recipes. I think cooking is all about making other people happy as well as satisfying your own belly. When I get feedback from a reader saying they enjoyed my recipe, it makes me come over all soppy.
What about London inspires your blog?
For me, the best thing about living in London is the diversity - there are people from all over the world living here. You can eat a different cuisine every night. I’ve expanded my knowledge so much since I moved here two and half years ago. It’s impossible to ever get bored - there are new restaurants opening constantly and I’m always meeting new people who inspire me and influence my cooking.
What’s your favourite post you’ve ever written - your foodie find in London to date?
Readers of my blog will know that I am a massive fan of Persepolis, run by your very own Sally B. Aside from the wonderful Iranian foods, she stocks, her cook book is one of my favourites and she is a real ambassador for Peckham, highlighting the positive bits of a really vibrant community, which doesn’t often happen.
I also really enjoyed meeting jellymongers Bompas and Parr, I’m loving the underground restaurant craze at the moment and I’m unhealthily obsessed with Brew Dog Beer (best place to drink it - The Rake in Borough Market). I do love tackling ingredients that scare me a bit too, like the octopus.
You won the Tipped Chilli Cook Off we went to - what's your secret?
Well, there are several actually! The first is roasting the scotch bonnet chillis with garlic beforehand - I am convinced this intensifies their sweet, fruity flavour. The second is to use chopped stewing steak rather than mince - cooked long and slow. This gives the chilli a much more beefy flavour and a melt in the mouth texture. Finally, I add some dark chocolate at the end. Here's the recipe.
Would you feel less connected to London, or missed out on things without your blog?
Oh definitely. Firstly, I’ve made proper real life mates from all walks of life through the blog and I feel very lucky to be connected to such an exciting community. Again, I think the energy and buzz of London comes from the diversity and the people I’ve met have allowed me to explore food in the capital from different perspectives. I also think bloggers allow others to connect more with London in a way, as they add a different dimension to the food scene, bridging the gap between ‘us and them’, ‘regular people’ and professionals. We rarely get paid for what we do, we are just normal people, doing it for the love!
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London? The world?
I remember when I first started blogging it all seemed a bit weird ‘meeting people off the internet’ but times have really changed. I’m definitely not one for hiding behind the computer, I like to get out there and get involved! Myself and Niamh (from Eat Like A Girl) have just set up a community space for London Food and Drink Bloggers (105 members strong already!) - a place to find out about new blogs, start discussions, and join in with events such as our upcoming bloggers meet-up. Come and join in if you write a London-based food or drink blog and want to connect with like minded people.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like
At the moment I’m really enjoying Nose to Tail at Home, written by Ryan, who is admirably working his way through Fergus Henderson’s mighty cookbook. I am a fan of the nose to tail philosophy and I thoroughly enjoyed eating at the now Michelin starred St. John earlier this year. Another blog I’m loving is ‘Cooking the Books’ written by Josh who is currently travelling in Asia, blogging his meals as he goes. I am massively jealous. On the restaurant side of things, I think Oliver Thring’s blog ‘Thring for Your Supper’ is hilarious. Read his posts and marvel at the similes.
What’s the most underrated thing about London?
The pleasure you can get from walking around it. I really think that more people should take the time to explore on foot, rather than hopping on the bus or tube. There are so many little curiosities waiting to be discovered and it’s often quicker anyway.
And for some general London chat...where do you live and why do you love it?
I’m a saaf East girl, on the borders between East Dulwich and Peckham and I love it because I have the Caribbean influences of Peckham on my doorstep and also all the little food shops in East Dulwich too, such as The Cheese Block, Moxons fishmonger, William Rose butcher, Luca’s Bakery and my excellent local restaurant, Franklins. Add to that the fact that Borough Market is a ten-minute train ride away and you have food heaven!
What's your favourite place in London?
I can’t pick just one, sorry. I’ll try to steer away from the foodie places now. I adore the inner circle at Regent’s Park for a picnic, feeding the squirrels in St. James’s and I have a rather bizarre fascination with Tower Bridge. She’s best viewed (yes, female) early morning in the mist. I also love the Shunt bar and I’m gutted it’s closing down.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
I’m afraid so. No drunken escapade story though, I had what I later found out was the norovirus and I was hurrying home from work to bed. I didn’t quite make it to the loo unfortunately and when the doors of the Jubilee line opened at Canary Wharf, I vommed all over the platform. Very embarrassing indeed. Thanks to the nice TFL lady who helped me though, you were a star.
Anything else we should know?
It’s hard to follow a sick story to be honest . but I also write another blog, for The Real Food Festival and if you fancy a chat you can usually find me on Twitter because I’m totally addicted (@Food Stories).