When Sarah Graham started her food blog afoodieliveshere.co.za five years ago, she had no idea she would soon be famous.
The mother of two – whose wholesome looks and candid writing style captured the hearts and imaginations of tens of thousands of readers – landed a book deal less than a year later.
In 2013, Graham became the star on her own TV show when her cookbook bitten. was turned into a 13-episode TV series of the same name.
Growing up on a small game reserve in Zimbabwe, where “the milk came down the road and the vegetables from the back garden”, this self-taught cook loved to eat for as long as she can remember. “There was never extravagance, but always full and happy tables,” she once said.
Graham, who travels regularly as the co-founder and marketing manager for responsible travel company African Impact, found that life on the road further fuelled her interest and passion for no-mess, no-fuss meals.
After a friend sent her the link to a food blog called Smitten Kitchen in 2010, Graham fell head over heels in love with the idea of being able to share her creations on a public platform. Inspired, she took time to attend cooking courses, spending countless hours experimenting with food and conjuring up recipes for her blog.
A culmination of her culinary journey so far, Bitten: Sarah Graham Cooks Cape Town is set in – you guessed it – Cape Town, where she says her foodie journey began. Screened in over 40 countries worldwide and recently making its debut here in Malaysia, the award-winning show is an extension of her blog, sharing her philosophy of simple, unpretentious food and how she brings them to life in the kitchen. With a cooking style that is described as “pretty, rustic but a little elegant, and always big on flavour”, Graham strongly believes that “anyone can cook.” (“I like the idea of leaving people with no excuse not to cook,” she once said.)
Not one to rest on her laurels, Graham’s life now revolves around food and her family – she has two daughters – full time. With several books and TV shows under her belt, she continues to churn out recipes inspired by her surroundings. Her advice – “Do not let food intimidate you! Just approach it with love and abandon and you’ll be surprised at the results.” – should be everyone’s mantra.
In the following interview, she talks about her No.1 passion and what cooking on TV is really like.
The most daunting thing you’ve found about being on TV is ...
How hard it is to cook and sound witty and interesting at the same time!
Being on TV has taught you …
A lot of patience, it all takes more time than you think, and that the little details really do matter ...
What’s your secret indulgence?
Not necessarily secret, but indulgent for sure is truffle oil.
Favourite meal to cook
It really depends on the occasion, but if it’s for feeding friends in my home, and given that it’s winter now I’d say a tomato and goats cheese tart for starters; slow cooked chicken with chorizo and cider for mains, and then white chocolate and pistachio nut tiles for dessert.
Favourite recipe book
I have lots of special cookbooks, but I used Jamie Oliver’s books the most when I first started out. I love Jamie’s openness, passion and his love for simple but beautiful food.
Favourite cook/chef to watch on TV
I love watching Jamie for his self-deprecating accessibility; Rachel Khoo for the colours and textures she brings to food; and Nigella for her languid loveliness.
The No.1 mistake that people make in the kitchen is ...
Giving up before they even begin.
If banished to an island, what one foodie thing would you take with you? Why?
Salt, it brings almost any ingredients to life, and you can use it for curing meat, too.
What’s been the most delicious meal you’ve ever had? Where?
It’s really hard to choose one, but there was a duck dish Rob and I had while on honeymoon in Paris which we went back to eat three times in two days!
If you could cook dinner for anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be? Why them?
All four of my grandparents. I only ever got to meet two of them, and would have loved to feed them all.
We are due to hit the road to film Sarah Graham’s Food Safari in the next few weeks, we’ll be shooting for almost eight weeks in some of Southern Africa’s most spectacular locations. It’ll be an epic food adventure and I can’t wait to get started!
SARAH GRAHAM’S FAVOURITE DESSERT: White Chocolate and Pistachio Nut Tiles
300g white chocolate
1/3 cup roughly chopped pistachio nuts
To make tiles
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Heat the chocolate over a double boiler until it is almost melted, then stir gently until you have a silky consistency. Pour the mixture onto the baking paper, using a spatula or palette knife to spread it out as thinly as possible into a rough square, then sprinkle over the pistachio nuts.
Refrigerate for about 2 hours, before slicing or breaking into tiles to serve on a small platter.
Bitten: Sarah Graham Cooks Cape Town premiered on Aug 4 and will air every Tuesday at 7pm on Life Inspired (Astro Ch 728).