In a perfect world I would have hours and hours of free time to spend reading food blogs. I love discovering a beautiful blog, getting inspired by the recipes and images, and finding out a little bit more about the author. I first came across Pomegranate Days a few months ago, around about the time I started Cupcakes and Couscous. I was immediately drawn in by the friendly tone of the writing, the stunning images and the mouth-watering recipes. I knew I had found a gem!
Sam Taylor is the talented lady behind Pomegranate Days, which recently celebrated its first birthday. (I believe this is called a “blogiversary”, fun fact!) Her writing style is both personal and entertaining, and discovering beautiful blogs that also make you chuckle is an absolute bonus! I have gotten to know Sam a little better over the past few months as we were both contestants in the Pick ‘n Pay Freshly Blogged competition. Week after week Sam displayed her culinary skills and creative talents which, in the end, earned her the title of S.A.’s Top Blogger. And deservedly so!
Today this fabulous food blogger from Paarl tells us a bit more about her cooking and inspirations, and shares one of her sumptuous recipes with us. Do pop over to Sam’s lovely blog, you can also follow her on Twitter.
Sam, I have to ask first of all – what inspired the name “Pomegranate Days”?
In Song of Songs our emotions are depicted by the beautiful pomegranate fruit. I often find it hard to detangle the food I love and want to eat at any given time with the emotions I may be feeling at that point. Food feeds the body but how much can a lovingly prepared meal feed the soul? Calling the blog Pomegranate Days is a small reminder to myself to be true.
Congratulations on winning the Freshly Blogged competition – a huge achievement! Tell us about the dishes you made during the final cook-off.
I love a good steak sandwich and the baguette in the mystery basket was too fresh to resist so with it I made a seared steak bruschetta with caramelised onions, pea sprouts and a red wine reduction. I needed something to set my bruschetta apart and I think the sauce was just the thing. I do have a sweet tooth so it is really no surprise that I made a dessert which was a pear and chocolate spring roll, dusted with cinnamon sugar which I served with a caramel sauce.
What was it like cooking in front of the cameras and a live audience? Tell us about your experience.
It was nerve wracking. I think I aged at least ten years due to stress. Once my pots and pans were on the go I hit my cooking stride, forgot about the cameras and all the people, and just tried to get some dishes up in thirty minutes. It was over in a second.
Let’s go back to the beginning now. What was it that originally sparked your interest in food?
Chocolate cake. When I was at school I used to bake chocolate cakes to sell whenever we needed to raise funds to go on basketball tour. I loved making an enormous cake that made people half want to tuck in and half want to faint. I knew early on that I wanted a life around food, I never thought I would be an actual chef though!
Do you ever miss your days as a chef working in a fast paced kitchen environment?
Working a fast paced kitchen is something that gets into your blood. When you join a kitchen, you join a family albeit a loud and noisy hard as nails one. I loved every minute of working, never wanted to do anything else. I do however love the normality of life after all those crazy long shifts and working Christmas and New Year and Sundays. I have very fond memories of that life, but I don’t miss it enough to go back.
Why did you decide to start Pomegranate Days in 2012?
I had been reading food blogs for about two years, harping on about my ambition to write one of my own. My husband gave me a laptop for my birthday, a less than subtle hint to get writing. I don’t know what happened that day in August; I guess I just started writing.
When it comes to developing new recipes do you prefer savoury dishes or sweet treats?
I willalways choose sweet over savoury despite the havoc it wrecks on my figure.
What inspires you most when you’re in the kitchen whipping up a new dish?
I read every food related article, blog, magazine and cookbook I can possibly have time for. I often try to recreate things I have read or seen or maybe had before. Sometimes I am inspired by a whole dish or even just a single part of a dish. Inspiration, as we saw in this competition can come from the most unusual places and I try to leave myself open to discover them.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Laid back and easy.
Tell us about the kind of food you cook at home for your family.
We eat exactly the type of food you see on the blog. Yesterday we ate slow roasted pork belly with steamed fennel with a star anise-orange kind of sauce, and for dessert we had ice cream with a peach butter topping. Tonight we are eating cheesy fish, which is fresh hake fillets baked in a cheese sauce. Lovers of food live here.
There are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of food blogs out there. What do you look for in a good food blog and how do you pick your favourites?
I love a blog that makes me laugh and makes me want to eat something. Two of my all-time favourites in this category are Top with Cinnamon and The Pioneer Woman. That being said, I like to follow South African bloggers too especially the greats like Drizzle and Drip and Simply Delicious. It is wonderful that we don’t have to look abroad for inspiration.I don’t read the same books all the time and I don’t read the same blogs all the time either. I love discovering a new blog and can get quite obsessed with it for days on end while I read through the archives. I love BlogLovin’ and am constantly adding to my feed.
What is your favourite dish to make or eat at the moment?
I am constantly making apple pie these days – I know it is so random.
What is the one kitchen tool you can’t live without?
I use the same Wusthof knife I have had for fifteen years. It’s like a trusty friend. (That and my Kitchen Aid, but you did say one)
And finally, if you could have dinner with any celebrity chef in the world, who would it be?
I have such a food crush on Bill Granger, I would have to choose him!
Here now is Sam’s recipe for out-of-this-world double chocolate brownies! But don’t just take my word for it….
What does a girl have to do to get a brownie around here?!
A few notes on the recipe – I decided to halve the recipe below and baked them in a 28cm x 19cm mini roasting pan. I got 24 nice fat brownies out of one tray. I also omitted the cranberries and added half a cup of roughly chopped pecans instead – they were delicious! You’ll also find the recipe on Sam’s blog here.
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
by Sam Taylor
Makes 24 brownies
370g dark chocolate, broken
6 large eggs
300g white chocolate, chopped
100g dried cranberries
Step 1.) Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line and grease a 26cm x 36cm roasting pan.
Step 2.) Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a saucepan over a very low heat. Gently whisk and cool .
Step 3.) Use an electric mixer to beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled melted chocolate mixture.
Step 4.) Sift the flour and cocoa over the mix, then fold in by hand. Fold in the white chocolate and cranberries.
Step 5.) Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until set. The brownies should have a crisp crust and moist centre. Keep an eye on them towards the end of the baking time so as not to overbake them!
Sam’s serving suggestion: Warm the brownies slightly and serve with home made vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce for a dinner party dessert.