Chef's own kitchen: Sarah Tuck
Sarah Tuck is the definition of a busy lady.
Between her role as a contributor to both Cuisine and Dish magazines and photographing and styling shoots for her popular blog, From The Kitchen, she has managed to find the time to write her debut cookbook, Coming Un Stuck, due to be released later this year.
The Auckland-based blogger described her Stonefields kitchen as a "small but functional" space that has everything she needs.
When asked to describe what she thought made a good kitchen she said: "For me it is about having good basics – a reliable cooktop and oven, sharp knives, good cookware and a few essential 'machines' like a food processor and mixer."
When did you first discover your love of cooking?
Probably at about 10 years old – I loved experimenting in the kitchen. (It is probably fair to say I also loved eating).
Why did you start From The Kitchen?
I had been working for Annabel Langbein doing recipe development and styling, and wanted to have a creative outlet, where I could practice my photography and styling (in my own style), and share my recipes with others.
Your first cookbook, Coming Un Stuck, is coming out later this year - what inspired you to write it?
In early 2016 my youngest son followed in his big brother's footsteps by leaving home to go to uni and a few months later my husband left to explore a new life. I went from being the central part of the family, to on my own for the first time in over 30 years.
I felt like my whole purpose in life had disappeared – and I was absolutely shattered. Through the book I want to share my favourite recipes, but also my experiences, with other people who are going through crap. At the beginning I couldn't see how I could ever be happy again, and I guess I want to show people that I understand and acknowledge how bloody, unbearably, painful life can be, but to reassure them that it does get better, and that food, cooking and creating new experiences can help enormously.
How important is good food to help you get back on track?
For me good food is critical in so many ways. One of the big things was that at the start I didn't cook for myself for at least three months – I just couldn't be bothered and that is such a grim way to be – to take no pleasure in food or in nourishing yourself. So re-finding my joy in food personally was critical in getting back on track.
Also, I have always shown my love for people by cooking for them – so it was like (extra) therapy for me, gathering friends and family, talking, eating and laughing together around the table, and having the opportunity to show my thanks and love to them for their support, through food.
How would you describe your home kitchen?
Small but functional (more than two people in the kitchen and it gets very cosy) – and it has everything I need. I'm lucky enough to have a fabulous Fisher & Paykel gas cooktop and dishdrawers which get a total hammering, but I have so much stuff, it can be a huge effort to close the kitchen cabinet doors.
What makes a good kitchen?
I think despite bemoaning my lack of storage space, I actually really like having things within close proximity – from fridge/pantry to bench, to cook top/oven to sink – so that when I am doing a million things at once, I am not (literally) running around.
I like things to be logically positioned – for example my knives are within arms reach of my benchtop on a magnetic strip, the breadboards directly below the same bench. My mixer is housed in the cupboard below the bench space where I use it – that sort of thing.
For me it is also about having good basics – a reliable cooktop and oven, sharp knives, good cookware and a few essential 'machines' like a food processor and mixer. Because I spend so much time in the kitchen plenty of light and good music are also important.
In your book you speak about making "sad arse dinners for one" - what is one of your favourite one-person dishes to make?
One of my favourites is Pog's rice, named after my eldest son (who is actually called Henry – Pog is his nickname) as I used to make it for one-man meals for him so often. You can throw in anything you like, but the base is brown rice, caramelised onions, roasted kumara or pumpkin, toasted nuts and pesto with fresh herbs.
The thing that makes it so easy is having prepared stuff to throw in – I try and keep supplies of homemade pesto and caramelised onion in the fridge and cooked brown rice in 1-cup bags in the freezer as often as possible.
If you could change one thing about your kitchen, what would it be?
That would be the size. At the moment I have all of my props and about half of my cooking equipment stored in the garage.
What is one cooking/baking trick you've learnt over the years?
Slow-cooking meat is the easiest thing in the world. In my early twenties I was petrified of cooking meat and having it turn out with the texture of rubber – slow-cooking was a revelation that couldn't come soon enough. These days I will happily have something in the oven for six to eight hours, allowing maximum time for development of flavour and the breaking down of the meat into succulent, melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.
Other than the kitchen, where is your favourite place to be at home?
Gathered around the little outdoor fire with friends – a bit of music, lots of wine and good food are also essential.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to an aspiring blogger/cook/cookbook author?
Just go for it. In the time that I have been blogging I have seen so many newcomers on the scene with incredible talent and ability. If food is your passion then all you need to do is make sure your skills are up to it (and if not book some after-hours classes to fill in the gaps) then practice like mad, and have faith.
I also recommend identifying mentors (via Google is perfect) and use others work as inspiration – I don't mean copying, I mean working out what you like and why – is it a minimalist use of props, is it the way they work the light, is it the style of food, is it the 'voice' in the blog? Try and narrow down why you like what you do and it will help you to develop your own style.