She's New Zealand's undoubted cafe-queen and well-known for creating innovative flavours and trusted recipes you can at least have a snowball's chance in replicating. Ahead of the 2012 Food Show, Julie Le Clerc shares her own cafe-secrets with Jono Park and provides a few pointers as to why this year's event is a must do for any gastronaut.
Hi Julie.The Food Show is nearly upon us. What can you tell us about your involvement?
I always love being involved with The Food Show, as it’s an exciting place to be if you’re a food and wine lover (and who isn’t these days!). There are just so many fabulous foodie finds to be experienced at The Food Show.
On Thursday 2 August at 10.30am, I’m giving a class in the Electrolux cooking theatre, where I’ll demonstrate how to make yoghurt, plus 2 recipes using yoghurt, and another delicious venison dish. I’ve got lots of fabulous foodie items to give away, too.
This year, I’m also thrilled to be presenting a MasterClass (Sat 4 August at 2.30pm), which is a longer class, so I’ll have more time to share in-depth cooking tips and some very special recipes. My MasterClass is focused on French Cafe Baking, so it’s going to be a very oh la la experience. Expect divine sweets, and savoury pastry treats to taste (tastings of each dish are provided, plus a glass of wine) plus I will share all the secrets behind making perfect French macarons – the pretty, little, (but temperamental) sweet morsels everyone is obsessed with.
We loved Café Secrets. What were some of your favourite discoveries on your travels?
I discovered that New Zealanders are more in love with cafe culture than ever, and you’re never very far from a good flat white, no matter where you travel around this country. I already knew of some of the cafes I visited for the show (series 2 premieres Sunday 29 July, 5pm, TV3) but I discovered some other places that were new to me, so now I can add these to my personal favourites list. For example, I visit a Buddhist Temple that has a wonderful cafe where they make tasty vegetarian food. You feel good inside and out when you eat food like this in such tranquil surroundings, and being there provides a fascinating view inside Buddhist culture, too.
You’ve written an amazing 14 cookbooks. How do you keep finding new recipes to fill the pages?
I do literally live and breathe my job, and I’m always thinking about different ways to present ingredients and develop these into workable recipes. I liken recipe creation to music – there are only so many notes, but nearly every day you hear a new song, which is just a rearrangement of those musical notes. It’s like that with recipes, but there are a lot more ingredients to play with. I’m also an intrepid, gourmet traveller, so I travel widely to research foods of the world, as I think it’s important to understand different cultural cuisines. This is how I fuel my own culinary imagination and come up with more and more recipes to fill my cookbooks. Yes, I do know I’ve got the best job in the world!
And what are your plans for another one? Any teasers of what we can find inside?
For the moment, I’m just concentrating on Cafe Secrets, as it has required a lot of my time that I would normally devote to working on a new book. I’m actually quite enjoying having a bit of a break from books – it’s provided time for me to regroup my thoughts, and I know I’ll come back with something even bigger and better for book number 15. Watch this space!
What’s your personal favourite dish you’ve ever had (here or abroad)?
Oh it’s so hard to decide, as I’ve had so many wonderful meals, from simple to high end, in so many wonderful places... but if I absolutely had to choose, I’d go with Syrian Fattoush. This is a startlingly delicious salad of fresh tomatoes and cucumber with olives and fried shards of pita bread, all tossed together with a sweet/tart pomegranate molasses dressing and topped with special Syrian stringy cheese.
I ate this dish almost every day when I visited my lovely relatives in Syria a couple of years ago; and when I make it now, I am transported back to that remarkable country to be with them. My heart aches for my Syrian family during this terrible time of civil war in their homeland and I pray they stay safe and well through the horrific turmoil going on around them.