Interview with Michaela Ballmann of Wholify.com
Posted On May 24, 2017 By Kathryn
YOU HAIL FROM IRELAND AND LIVE IN LONDON. HOW HAVE THESE PLACES INSPIRED OR DIRECTED YOUR APPROACH TO FOOD AND COOKING?
Growing up on a farm in Ireland, food was very much a part of my life. We reared cattle that were sold for meat, and rearing these animals in the healthiest possible way, and with the greatest respect was integral to my Dads ethos. Every year, my siblings and I would be trusted with the responsibility of rearing five lambs (one each) which again would be sold for meat, most of them coming back to our table. I remember the intoxicating smell of tomatoes on the vine growing in the glasshouse, and have very fond memories of picking and sorting through potatoes and carrots which grew on our land. I was very lucky to grow up with such an in-depth understanding and respect for where food came from, and to have witnessed it in its most natural form. As a result of the produce available to us, as children we had a very healthy and wholesome diet and a really wonderful and exciting relationship with food. Moving to London opened up a whole new culinary world to me. I was so inspired by eating out in new restaurants which were at the cutting edge of what was going on in food at any given time. I was blown away by the quality and sheer variety of ingredients available to me. I live surrounded by amazing vegetable shops, selling the freshest in season ingredients. I have my choice of oriental supermarkets, butchers and fish mongers – all within walking distance. There are times I will take a trip into Chinatown in Central London simply to feel inspired. I very much feel my upbringing has shaped my approach to food – our diet should be a healthy, wholesome and satisfying one. Living in London has made me passionate about making this as exciting as possible.
WORKING WITH MASTERCHEF, THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF, AND VARIOUS FOOD MAGAZINES SOUNDS LIKE A DREAM! WHAT ARE SOME INSIDER TIPS FOR HOME COOKS THAT YOU CAN SHARE FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE INDUSTRY?
Preparation is vital! Is it the cornerstone of everything I do – whether it be when working or at home. I never start cooking a recipe until I have all of the ingredients laid out and prepared. You will notice in Skinny Soups, and in many other books also, that the ingredients list has some instructions attached. For example ‘1 onion, finely chopped’. The reason I include these instructions within the ingredients is to encourage you to do this prep before you start cooking. It makes cooking so much more enjoyable, and a million times less stressful. That is my top tip for any cook, and one I live by religiously!!
YOUR RECIPES ARE BEAUTIFUL, SIMPLE, TASTY AND HEALTHFUL. HOW DO YOU DO IT?
I guess this is the kind of food I like to eat, so these are the recipes I like to write. Also, I think a recipe can, and should be, all of the above. When I started writing Skinny Soups, I wanted the recipes to feel exciting and inticing. Lots of low calorie meals are simply not interesting enough, and are often far from satisfying. It was really important to me that each and every recipe felt special to read, and just as special to eat. Each recipe has a journey – it will start with an initial idea – usually a flavour combination which I think will be interesting and exciting. From there I think about how those flavours would be best brought together – in a broth, a chunky hearty soup, a smooth soup, perhaps a chilled soup. It will then evolve as time goes on, and as I test and try the idea. Some work first time, some require a but more tweaking. As a result of working in food styling, I am always concerned about how the final dish looks, so will always endeavour to design something that is visually beautiful. And cooking should be simple – one of the most encouraging things for a home cook is a simple recipe. I suppose you could say that with each recipe I try to tick all the boxes – healthy, full of flavour, simple, beautiful and of course, satusfying and exciting to eat!
OUT OF THESE 80 RECIPES, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?
That is the hardest question to answer and changes all of the time! I adore the Superfood Chowder. It is a much lighter version of a chowder but feels just as decadent. It is a bowl of absolute goodness. Beetroot with Tarragon Buckwheat is also up there amongst my favourites. Beetroot and tarragon are a flavour match made in heaven – if you haven’t tried it before, it is an absolute must! As I flick through the pages of the book, each recipe brings back memories of the journey I went on to create it, and a recipe didn’t make it into the book unless I absolutely loved it, and really believed that it would be loved by my readers too. Thats the most important thing at the end of the day – that whoever buys the book finds recipes that they will adore and love cooking and eating.