Faces of Feast – Emma Galloway

By Denise Irvine (first published in Nourish Magazine)

From high school onwards, Emma Galloway copied recipes that appealed to her into notebooks. The recipes came from everywhere – newspapers, magazines, books, and so on – and she carefully (obsessively, she says) added them to her collection.

More than two decades later, Emma still has her old handwritten notebooks. And she certainly didn’t realise back then that her obsession was in fact excellent practice in the essentials of recipe-writing.  As she painstakingly copied recipes, she learned about wording, layout, and the need for accuracy. It was good practice. It all came in very handy later on.

Emma, who lives in Raglan, is now the author of three cookbooks, she is a food columnist for Nourish and Cuisine magazines, she writes a blog, and is the recipient of awards and accolades for her work. Many things have contributed to her success.

First, the strong influence of growing up in a family that was vegetarian, had an abundant vegetable garden, ate with the seasons, and enjoyed dishes that were packed with freshness and flavour. As a student at Hamilton Girls’ High School, Emma’s home economics teacher, Julie Small, provided more inspiration. “She played a huge part in my love of cooking and my career choice.”

Emma trained as a chef at Wintec, she filled notebooks with her favourite recipes, she worked in café kitchens, she travelled, was further inspired by the food of Asia and India. She married Si Nguyen, whose family came to Australia from Vietnam as refugees when Si was aged six. Emma enjoyed his family’s cuisine, learned more from her mother-in-law.

In 2010, at home with two young children, Ada and Kye, Emma began food blogging as a way of sharing her recipes with friends and acquaintances. She was inspired by American blogger and cookbook author Heidi Swanson (101cookbooks.com), and she thought, “I could do that.” So she did.

She tackled the new project like she does her cooking, starting from scratch, and developing skills as a food photographer, stylist and writer as she worked on her blog, mydarlinglemonthyme.com

The blogging community was small back then, and there was instant – and valuable – feedback from followers.  Emma’s blog attracted a global audience, one of her gluten-free recipes appeared on US media star Oprah Winfrey’s website, and she won the Best Original Recipe category in the influential American magazine Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards.

Her reputation led to a book deal in 2014 with HarperCollins NZ, and there’s a good story about that too. Emma and Si and the children were living in Perth, Australia, at the time, close to Si’s family. Emma was interviewed about her work by Wellington journalist and foodwriter Lucy Corry, and when Lucy asked her what she planned to do next, Emma replied, “Well, if I don’t get a book deal soon I’ll have to look for a job.”

When the interview was published, she was contacted by Vicki Casey, then at the helm of HarperCollins NZ, and her first book, My Darling Lemon Thyme, was on its way. The publisher’s advance paid for a decent camera for Emma to photograph the food. The first book was followed by a second, A Year in My Real Food Kitchen. And this Wednesday morning, on the table at her Raglan home, is Emma’s third (and sumptuous) book, My Darling Lemon Thyme Every Day.

It has just landed from the publishers and is packed with recipes developed and photographed in Emma’s home. “It is totally authentic,” she says, “and the food is always eaten afterwards!”

Like her previous two books, the Every Day recipes are vegetarian and gluten-free, and many are vegan and dairy-free. They reflect the needs of Emma’s family: she and daughter Ada, 14, have some gluten and dairy allergies, and Si and Kye, 12, eat more widely.

Emma doesn’t like putting labels on people’s dietary needs; she loves boldly flavoured food and says you don’t have to “eat boring” if you have allergies and intolerances. Nowadays most of the family’s meals come out of the overflowing vegetable garden.

This latest book was prompted by requests from friends for some basic recipes, among them one for pumpkin soup. Emma thought, “You don’t need a recipe for pumpkin soup,” and she was on her way to writing a collection of creative, simple recipes that could be varied by what was, or wasn’t, on hand at the time.

There is, of course, a “recipe” headed How To Make Vegetable Soup Without a Recipe, and there are chapters devoted to breakfast dishes, junk-free snacks, baked goods, drinks, dinners and desserts. There is also a substantial (and excellent) section on being clever with leftovers, and thus avoiding wasting food.

Some recipes have four variations on a basic idea. Says Emma: “There are 111 full recipes and with all the variations it increases to a whopping 195.”

Most of the text was written during the Covid 19 national lockdown last year.  Emma says that like everyone else, the need for everyday recipes in her home became more crucial during that unexpected event. With shopping more difficult, she had to consider each ingredient as she cooked and tested.

The resulting book, like the author, is warm-hearted and generous, another milestone for a Waikato chef who reinvented herself as an accomplished foodwriter, stylist and photographer.

Emma has two great events on during Feast Waikato

A Night with Emma at Punnet – enjoy a relaxed night at Punnet with Denise Irvine chatting with Emma on the couch before Emma cooks a few dishes from her new book.  Click here for more details

At Home with Nourish.  During Feast Vicki from Nourish is hosting three fabulous local chefs )Allyson Gofton, Brad King and Emma Galloway)in her kitchen followed but a beautiful intimate lunch.  Emma’s class is on the Monday.  Click here for more details