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Everyday with Emma Galloway

Words Denise Irvine, Images Lottie Hedley, Recipes Emma Galloway

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, and 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 cafe 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, learning 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 one hundred and eleven full recipes and with all the variations it increases to a whopping one hundred and ninety-five.”

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.

  • My Darling Lemon Thyme Every Day, HarperCollins NZ, is available at bookstores and online stores.

Pickled mushrooms

These pickled mushrooms are packed with flavour. They are the perfect way to preserve mushrooms before they go yuck in the bottom of your vegetable drawer. They can be a delicious addition to a platter of treats, or slice them and add to salads or pizza. If you’re wanting to add flavour, you can add 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves + finely grated zest of 1 lemon (as pictured).

Makes 500ml jar

500g mushrooms, trimmed

(I used button but any mushroom will do)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fine salt

125ml (1/2 cup) white wine or apple cider vinegar

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground

black pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Combine mushrooms, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt on a large roasting tray and roast for 10–15 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, combine remaining salt, vinegar, garlic, sugar and black pepper in a small saucepan (add thyme and lemon zest now, if using) and heat over low heat, stirring until the sugar has just dissolved. Remove mushrooms from the oven and stir through the pickling mixture immediately. Pack mushrooms into a large glass jar, along with the pickling liquid. While they can be eaten in as little as 30 minutes, for the best flavour, refrigerate for at least 1–2 days before eating. They will store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Mushroom + lentil spaghetti

You’ll probably notice I’m not the biggest fan of pasta. I much prefer to eat rice, gluten-free grains or vegetables … with the exception of this Mushroom + Lentil Spaghetti (and a couple of recipes in Chapter 8: Plan Ahead). This is a riff on the lentil spaghetti recipe I grew up eating and shared in my first cookbook, My Darling Lemon Thyme. There are so many more gluten-free pastas available now than when I started eating gluten-free, nearly 15 years ago, when they’d dissolve into a gluggy mess at the bottom of the saucepan! Gluten-free pasta sure has come a long way and many wouldn’t be able to tell the difference now.

Serves 4

Gluten-free | Vegan

115g (1/2 cup) puy-style lentils, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g button mushrooms, trimmed + finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

pinch of dried chilli flakes

750ml bottle passata (tomato puree)

handful of black olives, pitted + roughly chopped

fine salt + freshly ground black pepper

pinch of unrefined raw sugar

gluten-free spaghetti, cooked according to packet

instructions, to serve handful of basil/flat-leaf

parsley leaves, to serve

Place lentils into a small saucepan over medium heat and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 12–15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain well.

After cooking spaghetti, drain, drizzle with a little olive oil, cover and set aside until needed.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add onion and cook for 4–5 minutes, stirring often, until soft. Add garlic, mushrooms, thyme, oregano and chilli. Cook, stirring often, for a good 5 minutes or more, until the mushrooms are cooked and their liquid has evaporated. Add passata, cooked lentils and chopped olives, then season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 8–10 minutes, adding a touch of water if the sauce gets too thick. Serve hot over cooked spaghetti, scattered with torn herbs, if using.

Any leftover lentil sauce is delicious heated up the following day.

Serve it over hot buttered toast, or add a couple of spoonfuls to a cheese toasty, if you eat dairy.

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