So, I promised you a little look into the behind the scenes of the making of my cookbook and here it is. I decided to do this post to allow you, my loyal readers, a little look into what it takes to create a cookbook. This is a bit of a lengthy post so I would suggest you get yourself a cup of tea and read it when you have a bit of time to spare. Because I did all the cooking, shooting, styling and writing myself, I completely enveloped myself in the process and learned such an enormous amount in the 4 months it took to put together this cookbook. I can, quite honestly say, that I had no idea how much work it would be but I decided to be as organised as I possibly could be and immediately set up a shooting schedule for the 3 months I had to shoot and style all the dishes. What’s also important to note is that I didn’t just cook the dishes once. I cooked each at least 3 times and if after 3 times the recipe didn’t work, it would be thrown out and a new one would be added. On average I cooked approximately 10-15 recipes a week. It’s safe to say that my family and friends ate like kings during those 4 months.
Let’s start at the beginning though. I sent Penguin Books SA my manuscript in April 2011 and after a lengthy process of meetings, throwing ideas around and signing contracts, I eventually started the actual work in August 2011. My deadline was 1 December 2011 so I had 4 months to create this book, from scratch. Together, my team at Penguin and I decided that we would only include 21 recipes from the blog into the book which meant that I needed to create at least 80 new recipes. At the end, it turned out to be 82 new recipes (a total of 103 recipes in the book). My idea for my first book was that it should be a general cookbook. One that you can reach for in any scenario. Weeknight meals, fancy dinner party ideas and food to feed a crowd. I wanted all of that to be included in this book. I decided to create 8 chapters, everything from Salads, Light Meals & Starters to Baked Goods and Dessert.
As I had already sent “Recipe Ideas” (a list of approximately 180 recipes) in my manuscript, I simply scratched the ones I didn’t feel would fit into the book and started developing the recipes for the ones I really wanted in the book. When developing the recipes, I approached it pretty much exactly the same way as I do when developing recipes for my blog. I let my own wants, needs and cravings guide me. Very selfish, I know, but it works! I know what I like to eat and as I like so many different cuisines and styles of cooking, the food I cook usually has general crowd appeal. As I wanted the food to be accessible I decided to create most of the recipes as simply as possible by using only ingredients I found in my local supermarkets. Here and there a recipe calls for a specialty ingredient but in general you can find majority of what you’ll need at a good supermarket. As mentioned above, each recipe was tested 3 times (some I had tested before so I just finalised the recipes and made sure of quantities, etc.) and I started working through my shooting schedule methodically.
One of the problems I had at that stage was that my prop cupboard was relatively bare and I knew I had to sort that out quickly. Because I didn’t have the budget to buy all new props, I decided to hire some beautiful goodies from In Good Company. I got stunning crockery, cutlery, glass ware and cake stands and I have to be honest, when I had to return them I was very sad. They really have stunning stuff. The amazing people from Le Creuset also allowed me to use some of their stunning products and I had such fun creating photos around the beautiful pots, pans and cocottes. Throughout the 4 months I also bought a lot of my own props and fabrics and have loved seeing my prop cupboard grow and grow.
The shooting went a lot easier than I thought it would, possibly because my amazing husband, Chris was by my side for most of it. His knowledge of photography amazed me and he even took some of the photos in the book. He really is such a talented photographer and I’m trying to get him to pursue this as we speak. Anyway, I wanted the photography and styling to be very casual and relaxed because in essence, that is the style of my food. I decided to use only very necessary props and to select them carefully as I have a tendency to ‘over-clutter’ my shots when I try to use too many props. I wanted the focus to be fully on the food. When it came to the actual styling of the food, I think it’s important to state that only natural foods were used. No paints, laquers, etc came near the food. I think people have this misconception about food styling, thinking that food stylists use fake food, etc. to create beautiful images. Although that may be true in some instances I have never used anything inedible in any of my photos. Even during commercial shoots I only use ingredients and products that is safe for human consumption as I hate to waste food and always allow the crew to dig in afterwards. For the book shoot I used pan juices or canola oil to glaze meat, etc to make it look juicy (as after a few minutes of shooting meat can easily look dry) and sometimes used a toothpick or two to make things stick exactly where I want them to. But other than that, there was no strange trickery going on, I promise. You can create these dishes and make them look almost identical to what they look like in the book if you take a little time to make them look prettier, not that this is something you need to worry about doing, of course.
After sending the final manuscript to Penguin we made a few changes and I had to re-shoot and re-write a few things (as is the process when writing a book) but I was quite surprised that the only photos I had to re-shoot were the ones that I didn’t like. In June 2012 the book went off to the printers and I can tell you now that, that is the most terrifying thing about this entire process. Knowing that it is now out of your hands and you have to just hope and pray that what you’ve done is enough. A month later I received the first copies of my book and I can say, with complete confidence, that I absolutely adore my book. The paper is beautiful, the photography looks lovely and fresh and the covers are just gorgeous. I could not be happier with it and I am so excited to share it with all of you. I could not have done it without Chris, my family and friends and the INCREDIBLE team at Penguin. They showed such faith in me and trusted me with a huge amount of work, they have dealt with countless e-mails, questions and queries and have done so with so much love and kindness, even when I think I’ve really irritated them quite a bit. I am so excited to be on this journey with them by my side.
Simple & Delicious: Recipes From The Heart and Heerlik & Maklik: Hartskos will be in good book stores and select online retailers during the first week of September. The moment I know the exact date I will make a quick post with links and details to make things easier for you. For all my International readers, you can purchase the book online from Kalahari.net or takealot.com. When the books are listed I will post the links, of course. I wrote the following in the introduction of my book and I mean it now more than ever :
“If I only achieve one thing with this book, it is to inspire people to get back into their kitchens. I hope that you will think twice about buying something ready-made at the Supermarket or going through that drive through again. And I really hope that you will learn to love cooking and that you will not think about it as “just another chore”.
I hope that you will enjoy cooking from this book as much as I have enjoyed creating, cooking and tasting the recipes. May your kitchen become your new playground!”
Below is a little video I made to introduce my book to the world :