This month our team has joined the UCOOK family on a fun and easy culinary journey of home-cooking. Not only are we getting to enjoy, homemade gourmet meals from interactive and easy recipes, but we’ve also enjoyed minimal wastage for the past month and the convenience is something to be reckoned with.
Among a couple of our choice dishes in our last two UCOOK boxes have been meals curated and created by none our than local food blogger, author and TV host sensation Sarah Graham. After recreating and indulging in her signature Butter Chicken and Home-style Lamb Biryani we decided to find out more about this successful local Chef and her partnership with UCOOK.
MCBN: Tell us about more about yourself Sarah, where you are from and your earliest memories of being in the kitchen?
SG: I grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, where the milk came from the neighbouring farm down the road and the veggies from our garden. We ate simple, close-to-the-earth food around full and happy tables.
MCBN: How did you turn your passion into a career? What or who galvanised you to pursue food as a life path?
SG: I started my food blog in 2010. At the time, I didn’t really know what a blog was! A friend sent me a link to an American food blog and I started reading it and absolutely loved the concept, so I decided to start my own, and A Foodie Lives Here was born. I love words almost as much as I love food, so to be able to combine them into one platform was exciting and it really was the perfect fit.
I got a contract from Penguin to convert it into a book a few months after starting my blog. I loved that I was able to retain the chatty conversational style of a blog as at that point it hadn’t really been done in South Africa before.
MCBN: You’ve grown from writing and cookbook recipes to appearing on TV, how did this transition happen and how did you find the jump?
SG: The move into TV wasn’t exactly planned. I have a cousin in Cape Town who works in TV production. We were living in Cape Town at the time when he suggested we shoot a pilot for a TV show. He pulled it all together, and after filming it we sent it off to a couple of production companies. It was picked up and has now been shown in more than 40 countries across the world. The TV series takes months and months of planning, and we’re hoping to shoot our series against the background of Mauritius – such a fascinating place with an incredible food history and lots of diverse flavours so it’s been a lot of fun researching.
MCBN: Your career has taken you to some very beautiful places to cook food. Tell us about your ‘Food Safari’ show and your favourite places you ventured to?
SG: Being with my family and the crew on the road for a month – is such an epic adventure. I really loved Season 2 – seeing turtles laying eggs on the beach in Mozambique and cooking overlooking the Blyde River Canyon and in Season 1, I got to go back to my roots in Zimbabwe, and cook where it all started. Visiting wildlife sanctuaries Victoria Falls was also a major highlight for me.
MCBN: Most recently, you’ve had the opportunity to work on UCOOK’s weekly menu providing their home-cooks with a chance to recreate and experience your beautiful dishes. How did this opportunity come about?
SG: The UCOOK team contacted me back in 2016 and we started building the idea for a collaboration. I love the ethos behind the brand, their care for where their ingredients come from, how they are produced, and their customer-centric focus. Also, we’re all entrepreneurs at heart and it’s always exciting to innovate with like-minded people. I created a series of recipes for them last year which I believe were well received by the UCOOK customer base and look forward to doing more collaborations in the future.
MCBN: What was your goal for the UCOOK recipes? We thought the options were incredibly well thought out, easy to follow and certainly weren’t dishes we’d think to usually try to make at home.
SG: Part of what I do is to create recipes that are budget-friendly, fuss-free and very health-focused so these are the key elements that I focused on when I created the recipes.
MCBN: What do you think of the UCOOK team’s vision on promoting minimal wastage and health-conscious meals?
SG: I loved partnering with the team from UCOOK. They’re such a cool bunch of people, and they’re genuinely passionate about what they are doing. Their business model also has a focus on reliable, sustainable food sources and supporting lots of underprivileged projects, and I think there’s a lot of sincerity behind their brand.
MCBN: Do you think more people can learn to cook and appreciate food with UCOOK?
SG: Absolutely! I think it’s happening already. If nothing else, it opens up new doors to different recipes and flavours and ideas and gets us out of a weekly rut that we might otherwise be in.
MCBN: Where do you feel most out of your comfort zone when cooking?
SG: If I’m asked to prepare a particularly gourmet menu – I’m a home cook, I cook simple, honest food and because I’m not classically trained I don’t generally focus on cooking that kind of food.
MCBN: What do you feel has been your greatest achievement to date for the Sarah Graham brand and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SG: Going from blog to book to a TV show and having three children in between. Winning a SAFTA for my first show, Bitten (later renamed Sarah Graham Cooks Cape Town) and being nominated for a SAFTA for Season 2 of Food Safari. Meeting some very interesting people along your travels and meeting some of the world’s best chefs, such as; George Calombaris, Sa’s own Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Marco Pierre White. In 5 years, I hope to be doing what I love to do – cooking and making TV that inspires people to get off their couches and into their kitchens.
MCBN: If there is one tip you could give a beginner in the kitchen, what would it be?
SG: Watch cooking shows / YouTube videos and be kind to yourself if it doesn’t go according to plan. Just go for it, make a mess, don’t be scared of mistakes and that’s the best way to learn. (I realise that’s several tips in one, sorry!)
MCBN: Do you have any kitchen superstitions like some famous chefs around the globe? If so, what are they?
SG: Not really, I’m not particularly superstitious, but I am a little OCD and don’t work well in an untidy kitchen or with blunt knives!
MCBN: What is your favourite winter comfort food?
SG: Millet and Lavender porridge. Pork belly with caramelised onions and a cider gravy. Harissa Beef Brisket, slowly brewing away in a potjie pot and A giant bowl of pasta with just about anything.
MCBN: If you could cook a 3-course meal for 5 people, dead or alive, who would you invite?
SG: All 4 of my grandparents, I only met one of them as well as Massimo Bottura and Nigella Lawson.
For more information on the incredibly talented Sarah Graham, follow her on Facebook, check out her amazing Instagram and website or simply get to it and try out signature dishes by Graham with UCOOK this winter. Get 30% when you use our special code (#mcbn) when signing up here.