Cooking from the heart

WHAT started out as a sheepish birthday present from her husband five years ago kick-started former Port Elizabeth resident Nina Timm’s flourishing career as food blogger, stylist, trainer and “cyberchef” on a national radio station.

Nina, who will be in Port Elizabeth on Friday to address members of women’s organisation Club 100 at the Boardwalk Hotel’s Kipling’s restaurant, is the passionate foodie behind award-winning blog, my-easy-cooking.com

She’s also known for Kuberkok (“cyberchef”), her popular weekly programme on RSG, in which she shares her own and other bloggers’ recipes and helps listeners solve their culinary conundrums.

Family is central to how and why she cooks, she says. “I love helping moms create good memories with their families.

“I reckon a mother always creates memories for her children with the meals she prepares. These can be very bad or very good memories – it is up to the mom!”

Nina, who is working on her first cookery book, has come a long way since her husband, Rodney Timm Jr, forgot her birthday and, as a crafty backup plan, worked through the night to set up a blog platform for her.

He had felt she should be sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for honest home cooking with others; she took to the project with such gusto that My Easy Cooking was last year voted SA’s best local food blog in a DSTV, Food Network and Eat Out magazine initiative.

Nina also does regular cooking classes and demonstrations, is a highly rated food stylist, helps other people write their cookery books and consults to companies.

Where and how did your love of cooking begin?

I come from a family that celebrates every occasion with food around the old family table, whether it is the birth of a baby or the death of a granny or grandpa. My mom and grandma instilled a passion in me to bring people together – always around good, honest food.

You lived and worked in PE before. Are you originally from the Eastern Cape, and where are you based now?

We lived in Hallack Road and I taught at Cape Receife school for 11 years, first as a speech correctionist and later as a Grade 2 teacher. We now live in the “garden city” suburb of Pinelands, in Cape Town.

Where have the ideas and influences come from for the dishes you feature on your blog?

I have a passion and heart for the mother who comes home at 5pm and has to feed a family at 6pm. Most of the recipes on my blog are made with basic, fresh ingredients that are easily available. Many of the recipes are also ones I grew up with – honest family fare.

Describe your way of cooking.

Easy, unpretentious and delicious.

The days are becoming chillier. What is an easy three-course meal you might prepare for dinner guests at this time of year?

As a starter, I would serve puff pastry tartlets with poached pears, blue cheese and wild rocket. Main course could be pork belly with garlic mash and baby green beans and as dessert I would serve my easy-peasy orange-infused chocolate mousse.

What is the most important lesson working as a food blogger and stylist has taught you so far?

Passion inspires you, dedication drives you and help from others in the field humbles you.

Do you work in this field full time, or do you have another day job you have to juggle it with?

Cooking is my everything, it is what I do each and every day. Whether I cook for clients, give cooking classes or write articles, it is for me a joy and not a job.

Who are your culinary heroes?

Locally, Reuben Riffel for his humility and honesty when it comes to food. Internationally I would not mind barging up and down the canals in Southern France with Rick Stein.

Which five ingredients can’t you live without?

Good cheese, butter, sea salt, olive oil, smoked paprika and, always, tinned tomatoes.

Which of your kitchen tools come first in your book?

Sharp knives, a whisk, family-size pans, tongs and a set of chef fingers always help!

If you could choose a final meal on earth, what would it be?

Pork belly or cornflakes and cold milk.

Do you have a favourite kitchen tip or trick you would like to share?

Eat out when you’re angry.

Family time and togetherness, especially around the table, are important to you. How old are your children and how do you cope with fussy eaters in the family?

Yes, it’s the place where we bond as a family. We share our highs and lows and make memories around the table. My son, Christopher, is 15 and my daughter, Chloe, is 12. I’m blessed with children and a hubby who are not fussy at all.

Your husband was the one who got you into blogging. Is he also a keen cook?

Rodney might be better remembered in Port Elizabeth for his racing rather than his blogging capabilities! He can cook, but hates doing dishes, so leaves the cooking to me. He can braai a mean chop though!

How long have you been RSG’s “Kuberkok” and what do you enjoy most about the show?

I’ve been doing it for the last 2½ years. There are many highlights, but the listeners who phone and share their life stories and problems with me make me humble and keep me grounded.

How is your book coming along?

I have handed in the manuscript and now it is time for designing, translating and printing. It will be released in English and Afrikaans and we hope to launch it in March or April 2014.

What was your biggest cooking disaster?

My biggest disaster happened just last week, when I cooked a shoulder of springbok for four hours and ended up with a piece of leather. Maybe the time I whisked the dish towel into the cake batter while giving a food demonstration would also go down as a disaster!

When no one is home and you need of serious comfort food for one, what are you most likely to whip up for yourself?

Cornflakes and milk!

Your blog and being on air have given you a national profile. Where has this taken you in South Africa?

I travel to the major cities doing demos and cooking shows, but the best moments I’ve had have been in the dorpies. Bloemfontein is near and dear to my heart and will go down as my best cooking experience so far.

What’s next for Nina Timm?

When you finish one book there’s always a next one lurking in your mind, but I really am driven by teaching people to cook.

Nothing in this world gives me more pleasure than empowering people in their own kitchens.

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