Winner of Best Food Blog and Best New Blog at the SA Blog awards in 2010, Alida Ryder of Simply Delicious is a cook after my own heart. Anything but a food snob, Alida will try anything once, and her adventurous spirit for experimenting with flavours has resulted the easy, tasty and homely recipes for which her blog is known.
The best of these Alida has compiled in a new cookbook called Simple & Delicious: recipes from the heart. And when I meet Alida while she’s on a whirlwind press tour for its launch, I find that the title couldn’t be more apt.
I ask Alida why she thinks the readers of her blog connect with her. The key is authenticity and accessibility. “I just write about what I made for dinner. A lot of bloggers say they look forward to eating warm food again one day (it always gets cold while they’re fiddling with the light or the right props), but I never eat mine cold. My family is always there behind me, just waiting to pounce! ”
Managing to put hot dinner on the table at 6pm every night (something Alida learned from her mother) is an even more impressive feat when you consider that she has twins to run after. Her experimental philosophy was passed down from her gran, with whom she used to bake cookies. “She showed me that the kitchen is a place where anything can be forgiven.” Fittingly, it is to these special people that Alida has dedicated the cookbook.
Alida spends time every day answering emails, responding to comments on her blog and interacting with fans – an important task for a social media personality. And personality is something she’s fiercely protective about. Her web guru husband has suggested using SEO and keywords on her blog to get more hits, but she says her readers enjoy her natural and conversational style of writing as it is, and that’s that.
Not something many local food bloggers can claim to do, Alida is fortunate to work in the food industry as her day job. She does freelance food styling and photography, and occasionally has the dreamy task of developing recipes for companies. “It’s challenging and fun being given a box of cereal, for example, and being expected to come up with recipe ideas,” she enthuses.
It’s a blog’s life
How does a food blogger stay up to date with the trends in such a competitive industry that’s not limited by location? “I read a lot of blogs and if I see something is trendy – like whoopee pies, for example – I will do a bit of research and then create my own recipe with something a little different,” she explains. “But I have to be able to say to my readers that it is both simple and delicious!”
For inspiration Alida likes to visit What Katie Ate, Cannelle et Vanille, Not Without Salt, Always with Butter (I’m sensing a trend here), Joy the Baker and Drizzle and Dip. She tells me that 90% of people at the Cape Town launch for Simple & Delicious were friends that she’d met online (mostly through Twitter). One notable guest was Alida’s now dear friend Sam Woulidge (of Confessions of a Hungry Woman) who wrote the foreword for Simple & Delicious.
Any foodie worth her salt will be able to rattle off a list of favourite eateries in her home town, and Alida’s list says a lot about her. “I love Kream (they do steak really well), Isabellas (such a lovely little patisserie), Carlton Café, Hazel Food Market and the Pretoria Boeremark (for their huge vetkoek with mince for only R15). Also Restaurant Mosaic – one of this year’s nominees for the Top 10 – for food with that feminine touch; the flavours are so delicate. I could listen to Chantel Dartnall talk about food all day!”
“In Cape Town I love El Burro. Their seasoning is always spot-on. I usually order the ceviche and the tacos for their fresh ingredients and just great flavours. I also love the atmosphere and vibe. My friends and I are loud, but there we’re not the loudest!”
Alida tells me that a second cookbook is on the cards. “But this time it will be a little more creative with the recipes and the styling. Simple & Delicious was meant to be just that, but the second book will be different. Also, I want to go food travelling, places like New York, France, Italy and Greece. And I would love to have my own show.”
As we wrap up, I ask Alida what type of food or ingredient best describes her. Her answer is simple and delicious: “A vanilla pod, for its spiciness and warmth.”
Try Alida’s recipe for pork and apple burgers topped with caramelised onions and camembert cheese.
Simple & Delicious, published by Penguin Books South Africa, is also available in Afrikaans (Heerlik & Maklik Hartskos) for R190.