When Julie Carlyle discovered how much potential there was for cooking in her Thermomix, she drew on her experience as a food, wine and travel writer, plus a love for photography, to start creating her own recipes and cookbooks. FOCUS visited her kitchen and studio to take a sneak peek behind the scenes and find out more about the process.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I grew up on the Coffs Coast and lived in Woolgoolga as a child. I always had a love of food, and I enjoy trying new things. Being a Woolgoolga girl means I’ve eaten my fair share of delicious curries and Indian dishes.
Can you tell us about the cookbooks you have self-published recently?
In November 2016 I published my first Thermomix Cookbook, called An Indian ThermoKitchen. It was based on recipes I learned from friends in Woolgoolga, restaurant owners and cooking classes in India. I wanted to include all my favourites, such as Malai Kofta, Dhal Makhani, Lamb Keema, plus all the dishes everyone knows and loves. The book was a huge success and completely sold out in six months. It has since been reprinted.
The second book was published in July 2017 and is called A Tex-Mex Fiesta. This is a celebration of Texan BBQ and Mexican cuisine. The Texan recipes include slow cooked pulled meats, brioche burgers, buffalo wings, twice glazed ribs and bourbon sauce. From south of the border I’ve included recipes such as pork carnitas, jalapeno soup, elotes, refried bean dip, tomatillo salsa, burrito, taco, chili con carne and my favourite, Mexican wedding cookies.
Do you have a background in writing and publishing?
I’ve written about food, wine and travel for the last nine years for magazines and websites. I’ve had no formal training in writing, publishing or photography; it’s just something that I gravitated towards.
The ThermoKitchen website is a completely new venture for me. I’m writing recipes for the website, creating recipes for cookbooks and giving cooking workshops in various locations on the coast, so it’s a very busy and delicious time.
Why did you decide to self-publish, and what have been the challenges?
I wanted to take my time gathering and creating recipes without publisher and time constraints. I also wanted to keep costs to a minimum, so I could offer the books at a reasonable price.
The biggest challenge for me has been in self-belief. When I put recipes up on my website, it’s a huge leap of faith to believe that people are going to want to cook the recipes I create. It was such a shock when the books were so well received, and I find it so heart warming when I get lovely feedback from people who are enjoying my recipes.
What made you want to create and share Thermomix recipes?
When I purchased a Thermomix, I fell in love with my machine slowly. There weren’t a lot of cookbooks available, but I could see so much potential. All the top chefs have multiple Thermomixes in their restaurants to undertake both complex and simple tasks, so I knew once I got the hang of it I would love it.
I soon discovered that the Thermomix makes absolutely everything easier! When I started testing my curries in the Thermomix, I was blown away by how much better they tasted. The flavours just melded together as if they had been cooked in our local Indian restaurant.
Can you describe the recipe development process?
Usually I start off craving a particular type of food. A few years ago, I was in love with a Lamb Korma available at a local restaurant. I must have eaten that dish 40 or more times, trying to nail the flavours. I’d written down five possible variations of the recipe before I finally had success. I tasted my Korma recipe and fell in love all over again with the dish. My recipe isn’t exactly the same as the restaurant’s version, but I was so pleased when I no longer craved that dish because I had my own recipe and I could make it whenever I wanted. Most recipes on my site and in my books have a similar start in life. They’re born out of a desire to recreate something I’ve eaten and loved.
I tested the waters by sharing my recipe online, and it went crazy – everyone loved it. I realised that other people were interested in learning how to cook Indian recipes in their Thermomix.
How did you research the recipes for your Mexican and Indian cookbooks?
Before I went any further with recipe development, I booked a trip to India because I wanted to ensure that all my flavours and recipes were authentic. I attended cooking classes, market tours and stayed in homestays with families whilst I learnt to cook and started to get a better understanding of Indian spices, flavours and cooking methods. Once I returned home, it was a matter of adapting what I had learned to the ingredients and cooking methods which are available here in Australia.
The Mexican book was developed exactly the same way. It started with a craving for Mexican food when an American friend who had lived in Mexico for a while cooked us the most amazing dishes. Before I knew what I was really planning, I’d packed up our family to visit her in the US and we were travelling to Mexico for a joint family holiday.
Are you currently working on another cookbook?
I’m working on a few book projects at the moment. It’s kind of top secret at the moment, but I’m too excited – I have to share. We visit Bali regularly, and I love the Balinese flavour.The recipes are really well suited to the
Thermomix, as it cuts down so much time grinding the spice pastes. The recipe I’m developing at the moment is a Balinese Spiced Snapper with Coconut Lime Rice. The fish is wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed in the Thermomix Varoma. It’s a work in progress.
I’m also working on a children’s Thermomix cookbook, which focuses on packed lunches and after school snacks for kids. All the recipes will be designed to help children learn to cook with the Thermomix whilst being a practical lunch box option. My ten year old daughter, Anais, and I are working on this book together, so all the recipes are “Kid Approved.”
You also take beautiful photos to go with your recipes. What do you think makes a great food photograph?
Thank you so much for such a lovely compliment. I try to create images that make you hungry when you look at the page. The food has to look too tempting to resist.
Where can people find out more?
If readers are interested in creating more with their Thermomix, they should take a look at my website: www.thermo.kitchen
I share lots of new recipes each week. If they need to speak to a consultant about their machine, there is also a contact form on the website. Details about the cooking workshops I’m hosting are also on the website. At the moment we’re running Tex-Mex Fiesta cooking classes, and I’m looking forward to the Beginners Thermo Cooking Class.