Creating and sharing a dish with the people you love is one of the most fundamental concepts of human survival, believes renowned cookbook author, teacher and food blogger Nina Timm (58).
Her philosophy around food is quite simple, “It should bring people together,” the Western Cape-born culinary maestro says.
In fact, there is nothing greater, better, or more pleasing than food that is made with a little tender love and care, she says.
“It (food) must never be so complicated that people feel intimidated by it. I listen attentively to what people want and what they want to eat. As we speak, I am on my way to school now with a pot full of tomato bredie,” she tells.
“My colleagues told me yesterday ‘agh they so lus for tomato bredie’. So, I cooked it because that’s what they wanted, it’s what they want to enjoy at this point, because it’s a hectic time at school and they want comfort food,” Timm says tenderly.
Her culinary dreams were first realised in 2004 when her husband, Rodney Desmond Timm, had mistakenly committed one of the most unforgiveable offences in a marital union.
“My husband forgot my birthday, believe it or not,” she says with uncontainable laughter.
“My son said to him, ‘Dad! its Moms’ birthday!’ but it was like at night and he had to think of something. So he started a website for me, myeasycooking.com because he always felt that I had a story to tell.
“Little did we knew at that time, that he chose the wording correctly because to this day, easy and cooking are the most highly searched words in terms of food on google. I am the number one result when people search on Google.”
The My Easy Cooking website has seen the Ceres-born teacher win a multitude of local and international awards including the Eat Out blogger of the year award in 2012 and the World Gourmand Book Award in the category of food blogger in 2014.
If she is not recipe developing, Timm is in the classroom teaching consumer studies to her high school students in Cape Town.
We caught up with the award-winning recipe developer.
Noluthando Ngcakani: Nina you are a whole award-winning food blogger, tell us where you have drawn inspiration from in terms of your journey into the culinary world?
Nina Timm: I come from a family that loves cooking and we celebrate each occasion with food, whether it is the birth of a baby or a passing on of a granny or grandpa. If there is no specific occasion, we create on. We love cooking together as much as we love eating together.
NN: What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, the one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?
NT: Anything that can hop, rabbits and frogs in particular!
There are very few ingredients that I do not like, but I get the absolute heebie jeebies about rabbit.
I had a Belgian friend who used to invite us for supper, and she would cook rabbit and frog because that’s what Belgian people eat, but I would never work with an ingredient like that.
Maybe it’s just the unknown factor about the produce that I do not like.
NN: Where did your love for food stem from?
NT: My gran was the dressmaker in town. In the morning when she woke up, she would put a cut of lamb, either the neck or knuckles in a black pot and slow-cook them while she worked or saw ladies for fittings.
Every time a customer arrives, she would invite them for lunch. While they dress, she would go to the kitchen and put a potato or two, a piece of pumpkin or cabbage in the pot and so her pot would “grow”. By lunchtime, she would share her table with friends and just the pot and maybe a slice of baked bread. Simple food, straight from the heart…
NN: What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
NT: It depends. On Sunday mornings I always listen to choral music while I cook (I am a choir master) and in the week, I listen to ballads.
I love old classics. If I say I am a Neil Diamond fan, then you can guess my age.
NN: What are some of your favourite and simplest recipes that you like to make in your own kitchen?
NT: I love interactive food, like mezé platters, cheese platters.
I love hearty stews, such as tomato stew.
I love delicious pies, such as Meraai se Paai (chicken) or a beef pie.
I love a good old Sunday roast.
NN: What is a city that comes to mind when you think about food culture?
NT: Cape Town – I love the diversity, the people, and different cultures.
NN: Any tips for aspiring chefs and home cooks?
NT : Make sure it is definitely what you want to do. You must be driven by passion and fueled by dedication and hard work. Do not make it overly complicated. Stick with simple recipes done well and with TLC, and you will have happy and full tummies at your table.
NN: What have been some highlights in your culinary journey?
NT: Some highlights in my culinary adventures thus have got to be, publishing two cookbooks. The moment I won the 2012 Eat Out blogger of the year award in 2012, winning the World Gourmand award for Maklike Maaltye uit Nina se Kombuis, “Easy Cooking from Nina’s Kitchen” in 2014, and I have also been on judging panels for various food related competitions.
NN: What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt thus far in your journey?
NT: The food industry is small, be humble, make friends and learn from every situation you are confronted with. Be yourself and let your food be a representation of that.
NN: If not food or teaching, what would’ve been an alternative career path?
NT: If my maths was any better, I would have loved to be a medical doctor.