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In the Kitchen with Tara of Seven Spoons

I recently launched a new series here on Babble – an opportunity, really, to introduce you to some of my favourite people in the food blogging world. Tara O’Brady of Seven Spoons is one of them. She emulates the very best of what I look for in a food blog – and a person. Her blog is real, genuine, well-designed, beautifully written and photographed, and always packed with food I want to eat, along with the wonderful stories behind it. Visiting Tara via her blog is like pulling up a chair at her kitchen table; when I notice she has a new post up, I save it for later to savour without interruption, like the very best bedtime reading.

Tara started Seven Spoons back in 2005 from her apartment in Southern Ontario, Canada, where she lived with her boyfriend – now her husband. She says it was intended as a personal recipe file, to keep track of all those delicious things that fed her small family as it grew, as they welcomed two sons and moved from house to house. I’ve been reading Seven Spoons for years, and love how it has evolved, how her photography has become some of the very best I’ve seen. Her talent for recipe development, writing and photography has earned Tara a spot as core contributor for Uppercase Magazine, of which I’m also a fan, and who happen to be my neighbours, so I was happy when the two got together.

ALSO: Tara is of course a finalist in the SAVEUR Best Food Blog Awards! Very well deserved, I think. Have you voted yet? She’s in good company there.

Also? I find her Sugar Buns irresistible.

I asked Tara a few questions about how she came to do what she does – so that you could get to know her better:

FK: How did you learn how to cook?

TO: By doing, for the most part. I have no formal training but grew up in a family of cooks. I like to hang out in the kitchen.

FK: Who has been the biggest inspiration for you in the kitchen?

TO: I’m a bit greedy, so I’m on the constant lookout for food. I’m inspired by travel, reading, restaurants, my family, the work of friends like Molly Wizenberg, Heidi Swanson, Luisa Weiss, Nikole Herriott and Melissa Clarke.

Her cakes. Her cakes!

FK: What are your favourite cookbooks?

TO: The Canal House books are perennial picks, and The Kitchen Diaries, it always seems to have the “right” thing for the time of year. Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford’s works. Tartine Bread. The Zuni Café. Desserts by Pierre Hermé. The Joe Beef Cookbook was a favourite from the last year … Sorry, I could natter on for ages.

FK: List ten things in your fridge at the moment.

TO: An embarrassing number of mustards and chili sauces
Limes and lemons
A lots of fruit, for our lads, for smoothies, and for jam making
Salad greens and herbs, parsley and cilantro always
Umami paste (I’m weirdly addicted)
Eggs
Butters; unsalted and salted Irish — I’m a sucker for nice butter, a weakness my children seem to have inherited
A bin of bread dough
Some bits of charcuterie, we’re snacky sorts
Really zingy cornichons (see above)

If there were Brussels sprouts, I bet she’d make this salad.

FK: What five people, alive or dead, would you love to sit down to dinner with?

TO: Nigel Slater, Fergus Henderson, Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton and my husband.

FK: What would you cook for them? Or would you eat out/have someone else cook

TO: I’d get them to cook! I’m no fool. But I’d offer to play bartender.

FK: If you could have any meal right now, what would it be?

TO: A masala dosa made by my Mum or a thali meal from this hotel in Ootacamund, India.

Try Tara’s Rosemary & Thyme Candied Pecans.

FK: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?

TO: Hmm. Hard to say!

FK: Do you have a favourite go-to recipe to share? One you tend to fall back on, or that your friends and family particularly love?

TO: I’m the cake baker for the family, but my personal soft spot is ice cream — particularly when made with condensed milk. No custard base is needed, and the recipe lends itself to adaptation. For the most basic version, three of the four ingredients of can be kept in the pantry … it is dangerously easy to keep them on hand.

Recently I did a more involved incarnation, churning the condensed milk base with crumbled up blondies and spoonfuls of espresso caramel.

Try Tara’s Crumbled Cookie Ice Cream with Espresso Caramel!

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