01 Nov Creative Minds – Julia Flint, The Loyal Kitchen
Back in 2015, which now feels like a different world entirely, I watched a BBC series called A Cook Abroad. Each episode followed a celebrity chef discovering delicious recipes from food cultures and countries they love, such as Rick Stein in Australia. During his journey he visited Tasmania, a place I admittedly knew little about, but by the time the credits rolled the island was high up on my want-to-go list. Picture quiet sun drenched coastlines, verdant woodland and scores of independent fruit farms by the roadside, not to mention a reputation for top quality foodstuffs. Therefore I was excited to reconnect with Julia Flint, creator of food blog The Loyal Kitchen and resident of Tasmania’s capital city Hobart. Once a freelance violinist in London, she returned to her Aussie roots with husband Tom and sons Tobias and Claude. Relocating has brought many changes but cooking and sharing food has remained a creative outlet in Julia’s daily life.
For countless cultures around the globe food is about more than just eating, it’s about spending time with family and friends. Julia fondly remembers ‘from a really young age, I’d sit at the table with mum over a cup of tea discussing what we felt like for dinner’. She credits her mum as her biggest influence, inspired by her imagination to produce fantastic meals out of seemingly nothing and her knack for recreating dishes simply from memory or feel. That magic of the kitchen being the heart of the home and bringing the family together has stuck with Julia ever since.
Scroll through @theloyalkitchen and you’ll find a plethora of home made goodness. Blueberry friands, dark and fruity chicken marbella, savoury lamb patties with sumac and her notorious tahini, dark chocolate and sea salt cookies (they could not be more drool worthy). Julia’s decision to call her blog ‘The Loyal Kitchen’ stems from her middle name, Loyal. She shares the name with her grandmother, another wonderful cook in the family and whose raspberry jam was legendary. The blog itself started off with a dual purpose. First, practicality. ‘Friends would often ask for recipes and help, so it made sense to have everything in one place that I could direct them to’. Naturally she also enjoyed the creative aspect. ‘I found it satisfying to have this outlet when I was hardly getting to do any playing [after giving birth]. With Tom away touring all the time and no family in London to help out it meant violin took a backseat for a while.’
Ah yes, the work-life balance, a continual adjustment. As a young mum without family nearby to help and with regular childcare assistance being a financial drain, Julia found freelancing in the music industry challenging. Lack of flexibility and awkward working hours are not the best qualities for a child-friendly routine. ‘As Tom is a musician too we tried alternating our work schedules but it meant both our careers suffered instead of just one, which didn’t make much sense’. It’s not the most forgiving working environment for early parenthood, particularly for those who want to be hands-on, ‘most of my work dried up pretty quickly once I had Tobias’. Therefore the couple decided to move back to Australia for the lifestyle they had in mind for their family.
Julia’s cooking has naturally evolved as a result of the move. ‘Tasmanians are incredibly proud of their produce, and rightly so – it is exceptional’. One of her Insta stories immediately comes to mind – glorious cuts of fresh beef brought home from the local farmers market. You know it’s going to have serious flavour just by looking at it. Hobart farmers’ markets are full of incredible ingredients, ‘producers here are passionate about sustainable and organic farming’, you can’t help but be inspired. The combination of a warm coastal climate, unpolluted soil, air and water encourages an abundance of flavourful produce. Well known as the ‘Apple Isle’, Tasmania is also fantastic for beef, wine and salmon to name but a few and is the world’s largest supplier of wild abalone. Magic in the water indeed.
Social media is great for creating online communities and the food scene is no different. Julia found a cookbook group called #rainydaybitescookbookclub. She got really stuck in when they featured Sweet by Ottolenghi and Helen Goh which led to her being asked to preview Simple. ‘Being part of an insta community of keen amateur cooks and bakers is lovely. I’m not particularly diligent in taking part but I do love seeing different people’s takes on the same recipes’. It’s through this club that her Ottolenghi obsession skyrocketed. ‘I’ve always loved his approach to food and his recipes are insanely good!’. Cue black garlic and tahini brussel sprouts or a stunning chocolate tart with almond brittle, rosemary and orange. Julia’s Instagram is studded with Ottolenghi gems, all of which look spectacular yet achievable for home cooks. Her affinity with Ottolenghi’s style again recalls the taste of her mother’s cooking. ‘Mum is probably where my love of middle eastern cuisine came from. She has a habit of making a classic meal like roast lamb and putting a simple middle eastern twist on it to turn it into something extraordinary’, a trait which aligns nicely with Ottolenghi’s ‘flavour bombs’ in Simple.
Like me, Julia is an avid cookbook reader so I had to find out what her current top three picks are. First is Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach – a favourite across the board and memorable with its wonderfully tactile peach fuzz-like cover. ‘Sometimes I think she’s in my head based on the flavours she loves and the way she talks about food. I particularly love how she has paired meals together to create menus based on occasions or seasons. It’s evocative and beautiful to read but also full of really down-to-earth, practical, delicious recipes’. Her next choice is Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen, chef and owner of Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern in Sydney. Julia has been a long time lover of Vietnamese food ‘to the extent that we honeymooned in Vietnam purely because I wanted to eat ALL of the food!’. In Songs of Sapa she enjoys Luke’s approach to simplicity and balancing flavours so much so that many of her most regularly cooked meals come from this book. No surprise that Ottolenghi features in her top three but she cheated a bit, tying Ottolenghi/Tamimi’s Jerusalem and Ottolenghi/Helen Goh’s Sweet.
Since the big move, Julia has shifted her career focus to pursue an interest in studying Law. ‘I strongly considered doing it instead of music straight out of school, but my passion for music and curiosity as to where it could take me won out at that point!’. Having experienced life in multiple continents, industries and being a parent has given her a broader perspective which can only benefit her in the field of law. She’s particularly keen to delve into refugee and environmental law, areas which are crucial in today’s world. When she’s not busy studying Julia enjoys testing out new dishes. At the moment she’s keen to explore Chinese cuisine and would love to perfect her dumpling skills as well as mastering choux pastry, that stalwart of the patisserie world.
At the heart of Julia’s cooking is sharing delicious food with loved ones. She laughs that as the youngest sibling, appearing with trays of cupcakes or biscuits made her popular with her sisters and their friends – a skill she learnt and exploited from a young age. People appreciate time, effort and creativity when it comes to home cooking. You can feel this comfort and warmth throughout The Loyal Kitchen, as if we were having a chat over the kitchen table when in actual fact she is on the other side of the planet. When this pandemic is eventually nothing but a memory I look forward to visiting Tasmania, eating delicious food and actually having that chat in person. In the meantime however, living vicariously through @theloyalkitchen is good enough for me.
Time for my quick fire round named after the delicious French miniature sweet treats traditionally served at the end of a meal ?
Minn: What are you reading at the moment?
Julia: I just finished Murakami/Ozawa’s Absolutely On Music (I’m a huge Murakami fan) and am now onto What Maisie Knew by Henry James.
M: What’s your most treasured cookware item?
J: Years ago I found a French copper milk pan at the Winchester antique markets – it’s aesthetically my favourite but also the most useful little pan I own.
M: How about your dream superpower?
J: It might sound a bit naff but I would love to be able to transfer empathy to people lacking empathy or promoting ignorance (*ahem* Donald Trump), like the Heart power in Captain Planet ?
Thanks for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it! Please give it a thumbs up and follow Julia and I on Instagram, links below. Until next time! ???