OT: Out of all your different avatars as a writer, photographer and TV Chef, which one is your favourite?
Julie Le Clerc: Television takes the most time, as it can take a week to film what will become just a 25-minute programme. So a lot of preparation goes into each episode, and filming is very time- consuming. Naturally, I enjoy my gourmet travel writing role the best, as this combines two things I love the most—great food and travel to interesting destinations like India. I believe the best way to understand a culture’s cuisine is to experience that food in the country of its origin.
OT: Tell us a bit about your cookbooks.
Julie Le Clerc: My first six cookbooks were based on the recipes I cooked for my own cafés and restaurants. These were the dishes that my customers loved the most. They always asked for these recipes and so I knew that if I included these favourite recipes, the books would be popular. After I sold my food businesses, I moved into food writing and consultancy as a full-time job. The focus of my cookbooks then changed to cuisines I encountered on my travels. For example, my Vineyards of New Zealand focussed on visiting 70 vineyards and matching my food to their wines. Made in Morocco recounts my travels through stories, photographs and recipes.
OT: What do you like the most about Indian cuisine?
Julie Le Clerc: I appreciate the rich authenticity and tradition surrounding Indian cuisine. I love the variety displayed by each region, the clever use of spices and the astounding array of vegetarian dishes (I’m very keen on legumes). I love to cook rajma and dal makhani at home. My favourite Indian sweet is gulab jamun—I have tried making this at home but it was not quite right, so I’m hoping I will learn a few secrets while at The Lodhi so I can perfect this delicious dessert dish.
OT: You are writing a travelogue on India. Which places did you visit?
Julie Le Clerc: I am working on this book with a colleague, who is also a well-known food writer in New Zealand. Our book will be a very personal one about everything we love about India and will follow our travels to several parts of the country like Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Darjeeling, Goa, and Kerala. Previously I have also been to Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir and, of course, Agra, to see the most magnificent wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal. We have included authentic recipes from people we met along the way and from all the friends we made during our travels. It will be released late this year, in time for Christmas 2014.
OT: You created a special Christmas menu at the Lodhi hotel. What was it?
Julie Le Clerc: The Christmas Brunch buffet at The Lodhi on 25th December featured a selection of my signature salads with interesting international flavours. These salads will compliment the Lodhi chefs other festive dishes. I also added many innovations to the Christmas baking menu, such as a chocolate, fig and date Christmas cake, fruit-mince tarts, stollen, Italian panforte, silky polka dot cheesecake, and a range of decorated festive cookies.