ARTISAN SERIES | CASEY LISTER

I don’t exactly remember how I came across Casey Lister, and her beautiful cookbook Pinch Dash Glug, but I definitely remember when my darling husband made her incredible Salted Caramel Hot Cross Bun recipe because they were amazing (Seriously, do yourself a favour and go make them). I’ll admit, I’m not much of a cook, but I do love me a beautiful cookbook full of gorgeous images of delicious food, and Casey’s book is definitely that.

Through her book and her social media presence, Casey invites you into her delightful world of home gardening and cooking in her gorgeous little cottage by the sea. With her trusty sidekick, her dog Maple, she creates beautiful dishes from mostly home-grown ingredients and shares them with flawlessly styled and photographed images that are like works of art in their own right.

As a complete cooking and gardening neophyte, I asked Casey a bunch of questions about her craft, and the insight left me wanting to live a life like hers, or at least be a dinner guest at her place on the regular.

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image and Styling by Casey Lister

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

To be able to cook and create recipes with such skill you must have spent years at the finest culinary schools in the world, right?

I’m half self-taught, half mum-taught haha! Ever since I was little I remember spending time in the kitchen with my mum, who is a great cook. I remember we’d often make pancakes together in the mornings and I was in charge of cracking the eggs and pouring the milk into the cup measure. I took the egg-cracking responsibility seriously, but then took devious pleasuring in always filling the cup right to the brim with milk, to challenge mum not to spill a drop as she poured it into the mix master. I’ve always loved eating food too, so I guess it was just a natural transition to grow to love cooking it as well!

 

What is the process for developing a recipe? How long does each recipe take?

Hmm, that depends on what it is I’m cooking. If it’s a salad or a pasta or a rice dish the recipes are usually fairly easy to make and require minimal testing because I’m pretty familiar with the processes involved. For those recipes I spend the majority of my time trying to think of creative things to do with flavour combinations. When I make recipes for cakes or baked goods the process usually takes a little longer, as you want to make sure the quantities are spot-on so that no one ends up with a cake that has a half-baked runny centre. I’ve found that often the best way to come up with recipes is to think about interesting flavour combinations and go from there. I also like thinking about what I’ve got growing in my garden at any point in time, as often things that grow together have flavours that pair really well too (like basil and tomatoes, mint and strawberries). I find my most interesting recipes come to me when I’m off on a long walk, letting my mind ramble around certain dish ideas, thinking of fruits I’d be excited to cook with, or interesting flavour combinations that I haven’t see in recipe books yet. 

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

What, or who, inspires you?

I think I get a lot of inspiration out of nature and from my veggie patch. Also, I love to read about dishes from different countries and to try to prepare them myself. My boyfriend and I often have themed dinners; I’ll suddenly realise I know nothing about Ethiopian cooking and will spend an afternoon obsessively researching it on a whim, then I’ll try cooking a heap of the dishes myself. We like to find music from the same place as the food we’re cooking as well, to make it a kind of fun, immersive thing. I also love cooking with more unusual herbs, especially edible Australian native herbs, which are easy to grow at home and often have really interesting flavours. Sometimes all I need to get inspired to try cooking something new is wandering around an interesting supermarket with specialty spices or interesting ingredients - I find these completely irresistible and always want to try cooking with them myself. Also going to restaurants where the chef is trying lots of interesting and novel cooking techniques or flavour combinations is a great way to get inspired to try something new yourself.

 

You style and shoot your own food, right? You do it so beautifully, how did you learn that skill?

Thank you! Yes, I do! Again, I think it’s a bit similar to how I got into cooking. I’ve always had a thing for photography - I used to borrow my dad’s digital camera as a kid and take it out to the garden to shoot photos of my mum’s flowers. I also loved making home movies and made a series of questionable music videos as a tweenager (along with my poor cousins who I forced to dress in sequinned outfits with wigs and sing ‘It’s raining men’ with me!). So I guess - like the cooking - it’s just a skill that kind of developed over many years, just because I enjoyed it so much. 

 

Image and Styling by Casey Lister

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

What is your favourite style of food to cook?

Tough question! I think my favourite style is a kind of tapas style, probably because it allows me to combine as many different dishes and styles of cooking as possible! So maybe that answer is cheating a little bit haha!. I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern tapas-y way of cooking and I think following his recipes is how I’ve come to like the idea of having a bunch of different smaller share plates that you combine on the table (irrespective of what kind of cuisine they are - Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern). I think this way of eating also creates a really nice dining experience - people eat more slowly and mindfully when they’re taking little bits of food from different plates and sharing meals around with each other. The food also feels more exciting that way - it’s not just one big bowl of something, there are heaps of different things to sample and combine in various ways - I love it!

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image and Styling by Casey Lister

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Sustainiblilty is an important part of Object Union The nature of what you do is sustainable, but how important is it in your process, or your day to day?

Sustainability is definitely important to me! I love that more people are coming around to the idea of eating sustainably. It’s a really hard thing to accomplish and I’m definitely not a pro, but I do love that I can walk out into the garden most days and find herbs, lettuce greens and maybe some veggies to add to whatever I’m cooking. The food miles are 0, and because I have a compost bin I don't have to worry about food waste - whatever isn’t eaten simply goes back to feed the worms and the plants in the garden. I’d love to become more sustainable in terms of other aspects of my lifestyle. I recycle as much as I can but I think the next thing to do is to eliminate cans and other types of packaging as much as possible as well. I think having a love of gardening has definitely made me more appreciative of nature and how much we depend upon it. It’s easy to feel distant from the earth and from nature when you don't spend much time amongst it, but as my garden ecosystem improves with time I’m seeing more native birds and insects in the garden, and it’s making me ever-more appreciative of how fragile the natural world is, and how important it is for us to protect it, and to live sustainably within it. 


What is your favourite ingredient - to cook and to grow.

Another tough question because I love everything! Some constant staples that I will always depend on when I cook are chillies and garlic, and I probably eat about 10 tomatoes a week! Other ingredients come and go and I get little flares of excitement about them as I discover them, like I recently learned how nice caraway seeds and Ancho chillies taste when added to pasta sauces, and I’ve started adding tahini paste and buttermilk to my salad dressings. I love to cook with sumac and saffron - really interesting flavours - and a few months back I bought some smoked soy sauce and dashi sauce that are INCREDIBLE splashed over anything and everything - packed full of umami! Also smoked paprika is delicious on wedges, in fritters and smoky bean hotpots, and I have some wasabi-covered sesame seeds that are amazing sprinkled over scrambled eggs (see! I can’t pick!). My favourite things to grow are things that I can always have on hand in the garden; like perennial or self-seeding herbs and salad greens. It’s so wonderful not having to go to the shops to buy herbs, or to be able to decide last minute to make a curry and to just go out into the garden and pick Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, curry leaves, Vietnamese coriander and Thai basil. All of those things are really easy to grow and they add heaps of flavour to any dish! 

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image and Styling by Casey Lister

 

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I’m in the ‘contemplating’ stage of making my next cookbook haha!, I’m taking a little break for the next couple of months to focus on work I’m doing at UWA. I’ve always found it really tricky to choose between arty stuff and science-y stuff, so recently I decided to just not try to pick at all, but to have ‘seasons’ of different projects. So I’m taking a break between cookbooks to do some research work on language evolution and human communication, which was the topic of my PhD thesis. I’m hoping I’ll have some time to knuckle down and work on the next cookbook (part II: Winter Spring) towards the end of the year. I’m really excited to make the second part, so hopefully I can push ahead with it really soon! 

 

What inspired you to make a cookbook? 

Hard to say! I think I kind of always wanted to give it a go, ever since I started sharing recipes on my blog. I had made a couple of e-cookbooks with a friend, but I think anyone who loves cooking will attest to the fact that there’s something so much nicer about having a hard copy cookbook that you can actually hold in your hands. I guess maybe I thought I wouldn’t really feel like id made a cookbook until I’d done one in hard copy. I have more plans for a bigger one in the future, I won’t say more about it yet because it’s still a way off, but it combines a heap of things I’m really interested in, so I think it could be great. I’ve just got to solve the eternal problem of how to find the time! Deleting my Netflix account would probably be a good start  :P

 

Image by Natasja Kremers

 

Image and Styling by Casey Lister

 

 


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