If you’re into Italian cuisine, this interview will be of great interest to you. It’ll lead you to an extremely thorough and well thought out website created by a very talented food blogger named Manu. Manu is an Italian native who currently resides in Australia. She comes from a family that loves and has a strong connection with food, so her recipes and helpful tips in the kitchen have been well tested. Besides Italian, Manu shares recipes from other regions around the world, so there’s definitely the potential to do some learning.
If you’d like to broaden your horizons when it comes to what you prepare in the kitchen, stop by to visit Manu’s Menu today. While there, I encourage you to sign up for her newsletter. I did just that a few months ago and can’t even begin to express the amount of great information she packs in each mailing. It’s second to none.
1. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Manuela and I was born and brought up in Milan, Italy by Sicilian parents. My passion for cooking runs in the family and many of my recipes have been passed down from generations. I love all kinds of food, but I obviously specialise in Italian cuisine. I started my blog to spread the concepts of authentic Italian cuisine outside of Italy as I find that Italian food abroad is often misrepresented.
2. Where do you call home?
I moved to Sydney, in Australia, 10 years ago. I love Australia and I consider myself really lucky to live here, so much so that I am naturalised Australian and I consider Australia my “home.”
3. What is it that made you so interested in food and cooking?
Everyone in my family loves cooking (and eating!), so I grew up in a family where we used to take turns in the kitchen and even make meals all together. Cooking to me means “family,” so I have always viewed it as a natural part of my life. Besides, I find it very relaxing.
4. How long have you been sharing recipes, tips and advice on your blog?
I started blogging 5 years ago, but before that I used to give out recipes to friends and family anyway. Let’s just say that “blogging made my life easier,” at least I can just give out a link to anyone who asks!
5. Have you ever had any formal culinary training or are you self-taught? Where have you found the majority of culinary information you use today?
I don’t have any “formal” culinary training. I have learnt the “basis” from my family and then I have expanded from there by practising, inventing and testing/tasting. When it comes to Italian cooking, I don’t usually follow other people’s recipes, but when it comes to other cuisines I always try to get authentic recipes from local sources. And the web is full of talented bloggers from all over the world!
6. What is your favorite part of sharing your recipes and ideas online?
I love to make people happy. My blog is about traditional Italian cooking and I have had many second or third generation Italians write to me to thank me because they found recipes their grandmothers used to make and that had got lost after they passed away. Helping to keep traditions alive makes me very happy.
7. Have you faced any major challenges while preparing food in the kitchen? Is there anything you feel that you need to work on?
During the past 5 years I have learnt a lot. I have conquered techniques that used to scare me, like tempering chocolate or making puff pastry from scratch. That has taught me that there is no need to be scared and that everything can be achieved with a little practice. That said, cake decoration is an area I need to work on! I love decorating cakes, but I would like to be more precise and learn a few tricks.
8. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve faced so far in regards to operating your blog? Conversely, what have you been pleased with?
The hardest part for me is definitely the technical stuff. I am not a computer savvy person and when I started blogging, I didn’t even know what WordPress was! I have improved a lot, but there is still so much to learn! On the other hand, I am pleased with the improvements of my photography.
9. From looking through your site, I see that you write about and share Italian and Indian recipes. How has the response to that style of cooking been from your readers? Do they prefer one type of cuisine over the other?
When I started blogging, I set out with the mission to show my readers what authentic Italian cooking was all about. When you go to an Italian restaurant abroad, you tend to get the idea that we eat garlic loaded dishes and overcooked pasta. 😉 But there is so much more to Italian cooking than that! At the same time, I also wanted to share what I cook for my family, so I started to include dishes from other cuisines too. We eat Indian food often as my husband is of Indian origins, so Indian recipes are very much present on the blog.
I must admit that my readers like both the Italian and the Indian recipes and to tell you the truth the most popular recipe on the blog at the moment is my Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani!
10. Do you cook for friends and family? If so, which do you enjoy more, the actual food preparation or receiving their feedback on your creations?
I am the “official cook” in the family and I love to cook for my friends too. In fact, I never go to someone’s house without food! I love everything about cooking…even deciding what I am going to cook! Getting feedback is always great: I love all kinds of suggestions and ideas!
11. What’s it been like interacting with those who visit your website? Is it rewarding?
That’s the most rewarding thing about blogging. I love it when people find the time to leave a comment on a recipe they liked! It means a lot to me!
12. What gave you the idea that you could start a blog and create a following writing about your culinary adventures?
It all started when a friend of mine saw a few of the food pictures I had posted on Facebook. She had just started her own blog and suggested I do the same. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know anything about blogging at that time, but I thought it would be fun and it would also make it easy for me to exchange recipes with family and friends. I had never even dreamt that my site could be visited by so many people I didn’t know!
13. To date, which has been your most popular recipe with your readers?
As I said before, the most popular recipe is my Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani…followed closely by my Home-made Condensed Milk recipe.
14. What’s your favorite part of cooking and blogging?
My favourite part is the cooking bit hands down. I like the food styling and photography bits too, though that depends on the dish. Some dishes can be very stressful to shoot. Pasta is the one I dread the most! My family and I always eat the food I cook for the blog, so getting it to the table warm is a priority and pasta doesn’t reheat very well. 😉
15. What is it about food and writing that keeps you coming back for more?
For me, it reminds me of who I am, where I come from. Food is a huge part of Italian culture and keeping these traditions alive helps me to stay grounded. It is also a good way to teach my children about our roots.
16. If you had a friend who asked you for advice on how to start their own blog, what sort of wisdom would you offer?
I’d tell them to do it for themselves, as a hobby and to remain true to themselves and to the reason why they are blogging in the first place. Nowadays there are so many new bloggers that start out with a “plan” to make it into a business. I have nothing against making some money out of your blog (I do it too), but when you blog just to make it big and to make money, what you write has no heart.
17. Do you have any favorite cooking related websites that you visit regularly? If so, which ones?
I visit many sites, but Foodgawker is still my favourite! I love browsing through all those delicious looking photos! I find it very inspirational!
18. Where would you like to see yourself in the next year regarding your blog? What are your next steps?
I would love to collaborate with other publications to spread the concept of authentic and regional Italian food outside of Italy. I think Italy has so much to offer in terms of amazing products and recipes and I think it’s a pity that so few of them are actually known outside of Italy. Helping to do that would make me very happy…besides, of course, keeping up the work on Manu’s Menu!
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