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|Khaya Caine • 2/13/18|
The Short Version: Australia-based author and culinary enthusiast Lorraine Elliott knows food. For the past decade, she’s been sharing her innovative recipes, restaurant reviews, and travel tips on her blog Not Quite Nigella. Lorraine’s site attracts more than a quarter million readers each month, many of whom are couples seeking fresh ideas for delicious, cuisine-centered date nights. The title of her blog is her way of acknowledging fellow author Nigella Lawson for the role she played in teaching her to cook. While she says she’s not quite Nigella, Lorraine’s mouth-watering recipes and conversational writing style are equipping couples with the tools needed to create romantic culinary experiences.
Lorraine might describe her fabulous career as a blogger as somewhat of a happy accident. Roughly 10 years ago, she found herself stuck in a job as a media strategist. Although she was earning a good salary, she wasn’t happy and knew something was missing. She felt torn. On one hand, she thought having a corporate, stable job was expected of her, but there was another part of her that desperately wanted to go after her dreams.
Her husband suggested she start blogging about food since she had a passion for cooking, so she started Not Quite Nigella.
In 2007, blogging was considered a new way to share content, so there were really no business expectations. Lorraine just blogged for the joy of it and used it as a way to connect with out-of-town family, but her site took off in popularity and now welcomes upward of 250,000 visitors each month.
“My blog wasn’t really meant to change my life in the way that it has,” she said. “I thought I’d be working in the corporate world for the rest of my life, and that made me die a little inside, quite honestly. But then this thing called blogging came along and gave me the best life I could ever have.”
With content that now includes recipes, reviews, and travel stories, Lorraine’s Sydney, Australia-based blog is a one-stop shop where couples can turn to learn new culinary techniques and get the scoop on Sydney’s food scene. Her fans applaud her for elevating dishes by adding her own brand of creativity and passion.
“I’ll go away and think about how to make it my own way,” she said. “My version will be simpler than the restaurant’s, as chefs often have access to ingredients that my followers won’t buy. I also try to make my recipes healthier: a common swap is offering a baked version of a deep-fried dish.”
In terms of dessert, Not Quite Nigella is chock-full of ideas for the perfect ending to a romantic meal. In her blog, Lorraine features desserts and tells relatable stories with vivid pictures that make it easy for readers to follow. Entries, such as Lulu, The Lemon Mascarpone Cream Cloud Cake, are important to have in your back pocket when your sweet tooth comes calling.
When it comes to making something special for your special someone, Lorraine said the right dessert can be a great way to show you care about the things that make him or her happy.
“I think perhaps something that they have mentioned that they love is probably the best idea,” she said. “It shows that you are interested in them and that you’re listening. If they love lemons, you can make Lemonade Cake, Lemon Cloud Cake, or Mini Passionfruit Lemon Cakes. If they like blueberries, a blueberry cheesecake would be the best bet.”
Lorraine crafted one of her original recipes, Persephone, The Zingy Grapefruit Yogurt Cake, on a Friday night with her husband, who she affectionately calls Mr. NQN. She was just sketching cakes at her desk when she received an email from her favorite local farm offering her one of her least favorite fruits — grapefruit. Knowing Mr. NQN is a lover of all fruit, she decided to make something she knew he would enjoy. She turned this into a delicious opportunity and shared it with her readers.
“Do you love zingy, citrus-flavored cakes? Have you ever tried grapefruit in a cake? Use it as you would lemon,” she wrote on her blog. “In this moist butter cake, yogurt gives it a wonderful texture while grapefruit gives it a gorgeous sherbert quality. Her name? Persephone!”
Her readers were not disappointed — in the blog comments section, Yvonne said she found the cake to be a perfect treat to enjoy with her spouse.
“I just baked this wonderful cake tonight and currently enjoying it with my husband,” Yvonne said. “I didn’t have a bundt cake tin and used two banana cake loaf tins instead, and it turned out really well — light, citrusy, and not too sweet.”
Lorraine finds desserts to be super romantic because they’re not seen as a necessity. It’s pure decadence, and she finds excitement in that.
“I guess because we don’t have it every day (unless you’re lucky), it feels a bit special or even sometimes naughty to have dessert,” she said. “Meals can be about satisfying hunger, but dessert isn’t. It’s about pleasure.”
When Lorraine published her autobiography, “Not Quite Nigella: My Path To Happiness Through Baking & Blogging,” she gave readers a true glimpse into her culinary and life journey. The book also gives readers insight into how she diligently develops and then cooks all her original recipes. But her book also takes a more personal tone. She effortlessly shared her humor and optimism about finding her passion in life, having a supportive husband to share food and love with, and how to get people to take blogs seriously.
The countless book reviews she’s received commend her writing, the community she’s cultivated, and her desire to go after her dreams.
“I love Lorraine’s writing style, and you don’t get more than a chapter or so into the book before all her friends seem like your own family,” reader Maureen wrote. “Queen Viv, Miss America, and all her cast of friends feature lovingly in her memoir. It’s a must for every food lover and blogger.”
Another reader, Anne, noted that, after reading Lorraine’s book, she wasn’t surprised by the success of her blog.
“It’s easy to understand why Lorraine has such a successful blog,” Anne wrote. “Her book is written in such a lovely, friendly style that you can’t help but warm to her. Her culinary journey is described in an entertaining and humorous way, and I enjoyed reading it.”
Not one to leave anyone out, Lorraine even shares tips for those who are new to baking, and her one-bowl chocolate cake is a sure crowd pleaser.
“Hugely complicated cakes can be great to look at, but start with a simple one bowl chocolate cake that doesn’t make too much mess or require too much equipment,” she said. “Once you gain confidence, you can progress to more difficult things. With baking, it’s best if you don’t change the recipe around much. Savoury recipes can stand tweaking, but baking is more about science and measurements.”
In terms of writing restaurant reviews, Lorraine believes integrity is the best policy. As a result, she writes a disclaimer on many of her entries indicating the meal being reviewed was paid for independently. After all, with her social media followers growing by the minute, she’s an official influencer.
“I take what I do seriously,” she said. “I don’t recommend anything I don’t love myself. And, 99% of the time, I turn up unannounced and pay for my food when I review restaurants.”
Not only do her restaurant reviews provide stunning food photos, but she also tells restaurant secrets from an insider’s perspective. In her review on Hughes Barbecue, she mentioned the restaurant’s secret menu and the fact that she brought an enormous round miche bread loaf into the restaurant with her. It’s this authenticity and quirkiness that brings readers back to her blog time and time again.
Blog supporter Sherry MacKay said she really enjoyed the review even though she and her husband aren’t huge meat fans.
“Yum to freshly cooked chips and to the potato salad,” Sherry wrote. “Hubby and I are not huge meat eaters, but this does look pretty scrumptious. Fried pickles? Must try that someday. Glad to see there is more than just burgers out there!”
If you’d like to wake up to a delicious meal in your inbox or get Lorraine’s latest updates in the form of new recipes, restaurant reviews, or travel stories from her blog, sign up to receive free daily updates.
To say Lorraine is dedicated to her readers would be an understatement. She takes her job seriously and only takes short vacations twice a year. When she’s finished with her blog, she immediately moves on to her social media pages. As a result, her blog readership is up to 250,000 unique readers a month. Her Pinterest followers have eclipsed the 79,000 mark, and she’s followed by 52,000 Instagram users, has 32,000 Facebook friends, and tweets to an audience of 16,000. With this level of dedication, she’s sure to expand her power of influence.
“I post once a day although I take the one day off for Christmas and one for New Year’s,” Lorraine said. “The most popular stories can really vary. Often it’s the cakes, but last year chicken seemed to be very well-received. I like writing about restaurants, travel, and recipes equally, but travel stories take the most time to write as there are often so many images that go with them. A restaurant review takes the least time and the recipes somewhere in between.”
With her growing popularity, Lorraine intends to continue providing readers with the content they have come to love and depend on when it comes to food and travel. Her future plans include a product line to accommodate small spaces and more travel.
“In the immediate future, I’m looking forward to visiting Texas,” she said. “In terms of a long-term goal, I’d love to release a product line of beautiful, but perfectly designed kitchen tools, especially ones for people that live in apartments that don’t have room for lots of equipment. I have so many ideas that I want to bring to fruition.”