Lorraine Elliott is so obsessed with food that she’s named after a quiche. She also started her own food and travel-themed blog because she considered herself, “Not quite Nigella”. What was a hobby and passion in September 2007 soon became a full-time career. By early 2009 she was able to give up her “corporate job” in advertising and this enabled her to become one of Australia’s most popular food bloggers. Not Quite Nigella is the blog’s name and the eponymous title of her autobiography.

The memoir is a fascinating and engaging read. Elliott uses a direct, conversational and self-deprecating style to document her journey from being a weary cook who was afraid to venture into the kitchen after her mum told her she was burning something to a talented “chef”. The tipping point came when Elliott read Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Because Elliott soon took a shine to what proved to be her newfound cooking mother’s sumptuous culinary delights and kitsch recipes in particular.

Elliott’s writing style is very similar to Kathy Lette’s in that it’s humorous and easy-to-read. Although it’s not as funny as the latter author, the book isn’t trying to be strictly comedy. The main subject is food, glorious food and the recipes, reviews and degustation descriptions make for something as tantalising as a close-up from the film, Julie & Julia. The book is also as easy to consume as a succulent steak cooked to perfection or a melt-in-your-mouth piece of chocolate.

Not Quite Nigella started off as “One hungry girl’s ramblings” and a document of Elliott’s meals for her family living abroad. She’d go on to record her own cooking and experiments with different recipes some successful, others not. The proceedings are like one joyous adventure and series of fun, food capers with particular highlights including scouring the city for the best Peking duck dish hosting dinner parties based on a specific theme or ingredient and the pièce de résistance, a guide to gatecrashing a party with nothing more than a wine glass.

This memoir also includes a practical but short chapter with blogging tips and about 16 recipes – some of which are completely new – and range from the nostalgic party favourite of fairy bread to family specialties like wontons and Singaporean Chilli prawns. Elliott’s major love – aside from her husband, Mr NQN – is also desserts red velvet cake and vanilla macaron options are also offered. The only criticism is that the recipes are buried in the book to support the chapters but they are not indexed at the back. They also fail to include a summary of their total preparation times and the amazing photography we associate with Elliott’s blogging. Hopefully this can be fixed in subsequent editions.

Not Quite Nigella looks poised to become as popular as Lorraine Elliott’s blog and indeed, the domestic mother and goddess herself who proved the inspiration. This uplifting autobiography would make an excellent choice for a book club discussion or ten and would be a great gift for a foodie, traveller or writer alike. In short, this is one interesting and informative read that’s as easy to enjoy in one sitting as a packet of Tim Tams.

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