Sites We Love: Kokblog
Gorgeous photos? Check. Engaging writing? Check. Seriously inspiring recipes, tips, and culinary curiosity? Check, check, and check. The best food blogs all seem to have a lot in common — but what separates them out are the strong personalities behind them. In our Sites We Love series, we sit down with some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they do it — and why it's as much fun for them as it is for us.
This week’s site we love is Kokblog, where designer and cook Johanna Kindvall creates a beautifully illustrated guide to Swedish cooking. Delicately drawn images and info-graphics lead readers on a delightful visual journey from stylized images of dainty elderflower cordials to sticky chocolate cake. This blog approaches cooking with an illustrative edge that makes it one of a kind, and for that reason, we love it. Here’s what Joanna had to say about her site:
Photo: Johanna Kindvill
Posting rate: Statistically, I post about once a month since I started.
** Geographic location:**New York City and Lovestad in the very South of Sweden.
Why is the site called Kokblog? I wanted the name of the blog to have a hint of my heritage (Swedish) even if I was writing in English. Directly translated ‘Kok’ means ‘boiling’ but its taken from the Swedish word Kokbok which mean Cooking Book. Together with blog its Kokblog.
** What’s been your most popular post?**That must be my Piergoi post. Pierogi are polish dumplings that I learned to love through my husband’s family who are Polish. For a couple of years Wikipedia linked to the post as a recipe source for Pierogi. I was flattered but also surprised as my Pierogi fillings aren’t at all traditional. Lately I think my Recipe Diagrams [Ed: Like the image above right!] are the most popular posts. I have got many great responses on my work with them.
** What’s your favorite post?** My favorite at the moment is Sticky Chocolate Cake from 11 May 2011. The recipe is my flourless version of a Swedish classic: Kladdkaka, a.k.a. Sticky Chocolate Cake. My husband really liked me developing the recipe as he got to eat several chocolate cakes in the process. A couple of weeks ago I ran out of eggs and the only eggs I could get at my local farmer in Sweden was duck eggs. For two cakes I used 3 duck eggs and doubled all the other ingredients. The result was quite something!
Illustration: Johanna Kindvall
** What’s something great that you’ve learned or that’s happened to you since starting your blog?** Besides developing my illustration style and become a better cook, my work with Kokblog has led me to meet many interesting people around the world. One of them is Alice Brax who is a Swedish food journalist and creator of the blog Brax on Food We met for the first time in 2005 for a cinnamon bun and a glass of wine in the center of Stockholm. We immediately got along and have been sharing many fantastic food moments, either in our own kitchens or in restaurants. It’s become a tradition that Alice and I holds a bite size dinner party every time she and her husband visit NYC. We plan the dinner around what we can find at the Union Square Market and other interesting food shops in East Village. We end up in my tiny kitchen to cook and create several small dishes just in time for the guests to arrive. I really do enjoy cooking with Alice and others and its a great way to learn new things in the kitchen.
** What’s the usual process for developing one of your posts?** I often start by getting an idea for a post. It can be something I have been cooking for years like Pea Soup or an old recipe like Knackerbrod (Swedish hard bread) that needs new attention. The story can also be based on something that was totally new for me like when I was cooking Squid for the first time in my life. I often have several post ideas that I’m working on. When they get posted depends on which stage they are in and if they are in season or up-to-date.I try to develop the story, recipe and the images together during the whole process.
With my recipe diagrams the illustration often takes more time than other images on Kokblog as they are built up from many different components. I also try to create a unique diagram that shows that specific recipe in as minimal way as I can.
One good thing about illustrating my posts is that I don’t have to eat my food cold as I don’t have to take photos when I’m starving! I never have to really think if the presentation looks good or if the light is the best for my sausages. Photography in my work is more a way to remember a meal or to document different techniques for future illustrations, for example, rolling a meatball.
** What are your favorite ingredients and tools?** My favorite tool in the kitchen must be my almond mill that I bought at a flee market in Sweden. I love this tool so much so I had to have two; one in NYC and one in Sweden. Its a bit old fashioned, but pretty and does the work fabulously. It also mills other nuts and grates Parmesan ends perfectly. When I travel of course I enjoy eating out but I also try to do some food shopping and cook something on my own during my stay. I think I get equally excited by uncommon or more familiar ingredients as it’s the idea of the meal that thrills me the most.
Illustration: Johanna Kindvall
What are your favorite food and cooking resources? I love reading Elizabeth David’s old books and articles about food. They inspire me greatly and sometimes when I’m at a loss in the kitchen I ask myself, What would Elizabeth think? Funnily enough I almost always find a clever answer in her books. I prefer cookbooks that are more of a reading book where the recipes are loose and open for the reader to create something new from. Another favorite is the book Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson, illustrated by Flo Bayley. All chapters are divided into specific ingredient such as eggplant, rabbit and onion. Hopkinson introduces every single chapter with a personal story or special experience around the specific ingredient. I find it very amusing and I often use it as a guide in the kitchen. I also get inspiration while food shopping which I prefer to do in small neighborhood shops than in big supermarkets (see my food shopping tour in the East Village).
What medium do you most frequently draw with? Most of of my sketches are done with either mechanical pencils (0.9) or fountain pens (thin). The finished result however is mostly drawn with my tablet using the software Corel paint. I also do some work in Photoshop and Illustrator.
** Where else can we find your work?** I’m a regular contributor at Honest Cooking. I have also done work for different websites and wonderful blogs such as Brax on Food and Stonesoup. See more by visiting my online portfolio.
** What food blogs do you follow?** I follow many food blogs so its almost impossible to pick out a few of my favorites. However some of my favorites at the moment are She Simmers, Girl Interrupted Eating, London Eats and even if I can’t read Spanish I use Google Translate to enjoy Iban Yarza’s food and bread blog Te Quedeas a Cenar? I also really enjoy Steen Hanssen’s writing for Honest Cooking and Serious Eats, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to do some illustrations for his writing.
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