Sites We Love: Things {We} Make

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.

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Claire Sutton

This week's Site We Love is Things {We} Make, where husband and wife team, Claire and Ed Sutton, take on some serious DIY projects. Claire's posts revolve around her passion for cooking, gardening, and vibrant photography, while Ed's posts feature his brilliant wood working skills and interest in restoration. And whether you're looking for a tasty Bubble and Squeak recipe or searching for a hands on approach to building a catapult, Things {We} Make has it all and that's why we love it. Here's what Claire and Ed have to say about their site:

Blog has been live since: May 2009

Posting rate: 1 or 2 per week. It feels odd now to go a week without writing a post now, it has become part of what we do.

Geographic location: We live on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District in the UK.

Why is the site called Things {We} Make? Ed and I have always liked to "make stuff" and our son George likes to create things, too. The 'things we make' can range from food to furniture and we like to photograph anything that turns out well...and sometimes things that don't. So when we asked ourselves "What shall we call this blog that is about all the things we make?" the question answered itself.

Our blog also serves us as a living cookery book for when we want to remake a recipe, plus it is a great way of sharing things with others; we love to see what other people make too.

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Claire Sutton

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Photo: Claire Sutton

What's been your most popular post? Our post with the most views is about a great big sandwich - Muffaletta. It is closely followed by Kenwood vs KitchenAid which is a popular read for cooks searching the web for "which food mixer should I buy?" I am fascinated by what draws people in as the most popular posts are often the simplest.

What's your favorite post? Our favourite post, recipe or photograph is often the most recent, which I guess is a good thing as it means we are generally improving our skills. I like the ones with a little bit of character in them like: My Baking Addiction or Ed's Sausage Rolls.

What's something great that you've learned or that's happened to you since starting your blog? I have had a few invites to enter cookery competitions that I have turned down because I don't think the nation needs to see me in some sort of baking induced meltdown as I try to whip up a souffle on TV. But I did take up the offer to be on Market Kitchen. The team came and filmed me baking at home then I set off on the train to London with a little basket of Derbyshire tea loaves to film the studio portion of the show. I really enjoyed it and got to meet lovely people and taste fabulous local food cooked by the chefs. That's the sort of opportunity that I would never have had if we didn't have the blog.

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purple cupcakes

Claire Sutton

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Photo: Claire Sutton

We have also developed lots of new skills since we started the blog because it makes you challenge yourself to try new techniques and recipes. Bread has become a real specialty for me now and I think nothing of developing a new recipe like my polenta bread. Much like Ed's furniture designs, it means that we end up with something that fits our requirements perfectly.

What's the usual process for developing one of your posts? Rather than plan things specifically to write about, most of our posts start out as a pressing requirement that needs to be fulfilled. We might need a new table, or something delicious for dinner that can be made out of leftovers or a cake for a friends birthday. It just so happens that we like to document these things and write about them. Like my Twitter bio says "Sometimes I make stuff; then I photograph it."

I am getting better at planning the photographs for a post though, as if you don't, you can end up with dark, rushed images. I try to have and area set aside ready for photos so that I can just drop the food into shot and snap the shutter moments before we tuck in and eat it. My favourite part of the process is editing the photos and deciding which shots and style to use for each post.

What are your favorite ingredients and tools? We use a lots of pancetta in savoury dishes, in fact pork products generally feature high on our ingredients list. We love to use Maldon sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Tools that we like include our Kenwood Chef, the ubiquitous 'good sharp knife' and a potato ricer for the fluffiest mashed potato. Oh, and if we are talking technology tools too, I wouldn't be without Twitter for on the spot advice and inspiration.

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Claire Sutton

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Photo: Claire Sutton

What are your favorite food and cooking resources? Our most thumbed books are from Nigel Slater, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cafe, with Nigella Lawson being a favourite for baking. We also have a few books that we like to look at purely for inspiration like Dishy by Kevin Gould or Living and Eating by Jon Pawson and Annie Bell.

What photography equipment do you use? We use a Nikon D80, mostly with a 50mm lens. We try to use natural light most of the time but I am not averse to a bit of Speedlight off-camera flash or a set of strobes in the depths of winter. We also use photos from our pocket Pentax and even our phones. When I grow up I want a full frame Nikon and a couple of new lenses.

Where else can we find your work? Last year we published our own Derbyshire food and feature Magazine with Deb from Fabulous Places called etc._ The fabulous _The Foodie Bugle has featured our photographs too. There are some of our favourite food shots on Tasteologie, Tastespotting and FoodGawker. Ed has also written several articles for Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine. In May 2011, we were very honoured to be listed in Saveur Magazines 50 Food Blogs you should be reading. We love Twitter because it's a great way for people to stay in touch with our work on a day to day basis. We are @ClaireTweet and @TheManWhoMakes.

What food blogs do you follow? We dip in and out of lots of blogs, there are so many people out there with fascinating stories to tell and recipes to share, but these are some of our stalwart favourites: My Custard Pie, Cannelle et Vanille, Mowielicious, A Kentish Kitchen, and Extra-Relish.

Do you know a blog or blogger who deserves to be featured in this space? Email a nomination — including a link to the site and a few sentences on why they're worthy of love — to siteswelove@saveur.com.