"Baking with Jackie Cameron a Delightful Experience"

Under the leadership of Jackie Cameron, Hartford House restau­rant in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands was consistently rated in the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa and the recipient of many culinary awards. She is now owner of Jackie Cam­eron School of Food & Wine in Hil­ton, KwaZulu-Natal, and designer of the JC Chef Clothing range.
— Julian Richfield

Her first book was Jackie Cam­eron Cooks At Home, her second, Baking with Jackie Cameron, has just been published. Jackie says that baking is her way of sharing happiness. “When there is a freshly baked loaf or pie on the table, or a delectable cake for tea, the world seems like a better place.”

In the book, she pays tribute to the baked goods that were part of her childhood, but as one would expect and hope for from a chef of her standing, she has added her own touch to many of these trad­itional family recipes. With so many baking competition programmes on television these days, the thought of a book on baking might sound intimidating to some. Jackie says that baking, especially pastry and desserts, requires one to be precise and measure correctly. Not every­body takes to it.

“If some of your efforts don't work out quite right the first time, don't become despond­ent. Baking is part science, part art - and it takes time to master all the skills required. Always test the recipes before cooking for guests.” Most of the recipes in Baking with Jackie Cameron are straight­-forward, but there are some that are challenging and will enable one to produce baked goods to impress one's friends and family. The range of recipes in the book include those for making biscuits, breads, cakes, desserts and pud­dings, pies and tarts, and for small cakes.

There is a very helpful Cook's Notes section and the book is well indexed. And what a pleasure that all the ingredients in the recipes are easy to find at one's local grocer. In our family we seldom have dessert when we are at home alone. But my daughter and I have a weekly dinner time game we play. We imagine the dessert we could be having after dinner.

Now I am at relative disadvantage - my daugh­ter is a trained chef. But thanks to Jackie Cameron's book, I have now been able to arm my quiver with a few sweet arrows: Amarula Creme Brulee, Chocolate and Goji Berry Fondant, Rhubarb Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding. I think for the next few weeks I might just be ahead on points.

From the photograph of a smil­ing Jackie Cameron on its front cover, through it's easy to follow recipes, and its beautiful photog­raphy, Baking with Jackie Cameron is a delight, much like its author. It is now our home's “go to” book for baking inspiration. Let the baking commence.

Chef Jackie Cameron incor­porates a sense of identity and place into cooking. Julian Richfield inter­viewed her:

Q. Your first book, Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home, was aimed at the home cook and offered guidance and recipes well within their capabilities. Your new book is Baking with Jackie Cameron. Now with the example of the popular baking-themed television programmes, should the readers feel at all intimidated by what is in your book?

A. Not at all. It follows a very similar theme to the first. It takes very common home­ cooked baked items and adds a fresh spin to them. It is the go-to book for baked items. I remember as a child having about 10 recipes books whereby one book had a fabu­lous sponge recipe, another had a world-class quiche; this eliminates this confusions where to find something. Often my sister and I would say let us cook, for instance, eclairs and because we didn't do this every week it would take much time just finding the recipe. A slight frustration...

I strongly believe if a per­son is cooking better at home they will expect a better stan­dard when they eat out at restaurants. I know that edu­cating the home cook has a positive effect on restaurants and uplifting the standard in general. This knock-on effect will also happen in the baked goods outlets too.

Also, there are so many more home cooks than chefs and home cooks are respon­sible for what we see in our shops today. They have become more knowledge­able and this has resulted in greater quality and unusual items being available. A few years back we would never have found items like tofu or even sesame seed oil in our local grocery.

I also know home cooks are frustrated with buying cookbooks and the recipes not working - in my mind, there is no point putting out a recipe book if some of the recipes in it don't work.
There is a true art in writing recipes. I have had a monthly column in The Witness newspaper for the last nine years in which I have included my number and email address. I very quickly learnt exactly how detailed I needed to be to ensure 100 percent understanding; this has seen less questions being e-mailed to me. The reader will be able to find all the ingredients in my new book at their local grocery, nothing over the top.

Q. What age do you think a mother should introduce her child into participating in the cooking process and what do you think that introduction should be? And their intro­duction to baking?

A. I was cooking from before the  age of  three so as soon as a child shows interest, no matter how young  they  are, I do feel get them into the kitchen. Even if it is only stirring a pot or sieving flour. A child normally likes sweet/baking items so I def­initely feel something along those lines would be a good place to begin. My mom had written the date next to a recipe "Jacqueline's White Bread";  it worked out  that I was three at the time. Nat­urally I wasn't making the bread by myself but I had been involved in the process.

Q. Does baking ask any dif­ferent questions of a cook's abilities as opposed to gen­eral cooking?

A. Baking, especially pastry and desserts, requires one to be precise and  measure cor­rectly. Not everybody takes to it.

Q. Could somebody who has never baked before use your book as their introduction to the art?

A. Of course, it is a very straight-forward book and explains each step in detail.

Q. How has teaching and your post-Hartford House experience influenced your cooking and baking?

A. I mentioned my Witness column earlier. Also most on my staff have had an edu­cation of Standard 7 and 8, so teaching and clear under­standing of recipes have always been key at getting a task done. I have learnt/reminded myself a huge deal over the last year here at my school, Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, when it comes to baking. I don't think the notes in the book would have been as detailed if it wasn't for all the recent research I have done developing my course material for my students.

Q. Do you have more Jackie Cameron time now and what non-cooking things feed your soul?

A. I love it when people ask me this question. In the same year that I opened my school, we put a recipe book together with many other interesting and exciting projects I was involved in. I am not embarrassed to say that I worked hard at Hartford (actually extremely hard) - still checked every plate of food from breakfast to lunch to dinner that went out, and I was just as passionate and obsessed that each guest had a lasting/ memor­able time right up until the day I left.

The school takes work to another level. I have my own business now; I have huge loans to pay off. I have staff that I am responsible for; there is truly no down-time. I'm working from on aver­age 5am-llpm most days - straight through, no split shifts. What is great though, if I have a private lunch function, I can wake at sparrows, get working, make up the hours and then still make the family occasion. So in that way I feel I have more balance as I am truly now the master of my own time. Non-cooking things... mmm, what feeds my soul is time with friends and family around a kitchen or dining room table with a great meal and a delicious wine.