When we last met Deb Perelman of The Smitten Kitchen — her cookery blog for which she cooks and photographs recipes from her tiny New York kitchen — she was regularly cooking (virtually of course) for four million people.
Fast-forward two years and Perelman’s audience has more than doubled, with close to 10 million salivating readers clicking on her site each month.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook — an off-shoot from her blog, for which she has written and photographed more than 100 mostly new recipes — was published in the United States last October.
It is already in its seventh reprint and despite only being on sale for barely three months of 2012, it was the year’s sixth best selling cookery book in the whole of the United States. It went on sale here late last month, but even before then was being reprinted based on advance sales on Amazon and orders from bookshops.
“It has been a crazy experience — almost overwhelming,” says Perelman from her six-by-seven-foot East Village kitchen. “I totally had not expected such a positive reception.” Since publication, Perelman, who lives with husband Alex and three-year-old son Jacob, has spent a considerable time touring the US, appearing on television and radio and meeting her readers at book signings. At some events, bookstore staff have cooked up some of her recipes. “It’s totally weird when someone is making your food,” she laughs.
She seems genuinely surprised at the level of her popularity. “I have always done this from my apartment, quite unaware that there were so many people reading my blog out there,” she admits.
It must feel to Perelman as if she has met almost every single one of them. “It’s really good to come home” she says. “Touring doesn’t really work with a family, so I try to get the visits done as quickly as possible, which is better than being away from them for too long”.
Her future plans are to get back to the site full-time and keep on doing what she has always done. “I’ve come home full of ideas,” she says.
She declines to pick a favourite from the tantalising recipes, which include buttered popcorn cookies, seared halibut and gazpacho salsa with tomato vinaigrette, shaved asparagus pizza, harvest chicken with grapes, olives and rosemary, and leek fritters with garlic and lemon.
Perelman does not keep kosher, but she does include in her book a version of her mother-in-law’s High Holiday brisket as well as a recipe for fig, olive oil and sea salt challah that is most definitely on my must-bake list.
Her recommendation for a winning dessert for Passover is her tiny but intense chocolate cake (see the recipe below). And that will have to keep us going until she visits the UK, possibly later this year.
‘The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’ is published by Square Peg at £20. Until May 31, JC readers can buy it for £17 including free UK p&p. Call 01206 255 800 quoting the reference ‘the Jewish Chronicle’