Style editor. Food stylist. Recipe developer. Author. There’s nothing Kirsten Jenkins can’t do. Including making us salivate every time she shares a foodie post on Instagram -and you’ll not only be instantly hungry, but inspired (she really knows how to make beautiful food not only taste good but look magazine worthy).
For over 12 years Kirsten has been shaping the way Australians cook and eat having worked across numerous magazine titles (delicious., Donna Hay, SBS Feast) Masterchef and as the co-author of ‘The Pie Project’ and ‘One leaf at a time’.
We loved chewing the proverbial with Kirsten as she shared what’s what in her kitchen.Hi Kirsten, tell us a little about yourself:
Hi guys…well me in a nutshell, I love food which helps as my job as a food stylist and recipe developer, I now live in Melbourne after living in Sydney my whole life, and I’m a new Mum, which means my life will never be the same!
How did your career in food start?
Had an epiphany eating a salad sitting on a kerb in Spain and knew I needed to come home after my travels to work in food. Started at TAFE studying a chefs certificate, knew very quickly restaurant kitchens weren’t for me and identified the creativity of food publishing was where I wanted to head.
Does anyone in your family cook? If so - what is your favourite thing they make?
Yes my Mum, Dad and Stepfather all cook really well. My Dad’s love of food was definitely what first sparked my love. Currently my Stepfather, Glenn cooks a cracking BBQ lamb that’s then tossed in chilli and mint after it's grilled. And my Mum makes a killer fattoush salad.
Must have pantry staple? Anchovies
Favourite cooking tool? And why? Absolutely mad for a mandolin. It appeases my OCD tendencies.
Do you have a favourite cookbook? What’s the most cooked recipe from it?
I don’t think think I can choose just one, but anything by Skye Gyngell, Nigel Slater and Jenn Louis. Jenn’s book ‘Pasta by hand’ is an absolute cracker and in particular the Lamb Ragu recipe is the most perfect example of exquisite simplicity.
When you can’t be bothered to cook - but need to eat - what do you make? Always pasta.
Friends have popped over unannounced - what’s on the menu?
Well I’m super lucky that I married into a cheese family, so Will Studd cheese (my partner Ellie’s family business) is always on hand. Also we love making really substantial salads, with roasted veg, herbs from the garden and tins of beans from the cupboard.
It's always been tiramisu up to this stage in my life, but I think my appreciation for this dessert and my taste buds have changed? I think I’d have to say a really great (not too sweet) lemon tart.
It's the holiday season - what’s your favourite cocktail?
Ohhhh cocktails are my weakness! I love so many but I have to say at the moment it’s a margarita made with mezcal.
Best place in your city to eat?
I mentioned I lived in Melbourne now didn’t I? This place is incredible and really sets the bar high. Love ‘The Public Wine Shop’ for great wine and casual food, Marion never seems to falter and the Carlton Wine Room for Italian all the way!
Best food instagram accounts I follow…
@food_feels – James has the best food travel account. Full Stop.
@brownpapernutrition – Jac keeps me honest with my eating and reminds how tasty clean eating can be with her recipes
@patnourse – as soon as Pat posts a new place in Melbourne, you know you need to go
@joelbennetts – love his food and his aesthetic
Favourite music to cook with…
Can't stop listening to Billie Eilish and Harry Styles at the moment, and love me some old school R&B soul, like The Supremes.I chose the Workwear Chino Jacket and Nantucket Chino pant because…
I absolutely love a suit, casual or formal. I work in this two piece as it's so comfortable and really smart. It’s getting a real workout in my wardrobe.
I’ll be wearing it… All the time!
Top picks from Irving & Powell:
How to cheese board/platter confidently
To me a cheese board is the ultimate meeting point at a great party. It can be your one stop shop for nibbles and also a great conversation starter with a stranger. However, re-reading over those first two sentences I realise the weight of expectation that may come with getting the cheese board just right and the fear and panic this may induce for the host.
So let’s have a look at some simple tips to help remove the panic and return the cheese board back to its rightful place as the ‘easy’ catering option for entertaining large groups.
Tip number 1 is all about the cheese and this tip I am stealing from my partner Ellie Studd, the cheese educator extraordinaire. She suggests choosing your cheeses by following a simple rhyme, “something old, something new and something blue”. Old could be a cloth bound cheddar, something new could be a great Australian cheese, maybe a goats cheese by Pecora Dairy and something blue, well knock yourself out here and choose your favourite blue cheese.
Don’t overload your board with too many cheeses, choose one cheese in each category and as they say choose quality over quantity.
Tip number 2 choosing a ‘home’ for your cheese, I love going large with my platters. I like room to comfortably fit the cheese and their accompaniments plus a styling element. A lovely big chopping board or French board, or a large flat round platter. But do try and stay away from the long rectangle, because the 80’s are calling and they want their cheese platter back!
Tip number 3 what do you put with your cheese? Well again if you ask Ellie and her family, to be a true purist you simply accompany the cheese with a crusty French baguette.
But not me! Sure, put some baguette on there, but I do love a mix of crackers with my cheese. And just like choosing three cheeses I like choosing 3 types of crackers. This is obviously based on flavour but also on the visual appeal and contrast of the crackers. Think of your crackers as architectural pieces that provide you with a styling opportunity to create height on your board.
Once my cracker choices are made I like turning my attention to the other possible accompaniments. I like a store-bought quince paste, some sliced fruit and the good old pickled onion but I often think it’s nice to add 1-2 more things to the board that I have made myself. For example, some candied spiced nuts, marinated muscatels or a relish of some sort. These additions, I believe, elevate your cheese board from ‘standard’ to ‘extraordinary’.
Tip number 4 finally, we make our way to the ‘styling element’. I like to channel my Mother, Debs here - the dinner party queen - and think of the final zhuzh for my cheese platter. She was very fond of the long cut pieces of rosemary from the garden, and you know what that one still holds up. Tie some rustic string around it and it looks great on the corner of your board. I also love to add a floral touch, maybe a gumnut branch or some dried native flowers.
Think of what makes sense with your style of cheeseboard and please no strange ornaments on your board, keep it classy.
If you roughly follow this guide to ‘cheeseboarding’ then you’re well on your way to confidently upping your cheeseboard game. Now go and enjoy your guests and the banter that goes on around your new cheese centre piece!
Follow Kirsten on instagram here.