Alessandra Peters (aka The Foodie Teen) is an 18-year-old health fiend and food blogger who spends most days experimenting in the kitchen or reading cookbooks snuggled up with her cat. After being diagnosed with food intolerances in 2012, she stopped eating junk food and taught herself to cook. She says, 'going from exhaustion to boundless energy showed me just how much what you eat can affect your life!'
This month Alessandra guest edited our #Lovefood pages in the August magazine so we thought it was time we found out a bit more about the young foodie and her journey with food...
What kind of food do you like to cook?
Anything and everything! I tend to stick to a simple rule - I’m all about unprocessed, real food. That way, I know what’s in everything I’m eating and there’s no weird ingredients I can’t pronounce.
When did you begin cooking and who inspired you?
I remember always wanting to help out in the kitchen next to my mum (my biggest inspiration) while she cooked dinner, and as soon as she’d let me I started cooking and baking myself – although I have to admit the first thing I ever made was a total disaster! It was a banana cake and I put in a tablespoon of baking powder instead of a teaspoon… let’s just say I’ll never do that again!
When did you start your blog and why?
I started out blogging and sharing recipes for my family and friends. but then I started getting messages from other kids and teenagers who had food allergies and had found my blog helpful, and that was the moment I knew blogging was something I wanted to keep doing. It means the world to me that my recipes can help make the best out of what can often be a really difficult diagnosis.
What recipe that you've created is your most popular?
That would have to be the chocolate hazelnut truffles from my cookbook! I absolutely love getting emails and messages from people who've made them - it makes my day.
What are your secrets for taking a decent food picture?
1. Always use natural lighting! Stand by a big window or go outside for the best, brightest light. You can also experiment with backlighting and side lighting to see what kind of effect you prefer.
2. Make the background interesting! Things look a lot better if there’s an interesting background than if you’re photographing something against a boring white wall. Add a pop of colour with a colourful object, or make your own photography backgrounds by taking a big square piece of reclaimed wood from your local recycling centre and painting it.
3. Get to know your camera. You really don’t need a super fancy camera to get a good photo. Whether you’re using your phone, a point-and-shoot or a fancy DSLR, getting to know what all the buttons do and experimenting with them is really important. Read the user manual too – I know it’s boring but you’ll pick up a few things that you probably didn’t even know your camera could do!
4. Practice practice practice! I used to take thousands of photos of each dish in order to get the perfect one – now I still take about a hundred, but over time I’ve figured out what angles and what lighting works best.
How do you go about creating a recipe?
My inspiration comes from pretty much everywhere - blogs, magazines, what’s growing in my garden, a flavour combination I’ve seen on a restaurant menu and want to try out at home, what’s in season, or what looks good at the farmers’ market that week! I tend to experiment as I go along and jot things down in a little notebook I keep in my kitchen - quite a chunk of it is filled with kitchen disasters but the ones that turn out well I keep adding to and experimenting with over a few weeks, tweaking the ingredients or proportion until I'm happy with it.
What do you want to see more of in the food world?
The influence of so many different cultures on traditional British food is really great – a few years ago you would never have found dukkah or pomegranate molasses in your average supermarket but now they’ve become much more accessible and lots more people are starting to experiment with different cuisines and exciting new flavours.
What products in your food cupboard could you not live without?
Check out Alessandra's balsamic chicken salad recipe here