It is so wonderful to see when creative and talented people get to put work out into the world. It is especially wonderful when it happens to colleagues and friends who I have been following for a long time.
Paul Lowe has been a stylist for over 20 years but it was through his blog Sweet Paul that I got to know him. Beautiful recipes and crafts that derive from his Scandinavian sensibility (Paul was born and raised in Oslo) that eventually led to a very successful quarterly, printed magazine that is published in several countries.
His first book “Eat & Make: Charming Recipes + Kitchen Crafts You Will Love” has just been published in the US and he has been kind enough to share a copy with one lucky reader. If you would like to win a copy of “Eat & Make”, please leave a comment below. Unfortunately only U.S residents are eligible (sad face here). The giveaway will close on Thursday, April 10th at 5pm PST. Make sure to leave your name and contact email so I can get in touch with you.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to ask Paul some questions about his book, creative process and background. Very casually – just like he is.
Aran Goyoaga (that is me of course… A.G): You begin the book with your motto “perfection is boring”. I couldn’t agree more as I have realized this in my own life and also blogging. To highlight beauty one must also show the imperfections. Has this been a long time philosophy of yours or did you come to realize this after working as a stylist for so long? How did you want to reflect this sentiment in your book?
(Paul Lowe) P.L: My grandmother would always say it. She was an amazing cook and crafter but the cakes were a bit lopsided and the seams not perfectly straight, but it was stylish and tasted amazing. So many of us try to be perfect and it’s just not right to put that kinda pressure on ourselves and others. I want my food and crafts to look like they are made by a real person, not made in China.
A.G: I have a slight obsession with Scandinavia from the food, the light, the tales and mysticism, design, textiles, crafting… Is this a stereotype or did you really grow up with a sense that all these elements were very unique to your environment?
P.L: Not a stereotype at all, the simple design and clean food is all around us. My love of clean lines is based on my childhood where we had all these amazing simple designs everywhere. We learned how to knit, sew, bake and do woodwork in school and to appreciate all that goes into it.
A.G: You have been a food and craft stylist for over 20 years and one of the original bloggers. Has blogging affected the kind of work that you do these days? Do you have a sense of your brand and is that something that you think about often?
P.L: I often think about my brand and where I want it to go. I am very protective of it and will only work with people and companies that I think are a good match. It is important not just to appear sincere but to actually be sincere in everything I do. It’s amazing what a blog can start, right?
A.G: I love that in spite of trends, you seem to have a very particular vision of style. So much of Sweet Paul is about having fun, color, lightness and also a spirit of collaboration. Do you consciously think about where trends are going or what that means to you or simply stick to what speaks to you?
P.L: I don’t give a fig about trends. I always look at what I want to do, make, eat and look at. Today trends are something you create yourself.
A.G: What is a day in the life of Paul Lowe like?
P.L: Up early, strong coffee, lots of it. I try to get some work done in the morning. I’m kind of dead in the head after 6pm. Play with my dogs, work on the magazine, craft. I’m my own boss and loving it.
A.G: What are the dishes that you see yourself making over and over again and what is comfort food to you? Three favorite recipes in the book?
P.L: My first is my maple roasted chicken, so easy and wonderful. Sweet and salty, my favorite tastes. And the gravy is to die for. Then it’s my grandmothers Fish Pie (Paul shares the recipe with us below). Cod, shrimp, bechamel, brioche topping, it brings me right back. And finally anything with an egg. Eggs are my favorite ingredient and I’m so happy when I can eat them. My favorite right now are coddled eggs. Crack eggs in a ramekin with some smoked salmon, chives, cream, salt and pepper and bake in the oven… divine.
A.G: And crafts you had most fun making? (I am totally obsessed with the punch-bowl pendant!)
P.L: All of it, I go through phases, right now I’m all about sun prints, last week was rope bowls and now I have a whole big box of wooden beads in all sizes that just screams out to me.
Ain’t I got the best job ever????
Yes you do….
Thank you Paul for taking the time to answer my questions.
Paul was kind enough to share his favorite fish pie recipe.
All photos in this post are courtesy of Alexandra Grablewski.
Mormor’s Fish Pie
Excerpted from SWEET PAUL, © 2014 by Paul Lowe Einlyng. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Fish pie may sound like a pedestrian dish, but this combination of shrimp and cod napped with cream sauce and topped with cubes of crunchy brioche is sublime.
Mormor was famous in our neighborhood for her fish pie. My friends at school always wanted to come home with me just so they could taste it. She and Auntie Gunnvor got this recipe when they were children. Orphans from a very early age, they grew up in a home for girls. They had riveting stories about the trouble they got into. Many of their anecdotes involved sneaking into the kitchen for food. On one occasion, the cook caught them stealing a fish pie. Their punishment? The cook taught them the recipe, and they had to make several pies each week for a month for all the other girls in the orphanage. Their punishment is our reward.
2 pounds cod fillets or other thick white fish
3 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
1⁄4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
11⁄3 cups whole milk, heated
3 large eggs
1⁄2 pound cooked peeled shrimp, chopped
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
2 thick slices brioche or other white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle position.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a simmer, add the fish, and simmer until it flakes easily, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Drain, flake the fish with a fork, and set aside.
4. Melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour.
5. Whisk in the hot milk a little at a time, to prevent lumps. Remove from the heat and let cool.
6. Whisk in the eggs.
7. Gently stir in the fish and shrimp and season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper.
8. Place the fish mixture in a 10-inch pie plate.
9. Mix the bread cubes and the 2 tablespoons melted butter and distribute them on top of the pie.
10. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pie is golden and set. Serve hot.