Viviane Perényi, known as Vanille to her readers on the delightful food blog At Down Under is a French woman who now resides in New Zealand. Initially trained as an architect, she's now a fully-fledged blogger and freelance food photographer.
April Smallwood

16 Oct 2012 - 4:46 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

We chat to Viviane from At Down Under about simplicity, Parisian pastries and stumbling on cooking later in life.

You’ve said, 'Sometimes the best things are the simple ones". What's a simple dish that you cherish?
Warm crottin de chèvre (goat cheese) on slowly cooked apple slice in butter and a pinch of sugar. It's a simple and tasty fare served with rocket. I like to prepare it as a starter or increase the portion and serve it as a light meal with a crunchy bread. A potato gratin is a comforting dish I enjoy in winter time. You do not need much more than potato, cream, milk and cheese. It's easy to do and you can have a pre-dinner drink while it's baking. And pasta, anytime. It can be with a tomato sauce loaded with aromatic herbs or a creamy sauce with mushroom, but, essentially, it has to be with cheese.

Freshly back from Paris, tell us what you love about the cuisine?
Living abroad helped me define what I appreciate the most. And I came to realise that it's not the fancy but rather the essential I love. There's nothing quite like a fresh and crunchy bread or a tasteful cheese. They relate to a real know-how and the notion of "terroir" that make them so special. And because I've always had a sweet tooth, I obviously love the pastries.

How do you decide what to cook on any given night?
The dinner is usually based on what's in the fridge and my mood to cook. I like a well-stocked fridge with plenty of vegetables that will allow me to improvise. I usually go to the farmers' market every week. I fill my bag with what's available and what will inspire me to cook.

Who else in your family cooks and what have they passed on to you?
My mother is a good cook. Unfortunately, I did not learn from her. I have come to cooking rather late in my life. And I mainly cook different dishes than the ones I grew up with. Nonetheless, my mother gave me a good appreciation of homemade food and the importance of fresh ingredients. My husband cooks as well. He has a very easy and spontaneous approach to cooking. He is Hungarian and his culture has influenced my repertoire. I have taught him dishes and I have learnt from his cuisine as well.

What advantages does living in NZ have for a food lover and blogger such as yourself?
There is plenty of great produce in New Zealand and living here give a good sense of seasonality. This means variety in the diet and it's definitely a bonus. I also appreciate how accessible it is to source the food, meet the producers and get to know their philosophy or approach to food.

What’s the most popular recipe on your blog?
The apricot and lavender tart. A summer recipe. I love stone fruit and apricot is definitely my favorite of all. The tart was inspired by a little cake shop, where my husband and I used to go when we lived in Paris. They make the sweetest little tarts. In summer, they have this seasonal tartlet that I like. So I tried to recreate it and kept the surprising combination of flavours.

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