• On set at The Cook Up (SBS Food)Source: SBS Food
With new one-minute social media trends changing how we digest food media, is cooking now all about working smarter, not harder? 'Saturday Night Pasta' author and restaurant creative Elizabeth Hewson - who is well-versed in the art of home cooking, digital marketing, and the therapeutic charms of eating in - shares her TikTok thoughts.
Mark Mariano

19 Jul 2021 - 12:13 PM  UPDATED 22 Oct 2021 - 10:34 AM

 --- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm. Elizabeth Hewson's Saturday Night Dinners episode airs Thursday 21 October. Each episode will be made available after broadcast on SBS On Demand. --- 


When talking about cooking trends and the changing nuances of home cooking, social media - TikTok in particular - must be acknowledged for the monopoly it has on modern culinary philosophies. Quick clips of food hacks and quirky recipes flood the feeds of many young impressionable audiences. Has conventional cooking become obsolete? 

Australian food TikToker Ayeh Far's (@cookingwithayeh) rendition of the famous baked feta pasta garnered over 14 million views. This particular recipe took TikTok by storm, prompting many users to try it for themselves. 

'I'm not really one for trends or gimmicks - but i'm all for a shortcut though.' cookbook author Elizabeth Hewson begins. 'What's interesting is [they're] opening people's eyes to flavour combinations and inviting them to think outside the box a little bit. I'm all for getting people in the kitchen, talking about food, and having fun.'

She mentions Young Yuh's (@yayayayummy) viral watermelon and mustard movement, and how it introduced the concept of sweet and heat to unconventional viewers. '[They] show people the magic of what food can give and do.' 

Hewson points out, however, that some social media trends - namely fried pasta chips and feta tomato bakes - are not bizarrely new concepts. 'They've been doing that in Italy for years.' 

These trends embody a concept that challenges modern cooking - namely the aim of working smarter, not harder. Hewson, who advocates for simplicity, 'thinks there needs to be a bit of both.' 

Fink's Head of Creative has her own hacks and shortcuts: using canned beans instead of soaking dried ones, turning old bread into breadcrumbs, freezing leftovers, using seasoned sausage meat as mince for meatballs and pasta sauces, the list goes on.

To The Cook Up kitchen, Lizzie brings her cannellini and sausage tray bake. It takes roughly 20 minutes to cook, and uses many of her own hacks. 

Cannellini and sausage tray bake

Sometimes after a long day I take the one-tray oven route. This means throwing everything into a dish and putting it into the oven for it to do all the work. It’s incredibly rewarding for very little work.

While she acknowledges great hacks and tricks around the kitchen, 'there's definitely times where doing it the long traditional way is rewarding and satisfying in a way a shortcut can't give you.'

'There’s no one right way to cook - I’m all for taking shortcuts and [cooking in a way] that makes you feel good and that you enjoy - that’s all that matters.' 

Self-care, mental health, and kitchen therapy

'When I'm feeling really stressed, it's always nice to absorb myself in a task at hand. [...] For me, it always comes back to pasta.' Her latest project, 'Saturday Night Pasta', is an homage to how making pasta changed her relationship with mental health.

'Making pasta from scratch, having a sauce blipper and blop away on the stovetop, the scent wafting through the house - I find this all extremely comforting.' 

Hewson's recent work heroes how cooking and eating is self-care. She grew up thinking it was taking a bath or doing yoga. Cooking has always made her feel good, but it didn't sit in the regular self-care box. 'It's about looking after yourself and finding what feeds and fuels you. That's going to be different for everybody. There's some people who look at cooking and it really stresses them out, and that's okay.'

'I believe everyone can cook - it's about wanting to cook.'

Hewson wants people at ease. 'You don’t want something that raises the blood pressure or gets you second guessing yourself. Comfort cooking has to be simple. You gotta feel good reading that recipe.’

‘With comfort dishes like pasta, not a lot can go wrong. If you add a little extra tomato or a little bit more wine, it doesn’t really matter. It’s nice to cook recipes that do have that flexibility. Making pasta from scratch is really hard to stuff up.’ the creative confirms.

When she isn't cooking, the author likes to make pottery, read Country Style magazine, and reminisce about her year in Italy, where she studied her Masters in Food Culture & Communication at the University of Gastronomic Science.

La Dolce Vita

'I miss Italy and I miss the real culture and the food.' she admits. 'I really had no worries or no responsibilities except to go to class. I learned a lot about myself and the type of life I wanted to carve out.'

'I knew that it wasn’t going to be in a kitchen. I’m not cut out to be a chef. The pressure? My anxiety just could not handle it.' While Elizabeth has no immediate plans to become a Gordon Ramsey Hell’s Kitchen-esque commercial chef, she’s determined to hone the craft in her own peaceful way. 

During this lockdown, Hewson has challenged herself to write a recipe everyday - so she can 'stay inspired and stay focussed.' 

'You try and look at the silver linings, right?'

While social media has undeniably changed the way audiences access the culinary world, it's safe to say that conventional cooking, whether it be smart, hard, or other, is here to stay. Who knows? Only the TikToks of the clock can tell. 

Lizzie's must-haves for cooking at home

  • Canned beans (cannellini and chickpeas)
  • Canned fish (anchovies)
  • Tomatoes (fresh and canned)
  • Flour (semolina)
  • Garlic, chilli, lemon, olive oil
  • Pasta
  • Stock 
  • Pancetta 
  • Eggs 
  • Cast iron pot

Shellfish spaghetti

An easy throw-together seafood pasta with a good lug of lobster oil for a decadent shellfish flavour topped with tarragon and chives.

Spaghetti aglio e olio

This dish is a great example of Italian cooking philosophy. Just a few simple, good-quality ingredients can create something truly unforgettable.

Thick spaghetti with onion and anchovy (bigoli in salsa)

Rather than being just spaghetti, bigoli are traditionally a thick pasta made with buckwheat or wholewheat flour. I like to balance the dish with some balsamic vinegar.

Spaghetti puttanesca

Full of big and bold flavors, and very easy to make, spaghetti puttanesca is a favorite in Campania’s glamorous capital of Naples. 

Rich tomato Italian meatballs with linguine

If I was to name one recipe that is ideal food therapy, it’s this. There is something extremely relaxing about rolling the meat into little balls and plopping them into a boiling, rich, tomato sauce. 

Crab linguine

This nose-to-tail approach to crab pasta uses the brown meat as well as the white flesh and claws to pack a serious flavour punch. Use the freshest crabs you can lay your hands on - you'll be able to taste the difference.