LONDON | Arlinda Bala’s notorious mega Cake concoctions, endless selection of bakery treats and savoury foods, continue to #breaktheinternet over and over again. You only have to take a peek at her social media (@eatwitharli) pages to see the legions of tweets and comments in awe over her edible masterpieces. It’s no surprise that after popular demand, the talented young cook has now made her cakes available for purchase!
The 24 year-old London based cook embarked on her culinary journey aged 10 after drawing inspiration from her mother, a former baker. Cooking peaked Arli’s interest through experimentation in the kitchen with traditional Albanian cooking alongside her mother who made her eat everything she made, through an amusing trial and error process. Obsessed with food shows, Arli went on to imitate chefs which led to more experimentation and the days of ‘trial and error’ were out the window. At this point, it was clear that Arli knew how to work her magic in the kitchen.
We got hip to Arli’s hype and sat down to talk building a cake empire, girl crushing on Nigella Lawson and why she’s not a fan of some of the trends within the London food scene.
Let’s just get right in! What are your favourite dishes to cook?
A mix of savoury and dessert. I tend to make more cakes since I have a cake company, though sometimes I do miss making savoury dishes as most times you can just whip things together. With baking it’s more like chemistry. You need the right measurements and one slip up can alter everything. Making cakes has heightened my love for savoury as I don’t get to make much so I’m 50/50 but leaning towards making cakes otherwise I wouldn’t have started my baked goods company.
You have a huge following on social media. Ever think of branching out into Youtube?
I get this asked a lot and it’s something I’d love to do, but right now I would like to master what I’m currently doing. At the moment, I don’t feel comfortable doing tutorials on something I haven’t completely mastered yet. That said, it I would love to do it down the line.
What chefs do you admire and why?
Barefoot Contessa, I watched her growing up – love her! She used to make things that were so hard but looked so simple. I really looked up to her and Nigella …aaah she’s amazing! Mary Berry’s simple cakes are a favourite and always look perfect.
As well as being a cook, you’re also a food blogger, what’s your favourite restaurant when you have a night off from cooking?
My boyfriend took me to Gilgamesh, the settings and food is beautiful and they have the best mocktails. Their egg fried rice was perfect and their chicken was moist. I’m usually weary of chicken dishes but their Spatchcock chicken was great. Honourable mention to Dishoom as I’ve been going there a lot more.
What do you think of the current London food scene, for example the new wave of American diners and ethnic fusions?
I don’t like the American style fried foods just because I’m not a fan of the whole burger and fried thing. I’m also very weary of visiting “ethnic” restaurants that aren’t run by the said ethnic people. I like authenticity. I don’t eat out so much these days as I prefer to cook.
What would be your last 3 course meal request?
Chicken gyoza as a starter. I tried making those and they’re actually easier than they look – a lot of stuff that people eat out, you can make yourself. Mains would be jerk chicken and Jollof rice inspired my boyfriend who’s half Dominican and Half Nigerian – he introduced me to that. Dessert …hmm, something nice and simple like a rich vanilla ice cream.
What would be your advice for budding cooks?
When I started, I always used to follow recipes verbatim but as I went along, I started to adapt it to my own taste. My advice would be to start with recipes in cook books or the internet, but then add your own twist to make it your personal dish. It makes it more exciting and takes your dishes to new heights.
So what’s in store for Arli in 2018 and beyond? Well, here’s an exclusive for The City Lane readers, Alrli is looking to set up pop up shops around London to test the waters and see what it’s like to run a brick and mortar bakery. There’s also the highly anticipated online web store to add the final finishing touches to but in the meantime, you can keep up with Arli over at her Instagram page @eatwitharli.
We’re definitely keeping our eyes peeled with taste buds .and wallet at the ready!