Linda Duncan was an accountant who also liked cooking.
Simple but delicious recipes were her favourites.
And the Taupō woman often heard from other people that they didn't know what to cook, couldn't cook, or just needed some new ideas for meals that didn't call for complicated exotic ingredients.
So Linda came up with a simple cookbook, The World's Easiest Recipes, a collection of 85 recipes for everything from starters to desserts, with a particular focus on main meals and side dishes.
Not knowing how it would go, she had initial 3000 copies printed. She's now up to 15,000 and counting. Linda, it seemed, had come up with yet another successful recipe.
So successful in fact that she's now thrown in her job as an accountant and is working full-time on her cookbooks. She's just brought out The World's Easiest Recipes volume two and is hard at work on volume three.
"I'm doing this full-time now. I'm not going to be a millionaire but it's sustainable."
Linda knew from her own experience as a working mother of three that her family enjoyed hearty nutritious meals. But as the primary cook, she disliked fiddly recipes that were time-consuming to prepare and called for ingredients that she didn't have on hand.
She reasoned that other people probably felt the same, which led to the creation of The World's Easiest Recipes, which came out in December 2018. She sold it face to face at markets, food shows and online, and was blown away by the demand.
"When [the first print run] turned up, I thought 'I'll be pushing it to sell these', but it just sort of took off.
"Then Covid hit and I thought everything was going to shut down but it was a blessing in disguise because everybody started cooking from home again."
During lockdown Linda made an e-version of the book available for free.
"My philosophy is, recipes should be shared and I thought 'well there's a lot of people out there struggling at the moment and they are not able to get out and maybe this book would be a resource for them'. So I made it available during lockdown level four and that really helped me in the long run because people ended up purchasing the book."
Linda says feedback on volume one of The World's Easiest Recipes helped develop volume two.
"What I've noticed is there's still many people out there that are meat and three veg people and they just want to know how to jazz up some chicken or chops before they chuck them in the oven, just to add flavour and variety. I think what people love about the book too is that it's food they can relate to, it's food that they probably already have in the pantry.
"People come back to me and say they use the book all the time, they're really loving it and also I've found that all ages love the book. A lot of elderly people love the book because they may have given up on cooking and this way they've still got to cook but this is just an easy way for them to feed themselves. I had a gentleman come up to me one day and he said 'Linda, you're my new best friend. My wife has always done the cooking and she got sick last year and now I have to do all the cooking. If it wasn't for your book I don't know where we'd be, it's been an absolute life saver'."
For the new book Linda spent a lot of time in the kitchen researching, tweaking and cooking all the recipes in the books several times. Her children have all left home but husband Wayne ("he eats anything") was only too willing to be the human guinea pig for her efforts.
"Plus whenever I entertain I try out new recipes and feed them to my friends."
The criteria were that every recipe had to use basic ingredients, preparation had to be simple and take less than 10 to 15 minutes, and no fancy equipment is required.
Friends have passed on their recipes, some readers have sent her in their favourite easy recipes and Linda takes other recipes and modifies them to make them fast to prepare. She says one consistent thing she hears is that people dislike long ingredient lists. Easy but tasty and flavoursome is key.
"A lot of recipes, I'll reduce the ingredients without taking the flavour away. I use big flavours like mustard, Worcester sauce, garlic, lemon juice and relish or chutney."
The World's Easiest Recipes Volume Two costs $30 in Taupō at Collaboration, SpaceCraft, Paper Plus, Paetiki Lotto & Magazines and The Lighting Depot, or online at twer.co.nz.
Creamy plum tart
Apricots can be used in place of plums. This dessert can be served hot or cold.
1 sheet frozen sweet pastry, thawed
250g sour cream
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 plums, halved (fresh or tinned)
Icing sugar for serving
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and grease the bottom of a 20cm (8 inch) round springform flan dish.
Line the dish with the pastry.
Place the sour cream, egg yolks, castor sugar and vanilla in a bowl and mix to combine.
Pour into the dish.
Arrange the plums, cut side up, on top of the custard.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the custard has set.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.
From The World's Easiest Recipes, volume 2