Let’s Be Kind

I was sent this by someone in one of my What’s App groups

Some years ago I learned that lack of familiarity with technology was one of the biggest causes of stress amongst baby boomers. I wholeheartedly agree, but my, how we have embraced it, and how it can absolutely enhance our lives! I am part of a few What’s App groups and they are a lifeline.  We have had a family one for a longtime, mostly to admire the grandchildren and also for the WOHO (Women in Hospitality board) and founding group of Happy Ali writers.
Thankfully, I now have others too – prior members of The Australian Women’s Club London who are now back in Australia, my lovely gym friends in a pilates group, some fabulous ladies who work in hospitality and a few of us who met at a Women in Focus conference in 2014. I like the leisure of being able to answer when it suits, rather than on demand as with a phone. What they also all have in common is unconditional support for one another. It really makes a difference and so I share this lovely sentiment with the fabulous Katherine Hepburn and pass it on to you all with love. For it occurs to me that often the person we are harshest and most judgmental with is ourselves. We would never talk to our friends the way we sometimes put ourselves down. So be kind – to you.

I am so grateful for zoom, valuing my twice weekly Pilates sessions and Strength and Balance which is great rehab too now that my cracked sacrum seems almost healed. It also enables us to have Executive Meetings and other consultations. It’s Facetime I look forward to every night to see my beautiful grandchildren who are growing up too quickly in Singapore.

What I am missing is cooking. I am halfway through a renovation and currently have no kitchen to speak of – well a microwave, oven and some frontless empty cupboards and drawers. No sink, no benches, no gas and no water. My bathrooms have no basins and only water in the shower, the loos and the laundry tub. Some of my recipes this week reflect that. Not my usual style but it works!

I’m still enjoying the excellent Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb on the ABC, with its account of politics from the female perspective. I am also enjoying the old-fashioned thing of watching it once a week and then looking forward to the next week.

We are still hoping with fingers crossed that the Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch at the Cooks Shed in Sackville on 14 August will be able to proceed.

This week please be kind to yourself and try to do something you enjoy each day, as well as taking pleasure from eating and drinking. And stay in the loop on  Facebook and Instagram if that’s your thing. I understand if not.


A slide from one of the presentations at the 2014 Women in Focus conference

Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.

Jump ahead to see:
YouTube Video
Recipes of the Week
Sir David Attenborough

Making Fresh Cheese at Home
Dreaming of Travel
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Microwave Mushroom Risotto

I have shared this incredibly easy recipe before, but it fits my no kitchen renovation theme. Microwave Mushroom Risotto. It breaks all the rules, but it works. You can watch in here or find the written recipe here.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here for all my other videos including meals in a minute.  Enjoy.

Recipes of the Week

Cheat’s Tuscan Bean Soup

I am continuing to publish some older recipes on my website which still bear the test of time, so look out for them. However, given my severe limitations with trying to cook at home this Chet’s Tuscan Bean Soup  below can actually all be done in the microwave -even the prosciutto – just put it between two sheets of paper towel for 30 seconds at a time.
For something different, Blood Orange Chia Pudding which is delicious for breakfast or as a dessert. Again, the only cooking which is making the syrup can be done in the microwave if, like me, you don’t have a stovetop.

Blood Orange Chia Pudding

Third episode of Sir David Attenborough and Life in Colour this Saturday, July 24, At 7.30pm ONLY on ( Network and 9 NOW.
Already on BBC in the UK and on Netflix Worldwide (except Australia)

I am loving Sir David Attenborough, in Life in Colour on the 9 Network. I hope you are too? and remember to look out for the name at the top of the Thank You screen.

Last Week and Next

The front page of my successful thesis

I have been sharing a little on social media, so in case you missed it:

In some cheering news, I only heard on Tuesday that my thesis has been accepted, read and enjoyed and so I have passed and will receive my my Diplome d’Universite du Gout, de la Gastronomie et des Arts de la Table (University of Reims, Champagne-Ardenne).

This recipe for Gnocchi with Pumpkin Horseradish and Spinach works really well with large pasta tubes too, as the sauce gets right inside.

As promised for Lamington Day, I shared my Lamington Trifle recipe. Then National Shiraz Day was a great reason to not only celebrate the wonderful wine, Australian shiraz but especially that Aussie icon sparkling shiraz.  I was supposed to be staying with friends in the Barossa Valley this week, so as an homage I posted my recipe for Chocolate Pear Tarts with Sparkling Shiraz Sabayon.
I first cooked this on the spot when I was filming in the Barossa Vally in the early 2000s for Fresh with The Australian Women’s Weekly. I was with my dear friend Margaret Lehmann, so created this dessert to highlight the wonderful wine Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling shiraz, one of my favourites. Then I recreated it for one of my Baking Secrets TV shows a few years ago.

I’m not sure what’s coming up for me next week so stay up-to-date with me on  Facebook and Instagram 


My grandson Rafferty, here almost 2, knows all about the pleasure of eating

My new Musings column last week struck a chord and I have had some lovely responses:
Karon wrote : “Loved reading your musings, what a great idea. It made me think of having dinner guests and my husband always putting out the short Polish crystal glasses as water glasses with the Polish crystal water jug. Always looks fabulous.
Sonia wrote: Thank you for a good read. Like musings. In answer to your question we like freshly ironed linen napkins. Salt in crystal bowls with wee silver spoons. Cut glass wine classes for red and big light wine glasses for white. Fish knives with fish and a favourite pepper grinder, always. Add to this loved ones (family and friends) animated conversation and a song or too and we have the perfect evening.
I think we are all looking forward to when those times return, but let’s get the best crockery out for ourselves to enjoy – in line with my theme of being kind to ourselves. Not that I can with everything in boxes!

My Musing this week is that Food is a Great Source of Pleasure – Forget that and we’re doomed to eat badly
In a way this is a continuation from last week about enjoying the utensils we use to cook and eat. With food, we are constantly bombarded with “shoulds” and should nots” , whether from a dietary point of view, the welfare of the planet or some other reason. It’s all about restriction and we know that Prohibition failed in the USA. Interestingly cultural studies have shown that while in the USA more is published about nutrition than in France or Italy, it is in the USA that there is more obesity. (Rozin et al 1999)

There are two great desires that ensure the continuity of the human race and eating is one of them. And just think, you can do it with people of all ages in public (Covid permitting) or private! That is because food is supposed to give us pleasure.

Culturally different things appeal to us e.g. boil lentils and they don’t have much appeal, but make them into Indian dal and you have an appealing comfort food. Adjust flavours to suit you. I have never understood advertisers who talk about “meal solutions”. Since when was having a meal a problem which needed a solution? Surely it is an opportunity for pleasure and hopefuly sometimes the joy of sharing the hospitality of the table?

Of course, preference is a big part of why we eat anything, and personal preference is part of our individuality. However we eat not only because we are hungry and need nutrition, but it is part of our identity (we are what we eat), socialisation and sensory pleasure.

Something I had done instinctively with my own children, was reinforced by an excellent lecture during my Taste study in France from Sandrine Monnery-Patris entitled Sensory and Psychological Determinants of Eating Behaviours. She shared research which showed that babies have sensory exposure in utero, even before breast milk (if they have it) or introduction to solids. They show a preference for foods eaten by mothers during their last trimester. The important thing is to build a food reportory. She calls the first two years the crucial period “the golden age of taste buds”. So let’s give everyone lots of different things to try – try being the important word. And with small  children if you present a food eight times at different intervals, it will end up being accepted. (Maier et coll., 2007)

However, the good news is that we can all learn new tastes. This is why programmes like Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation and Helen Campbell’s Week of Tastes are so important for children.  They are an antidote to highly processed foods which have a limited range concentrating on foods that are sweet, soft and chocolatey or crisp, fatty and salty. Beware of any labelled “healthy” and look at the nutrition panel and find out why there are so many numbers there. How can something in a packet which is shelf stable be somehow “healthy” .

And on that note, I don’t want kilojoule counts and other measures on my food, and certainly not in cafes and restaurants. My plea is that we eat real and not fake food, try different cuisines and flavours, eat at the table with utensils, take our time and find the real pleasure in it.

What do you think?

Making Fresh Cheese at Home

Labna or Labneh

There must be something in the ether but I am reading about and tasting home made cheeses this week. So I thought, why not pass it on? One of the simplest is Labna or Labneh, made simply from yoghurt.
I shared an excellent method for How to make ricotta from Gourmet Traveller with a friend who had complained that a previous attempt had resulted in ricotta which was a little too firm. He had used citric acid to help curdle the milk, but I liked this one as using lemon juice. He tried it was said “out of this world”. His photos below.

L: heating milk, cream, salt and lemon juice R: fresh ricotta

Then only today How to make cheese at home from SBS Food 7 ways to nail homemade cheeses. popped into my inbox.

Co-incidentally,  yesterday, our apartment building manager safely dropped off some cheese she had made, to cheer me up and because with lockdown she is alone in the office with no-one to share it with. It is a Maltese cheese called gbejniet and I had never heard of it. So she sent me this recipe for Maltese Cheese (Gbejniet) and Ricotta. She explained that, rather like fresh curd goats cheeses, it can dry out and mature. It won’t last that long here.

Fresh Gbejniet plain and rolled in pepper

Dreaming of travel

Baa Atol, Maldives

I think we are all dreaming of travelling, so you can do it virtually via Time’s The World’s Greatest Places of 2021, 100 extraordinary destinations to explore.

You don’t have to wait for the pandemic to be over to view the Maldives, even though the World Travel and Tourism Council has granted it their ‘Safe Travels Stamp’. It is also just one island with one resort.  Until we can travel, a number of live cameras across various Maldives locations including underwater and across deserted beaches, provide some zen time and something to look forward do.

And, of course, don’t forget my tours planned for late 2022.  As you know, I am a great fan of the fun and security of travelling with a company specialising in a particular area, using local guides who speak the language.

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Colourful authentic slippers on sale in Morocco

Moroccan Culinary Tour begins in Rabat on Friday 23 September til Tuesday 4 October
This trip will see us travel from Rabat the capital, to spiritual Meknes and Fes, and to Marrakech the red city. On the way you will explore the archaeological site of Volubilis, visit a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, and relax by the coast in tranquil Essaouira. You’ll discover the delicacies of Moroccan and French food, dine in local eateries through to upmarket restaurants, and experience the making and flavours of Moroccan dishes during cooking classes. Luxury accommodation is in charming, authentic riads. sometimes in exclusivity. Only 10 – 12 guests.
By Prior Arrangement is highly experienced and well-known in Morocco and I have confidence in working with them to bring this very special tour into being. Talk to them about the trip, or feel free to email me with any queries. I am excited!
Read Where to Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Rabat.

Puglia Tour October 2022

Hands-on session making mozarella on the same farm the milk comes from, during my tour to Puglia

Puglia in the boot of the heel of Italy is still relatively unspoiled. A secret Italians tend to keep to themselves, it is a wonderful place to visit and so much less crowded than Tuscany. After Morocco I’m going on to host Culinary Adventures in Puglia and Basilicata 8 – 14 October 2022. Join me and share an unforgettable week of culinary and cultural exploration. Think hands-on bread, cheese making and cooking class; visits to wineries, olive farm, tours of UNESCO sites Alberobello & Matera & other cultural centres with local guides. All sensational meals and wines included. You only need money for the very inexpensive shopping you will find there.

Group size: an intimate 8-16 places only
Lodging in authentic, family-run noble estates and palaces
Operated by: Local Puglia specialist Southern Visions Travel: the leading experiential travel company in Southern Italy
Full brochure

Read more about my adventures in Puglia
Explore Puglia in House & Garden Magazine
Seven dishes you must try in Puglia, Italy in the Sydney Morning Herald
Puglia, the undiscovered heart in Selector Magazine

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