May Newsletter

I have only just returned from the most magnificant week in Puglia hosting A Culinary Adventure with Southern Visions, a company which specialises in Southern Italy. Puglia is indeed the undiscovered heart, and is where Italians holiday. Those of you who follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook will have seen some lovely images. More to come when I write it up on my blog. Suffice to say, it was such a success that I will be hosting another tour commencing 15 October 2019. So watch this space!

Some of our happy group in UNESCO Heritage site, Alberobello in front of the distinctive trulli houses

We wined and dined. learned about traditional bread, cheese and pasta making, visited beautiful Alberobello with its distinctive trulli houses, stayed and toured in another UNESCO site, Matera, visited wineries, ancient towns, saw olive trees up to 3,000 years old and the remarkably intact centuries old ways of processing the olives, ate sea urchin and the freshest of seafood yet still had time to relax and shop. A magic time forming friendships which will endure. Thank you to the easy-going and fun-loving participants.

Learning how to make real Pugliese focaccia after a wonderful forage then cookinig class at Masseria Montenapoleone.

TOP: just some of the fresh seafood we ate L to R: raw sea urchin, marinated anchovies, braised octopus, octopus salad
LEFT: Selection of meat from bombette (rolls) to sausages to large cuts chosen at the counter then wood-fired. RIGHT: foccacia before baking

Jump ahead to see:
What’s In Season?
Fabulous Fennel
Zesty Juicy Navel Oranges
In Season Recipes
All you need to know about pasta
Some Pasta Recipes
Tip of the month
Mothers Day
Some Last Minute Ideas for Mothers Day
Cruise to New Zealand and Tasmania with me
New issue of Selector Magazine out
What’s On
Interesting Reading
A special wine worth cellaring:

What’s In Season?

Fabulous new season navel oranges and fresh fennel
Images thanks to the Sydney Markets


  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Custard apples
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Kiwifruit
  • Lemons
  • Mandarins: Imperial
  • Nashi
  • Oranges: Navel
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Quinces
  • Rhubarb


  • Asian greens: Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • <Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Chestnuts
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Ginger
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Parsnips
  • Silverbeet
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips

Fabulous Fennel

Chunks of raw fennel served with carrots and apple cucumber with wonderful bread and focaccia at the beginning of a meal in Puglia

I wanted to feature fennel as I just loved it in Puglia – always served fresh in chunks with other crudites.
Fennel with its sweet, aniseed like flavour is one of the most versatile autumn vegetables, it does double duty as a great salad veg and is just as good when cooked, especially in a braise or stir-fry.
You’ll see that fennel bulbs vary in shape, the rounder more bulbous fennel tends to have a more savoury flavour and denser texture, while the longer more elongated bulbs are sweeter. Choose the elongated fennel for shredding into salads and the rounder fennel bulbs for cooking.

  • Sliced in salads fennel adds crunch and a fresh clean flavour. Don’t discard the green feathery tops, use as a garnish or in the salad.
  • Slowly braised in stock and with a little butter fennel becomes more subtle in flavour and meltingly tender.
  • Fennel goes well with other punchy flavours. Team it up with prosciutto, smoked trout or salmon, fish or steam it with mussels.
  • It goes well with Mediterranean style dishes too, try it with pork, capers, tomatoes, garlic, olives, rocket, lemons and oranges.

Zesty Juicy Navel Oranges

Orange and Lime Marmalade Trifle recipe here

Navel oranges are a fruit dear to my heart. I implore everyone in Australia to buy Australian, and be aware that often fruit juice concentrate is made from imported juice. I like to always buy and eat or juice the whole fruit and know where it comes from. With their fragrant zest, seedless flesh and vibrant citrus flavour, navels (so named for their distinctive “navel”) are possibly the juiciest of all citrus fruits. It’s no wonder they are one the most popular winter fruits.
New season navel oranges are around from May to October. They are mainly grown in three southern growing regions – the Murray Valley, the Riverina of NSW and the Riverland of South Australia. The fruit is firm and perfect to eat or juice.

  • Take your Vitamin C the natural way, juice them or eat them fresh in hand, they’re easy to peel.
  • Use them as the base for your morning smoothie, add honey and yoghurt and a good pinch of turmeric for a super healthy shake.
  • Make a winter fruit salad, team them with dates and fresh walnuts or toasted almonds.
  • Make a savoury salad with black olives and red onions.
  • Zest them for cakes and muffins and use the juice for a sweet orange syrup.
  • Caremlise in pan with brown sugar and butter and serve with Greek yoghurt for a quick dessert

  Read more about oranges here.

In Season Recipes

 Pork with blood orange glaze, fennel & blood orange salad

These recipes use both fennal and oranges:
Pork with blood orange glaze, fennel & blood orange salad
Haloumi with fennel, orange and kalamata olives salad
Find more fennel recipes here
Find more orange recipes here
Blood oranges are not yet in season but you can substitute navels for them.

All you need to know about pasta

Pasta we made by hand from semolina flour, salt and water at our cooking class at Masseria Montenapoleone in Puglia. No eggs in this pasta, just blanched rocket on the left.

Pasta is easy to cook, but it can be tricky to cook ‘just right’.  

Pasta should be cooked in plenty of water
The water dilutes the starch coming off the pasta and stops it sticking together. As a guide you need 1 litre of water per 100g of pasta.

Yes salt the water
The salt seasons the pasta as it cooks.  The seasoned water is absorbed by the pasta as it swells and cooks.  This gives a better tasting result.  How much salt? A heaped teaspoon per (around 7g) salt per 1 litre of water.

The water must be boiling when you add the pasta
If pasta sits in warm water as it comes to the boil it becomes pasty and sticky. Ease the pasta into the pot of boiling water (this will lower the boil) and stir until the water comes back to the boil. If you do this the pasta will cook evenly and it won’t stick.

Use the packet instructions on the pasta as a cooking guide only
Cooking time will vary between fresh and dried pasta , various  shapes, brands of pasta and of course quality of pasta. A few minutes short of the suggested cooking time, remove a strand or two and bite through this test piece. Test earlier rather than later.

The best pasta is ‘al dente’ or ‘firm to the tooth’
It should be tender, but with a little firmness to the bite but the centre should not be raw. Even with fresh pasta such as we made in Puglia, it had a pleasant texture, having been cooked for less than a minute!

Drain the pasta … Never rinse the pasta
Drain it in a heavy colander, shake the colander, leaving a little of the water clinging to the pasta. This small amount of water helps spread the sauce.

Do as the Italians do … and save a little of the cooking water
Add about a half cup of this cooking water to the drained pasta and its sauce. It makes it even silkier and tastier.

My most important tip … Do not add oil to the cooking water or to the cooked pasta … it makes the pasta sauce slip off the pasta! Just remember to sitr as the pasta comes back to the boil and it will not stick.

Read more advice from Barilla here

Some Pasta Recipes

Pappardelle with wild boar sausage ragout recipe here

If there is one pasta dish you should master, it is Spaghetti alla carbonara. It should never contain cream. Once you master that you can use it as a basis for many pasta sauce recipes.
Traditional pork & veal ragu with penne
Perfect pasta with quick cherry tomato sauce
Rag pasta with pumpkin and sage

Tip of the month
Choosing a cheese for your pasta


Grated or shaved cheese is almost always added as a final flourish to pasta dishes (aside from seafood pasta dishes…but that’s another story, for another newsletter), the cheese not only adds a burst of flavour it adds a little texture too. The cheese of choice is generally hard cheese.

Hard cheeses are known for their dry, granular texture due to longer ageing as well as the fact that the curds are heated to a higher temperature than semi-hard cheese during the cheesemaking process.  The effect is twofold – concentrated flavour and low moisture. Well known examples are parmesan and pecorino.

  • World famous Parmigiano-Reggiano is the subject of Denominazione di origine (controlled designation of origin) and as such must be from the Parma or Reggio regions of Italy. This cheese must be made from cows’ milk and aged for a minimum of two years.  After one year, each wheel is inspected by the Cheese Police, known as Consorzio Parmigiano-Regiano, who even have their own website!
  • That is not to overlook Grana Padano, also with its own website and DOP but coming from a larger geographaical area, aged for a minimum of nine moths but often around two years, but is less expensive than reggiano as there is more available.
  • Pecorino is an Italian cheese traditionally made from sheep’s milk, often flavoured with peppercorns or dried chilli for added punch. Even though pecora means sheep in Italian, many pecorinos are now made with cows’ milk.  Pecorino is usually aged for around eight months.
  • Greek cheese Kefalograviera is usually made from a combination of goat and sheep milk. It can be very salty and is often enjoyed breaded and fried.  I like mine with a squeeze of lemon.
  • Learn more about the differences here.

Fun fact
Romano is not an Italian cheese.  It was developed by American marketers as a hard cheese brand to be used primarily for grating and, I suspect, as a competitor to its Italian counterpart, parmesan. Much as I love the real deal, there are some Australian hard cheeses to look out for

  • Wholemilk Continental Cheese has a wide range of pecorinos, including a few flavoured with herbs and spices
  • Bruny Island Cheese Company’s C2 raw milk cheese, aged for up to 12 months and rubbed weekly to aid bacterial growth, has a sweet and nutty taste and a chalky texture.

Mother’s Day

I never tire of this photo of me with my Mum, Isabel Hall, at a David Jones Mother’s Day lunch many years ago. Now I am so thrilled that my granddaughter is named after her.

Spoil Mum this Mother’s Day by cooking for her – but remember to clean up!
It’s the day we celebrate Mums … let her sit back and relax and spoil her with some of these delicious ideas!
Make her something extra special – but surprsingly easy to decorate
My Naked Cake

Something sweet

Raspberry ripple nougat parfait
White chocolate mascarpone mousse with berries in sparkling shiraz syrup

Something my Mum taught me as a whole cake, but I changed:
Coconut Ice cupcakes
Something savoury
Crab cakes with dill pickle remoulade
Slow roasted sage & thyme beef rump with winter vegetables
BBQ Rangers rump with garlic and parsley served with zucchini, eggplant and grilled tomato salad
 Read these lovely stories and recipes pased down by mothers and grandmothers here.

I rarely put personal photos here – but for mothers everywhere – this was taken with my daughter, Lucy and her daughter Isabel on Isabel’s naming day in June last year. Gorgeous gown made by our dear friend Ray Kersh.

Some Last Minute Ideas for Mothers Day

My very affordable bakeware range can be ordered online here

If you’re looking for ideas for what to get Mum for Mother’s day this year, we’ve got plenty of gift ideas to keep her happy!

  • Look for some of my products and ideas here
  • What about a cooking class  at The Essential Ingredient with various locations in Australia
  • In our Italian theme, what about a VIP ticket to the Italian Wine + Food Festival in Sydney or Melbourne.  MOTHERS DAY OFFER . Use special code MAMMA2018 for VIP FESTIVAL + WINE ZONE ENTRY $99pp ($135 on the day) Offer ends Sunday midnight
  • Give Mum an IOU to do some gardening, washing, ironing or otherwise pampering her
  • Give her a gift voucher from Urban You for a whole range of home services
  • Make some biscuits and package them up beautifully with hints here
  • Discounted French lessons at Alliance Francise de Sydney

Cruise to New Zealand and Tasmania with me

My next escorted trip is to New Zealand in January 2019

Having hosted three marvellous tours and cruises of the Mediterranean, not to mention the culinary adventure in Puglia, next stop is New Zealand. Plenty of time to plan and book for this one. I’m delighted to be able to sail aboard Celebrity Solstice as I hosted media tours on board when she was in Australian waters last year.
This will be a fantastic opportunity to enjoy luxurious ship-board life, see the sights of New Zealand and explore the food and wine of New Zealand. Come along and join me as we tour Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa, Dunedin, Bay of Islands, Auckland, Fiordland National Park, Hobart, Sydney with sensational day trips ashore.
More information here.

New issue of Selector Magazine 

The new issue of Selector Magazine is out now, jam-packed with stories on food, wine and travel

It is a joy to write for this magazine and I look forward to reading every bimonthly issue. This is a diversity themed issue. Malaysian-born, Australia-raised cook and author, Poh Ling Yeow is the stunning cover-star. Poh, with her infectious charm, uses her diverse background to showcase just how delicious culinary diversity and culture merging can be. There is also an exploration of the diversity in the kitchen with French-born chef, Manu Fieldel. Manu –who trained in the best UK kitchens, settled in Australia with a Malay-Sri-Lankan wife, now cooks incredible food that shows how all these elements and influences come together.
There are diverse recipes such as Christine Manfield’s Indian meu and my seasonal selection of pumpkin dishes (pumpkin laksa, stir fry, with cauliflower and bacon crumble and pumpkin and spinach risotto). There is also a look at diversity in the Australian wine industry, a test of our love or Merlot and reveal where to eat, drink and be merry in the New South Wales city of Orange.

What’s On

AnnanROMA Food and Wine Festival returns on Sunday 27 May 2018 for another year of celebrating the regions food, wine, beer and entertainment at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan

AnnanROMA Food and Wine Festival
The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan’s food, wine and beer festival,
AnnanROMA, is back witha great day out for all ages to enjoy.
There are 40 stall holders expected, a new  VIP experience and a dedicated kid-zone with food and special entertainment. For adults, food and beverage packagescan be enjoyed in a VIP area that includes private seating, loos and parking. There will also be an adult only zone in the Connections Garden where you can grab a craft brew and a bite to eat from Rydges Campbelltown.

As always, Eat Street is free to enter and this year additional vegetarian and vegan options have been added to the line up from local businesses Samadhi’s and Cosmic Cuisine.

 More information can be found on the Facebook event page here.

When: Sunday 27 May 2018
Time: From 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
Where: Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan
Entry: FREE (some costs involved with bookable activities for children)

Interesting Reading

Advice on how to keep strawberries fresh here.

Friend & colleague Julie Gibbs writes about the amazing Darnina Allen in Good Food

I was lucky enough to work with Darina Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School during filming of Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Ireland. She is a legend. Julie has written on How a week at Ballymaloe Cookery School changed me.
Still in our Italian theme, Wine Selectors offer and Italian Food and Wine Pairing Guide.

A special wine worth cellaring:
Moss Wood 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

>Moss Wood Cabernet is the 5th most collected wine in Australia I don’t often review wines which cost OVER $100, but Clare Mugford from Moss Wood wrote to me personally and explained so much about it.  Although I have known her and her husband, Keith for a long time, we really had a fabulous time together on the Food and Wine train from Perth to Adelaide last year.
She was musing on twins and that in 1975 and 1976 there were two vintages very alike. Now this wine is very like  the 2014. The seasons were very alike and this wine is now available .
It is incredibly deep in colour, an intensity matched on the palate, elegant but with a liveliness and freshness that indicates great longevity. all the typical cabernet characters of cassis, berry, cedar and spice.
You can read more about it here

Meanwhile, short segments from my Taste of Australia continue to be shown on SBS Food Network – program times here
What are you cooking,eating and drinking?
Happy Days,

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