Routine, Activity, Connection &


Flashback to the late 80s with my friend & colleague Peter Howard in the San Francisco Grill at the Hilton Hotel Sydney

I struggled to find a photo to open this newsletter with this week. Lockdown doesn’t allow for many happy snaps, so instead I looked through the files for a TBT (throw back Thursday) photo which I posted on social media.  This was a very funny and happy time.
Peter Howard and I had been friends since 1980, he had been in the media for several years and I had started a couple of years earlier. Peter had also been a lecturer at TAFE and had recently joined my catering business Cuisine Affaire, hence the chefs jackets. This was a charity event where food writers cooked and wine writers were waiters, with Leo Schofield the Maitre’d at the Hilton Sydney. It was hard work, but great fun, camaraderie and raised lots of money for charity. It was certainly the late 80s but I’m not sure if Peter, our other partner Gail and I had opened our cafe in Northbridge Plaza which we did in 1989. What a busy time! The photo did make me smile, something all important in harsh lockdown.

I saw a very interesting interview on TV this week, which I have taken as my opening theme for this newsletter. It was talking about mental health and how lockdown isolation can make it worse. The advice was to have a routine, keep active, stay connected and do something creative every day.  It took me back to John and my hotel lockdown in March 2019. Intuitively we had kept to a routine, got dressed every day, exercised even within the confines of a hotel room, kept up with business and zoomed. Not much in the creative sphere (except work related) but we had each other. I thought this was all really good advice, and, as I wrote last week, I am missing cooking which is my creative outlet, though I do write this newsletter. So I am thinking consciously about this. Certainly I do have a routine, I walk daily with a friend who lives nearby which is an absolute life saver, but I need to think about how I can be creative. The added challenge is the demand of dealing with John’s possessions and estate in the middle of a lockdown and mid-renovation stalled by lockdown. 

Sadly, my planned Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch which was to take place at the Cooks Shed in Sackville on August 14 has been postponed until Sunday 24 October. Similarly any hosted tours in Australia are put off until next year. However, I will always keep you updated.

Meanwhile I am loving the Olympic Games. I was unsure they should go ahead in this Covid world but I am absolutely caught up by the emotion, dedication and incredible humility and beautiful interviews of the athletes – not to mention the excitement of their parents. Thank you for giving us all something inspiring to watch.

Please look after yourselves, keep the routine, exercise, connect with family and friends any way you can and be creative.  And stay in the loop on  Facebook and Instagram if that’s your thing. I understand if not.


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
Last Week and Next
Fresh Truffles
Concerts for All
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Rib Eye of Beef with Irish Whiskey Sauce and Pea Medley

I have been thinking about Ireland this week, as I shared a recipe from my TV series Taste of Ireland during the week on social media. It took me back. This recipe for Rib Eye of Beef with Irish Whiskey Sauce and Pea Medley appealed to me as I cooked the whole thing on a portable glass hotplate. As I know, especially at the moment, it’s amazing what you can create with limited facilities. You can watch it 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

Easy Pulled Pork with Apple and Brussels Sprout Slaw

Many of us have time for slow-cooking if we are at home, but my technique is much faster yet still delivers flavour, tenderness and moistness so try this Easy Pulled Pork with Apple and Brussels Sprout Slaw.
There are still some quinces around, so if you have any, try this recipe for Baked Quinces with Almond Tuiles. While this is very fast and easy to prepare, it does take a while in the oven, but your patience will be well rewarded.

Baked Quinces with Almond Tuiles

Incredible camera work to get this deail and colour in something so small

The fourth episode of Sir David Attenborough and Life in Colour is on this Saturday, July 31, At 7.30pm on 9 Network and 9 NOW.
Already on BBC in the UK and on Netflix Worldwide (except Australia)

I am amazed by the colour, detail and camera work in Sir David Attenborough‘s, 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

Tune in to Radio Blue Mountains on Monday 2 August

Next Monday I am joining my friend Carol Prior to talk travel on  Radio Blue Mountains 89.1 FM for Feisty Fabulous and 50 Plus with Julie Ankers around 11am for 20 minutes or so, though her programme goes until 12 noon. 

I have been sharing a little on social media, including my throw back photo above, but in case you missed it: thinking of Morocco I shared Chicken in a Pot with Preserved lemon. Last Sunday night it was Fish with Rocket and Anchovy Butter a great way to zap up simply cooked white fish.

I have published this recipe, also from my Taste of Ireland TV series, on Happy Ali, so here is the link for Guinness Crème Brûlée With Irish Whiskey Snaps

A little more of this week and next below so stay up-to-date with me on  Facebook and Instagram 

Guinness Crème Brûlée With Irish Whiskey Snaps


How might duck taste without its fat?

In Praise of Fat 
No, I haven’t gone mad but I am talking about culinary fat. Fat is flavour. And I refer to good fat i.e. natural fat and nothing manufactured.I find low-fat products an abomination. Just think about it, cheese making is an ancient way cleverly developed to preserve milk through the months when cows are less productive. So why would you ever want to eat rubbery low-fat cheese? Some cheeses are naturally lower in fat like mozzarella, fetta, ricotta and cottage cheese, so I am happy to enjoy them as they are. I do take issue with reduced-fat cheddar and the like.  It goes against the whole philosophy of cheese making. Better a small amount of something fabulous than eating lots of something fake.It is good to see that fat has largely been rehabilitated. It amazes me the way advice changes over time.  I never understood margarine. How can something made in a factory which then needs to be bleached to look like butter, and doesn’t taste as good be “good” for you. Well, of course, it’s not. It turned out it had even worse trans-fats. No longer but it is still manufactured rather than natural and has an inferior taste. They have always loved their butter in Ireland as well as Normandy and Brittany, while further south and across the Mediterranean and North Africa,  extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) reigns supreme. And do you remember “extra light olive oil”? (No, not light flavoured versus robust flavoured). What was sold as “light” had exactly the same fat content as EVOO but had all the flavour and goodness chemically stripped out of it.

Where would a duck be without its fat? How could you cook a confit of duck without the duck fat in which to simmer it? What about duck fat potatoes? I love to glaze a whole ham – and which part is the most popular – why the caramelised outside fat, which complements the pink interior. And what about pork crackling?

I’m not suggesting you pig out (pardon the pun) on saturated fats. In any case, they make you feel full quicker. Rather have a little bit of the good stuff and avoid foods which are manufactured. Be liberal, however, with the EVOO – a great way to transform simple steamed vegetables or finish a dish. Remember fats are  a major source of energy. It helps us absorb some essential vitamins and minerals, is needed to build cell membranes, for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. It’s all about balance. Every bit of research  I have ever read in my 30+ years in the food industry tells me that the closer we eat things to their natural state, and in variety (and without guilt I say), the better off we will be.

This is my rant for the week. I should declare that I am not a nutritionist, it is just my opinion as a lover of good food and good times.

What do you think?

Fresh Truffles

L: my carefully packaged truffle and R: the inside of the polystyrene container with chiller bags

A highlight this week was the arrival of a truffle from Australian Truffle Traders just two days after it was posted.  My black truffle (tuber melanosporum or Périgord truffle) came from Manjimup, Western Australia from Gavin and Mel Booth, who have been in the industry for over a decade. Every winter for several years I would buy a truffle as a treat for John and me, but I stopped a couple of years ago as I had not been overly impressed with the flavour. However, the minute I opened the jar with this one, I was over whlemed with the pungent truffle aroma. A great sign.

As I usually do I carefully placed my truffle  in an airtight container with some eggs to allow the aroma to  permeate the shell and hopefully transmit some truffle flavour to the eggs. I loosely wrapped the truffle in some paper towel to absorb any moisture and change it every day or two. I like to do this to get double value out of the truffle – in the eggs and then when I decide what to cook with it. So, drum roll ……. this morning (two days after putting the truffle with eggs)  when I poached my egg in the microwave (yes, really, remember I don’t have a cooktop at the moment) the aroma and flavour were tantalising. I am so hopeful about the end result when I do more with it. Truffles are best about 5 days after harvesting and will last up to 21 days, so I figured I was safe doing this.
Next to decide what I will do with the truffle itself. Prior experience leads me to believe that truffle is best with eggs or dairy, not anything with too much flavour – so creamy pasta, truffled eggs, savoury egg custard,  or simple risotto bianco. You want the flavour and aroma of the truffle to be paramount. I’ve never had much luck with putting it under the skin of chicken as I find the roast chicken flavour dominates. I might try a baked truffled brie. So stand by.
How do you like to use truffles?

You can order them online and them delivered 24 – 48 hours after they have been unearthed. the cost is usually between $2,50 and $3 per gram. Considering many of us can’t dine out, it could be just the time to spoil yourself.

L: the aroma which arose when I opened the jar was amazing and R: my truffle and eggs ready to go in the fridge

Concerts for All

This virtual concert is on at 8.30pm AEST Friday July 30

Here’s a concert anyone can enjoy as there is a 72 hour window to watch it. The talented and funny Catherine Alcorn (who studied drama at school with my son Blair) is again fronting a great line up. We are all doing it tough and performers have had it hard. The cost of $24 AUD passes on $20 direct to the artists, the $4 covering credit card fees and streaming costs. It will be live streamed from The Concourse Chatswood on 30 July, 12 & 27 August.

Joining Cath is Helpmann Award winning singer/actor Ursula Yovich (Redfern Now, Barbara And The Campdogs), maestro of mischief Phillip Scott (The Wharf Revue, The Big Gig) and comedy legend Jean Kittson (Let The Blood Run Free, Good News Week).

Making her virtual return is ‘pivoter’ of the year Verushka Darling who will be standing by to take your texts as she sashays from ‘hotspot’ to ‘hotline’.

MDCH (Melbourne Digital Concert Hall)  has announced the Catherine & Friends series streaming fortnightly from August 12.
Information and Booking here.

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Colourful tagines 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. This tour is nearly fully booked, so we are considering another tour later in October. Watch this space.
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

Sea urchins fresh from the sea in 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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