Small Things v Big Things

Spoonville Greenwich


especially to my new subscribers from the zoom presentation I gave for the Neutral Bay Community Centre. I find such sessions are a lifeline in these times. I really enjoy the online Pilates and Strength and Balance I am able to do with the Centre.
It’s some little things, along with loving cooking, which have brought a smile this week and I wanted to share them in the hope they will make you smile too. I know I was pretty preoccupied during all of our first major lockdown, so I missed the trend for people to put teddy bears in their windows for passersby to enjoy. However, this week I was walking with my bubble buddy nearby and came across Spoonville Greenwich. It is a delightful replica of the village shops with disposable spoons decorated in all manner of ways with feathers, googly eyes and drawn on smiles. It certainly made me stop, smile and appreciate the work which had gone into it.

Beside it tied to the tree were the plastic-coated

Place your spoony person during your daily exercise.
Make sure bits don’t blow off your spoony person – we don’t want litter.
Spoony people aren’t keen on dogs – dogs please stay back!
Come and see the spoony people but don’t stay long and no touching.
Make sure spoony people can take the rain – nail varnish is food for their faces.
Legs and arms can be sticks from the garden.

I was entranced and decided to research more about it. Apparently the activity has been particularly popular in Melbourne with their recurrent lockdowns and is to help children still feel part of a community though they can’t see their friends and neighbours in person. I was pleased as I have been musing on the long term effects of lockdowns, mask wearing and social distancing on children. I found a lovely article online ‘A form of connection’: Spoonville craze revives community spirit in Australia. 

I posted this on social media and had a wonderful response with one person telling me about a similar idea with decorated stones.  Imagine my delight when a few days later I found these on a walk too – see picture below. Evidently it’s big on the Northern Beaches and there’s even a Facebook group for it. This really cheered me up, as I had really identified with Richard Glover’s piece in the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald Missing The Comfort of Strangers.

Fingers crossed we will be out of lockdown for my Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch now planned from 11am – 3.30 pm on Sunday 24 October. 

Please take care and stay in the loop on  Facebook and Instagram or email me with any requests or comments.


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
Small Tips and Tricks
Last Week and Next
Things to Like
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Now we have the Paralympics to watch, so great time for some more finger food like my Thai Salad Lettuce Bites. You can watch me make them in just one minute on Youtube here

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

Recipes of the Week

Easy Bouillabaisse

Here’s a recipe to suit wherever you are in the world, Easy Bouillabaisse. It is a crowd pleaser if you are lucky enough to have others to feed. There are no fiddly bones from whole fish in this version and rather than make your own rouille, you can use pre-prepared aioli.

It’s great to celebrate blood oranges while they are in season. This Blood Orange Crostata is a winner.  Serve it hot with ice cream, creme fraiche or Greek style yoghurt.

Blood Orange Crostata

Small Tips & Tricks

Truffled Egg Pasta

Continuing on the theme of small things – it is sometimes those little things which can make a difference. I know people always appreciate tips which make their lives easier and I have picked up some from other sources recently. I always think if you get one good recipe from a book, then you’re doing well – and in the same way, one good tip from an article. I found a few to like in How COVID changed our home cooking: 27 techniques, gadgets, snacks, books and new habits.

I often add a squeeze of lemon to finish off a dish, but although I keep a marker pen in the kitchen to write on containers I want to freeze, this doesn’t always work well. So I liked Jill Dupleix’ suggestion (borrowed from chefs) is rather, to have a big office tape dispenser with a roll of white masking tape at the ready to rip off and label anything in sight. Thanks Callan Boys for the tip to use a rolling pin to crush ice in a tea towel as the blender is too aggressive. I did that last night and it worked a treat and there was no mess. I have long baked good bacon in the oven as Terry Durack suggests but had not thought of brushing sourdough with olive oil and then toasting it in the sandwich press between two sheets of baking paper rather than the toaster. The whole article is worth a read.
You can also read Yotam Ottolenghi’s cooking tips and kitchen wisdom.

In more feedback, when I posted the link to last week’s newsletter online, one friend posted and asked if I had every tried pork belly in the air fryer. Well I haven’t, he said it’s great so I looked online and found this Air fryer roast pork belly recipeHere’s what Women’s Weekly food has to say about What to make in your Air Fryer.

Pasta Tips
I was recently working out how much fresh pasta to use instead of dried as I was again making fabulous truffled egg pasta. I decided to use fresh pasta and it worked just as well as good quality dried.  Then it occurred to me that there are times when dried pasta is, in fact, preferable to fresh and I thought that worth sharing. I used dried pasta last time, and fresh this and both worked very well – but this was quite a simple sauce. So while they are largely interchangeable, here are a couple of tips:
Use fresh pasta for sauces with a fine, uniform texture like pestos, creamy sauces or even cooked meat sauces like a ragu or bolognaisse but not with ones which depend on vigorous tossing or stirring which can break the strands e.g. cacio e pepe.
Use dried pasta for dishes with large elements like sausage or broccoli as its firmer texture is not as likely to clump as much as fresh pasta. Always retain some of the cooking liquid in case you want to moisten up the sauce.

Last Week and Next

Quick Fish Curry

I’ve been caught up with things this week so have been a little lax on social media. However, my Quick Fish Curry got a lot of interest with some people even cooking it the very night I put it up. High praise indeed. Surprised to see basil plants throughout winter in one of our major supermarkets, because I like to eat things in their true seasons, I pointed out there are pestos other than the traditional Goenovese so I shared my recipe for Pork Fillet with Pistachio and Parsley Pesto.
I was also very sad to hear that the legendary Golden Century restaurant had gone into administration, so I posted photos of my last meal there, only three months ago. I have had so many fun times and great meals there over very many years. If you are in Sydney, you can still get their famous XO Pippies and other dishes through Providoor.
I was lucky to receive another truffle too. This time I actually had a cooktop so that I could cook my scrambled eggs very, very slowly.
I also made an order with Two Providores and have been enjoying and cooking Australian artisan products.
I’m not sure what next week may bring, aside from International Cabernet Sauvignon Day on
 Monday 30th August (see below), so keep an eye out on  Facebook and Instagram 

This is what I’ll be sampling on International Cabernet Day 30 August – 2018 Robert Oatley Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

Things to Like

Known as ‘Marriage toast” this tapa combines two types of anchovy

I came across this lovely idea for ‘Marriange toast” mixing a fresh marinated anchovy (bouquerones) with a salted anchovy in an online Spanish magazine. I can’t wait to make one and be transported back to Spain.
Also, for lucky London readers, to learn that  Dani García. The internationally acclaimed chef continues to expand his footprint, now opening his BiBo restaurant inside the Mondrian Hotel in Shoreditch.I am loving the #PutAJabOnTheMenu campaign with Australia’s hospitality industry pushing hard for more people to get vaccinated to bring an end to crippling lockdowns. Launched on 20 August 2021 it shares a simple, powerful  message from industry leaders: get vaccinated if you want venues to survive. The NSW government says restaurants will reopen once we hit the 70% vaccination mark. Here’s what one restaurateur has to say about The never-ending story of lockdown.Looking forward to Annabel Crabb with internationally bestselling Australian author, Liane Moriarty, and the launch of her long-awaited new book Apples Never Fall. You can join online on 14 September for this, livestreamed directly to you.

Apples Never Fall is a deep dive into tranquil suburbia, following a pair of retired tennis coaches, Joy and Stan Delany, their children and Joy’s mysterious disappearance. Liane will reveal intimate insights into her personal writing process, sensational characters and riveting storylines that have been adapted for television starring the likes of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Melissa McCarthy and Meryl Streep.Tickets $15. Book with the Sydney Opera House.

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Moroccan Mint tea can be quite a presentation 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

Orecchiette with Broccoli Raab, a Pugliese classic dish
Photography maxinpuglia.jpg

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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