Twilight picnic on Observatory Hill with Stargazer Chardonnay
Well what a whirlwind week it has been. I sent my newsletter earlier last Friday as I had a picnic with friends from 5pm on Observatory Hill. It was fine and we sheltered from the wind by sitting beside the Rotunda. Low key with simple food to share and an excellent bottle of Stargazer Chardonnay made by Sam Connew in Tasmania. Just four of us and a lovely end to the week. I was back the next evening with a girlfriend and it was beautifully balmy but very busy. I do hope we continue with picnics now we are out of lockdown in Sydney. I have bought a folding chair and it lives in the boot of my car with my picnic paraphernalia.
Monday was a flurry of activity with bookings for all those things we couldn’t have for the last few months. Also, my carpenter finished his beautiful work on Monday and I am so happy with my new built-in entertainment unit in the lounge and bookshelves in the spare room. The plumber came this week and I now have taps in all sinks. Electrician Friday and then painters next week. I will probably have to vacate so please forgive me if I don’t get a newsletter out, though I will try?
My sister and brother-in-law, niece, close friends, their daughters (one my goddaughter who shares my birthday) had a lovely dinner at my lovely favourite local Le Coq and Fish. It’s so good to see restaurants out and being supported. I am thrilled to have a booking for Neil Perry’s new restaurant Margaret on Friday night. Exciting. Other than that I haven’t been too far afield and am taking things gradually. I need to adjust to a new life “outside” without John.
BREAKING NEWS This morning new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that from 1 November no fully vaccinated Australians over 16 would have to quarantine on their return to NSW. Now Qantas is bringing forward its international flights to 1 November. My daughter, son-in-law and I have been in a flurry today as I have been checking the details and they try to get flights to Australia for Christmas. What an blessing that would be. Need to ensure it is ok for kids of 2 and 4 to come in too but that is not of an age to be vaccinated anyway. I am so excited and so hopeful something doesn’t happen – so just tidying up this newsletter and sending it off.
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Greek-style Pork Cutlet with Skordalia, Fennel and Broad Bean Salad
Broad beans are in season so here they make a lovely salad (and yes, fennel is in peak supply too) so try this Greek-style Pork Cutlet with Skordalia, Fennel and Broad Bean Salad. This recipe works just as well with lamb cutlets. Broad beans are a source of protein and iron, making them especially valuable for those who choose a vegetarian diet (so have them in salads, and risottos). Choose firm green broad beans with plump rather than bulging pods. Smaller young pods house the most tender beans. As a guide, 1 kg broad beans yields about 250g (1 cup) shelled beans.
CoVid has had a huge effect on the agriculture sector. No students or foreign workers to pick crops, so for example even though there were less strawberries planted (because of the difficulty of harvesting), there is now an over-supply which accounts for the very low prices. Closed cafes and restaurants means that the ever-popular Australian breakfast of smashed avo on toast has not been consumed, resulting in 20% less demand for avocadoes which have also enjoyed a bumper harvest. Farmers invested in planting more some years ago, these trees now coming to fruition, because of the high demand for avocadoes in previous years. This article in the Sydney Morning Herald explains.
So the best thing we can do is to buy avocadoes and strawberries eat more of them. We are the beneficiaries with these low prices but buying them will also help farmers.
I was thrilled to make my first restaurant visit post-lockdown and put those photos at the end of my intro. I also acknowledged National Carers Week – so many unsung heroes. And there must be something about chocolate as I also published a favoured old recipe for Fudge and Date Slice Next week:
I’m out a few times in the coming week: drinks with neighbours, a couple of dinners and going to see Hamilton on stage, which I am excited about
Fudge and Date Slice
A Very Special Wine
The painting used for the label of Crittenden Estate Nero d’Avola 2020
A month or so ago Garry Crittenden sent me a bottle of this wine to try. This legendary Italian variety has its origin near the town of Avola in southern Sicily. Garry, stepping down as winemaker several years ago to hand over to son Rollo, had pioneered the planting of Italian varieties from the North of Italy in Australia.
There’s a back story here, of course. In 1996 when I was President of the Wine Press Club of NSW (WPC now Wine Communicators Australia) we gave a fellowship of $5000 to Garry to research appropriate regions in Australia in which to grow native Italian grape varieties. He used this seed money, accessed other funding and employed recent Roseworthy wine graduate Alex McKay (now of award-winning Collector Wines) to help him. He later presented to the WPC, produced a spreadsheet accounting for every cent of expenditure and presented me with a Monograph which he also made freely available to the Australian wine Industry entitled Italian Winegrape Varieties in Australia (see below). The rest, as they say, is history.
Rollo took Garry aside at the beginning of the 2020 vintage sand suggested to Garry that he “play with” a parcel of Nero d’Avola grapes. This wine is the result. Meanwhile Garry had been researching family history and discovered that his late wife, Margaret had Italian ancestry with a surname Catt, so perhaps Catto? This whole story is included in a booklet which comes with the wine should you order a 6 pack direct from Crittenden at $30 a bottle with free delivery in Australia. I recommend you do, though you can also order a mixed case.
This is what I wrote to Garry after I tried the wine:
” WOW – what an impressive bottle of wine. I shared it with my “bubble buddy” and first we had fish tacos and the wine was terrific with that, handling the bit of chilli spice admirably. Then more surprisingly with a triple cream brie which was well past its ‘best before’ date and so had great flavour development and was a perfect match for the wine – not something I would normally think of. I LOVED the wine and would drink it with just about anything! I can no longer drink big heavy reds – I really liked that it was medium bodied and savoury, not sweet yet not dry but incredibly smooth and approachable for such a young wine. Silky tannins and acid in perfect balance. Congratulations and thank you for the sample” .
I have now bought a 6 pack, as has my “bubble buddy”. It is a delicious wine, elegant lots of raspberry, juicy berry balanced by savoury, spicy flavours. I can’t wait to share it now that we can mingle.
The front cover of the monograph Italian Winegrape Varieties in Australia , February 1999
Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022
Come with me to the medinas in Morocco?
I am now feeling confident about my two overseas tours in 2022
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 but will wait until Australia has opened up to overseas travel to finalise these details. 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
Making bread by hand in the traditional way 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