A Year of Opportunity Ahead?

On stage in Kyogle, note the corrugated iron coat of arms and Australian natives in front

The world is certainly an interesting place in 2021. I am reminded of the old Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. On that note, it was John F Kennedy who said  “when written in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.’  Let’s hope 2021 proves to be a year of opportunity for all.

I was very moved to hear about Sunita Kumar, an incredible woman who in eight years went from new immigrant to Business Woman of the Year. So, I followed up and was pleased to write this good news story for Happy Ali: Sunita Kumar’s Story of Love, Persistence, Determination and Happiness.

I had a fabulous Australia Day, in the lovely friendly town of Kyogle in Northern NSW as their Australia Day Ambassador. Their popular Australia Day festivities had to be moved outside to the amphitheatre because of COVID and what a marvelous job the Lions Club did in meeting all the requirements with a large marquee and seats 1.5 metres apart and a new wind sock for the microphone for every speaker!

There was a welcome dinner the night before where I was able to meet many of the organisers and locals. The day itself began with a Billy Tea & Damper free breakfast before the official ceremony.  This opened with a fascinating smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country by Uncle Andrew Johnston, with whom I had an interesting discussion the night prior. The proceedings included a citizenship ceremony which I always find moving on Australia Day. Then we heard from the outstanding School Leaders of Kyogle High School, Faryn Johnston and Hayley Butler on what Australia Day means to them. What wonderful young people they are. I was so impressed I asked for a copy of Faryn’s speech as he managed to encapsulate so many different aspects. Here is an excerpt:

Australia is an incredibly diverse country. The land, the cultures and the ever expanding family who inhabit it. Australia is blessed with a wide range of cultures, all of which help to improve our country and create a positive environment. It has given many people endless opportunities. So to me, Australia Day is a day to celebrate Australia’s qualities and achievements as a nation.

However, It is also important to remember that for some, Australia Day is not a day of celebration, but of remembrance and mourning. Acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is crucial in advancing our country and ensuring every Australian is able to celebrate. Today we must also celebrate our rich heritage and simultaneously give our respects to the first owners of our beautiful country.

This is what Australia Day means to me. To each of you it may mean something completely different. But that is the beauty of Australia – our ability to all believe different things, yet come together as one community. If we continue to accept each others’ differences and work for that strong mateship we are so renowned for, we can create a country that all Australians past, present and future can be proud of. Thank you and happy Australia Day.

How well he put it all! Kyogle is indeed the friendly town and the ensuing community awards and singalong added to the atmosphere.

Thank you for the many personal notes after last week’s newsletter. We have had a little bit of good news about John this week with him responding to treatment, taking him out of immediate danger – though the side effects take their toll. Still something to feel positive about in the week ahead.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Elvy (pictured) made all of these dainty sweet bites to share with everyone at the Australia Day Ceremony

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

Equipment: Mortar & Pestle
New Recipes on my Website
Five Cooking Tips
Travel with me?

YouTube Video

When I was Food Director of The Australian Women’s Weekly, I learned that mince outsold every other meat in February. Presumably because people were paying off their Christmas bills, buying new school shoes and uniforms and all the other expenses associated with back to school. I’ve always remembered that. Mince is very versatile too and can speak any language. So, here’s my YouTube video on Cooking Mince Five Ways and also a blog I wrote about Cooking with Mince here. Maybe this can help balance your budget?
You can subscribe to my channel here, so you can see my other videos including meals in a minute.

Recipes of the Week

Eggplant and Zucchini Fritters

So many cuisines feature fritters of one type or another. In the Mediterranean for centuries deep-frying with extra virgin olive oil was a way to make inexpensive ingredients or street food taste great. That is certainly the case with these simple but delicious Eggplant and Zucchini Fritters.

Plums are right in season in Australia so it’s worth the effort to make this moreish Five Spice Plum and Almond Crumble Pie

Five Spice Plum and Almond Crumble Pie

Equipment: Mortar & Pestle

This is my favourite mortar and pestle, though I have a smaller one too

I think we often have too much equipment in our kitchens, but I also think there are some specialised ones which we may not use every day, but which we enjoy having to do certain jobs. So I thought we might occasionally focus on these. Do let me know if there is any piece of equipment you would like me to feature?
First up, which piece is the mortar and which is the pestle? An easy way to remember this is “the pestle is not the vessel”.
While it is incredibly heavy (but that’s the point) I love my big granite mortar and pestle. It’s sturdy enough to handle spices but also has a big enough bowl that I don’t make a mess. I do have a smaller one which I may take with me for cooking dems or TV appearances but the big one is my fave. there’s something more defined about sauces and pestos make by hand (though I too do use a food processor when I am in a hurry).
When I was filming my
TV series Taste of Australia in the Albury region, I found it very moving to be able to hold some 2000 year old stone tools, not unlike a mortar and pestle. As I held them in my hands, I imagined all the other hands which must have held them and used them to grind herbs such as mountain pepper and lemon myrtle.

The idea in using a mortar and pestle  is to let the weight of the pestle do the work for you as it drops on the food and you scrape the ingredients from the side to the centre of the mortar as you pound.

New Recipes on my Website

Lamb with Mint Pesto

I’m still enjoying  looking at recipes from my cookbooks and publishing them on my website. It’s amazing, so many of them stand the test of time. 
Lamb with Mint Pesto
Basil Shells with Tomato, Basil and Tapenade
Oranges with Honey and Olive Oil

There’ll be lots more to come so please do join me on Facebook and Instagram!

Oranges with Honey and Olive Oil

Five Cooking Tips

On set when shooting my Baking Secrets TV series in Flame Studio Sydney

I did a radio broadcast on Afternoons with James Valentine on 702ABC this week. He wanted to know if a was a measurer or a splodger when cooking. While I cook intuitively, when it comes to baking, I am definitely a measurer. I am also a fan of a well-written recipe which should leave nothing to chance for the home cook. eg don’t just say saute onions until golden – rather put in all the detail, so –  heat oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan; add onions and cook, stirring often, until golden but not brown, approximately 10 minutes. There’s lots of information there to assess when your onions are done – time and the look of them.
It caused me to think about some of my top tips for cooking, so I thought I would share them with you.

1. Read your recipe through completely before you shop or start cooking.

2. Clean up as you go and don’t get yourself in a mess at the end.

3. Err on the side of adding less, cooking for less time – you can always add more ingredients and time, but you can’t take them out. The weather, the humidity, the oven all affect ingredients on any given day so this way you won’t be disappointed.

4. Taste as you go and season as you go for the best, integrated flavour. Adding salt at the end is one dimensional. A pinch of salt helps everything – including baking. Just don’t salt pulses before they are cooked or they will take a long time.

5. Invest in some electronic scales. A must for baking but always the easiest and most accurate way to measure

 Travel with me?

Colourful tagines in Morocco

Well, Covid vaccines are now a reality, though we really don’t know about international travel for the forseeable future.

My trip to Puglia is currently on hold and we are looking to move it to the first half of 2022.

However, there are some promising signs in Morocco and so fingers crossed we can proceed with that 29 October – 9 November this year.  By Prior Arrangement is highly experienced and well-known in Morocco and I think accompanied tours with well-reputed and experienced companies will be the safest way to go.

Morocco culinary tour new dates – begin in Rabat on Friday 29 October until 9 November 2021 – some information here.
Read Where to Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Rabat.

Meknes, Morocco

Stay safe, healthy and happy. Keep up to date  on all my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Pinterest and my YouTube channel.

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