Another Year Older

Covid-safe birthday picnic, despite the rain in the Rotunda, Observatory Hill


What a week! I am dedicating this newsletter to all of those in Victoria who are experiencing severe lockdown over many months, with Delta raging and no end in sight. I have had personal communication with some of you and it is so very distressing. Lockdown fatigue has set in here and we have not experienced anything like it. It is hard for all the law abiding citizens doing the right thing, not demonstrating and having illegal Grand Final parties which turn out to be super spreader events. So I hope I can provide something to cheer you up?

I have had a busy week, first with medical appointments due to a flare up of pain where I cracked my sacrum, but, more happily, with my birthday on Wednesday. My “bubble buddy” thought a birthday eve dinner was in order which was lovely. However, some friends had organised a surprise zoom. It’s a group I pulled together to play Tasty Trivia with, previously in the flesh at the Terminus Hotel, but sometimes online since lockdown. They were very funny and ran at trivia quiz about me. Someone had sorted it out that we all had the same food from the Sydney Yacht Squadron by doing relay deliveries 5km at a time and the two friends who work in the wine industry provided the same wines – including 2005 Seppelt Sparkling shiraz, a particular favourite of mine. My daughter and grandchildren appeared from Singapore to sing Happy Birthday (Isabel also singing it in Mandarin). It was really, really  lovely and I am so grateful. On the day itself I had two Covid-safe picnics in succession, one after the other with a different four people. It ended up being cool and a bit rainy but we were in the Rotunda at Observatory Hill so managed just fine. Again, I am so lucky in my caring friends and family.

My Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch  is filling up and will be held from 11am – 3.30 pm on Sunday 24 October. So, if you are able to be there, don’t miss out.

Today is the second National Buy Aussie Day. This is a call-to-arms for shoppers to support the 2.2 million Aussie small businesses which are the engine room of our economy. After droughts, bushfires and floods to start 2020, for nearly two years a large part of our business community has been unable to trade with COVID and lockdowns. We can help as the power is in our hands. So I am buying in dinner tonight and will be looking at the link online to buy myself and Aussie birthday gift.

Meanwhile I am struggling with come computer issues, including finding a load of emails in my Outbox last night which had been sitting there since Tuesday. When I tried to send them, my computer froze and when it came back they had disappeared. So if I have ignored an email from you, please forgive me. My computer guy tired but couldn’t help either. However, on a more cheerful note, the other reason I have been so pressed for time is that my renovation has resumed. My kitchen looks amazing. I haven’t had time to unpack it completely but I had to do enough to empty boxes so that I could pack up all my books for a wonderful new built-in bookcase which is being built right now.

I’m hoping for a couple more Covid-safe picnics over this long weekend so you please take care and stay in the loop on  Facebook and Instagram or email me with any requests or comments.


Surprise birthday zoom with friends from my Tasty Trivia team – they were all instructed to wear my favourite colour, hot pink if possible

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

Interview with Stephanie Alexander
Last Week and Next
Things to Amuse Us
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

You can adapt this recipe for any fish, though salmon works well because of its high healthy fat content. Watch here as I show you how to make Salmon and Smashed Potatoes in just 1 minute. You can find the written recipe here on my website.

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

Recipes of the Week

Jambalaya with Prawns, Pork & Smoked Sausage

Jambalaya had humble beginnings as a poor man’s way of using up leftovers, filled out with plenty of rice. Now it is revered and like many Louisiana dishes. Jambalaya has both Creole and Cajun versions with fierce proponents of both styles. This Jambalaya with prawns, pork & smoked sausage is Creole in the use of tomatoes and prawns – but also Cajun in including smoked sausage. I also provide a video link to making it in a rice cooker.

Eating churros with hot chocolate is an institution in Spain where a churrera (churro-maker) is easily available. Here we can use a piping bag with a large nozzle. These Mini Churros & Hot Chocolate Shots are a lovely way to have just a little bit of what you fancy or, when we can entertain again, to signal that a tapas party is coming to an end.

Mini Churros & Hot Chocolate Shots


Anna Torv and Sam Reid in The Newsreader on ABC

I have been noting how our actions can change with the influence of lockdown and, for me, living alone. John and I were not big consumers of TV, we preferred lively conversation over dinner or were often travelling or out. Of course, with the first lockdown last year and his ill health we started to watch more. However, now that I am home alone at night I look forward to pouring a drink, cooking dinner and settling down for the night. Not that I don’t enjoy zoom drinks too.

I now find that I really like TV series which release just one episode per week, like it was when I was a kid. I look forward to the weekly ritual, catching up with the characters and being entertained. I found this was the case with The Newsreader. Something to look forward to. Same with The Trial of Christine KeelerEven though this was all available on IView from the beginning, I preferred to have my weekly dose.

I have been pondering on why this is? I think it is so that the days can be different. Everyday is much the same during lockdown. the only thing that changes is what I cook, what wine I choose and what I watch. So that is why binge watching is not for me at the moment. I want some differentiation and distinction in my daily life.

What about you? We are all watching more TV. How do you do it and is it any different from before?

In the same vein, I have noted that on my daily walks I am really noticing the flora and fauna, the Spring flowers and admiring people’s gardens. We know it is good for our bodies to change our exercise, which is why my walking partner and I like to mix up where we walk – but it works for the eyes too.

Finally let’s be kind to ourselves and enjoy a treat every day. Thanks Sophie for the link to this short piece on treats

Do you have a special treat? I’d love to hear.

Some of the flowers I have enjoyed on my walks this week. the Kangaroo Paw (R) is an especially lovely strong plant

Interview with Stephanie Alexander

L to R: Maggie Beer, me, Shane Delia & Stephanie Alexander in Hobart 15 November 2014 when Tourism Australia “Invited the World to Dinner” to launch Restaurant Australia and highlight the superb food culture we have here

Last week I was able to interview the wonderful Stephanie Alexander. We had a lovely, long, relaxed zoom chat, as long term friends and colleagues can. We have shared some amazing food experiences over the last 30+ years, sung and danced at birthday parties, wined and dined and had many interesting discussions. I also appeared during one episode of her Stephanie’s Australia TV series when we had a picnic on an island in Sydney Harbour one very windy day.

I have plenty of material and my first interview is published here on The Carousel.  I have written another, different and yet-to-be published (thanks to my computer glitch) on Happy-Ali so watch this space. However, I thought I would share some additional out-takes in this, more personal forum, my newsletter.

Stephanie Alexander AO is not only one of the most recognised culinary names in Australia, her work and influence have spread farther afield. Little surprise with an extraordinary career spanning five decades. Not only as a chef and the force behind her eponymous restaurant Stephanie’s for 21 years, a restaurant then setting new standards in Australia but as the author of 18 books including the definitive modern classic The Cook’s Companion with over 500,000 copies sold globally. In 1991 she launched the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation which now operates in over 1000 schools around Australia, teaching children about growing, preparing, cooking and sharing delicious, fresh, seasonal food.

Stephanie’s New Cookbook
Home  is an appealing collection of over 200 original recipes, some updates on favourite recipes from the past, but mostly entirely new, reflecting her passion for seasonality, produce and flavour and ability as a teacher in communicating the fundamentals of technique. It includes essays and I just love that this is truly a book you can read – an antidote to the modern constraints of design with the limit of words for recipes which so often means they do not explain enough. You can see why she has always loved the evocative writings of Elizabeth David

Stephanie’s Favourite Ingredients
Naturally I have many of her cookbooks and showed her the recipes with stained pages – and especially one for Duck with Cumquat Butter in Stephanie’s Menus for Food Lovers published in 1985. Back then cumquats were hard to come by unless you grew them or had a friend who did and for the cumquat butter you first had to make spiced cumquats. It was worth the effort. They remain a favourite ingredient. For Stephanie these change with the seasons, so at the moment it’s all about citrus. She has a Meyer lemon tree in her garden, lovely for tarts and anything to do with lemons.

What She’s Eating at Home
That night she was going to have grilled fillet of mackerel with red pepper butter (the latter from her new book where she serves it with Crisp Skinned John Dory. She was full of praise for Ratatouille which can be used in so many ways. Indeed many of her recipes have elements which can be used with other recipes. Braising vegetables is also a favourite “because they can just cook themselves while I’m watching television”.

Other favourite recipes in the book are Spicy Fish with Moroccan Flavours and Green Olives (a hit at a dinner party pre-Covid when recipe testing) Blade a la mode (because it’s no trouble), some lovely things in the salad chapter like Cauliflower with Black Barley and Potatoes baked in the jackets with butter which she cooks for herself at least once a week.

Lockdown Zoom Dinner
Much as this is a poor substitute for the real community of the table, Stephanie is planning a zoom dinner with friends. Remember she is in Melbourne which has had the harshest and longest lockdown orders of any city in the world. Everyone has to cook her Basque Chicken, followed by Katie’s Berry Cake which some of them are finding challenging.
Sounds like fun to me.

I have been able to share this recipe from her new book in my Carousel interview Stephanie’s Zucchini carpaccio with lemon oil
And here is her Creamy Chicken Casserole recipe.

Stephanie’s Zucchini carpaccio with lemon oil
Photography: Armelle Habib

Last Week and Next

Mississippi Mud Cake

With everything going on I’ve been pretty quiet on social media this week. However, I did manage to post the recipe for Mississippi Mud Cake with Mint Julep syrup. And also a very easy and delicious Chinese Roast Duck Salad.

It seems there is a day for everything so for World Tourism Day it seemed sensible to post a pic of me in Alberobello in Puglia, where I hope to take a tour next year and also for International Daughter’s Day a photo with my lovely daughter Lucy on her wedding day. And as I write this (1 October) it is world Sake Day, International Coffee Day and International Day of Older Persons. Oh dear, I can’t keep up.

With it being my birthday I didn’t get a chance to post for International Food Loss & Waste Day but there is some great advice from OzHarvest and a range of Use It Up Recipes here. My Mum was born at the end of World War 1 and was a young woman during the Depression and married during World War 2, so not wasting anything was a habit for her, and one I am pleased to have inherited. she always kept the water from cooking vegetables to use as stock in gravies and casseroles and could re-purpose anything.

Next week:
Next Monday is World Taco Day  and Friday 8th is International Egg Day so expect some recipes for those.

L: in front of trulli rooves in Alberobello, Puglia and R: with my daughter Lucy on her wedding day

Things to Amuse Us

I can’t remember where I found this diagram above but it really amused me so I saved it to share

They say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, I know a few weeks ago I was all about Venn diagrams and seeing where we might have an overlap with friends within our own 5km restrictions, but here is what I call a pie chart.

In The Real Review I enjoyed Huon Hook’s piece A minefield of wine adjectives. The choice of adjectives for describing wine is often a topic of conversation. I like to explain it like this. Using an adjective we all know the meaning of, like “buttery” is like a signpost telling you which direction to drive to a destination. The signpost is not the destination but it indicates the way to go. In the same way “buttery” gives you a different expectation from “lemony” for a wine. The former aroma might indicate a chardonnay while the latter a semillon.

I am so pleased to see that Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards are back. the industry needs a shot in the arm and here are The finalists.

Yes please. Rick Stein’s famous fish pie recipe.
More picnic recipes.

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Spices are miraculous 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 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

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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