Here I am in my home kitchen about to serve the main course on my birthday. I bought the apron in Spain.
Welcome I hope this email finds you all cheerful? I had some high points this week, with my birthday on Tuesday and a lovely lunch out with two girlfriends to celebrate on Thursday. More of that later.
Given what is going on in our lives, I thought it best to have a very small, socially-distanced dinner at home for my birthday. It was an opportunity to catch up with a couple of old friends I have not seen in ages, with the benefit that John could go to be when he got tired. I did the food, but got someone in from Stedmanswhich lightened my load and it was fun to go back to what John and I used to do so well – entertaining. I played a lovely CD to start off with, my friend Jonathon Welch’s Great Tenor Classicswhich includes so many of my favourite songs. Later, yes, I did sing (which will not surprise those of you who know me) but for the first time in ages. It was a lovely night in the midst of a challenging time.
On that note, because I find music so uplifting I am delighted to share with you a moving performance of Nessun Dorma, created by my friend Mark Bradley, founder and CEO of The Three Waiters International, using the team from Australia, UK and USA. Back in the day, I have used them as performers at many events. They are simply wonderful, posing as waiters and then eventually revealing themselves as accomplished opera singers.
On Sunday night I will be again be hosting Facebook Live, this time we’re staying in Australia and acknowledging our heritage with our taste buds so I hope you might join me at 6pm AEST or 9am BST. More below, including ingredients.
Winston Churchill was a man with great one-liners. I like to interpret this as “stick up for what you believe in and don’t let your dectractors worry you”.
Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.
Recipes of the Week Two ways with similar ingredients
Tuna Cakes with Spinach and Tomato Salad
Here is a very simple recipe which you can make wherever you are in the world and whatever the season, as most of the ingredients are pantry items and cherry tomatoes are grown all year.Tuna cakes with Spinach & Tomato SaladThe recipe uses very similar ingredients to my Chilli Tuna Pasta. This too, is a very fast recipe and could easily be halved for two people if preferred.
Chilli Tuna Pasta
My authentic spaghetti carbonara with a twist, snapped just after I finished Facebook Live last Sunday
I continue to enjoy Facebook Live every Sunday night at 6pm. Last week I showed how to make traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonarathen how to use the basic recipe to add other things to it. You can watch how I did it on Facebook here, as well as talking a bit about Tahbilk Pinot Gris which I matched with it. Please join me at 6:00 pm (Sydney Time) or 9:00 am British Standard Time, this coming Sunday as we concentrate on Australian ingredients and a fabulous recipe usingHumpty Doo barramundiand some accessible Australian native spices. Simply like my Facebook pageand at 6:00 pm to click here to join and watch Facebook Live video on Sunday night.
If you are planning to cook with me on Sunday, here’s what you will need for 4 as a main course: 230g (1 2/3 cups) unsalted macadamias
2 garlic cloves
1 ½ tablespoons (40g) ground wattle seed
1 teaspoon ground pepper leaf
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
macadamia or extra virgin olive oil
4 x 180-200g skinless barramundi fillets
¼ green and/or red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large carrot
¼ cup each of parsley and mint leaves, torn if large
125g bean sprouts
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons maple syrup or honey
See you then?
Is your honeycomb sticky like this?
Questions and Answers
In response to last week’s newsletter, Lorraine (a previous guest on one of my tours) asked “How do you stop honeycomb going sticky on the outside? I’ve tried several times and it goes sticky almost straight away, even when I store it in an airtight container. Maybe I need to try a new recipe?” Answer
Basically honeycomb is hot toffee blended with a little bicarbonate of soda to make it bubble and foam. When cooked correctly the finished product is dry and shatters in a satisfying way. It’s all about heating the sugar syrup to the correct temperature. A common mistake is taking the syrup off the heat too soon which makes the honeycomb sticky and doesn’t allow it to set correctly. If you are using honey in the recipe, the colour can give you a false indication of when it’s ready.
Best to follow this simple principle: the toffee syrup needs to be heated to a “hard crack” stage. This is about 150’C on a sugar thermometer but if you don’t have one, drip some into a glass of cold water. If it forms a soft ball of toffee, then it has not been cooked long enough. It needs to be hard. So cook for a little longer as sticky indicates the presence of what which has not been boiled off. Once the toffee is at hard crack, its time to add the soda and brace for the mixture to bubble and foam.
If all else fails and it remains too sticky to handle, try cutting it into bars, freezing them, dip in melted chocolate and make them into chocolate bars.
Another question which came up in my Australian Women’s Club Foodies group: Helen asked: Iranian limes (dried) – “Can I use the Iranian lime like a preserved lemon or would you use it more to infuse something like rice etc?” Answer
These dried limes are actually light-tan to dark brown in colour and have the most wonderful citrus-like fermented flavour, which complements fish and chicken dishes. Make a few holes in the skin of the black lime with a skewer or fork and leave in the pot during cooking. Put one in the cavity of poultry being roasted.
What questions do you have? Just email in response to this newsletter.
What’s In Season In October in Australia
Watermelon, Mango and Papaya
Onions: Green (Shallots)
Asparagus, Fennel and Broadbeans
In Season Recipes
Grilled Radicchio Bruschetta, Marinated Chevre and Peas
Here are some recipes that can be made this month with fresh seasonal produce
I look forward to mango season every year as I never buy them imported ones out of season. They aren’t as fully in season as they will be, so here are some tips on How to pick a ripe mango.
Inspect the mango visually. The ideal mango should be football-shaped, so you should choose mangoes that are full, plump and rounded, especially around the stem. Sometimes ripe mangoes will have brown spots or speckles, which is perfectly normal. Note: Do not pick flat or thin mangoes because they are likely to be stringy. Avoid choosing mangoes with wrinkled or shriveled skin because they are old.
Touch and feel the mango. Gently feel the mango. Ripe mangoes will be slightly soft to the touch just like avocados and peaches, but not soft or mushy enough to where your fingers sink into or through the skin. Note: If you do not plan on eating the mango for a few days, better to choose a mango with firmer skin and let it ripen some at home.
Smell mangoes near where their stems were attached to the tree. Ripe mangoes will always have a strong, sweet, fragrant and fruity aroma around the stem. If it smells like you’d want to eat it, you’re in business. Note: Since mangoes have a high natural sugar content, they will ferment naturally, so a sour smell is a distinctive sign the mango is overripe. Don’t buy it.
Look at colour last. In general, the colour of mangoes is not the best way to look for ripeness. Since the colours of ripe mangoes can be bright yellow, green, pink, or red depending on the variety and season, colour alone won’t necessarily tell you much about the ripeness of a mango. Instead, familiarise yourself with the different varieties of mangoes.
Two long-term friends and I try to have lunch every few months. Being my birthday week, we chose Sails Lavender Bay. Though it is near to where I live, I haven’t been there for years. What a great choice it turned out to be. right beside the ferry wharf and opposite Luna Park we enjoyed seeing the ferries come and go – and noted some of their names May Gibbs and Fred Hollows for example.
Inside all is elegance and calm with a friendly welcome and superb service.
Beetroot macarons, earthy, not too sweet and very beetrooty (if that’s a word) arrived as a complimentary amuse bouche as we sipped on celebratory champagne by the glass. We decided to each have two entrees then order a couple of sides. I began with just Seared Scallops with celeriac puree and rounds, granny smith, and a smoked roe and cider sauce ($30). A generous portion of four scallops and absolutely stunning. Sydney rock oysters ($26) were freshly shucked and beautifully presented with a mignonette dressing.
L: Sydney Rock Oysters and R: Gin Cured Hiramasa Kingfish, spanner crab, dill crème fraiche, rye, cucumber
Gin Cured Hiramasa Kingfish was also beautifully presented, encasing a generous mound of spanner crab, with dill crème fraiche and pickled cucumber ($29). The individual flavours were clear and delicate, each able to be tasted in the perfectly balanced dish.
Rich, unctuous Miso Glazed Berkshire Pork Jowl with a hint of chilli was nestled under tender shavings of kohlrabi and deep-fried shiso leaf ($27). Rich and satisfying. The sides were a resplendant Roast Cauliflower, finished with rich and creamy gruyere fondue and espelette pepper ($14). The best I’ve ever had. That’s what happens when you melt gruyere in cream! The salad of Baby Cos, radicchio, fennel, radish, mint was a crisp and refreshing contrast ($13).
With Mirabeau ‘Etoile’ Grenache Shiraz rose by the glass ($17) then coffee and petit fours ($7) to finish we were very happy. Highly recommended. We will be back.
Next Week and Last
Traditional Pork & Veal Ragu with Penne
On social media last week:
I shared some recipes last week. In honour of the Italian focus of my Facebook Live recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara with a twist, I added my Traditional Pork & Veal Ragu with Penne and what I think is the secret to the best bolognaise – to use pork and veal mince and add milk to the sauce! In tune with my Italian theme, I also reflected that this week I should have been in Puglia, hosting my planned tour there, now postponed to next year or beyond. More below.
Next week we’re travelling the world with Australian food and recipes, with a very Australian recipe for my Facebook Live.
There’ll be more too, so don’t miss out, join me on Facebook and Instagram this week!
Travel with me in 2021 or 2022?
A trulli house in Alberobello
MY HOSTED TOURS RETURN IN 2021 or 2022?
I am full of hope for next year – but also realise we may not be travelling internationally that soon. So we have delayed my planned Moroccan trip from May to October 2021, straight after the planned one to Puglia. Makes it worth being that side of the world and it will be fun to do back-to-back. Many more details to come, but here’s a heads up, although it is too soon to be thinking about travelling overseas again. Here are the dates: Culinary Adventures in Puglia and Basilicata: 10-16 October 2021 Full details and prices here, Morocco culinary tour probably mid-October 2021 – some information here.