Challenging Times


Our winning team at Tasty Trivia


The news is not much better in the week since my last newsletter. The rain on the Eastern seabord of Australia has been torrential, the mop up monumental with some people getting flooded more than once, the terror continues in the Ukraine and there was the unexpected passing of cricketer Shane Warne.  Now there is a new variant of Omicron which seems to spread most with children. It does make one wonder if the world is not off its axis. However, the stories of community spirit are uplifting and while we can hopefully donate to charities to support these tragedies, it is also important to look after ourselves as well as our neighbours.

It’s easy to feel helpless but please see below for some fundraising initiatives in support of The Ukraine. And let’s hear it for Good News site Happy Ali highlighting hope, empathy, kindness and the people doing good around the world. They are trying to bring a daily story on news from or about what is happening in Eastern Europe, and give you the news that balances out traditional media’s focus on only the heartbreak and the horrors. For example Ukraine: Messages of Hope Amongst The Heartbreak.

I found myself feeling quite down and flat at the beginning of the week, especially not being able to get out and walk in the fresh air or see the sun. I have kept up my indoor exercise and fortunately, on Monday night we returned to Tasty Trivia at The Terminus Hotel in Pyrmont. It is a fun interactive food and wine quiz and, though our team was smaller than usual, it was fun and great for the brain, not to mention the camerarderie. I don’t think we can ever underestimate the importance of staying connected and talking with friends and family. I hope you are able to as well.

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


In honour of International Women’s Day and all those women facing floods, invasion and ill health

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

Last Week and Next
Things to Read, Do and Share
Support for the Ukraine

Wines I’ve Enjoyed
South Australian Tour
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Tomato, Zucchini & Goat’s Cheese Tarts

I really enjoy the simplicity of making these type of tarts or galettes using commercial puff pastry.  You can make sweet or savoury versions, depending on your ingredients. Here I show you how to make Savoury Tomato, Zucchini & Goat’s Cheese Tarts. Master them and it’s easy to use fruit and sprinkle with sugar for a sweet version. You can find the written version here.

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

Recipes of the Week

Plum Clafoutis

Plums are absolutely glorious and certainly the best of the stone fruit available now. If plums are not in season where you are, you can always make clafoutis with tinned plums (meaning no need to poach first) or fruit in season. The classic version is made with cherries and you can use frozen or tinned cherries too. Raspberries are a simple alternative too. Whatever you choose, the brandy and flaked almonds in this batter give it a lift. Here is my recipe for Plum Clafoutis. As clafoutis is a traditional French dish using cherries, when something else is used it should strictly speaking be known as flaugnarde. However, I think clafoutis is more recognisable.

For something savoury, try Pork Chops with Celery Seed and Parsnip Puree. This is a simple and very fast recipe but looks and tastes more impressive than that. You could use the same technique with lamb cutlets and dukkah.

Pork Chops with Celery Seed and Parsnip Puree

Last Week and Next

With Darina Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2011

I’ve countered our challenging times by keeping busy this week as well as occasional posts on social media. I braved the incredible rain on Tuesday to attend an International Women’s Day lunch, getting completely drenched on my way home despite a raincoat and umbrella.  That evening I was able to join a “Sip & Chat” session online featuring five fabulous females of food, farming and agritourism. It was terrific to see how inventive and proactive these women are given the challenges which face our farmers.  It was curated by the team at Regionality Rose Wright & Andrea Armstrong and I have written to them to see if it will be streamed on their website. If they do I will share it with you.

For Throw Back Thursday I shared a photo with the legendary Darina Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, taken when I was filming my Taste of Ireland TV series. She established Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1983 with her brother Rory O’Connell and is an award-winning author of over 10 books and presenter on 6 Television series, her main passion and her daily task is to impart her knowledge. She showed me how to make Spotted Dog served with glorious home made raspberry jam with organic berries fresh from the farm. Characteristically she held an online zoom class with Rory as a fundraiser for the Ukraine this week. See more ideas below.

For Mardi Gras in Sydney, I embraced the rainbow theme and shared Baked “Southern Fried” Buttermilk Chicken with Rainbow Slaw and Blackened Corn. The slaw is lovely on its own or with almost anything. The chicken is healthier than fried chicken and gets a double dose of spice – from a buttermilk marinade and a crisp polenta coating. Cooling slaw with crunchy pecans and blackened, spiced corn on the cob are ideal sides.

I was very pleased to finally make it to Ryo’s Ramen, for an early lunch today. There is always a queue for both lunch and dinner outside this tiny eatery which is definitely for a quick bite. I had the Chicken Soup, Sour Salt Flavour with Fried Prawn Balls ($16.50) and a Watermelon cider ($4.50). It was delicious, a bit heavy on the noodles but I’m not sure I’d queue for it as we had to go and have a coffee nearby to finish our conversation.

Next week
Thursday 17th March is St Patrick’s Day so I will be sharing an appropriate recipe. There will be other recipes and restaurants to try so stay tuned.

Baked “Southern Fried” Buttermilk Chicken with Rainbow Slaw and Blackened Corn

Things to Read, Do & Share

North Sydney Community Centre event

In North Sydney
#BreakTheBias – In Conversation: Finding your Own Voice event is only $40 a ticket. You’ll have to be quick for this one as it’s on March 12.
North Sydney Community Centre marks its 50th year in 2022, and there have been many dedicated, wonderful women who have driven the growth and development of the Centre. This event is an opportunity to both celebrate and acknowledge these incredible contributions, and to hear stories and musical performances from established artists. A delicious lunch and refreshments are included. A wonderful day of conversation, musical entertainment, laughter and inspiration!
Places are still available here.

Time Out has introduced a new YouTube series, exploring the extraordinary talents of Australia’s most fascinating artisans. From techni-colour floral installations to visionary zero-waste cuisine and digital art masterpieces, Meet the Maker takes you behind the scenes. Find them here including a great one with seafood genius chef Josh Niland.
Coastal greens are now appearing on restaurant menus globally. Not only packing a punch with flavour, they’re also highly nutritious. And for some species, their cultivation can benefit our marine ecologies, and our planet as a whole.
Gourmet Traveler explains Know your beach greens
writes Coastal greens offer oceans of benefits.
You can also learn about The best herbs and spices for health.

On the topic of herbs and spices, it’s always worth reading Herbie’s Spices newsletter. Here is Herbie’s Newsletter Autumn 

Support for the Ukraine

Traditional Ukrainian food. Photo from Wikipedia

In Australia

When former MasterChef contestant Mandy Hall heard that London-based Ukrainian chef and food writer Olia Hercules was launching a campaign dubbed Cook For Ukraine – rallying foodies to raise money for displaced children via Unicef – she knew the Australian industry had to get involved, too. So Aussie Hospo for Ukraine initiative was born, an online silent auction where you can bid for a range of meals and other treats, everything from top-shelf wines to dining experiences such as a meal for four at Shannon Martinez’s Collingwood venue Smith & Daughters.

Aussie Hospo for Ukraine silent auction items are displayed on Instagram at @AussieHospoForUkraineor view and make a bid here.  
Click here to donate directly to Unicef’s Cook For Ukraine campaign
Melbourne restaurateur Boris Portnoy,  has organised a market called “Cook Bake Preserve Grow” at Northcote Town Hall on Sunday, April 3 during the 
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Proceeds  will go to the Jewish refugee organisation the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

In the UK
The Wine Show visited Moldova in season 2 because they had heard that Russia had stopped buying their wine causing extreme distress to winemakers there. Wine is a huge export for Moldova, and it is the poorest country in Europe but is opening its arms to Ukrainian refugees. So they are getting a load of Wine Show baseball caps made up which are normally only available to cast and crew. Now they are available to everyone with all the proceeds going to CCR MOLDOVA, a charity devoted to refugees. They are affiliated to the UNHCR,  are very well managed and experienced and will ensure funds will be deployed to help the most needy. Postage only in the UK at the moment. Cost is £19.99 and available here.

Top Suffolk chefs unite for pop-up Ukraine fundraising dinner on 17 March. 
Responding to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, some of Suffolk’s top chefs are working together to cook a special fund-raising feast celebrating the country, its people and its food. All profits will go to the DEC’s  (Disasters Emergency Committee) Ukraine Appeal. It will be held with the generous support of Suffolk New College, Ipswich. Catering and hospitality students will join the professionals for The Suffolk Cooks for Ukraine event, preparing, cooking and serving the dinner, priced at £60 per person, and with tickets available here.

Wherever you are:
Cook For Ukraine campaign is encouraging people to cook Ukrainian food at home and share the results on Instagram or other social media under the #CookForUkraine hashtag as a way of raising awareness and showing solidarity.
Here’s a link to some Ukrainian recipes.

Wines I’ve Enjoyed

There really is no substitute for personal contact. I have been reminded of this recently and the joy of catching up with someone you may not have seen for a long time. At the Sydney Royal Wine Show lunch presented by Wine Communicators Australia, I was thrilled to see Robert Fiumara, winemaker at Lillypilly Estate Wines. There was a time I got to the Riverina quite regularly and we both recalled the time I was the Celebrity Chef at the Rice Festival in Leeton. I got to ride on the back of a convertible in the street parade, along with the Rice Princesses. It was such fun. However, Robert was there to collect the Trophy for the Best Value Red at the 2021 Sydney Royal Wine Show. At $19.50 it is incredible value and I was fascinated to see a 100% petit verdot coming from his region. I was fascinated to taste it and found it aromatic, fruity and floral, not as big as I expected bur with a firm, savoury finish. worth trying.

Not long before this at the NSW Wine Awards I met Alex and Philippe Cassegrain from Casegrain Wines. I had known their parents well in years gone by and Alex had just been named 2021 ASVO Winemaker of the year. They also took out a Trophy at these awards for Best Light Red Wine in show for the Cassegrain Wines 2021 Seasons. This wine, as the name indicates, is made with different grapes for each season. The company had championed Chambourcin in Australia, a wine I enjoyed.
This resulted in an email exchange with their father John Cassegrain and he sent me not only some wines to try, but a new initiative he is very excited about for red wine vinegar which I am trialling. Meanwhile I have enjoyed a couple of the wines too and commend the lighter style of reds like the unusual combination in 2019 Edition Noir Syrah Pinot Noir and  2020 Edition Noir Barbera. And if you’ve never tried it, you really should taste Chambourcin

South Australian Tour
postponed TBA

With my friend Maggie Beer in our Flame Studio Sydney. You will meet her on the tour

Things are so disrupted in the world of travel that we are exploring several potential dates for this tour. You will be the first to hear once all is settled.
The information on the website will be updated once reconfirmed. PH 1800 001 778 or email

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Mint Tea is always glorious to drink in Morocco

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.
Details of the adventure include:

  • Meals as per itinerary: breakfast daily, 9 lunches, 11 dinners with ½ bottle of wine per person at dinner or sometimes lunch
  • Transportation throughout in luxury air-conditioned vehicles with professional experienced English-speaking driver, including related expenses and allowing for physical distancing
  • English-speaking escort
  • English-speaking local licensed guides in Rabat, Volubilis, Meknes, Fes, Marrakech and Essaouira with all entrance fees included to the sites visited with the guides
  • Atlas excursion including mules and the specialist trek guide
  • 3 cooking classes

You can enjoy this experience from AUD $9600 per person twin share (flights from Australia not included). Cost for single travelers is AUD$10,700.

By Prior Arrangement is highly experienced and well-known in Morocco as Principal, Carol Prior lived there for 13 years and has been arranging tours there for over 30. 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.

To enjoy the taste of Morocco at home, try my Chicken, Preserved Lemon & Green Olive Tagine.

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. 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

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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