Champing at the bit …….

With Celebrity Chef Manu Fieldel when hugs were allowed


Oh we are so close to seeming to be allowed out of lockdown, so practising patience is the name of the game this week. If vaccination rates continue in Sydney and NSW restrictions may be relaxed by 11 October, a week earlier than at first thought. Wonder of wonders. I’m already on the waiting list to get into Neil Perry’s new restaurant Margaret which was about to open when we got locked down.
I really feel for those in areas still locked down and people in Melbourne especially, having to contend with demonstrations and an earthquake. As if life wasn’t scary enough? I just hope we don’t get more infections which will delay any more freedoms.

I have been having picnics, though one with a friend on Saturday got washed out. Despite the promise of good weather, the heavens opened and it poured and we were wet through. Happy though. Therefore pleased to spontaneously ask my sister and brother-in-law on Sunday morning if we might have an impromptu one which was bliss. Then with my nephew and his wife for a quick lunch during the week. Looking forward to a reprise this Saturday. I am quite sociable by nature and love the joy of sitting in the open air with family and friends.

I was looking back to times when we could socialist and so on Thursday I posted this photo taken at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in November 2014 with Manu Feildel where we were both on a panel talking about presenting on TV. Fun times. I met Manu in 2004 when he became Executive chef at the new Bilson’s in the Radisson Plaza Hotel for another dear friend, the late Tony Bilson.. My partner & I knew Tony separately and had our first date there and returned often for monthly or annual anniversaries. Manu is a magnificent high end chef though now he is better known as a Celebrity TV chef.

Big news for me is that my carpenter/joiner can resume work on Monday. He is fully vaccinated and is finally able to come and install kitchen cupboards and drawers, bathroom cabinets, lounge room entertainment centre and new bookshelves in my spare room. I won’t know myself! I might even get back to Facebook Live?

My Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch  is confirmed from 11am – 3.30 pm on Sunday 24 October. More details below.

Highlght of the week was organised by my incredible daughter Lucy Sparkles for her husband Toby’s 40th birthday. He had hoped we could all go to the Margaret River for an extended celebration. That clearly wasn’t an option so she planned a zoom call with his immediate family and then the four people allowed to visit their home in Singapore to come over later for dinner. However, Lucy arranged for many more of us – 64 screens in total from all around the world to then drop in on this zoom chat. Not only that in the previous many weeks she had asked us to send video messages, old photos and also video of us singing John Farnham’s the Voice – as he did it in the old days. We had strict instructions on how we were to do this. She edited that all together into the most incredible 15 minute montage of vision and photos. We were all alternately laughing and crying. What a memory. thank you Covid!

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


Just one screen of the 64 groups of family and friendswho joined my son-in-law’s surprise lockdown 40th birthday. Lucy & Toby middle top, I’m on their left

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

Hints and Tips
Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch
Last Week and Next
Drinks Anyone?
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Fish two ways – above steamed snapper with ginger, shallot and soy

It’s great to recreate some of the flavours we may have been missing at home, perhaps like this Chinese classic pictured above. Many people lack confidence when it comes to cooking fish so in this video I show two methods – one is Steamed Snapper with Ginger, Shallot and Soy.  The other is a very simple way of frying the fish, one side only. I used snapper again but the recipe is the same as my Crisp Skinned Flathead with Capsicum.
You can watch me make them both in a total of 3 1/2 minutes on YouTube.

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

Recipes of the Week

Baked ‘Southern Fried’ Buttermilk Chicken with Rainbow Slaw and Blackened Corn

I had a request for a southern Fried Chicken so I thought I would share this one which is much easier and involves no frying so is not as messy and certainly healthier. Baked ‘Southern Fried’ Buttermilk Chicken with Rainbow Slaw and Blackened Corn

I’m still feeling the love for blood oranges. I have shared some recipes over recent weeks and there are many more on my website. Here are some quick ideas too:
  • Use blood orange juice instead of lemon juice to add a refreshing touch to salad dressings
    Toss blood orange segments with rocket, shredded fennel and toasted pine nuts for an easy side salad.
  • Make a marinade for chicken and fish, using blood orange juice, olive oil and crushed garlic.

Passionfruit is coming into season so here are my Tiny Passionfruit Butter Tarts.

Tiny Passionfruit Butter Tarts

Hints and Tips

Veal with Anchovy Sauce

Simple Reduction Sauce
I co-hosted a zoom wine tasting last week with my friend Darren Jahn from Robert Oatley Vineyards. Darren did a great job talking about the company, the joys of the Margaret River and we tasted a chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon,
both classics of the region. I talked about food and wine matching, and specifically what would go with these wines.
During conversation, I mentioned how easy it was to make a reduction sauce, and how versatile such a sauce is.  It can be made in a saucepan or when deglazing a frypan while resting meat, chicken or even fish. there was a lot of interest in this so I thought it worth sharing here. Just put everything in, bring to the boil and then reduce until thickened.

The simple quantities are 1 part stock to 1/2 part wine and then a dollop or two of something interesting. So for steak or lamb this might look like
1 cup (250mls) beef stock
1/2 cup (125mls) red wine
3 tablespoons redcurrant jelly or quince paste

or for a creamy sauce for chicken or fish
1 ½ cups (375 mls) chicken stock or consomme or fish stock
¾ cup (180 mls) dry white wine
½ cup (125 mls) cream1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)

Here is my Veal with Anchovy Sauce recipe as an example.

On the wine side

the New York times shares Love Wine? Here are 10 ways to appreciate it more.

I loved Huon Hooke’s honest piece about Matching ramen with wine and how potentially unfortunate it was that he was eating it on World Cabernet Day.

with wines from Neil McGuigan’s personal vineyards

Bookings are well and truly open for my Moroccan Cooking Dem & Lunch  from 11am – 3.30 pm on Sunday 24 October.  I am teaming up with my long term friend (he calls me Mummy)  and fabulous chef, Martin Boetz from The Cook’s Shed, Carol Prior from By Prior Arrangement and multi-award-winning winemaker Neil McGuigan who will be presenting wines under his own personal label. I have worked with everyone before and it will be huge fun.
We will begin around 11am with a welcome drink, then sit down for a cooking demonstration from Martin and me, then a three course meal, eating what we’ve demonstrated, with accompanying wines. We will wrap up around 3.30pm.
The Cook’s Shed is a bespoke events space, recently refreshed. It’s located at  2 West Portland Road Sackville where Martin first set up Cook’s Co-op growing and supplying outstanding produce. It’s all Covid-safe. Think wood-fired oven, bubbling pots of warming food, recipes to take home and fun, fun, fun. An absolute maximum of 50 people.  Cost is $145 all inclusive and all bookings here.

Last Week and Next

Profiteroles au Chocolat

I have always had a knack for making choux pastry. Back in my catering days I would even make croquembouche for clients. I was immensely flattered when Stephanie Alexander used my recipe in the revised version of her definitive Cook’s Companion. Therefore I decided it would be good to explain my Top Secrets for Perfect Choux Pastry on the Happy Ali website. It’s such a fabulous pastry to master for everything from savoury Gruyere Gougére to more complicated sweet applications like Paris Brest. I take you through it step-by-step. I hope you find it useful.

Last Sunday night it was an oldie but a goodie with a Spicy Pork Stir Fry with Noodles for an easy dinner.

It’s been a roller coaster week with the weather going from summer to winter in a day. I have tried to reflect this with the recipes I shared and chose this comforting Cheat’s Tuscan Bean Soup which uses mainly pantry items.

I also got a great response to my post of the photo above, hugging Manu.

Next week:
I’m excited that my renovation will be resuming so not sure how much time I will have. Monday is World Tourism Day so not sure what that might look like – maybe a flashback to when we could travel freely.
Also it’s my birthday on Wednesday, so having another picnic. Whatever you are doing, I hope you eat and drink well?

Cheat’s Tuscan Bean Soup

Drinks Anyone?

The refreshed MadFish range of wines

Refreshed Range from MadFish
To help celebrate its 30th year, MadFish Wines has just released its new range complete with a refreshed look. The new label artwork designed by local artist Kyle Odgers-Hughes draws inspiration from the rough and wild South West coastline that MadFish Wines calls home. They are all a very reasonable $18.
My pick of them, and so suitable for this time of year when the weather holds was the 2021 Madfish Rosé. A blend of grenache and pinot noir it is an attractive pale pink, with all the berry, citrus and pomegranate you might want. but finishing dry. Perfect for picnics.

Tonic Tasting
Just for fun, as I had several different tonics in the fridge a week or so ago, I decided to do a tonic tasting. You may have read last week how pleased I was to be introduced to the Australian Waterhole Tonics so I thought I might try them all. I tried them in random order, but unfortunately as there was only me, I could not do it blind. Then I ordered them from left to right in my preferred order. then I tried them with Stone Pine Orange Blossom gin from Nip of Courage – and the order of preference changed. Now given this was not a blind tasting it is just a record of what I thought on that evening. However, it does show, I think, that different gins suit different tonics.

What do you think? Do you have any favourite combinations?

Tonic Tasting L tonics in preference L to R and R: gin & tonics in preference order when tasted with gin

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Medinas in Morocco have something for everyone

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

Handmaking cheese 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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