December Newsletter

With my old friend and colleague Damien Pignolet at Woodland Kitchen & Bar

As London gets colder, I’m loving the warmer weather in Sydney though to date it hasn’t been too hot – but terrible weather still for bush fires especially with strong winds. I had a lovely overnight stay in beautiful Palm Beach with a couple of girlfriends which was very relaxing. Still too cold for me to go in the surf!
The week kicked off with a wonderful dinner: Dining for Damien – Celebrating 50 Years in the Industry. It was hosted at Woodland Kitchen & Bar  in Neutral Bay by Damian and Jenni Heads, Damian having worked for Damien (very confusing but different spelling) during his career. I was a judge for the Jospehine Pignolet Award, in memory of Damien’s late wife, in 2003 when Damian Heads won it. We have been in touch ever since. He is not only a talented chef, but a principled one and a great cook. Also in the kitchen was another of Damien Pignolet’s protegees and a former colleague of mine on Fresh TV was Jason Roberts. Along with others who had worked for Damien Pignolet, they created a wonderful dinner.

Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.

Chefs of the night, all of whom had worked with Damian Pignolet L to R: Nick Kennedy, Mark Kay, Damian Heads, Damien Pignolet, Tom Walton and Jason Roberts.
L to R Two of Damien Pignolet’s signature dishes, served on the night L: coulibiac and R Daube of beef with brandade

Youtube Summer Baking

Spiced Orange Cakes

Fresh from my kitchen to you. The latest of my new youtube series – this time it’s summer baking.  Perfect for the weekend.
Click here If you like it and would like to see more, please subscribe to my Youtube Channel. To get a printed version of the recipe click here.

Jump ahead to see:
What’s In Season in December
The best in fruit and veggies this week
Recipe of the week
In Season Recipes
All About Basil
Basil Recipes

Let’s Drink Rosé
Come Travelling with me in 2020?
Interesting Reading
What’s On
Meaningful Christmas Giving
How to’s

What’s in Season in December

Spring brings with it a wealth of wonderful fruit and vegetables


  • Apricots
  • Banana
  • Berries: Blackberries
  • Berries: Blueberries
  • Berries: Raspberries
  • Berries: Red & White Currants
  • Berries: Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Lychees
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges: Valencia
  • Papaya
  • Passionfruit
  • Papaw
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple


  • Asparagus
  • Beans: Green
  • Beans: Flat
  • Beans: Butter
  • Capsicum
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

The best in fruit and veggies this week in Australia

Mango, papaya and honeydew melon


Select plump, golden-orange coloured apricots. Enjoy them as a healthy snack or try them baked, grilled, sautéed or stewed in the microwave. Apricots supply fibre, the antioxidants, iron, vitamin C and B group vitamins.

Luscious, fragrant and sweet Aussie mango season is in full spring. Queensland mangoes and Northern Territory fruit are both available. This is a great week to enjoy Kensington Pride, R2E2 and calypso varieties. 

Greengrocers are filling with highly fragrant peaches and nectarines that are sure to delight your senses. Whip up this peach & passionfruit tart.

Flavoursome new season cherries are a winner in time for Christmas.

Delicious sweet eating grapes are a fabulous snack fruit. Take them to the next level by roasting grapes and add them to a salad or serve with a soft-cheese. Try this with seedless pink, green or black-skinned grapes.

Fresh berries make the ultimate simple summer dessert. You will now find boysenberriesraspberries and red currants at your local greengrocer, as well as North Coast blueberries and delicious Victorian strawberries. This easy make-ahead summer berry pudding is a fabulous Christmas dessert that you can be frozen, and defrosted when required.

Ultra-juicy and tropical tasting lychees are now in season. Grown in the tropical North lychee prices variety with variety and seed size. The bigger the seed the cheaper the price.

L: TOP; carrots BOTTOM; sweetcorn  and  R: green onions


Machine harvested green beans and hand-picked green beans are in season. Try blanching them and putting into salads.

Pick up a large bunch of green onions also sold as shallots.. Add sliced green onions to salads, scrambled eggs, pasta dishes or sandwich fillings for a delicate onion flavour. If you’re not sure about the difference between different onions, read What Onion is That? in last week’s newsletter.

A barbecue is not complete without mushrooms. Flats (large open mushrooms) have a rich intense flavour and meaty texture. Try barbecuing them with a dab of butter and crushed garlic.

Be sure to pick up a few bunches of fresh asparagus. Asparagus is delicious served with eggs for breakfast, add spears to a salad for lunch or serve steamed for dinner. Generally the thinner the spears the cheaper the price.

Versatile carrots are a thrifty buy. Carrots add vibrancy, texture and colour to summer salads these are two of our favourites carrot, rocket & spiced chickpea salad and carrot, tomato & chicken quinoa salad.

Irresistible sweetcorn is a family favourite. Enjoy is on the cob with a dab of butter or remove kernels and add to salads or fritters. Try these crispy sweet corn, prawn & coriander fritters

Grab a bunch of watercress this week. Watercress is delicious stir-fried with garlic and fresh asparagus. Add springs to a roast beef and mustard sandwich or add to a salad with avocado and ripe truss tomatoes. Try watercress, asparagus & chicken salad.

Full-flavoured truss cherry tomatoes,  cherry tomatoesTruss tomatoes and salad tomatoes $ come into their own in summer.

Kumara or orange sweet potatoes are excellent value.. For maximum quality, use within 3-5 days for purchasing. Sweet potatoes are low GI and delicious baked, fried, boiled, steamed and can be instead of potato in most recipes.

Zucchinis are a bargain. Choose plump zucchini with glossy, unblemished skin. They’re best used within a few days. Delicate zucchini flowers are a seasonal treat. Team them with crabmeat in a risotto or stuff the flowers with goat’s cheese, dip in a light crispy batter and fry until golden. 

The distinct aroma and flavour of coriander is synonymous with Asian cookery. The leaves, stalk and roots of this herb can be used in curries, seafood and vegetable dishes. 

Recipe of the week

Prawn Slice with Basil Mayo Photography John Paul Urizar

Prawn Slice with Basil Mayo

Servings 8 as an entree
Preparation 10 minutes
Cooking 40 minutes + 3 minutes resting

800g shelled green prawns
5 eggs
1 ½ cups cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Basil Mayo
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
200mls extra virgin olive oil
100mls mild extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon (20ml) lemon juice
1 bunch basil, leaves only, or ½ bunch dill, finely chopped

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180’C (160’C fan-forced). Line a 25-27 cm loaf tin with baking paper. (You can use any size tin as long as it will hold at least 1.6 litres in volume.)
  2. Place prawns in food processor and process until pureed. Add eggs and process till combined. With motor running slowly add cream, then season.
  3. Pour into prepared tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until set.
  4. Meanwhile for basil mayo: place egg yolks and mustard in the bowl of a food processor and process until pale and thickened. Combine oils and drizzle in slowly while continuing to process. The slower you do it, the thicker your mayo will be. Season with lemon juice and salt. Pulse through the chopped basil. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Remove loaf to cool slightly, then turn out, cut into slices and serve with basil mayo and salad, if desired.

In Season Recipes

Summer Frangipane Tart

Asparagus with Parmesan
Thai-style Mango & Papaya Salad with Lightly Spiced Prawns
Corncakes with Australian-spiced Guacamole
Tea-smoked Oysters & Salmon with Watercress Salad
Miang of Duck & Red Grapes
Coconut & Chilli Curry with Salmon, Corn & Snake Beans
Snapper with Mango Salsa
Summer Chicken Chutney Roast
Summer Frangipane Tart

All About Basil

L: Sweet basil and R: Thai basil

There are many different types of basil, but those easiest to get are Sweet Basil and Thai Basil. Despite looking similar, these fragrant herbs are very different in flavour.

Native to India, this aromatic leafy green herb has an appealing clove-like scent and subtle peppery taste. It’s the key ingredient in the famous basil (Genovese) pesto and naturally partners with Italian cuisine.

Basil teams exceptionally well with tomatoes. The small spikey white flowers are edible. Scatter basil leaves over dishes or add at the end of cooking for maximum flavour.

Fragrant Thai basil is used in South-East Asian cooking including Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes. Its anise-like fragrance and a licorice, slightly spicy flavour adds a vibrant twist to Asian-inspired salads, rice paper rolls and curries.

This basil is very speicy and sometimes called hot basil. It has a light numbing effect on the tongue that is similar to the effect of Szechuan pepper. The flavor is more like a combination of black pepper and clove than like the sweeter notes of Thai basil. It tends to get even spicier as it is cooked. this is harder to get so you can use Thai basil in its place with a bit of extra chilli.

features small- sized but elongated leaves with a green color and a sweet scent. It is best used for a culinary purpose to add flavor to foods and dishes.

Rich in calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, it’s also a great source of iron and magnesium.

Look for fresh basil with bright-coloured, blemish-free leaves.
These herbs flourish in summer and do not like the cold. Wrap unwashed bunches in a few layers of paper towel and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Use within 3-4 days.

Wash and pick the leaves. Basil leaves turn black quickly after cutting, so best to tear them or cut just before use.

Tomatoes, peas, lamb, lemon, pasta, veal, capers, eggplant, mozzarella, garlic and balsamic vinegar.

Basil Recipes

Caper, Olive and Basil Bruschetta

Caper, Olive and Basil Bruschetta
Polenta Canapes with Prawns
Easy Veggie Finger Food for Entertaining including Tomato, Bocconicini & Basil Mini-Skewers
Roasted Tomato & Leek Soup
BBQ Tomato & Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta
Italian Cherry Parfait with Sweet Basil Puree

Let’s Drink Rosé

2018 Calabria Wines’ Pierre d’Amour Rosé $19.95

I arrived home from my travels to find a case of wine from Calabria Wines as a congratulations for being named The Legend of the Vine 2019. Bill Calabria and I go way back and, despite his Italian heritage, he is a proud Australian. So I was surprised to see the wines all labelled Pierre d’Amour. However, Pierre D’Amour translates to ‘The Stone of Love’ in French. This range is inspired by typically French varieties and styles which we love here in Australia.
So far I have only tried the Rosé with a very casual late lunch on Sunday. It is salmon pink and finishes dry, just as I like it.Unusually, it is made from aglianico, negroamaro and shiraz grapes which give it a lovely savouriness, also just as I like it. Each bottle of Pierre D’Amour Rosé is styled with a healing stone; rose quartz crystal – which represents ‘the stone of love’ and promotes emotional healing, love, clarity and calmness. A lovely touch.

Come Travelling with me in 2020?

Enjoy the sights, sounds and colours of the souks in Morocco

Two fabulous hosted trips:
The next tour I am escorting is with By Prior Arrangement to Morocco 16-27 April 2020This is an extraordinary destination, but one best visited with specialised knowledge and contacts to ensure a happy and seamless experience. Carol Prior of By Prior Arrangement focusses only on Morocco, a country she has known for 30 years and where she lived for over a decade.  I could think of no-one better to plan the tour with.

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. $8850 pp shared, or $10,550 single.
Details here

In Puglia, you too can experience traditional bread making and sea urchins fresh from the sea

Culinary Adventures in Puglia 30 September – 6 October 2020.
Puglia is a relatively undiscovered part, in the boot of the heel of Italy, it’s where Italians go for holidays! 

“I loved every moment of the tour, Lyndey is an excellent host, great fun & very  knowledgeable in wine & food while our tour guide, Max, knows the history of Puglia so well, which was great as we visited lovely old towns with amazing old buildings.Our accommodation was 4 to 5 star & wonderful & we had some truly amazing meals & wines.” writes Julie Tulloch, a fellow traveller in May last year.
It was such a fabulous experience, we are repeating it from 30 September – 6 October 2020 to 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
Price: $5499 per person for all ground arrangements (single supplement $799)
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

Trips are always fun. Here’s a happy group in Alberobello, Puglia

Interesting Reading 

Shawarma chicken bits, toum, sumac onions, saj – Nour, Sydney. One of the best dishes of 2019 says Anthony Huckstep

I just love Anthony Huckstep’s round up in delicious of The Best Dishes of 2019. That’s across Australia. Lucky Anthony.
Good Weekend had an interesting feature on The People who Defined 2019. I was thrilled to see my friend, feminist, health pioneer and amazing, supportive woman Wendy McCarthy AO justifiably featured for her advocacy for women’s rights including the overturn of the 119 year old abortion laws in NSW. Also pleased to see other friends, chefs Jock Zonfrillo, Matt Stone and his partner Jo Barrett there.. So well deserved all of you.
Also delighted to see Sydney seafood chef getting accolades in The Guardian in the UK.
Having just spent a week in Paris, I found this amusing  How to get on with locals in Paris.
And while we’re at it here are 20 Incredible Landmarks in France.

What’s On

Good food and more besides at the melbourne Food & Wine Festival

In Australia
Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 19 – 29 March 2020
Read about it in Broadsheet or Good Food. Full program here

In London
Parmigiano Reggiano at Petersham Nurseries London.
The Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano has teamed up with Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden for aperitivo and fine Italian wines from Petersham Cellar, featuring a half wheel of 24-month aged Parmesan cheese. The Parmesan can be enjoyed as part of the Enoteca at Petersham Nurseries, running every week from Wednesday – Saturday, 5-9pm.

Petersham Nurseries was established by the Boglione family who share their passion for organic gardening and sustainable sourcing through their restaurants. Similarly, Parmigiano Reggiano is produced by family-run farms dotted around Emilia Romagna, crafted using all-natural ingredients (raw milk, salt, rennet) and no additives – essentially the same production process it followed nine centuries ago.

In Sydney
Xmas In Paris! by Bastille Markets Australia – Sunday 8 December
These family-friendly French Markets will have ver 50 exciting pop-up shops of authentic French food and unique artisans, alLive French singer, activities for the kids and a visit from Santa
All your Xmas shopping with a French twist
Open: 9am to 2pm
Where: Club Willoughby (carpark) | 26 Crabbes Avenue, North Willoughby, NSW, 2068

Meaningful Christmas Giving

Christmas Pudding from Dreamtime tukka

I am a fan of homemade Christmas gifts, but have just found something fabulous. The hashtag #buyfromthebush has been created to encourage people to support small rural business like Dreamtime Tukka. Flying solo has rounded up 12 of the best.  There’s still time to order online.

How to’s

Delicious roast pork with crackling

Women’s Weekly Food says Know Your Cuts. the best cuts of meat to use for your favourite roast, stir fry, BBQ or slow cooker dinners.
I am also a fan of making my own curry pastes, so the Weekly shares How to make your own Thai Green Curry Paste and curry.

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