Flashbacks, food, fish and fun

My first bridge climb in 2008. It was a gift from my late son Blair for my birthday, my daughter’s belated 21st (on left) before she left Australia, with his girlfriend and our ever-close friend Sasha, the tour leader. Special times.


I hope this finds you well and happy, wherever you are.

Last weekend it was the 90th birthday of the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Do you have memories of it, either as a local, or a visitor to Sydney. I still marvel at it when I drive over or go over in the train. We were brought up on tales of the actions of (Francis) Edward de Groot who, as a member of the fascist paramilitary organisation, the New Guard of Australia, rode in on horseback during the official opening in 1932, cutting the tape before the Premier of New South WalesJack Lang, could do so. My parents were young and living in Brisbane at the time but certainly knew the tale.

In 2000 I found it tremendously moving to be part of the Reconciliation Bridge Walk with my two teenage children. Known as The People’s Walk for Reconciliation,  we were able to talk about history, what reconciliation meant and share this and wonderful camaraderie with other walkers.

In 2008 my daughter and I finally arranged birthday presents from my son Blair, timed while his then girlfriend Sasha was a tour leader for BridgeClimb. It was not long before they all went overseas and was very special. I again climbed the bridge some years later when filming my Taste of Australia TV series and again with a group of female entrepreneurs. It is always an amazing experience – and being part of history.

I’m increasingly out and about, supporting the hospitality industry,  so please stay in the loop on  Facebook and Instagram or email me with any requests or comments. 


L: Harbour bridge during construction and R: present day

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

Seafood to Sample
Things to Read, Hear & Share
Viand Restaurant
South Australian Tour
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Low-Fat Prawn Laksa

Laksa can be a very rich dish but this low-fat version still has all the flavour with much lower fat. Watch me make Low-Fat Prawn Laksa on YouTube here.  You can find the written recipe here. 
Subscribe to my YouTube channel here for all my videos including recipes in a minute. Enjoy.

Recipes of the Week

Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce

Some easy recipes this week, which can be done in advance and last a few days in the fridge if they don’t get eaten before. Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce will please all the family or is smart enough for guests.

Pumpkin, Leek & Spinach Frittata is vegetarian if you leave off the pancetta or prosciutto and can be cut up for lunchboxes, work as finger food or a light main.

Pumpkin, Leek & Spinach Frittata

Seafood to Sample

My version – Easy Acqua Pazza Fish

I never mind cooking – as long as I have the ingredients. Sometimes it is the shopping which is the challenge. For example it can be hard to buy fresh seafood when I am short of time. I am a fan of Sydney Fish Markets but it can be convenient to have something on hand. Quite a few online retailers launched during Covid lockdown and even since then. I think this sort of convenience is here to stay.

Recently I began trialing a delivery from  FishMe and will continue to do so as I now have a supply of frozen seafood. I also thought it timely before Easter. They have a huge range of fresh and frozen seafood and ready prepared items. While they have a fabulous array of high end seafood, sashimi and Japanese specialities, I thought it would be interesting to get things which are less usual, not sold everywhere, things which are fast and fabulous to make a meal out of  and good value for money.  It all came frozen, packed individually and with freezer bricks so there was no deterioration when it was left at my door.

I was thrilled with a 114g Tropical lobster tail and will be publishing a blog with photos and videos next week (no time before sorry). I also found Wild-Caught Flathead Fillets conveniently frozen as single fillets so easy to defrost as needed. However, whereas nearly everything else on the website declares its country of origin (mostly Australia) I was disappointed to find that Octopus Slices (Tako) , were Product of China, which was not clear on the website.

However, I have had lots of fun experimenting with Patagonian tooth fish cheeks. I am a massive fan of this premium fish, found in the deep, cold waters between Australia and Antarctica. Toothfish has snow-white flesh with a delicate, clean, sweet flavour. I thought the cheeks would be a fast, convenient and inexpensive way to enjoy this fish.

Having tried Sean Connolly’s version of Tooothfish Acqua Pazza at Gowings this week I was obsessed by the simplicity yet complex depth of flavour in the broth and wanted to make my own version. This seafood dish traditionally consists of poached white fish with a flavoursome broth ladled on top. “Aqua pazza” literally translates to “crazy water.” This may originate with Italian fishermen long ago who would prepare their fresh catch right on their boats with salty sea water and other seasonings they had on hand. Some chefs still poach the fish in seawater or salted soda water and that works well too. However, the key is making sure that “crazy water” broth is well seasoned. Using whole fish gives more flavour to the broth but I experimented with the cheeks and found gently and quickly poaching in the broth or crazy water better than steaming.

The cheeks have a somewhat unusual texture, almost stringy like skate or ray wings. This is minimised by just undercooking. Next time I will use the toothfish fillets for acqua pazza. Good news, though, I then tried some of the toothfish cheeks in this recipe for Pan Fried Glacier 51 Toothfish with Brown Butter and Kaffir Lime Leaves.  However, I used extra virgin olive oil with butter to cook the salted cheeks. I only cooked them for one minute on each side, adding the lime leaves and a squeeze of lemon and they were sensational. Sorry I forgot to take a photo! I’ll try to remember next time – because there will be one!

Delivery from FishMe

Some of the offerings at Bar Tropic

Olia Hercules’ Easter bread with apples and a poppyseed and pecan paste
Do you have a glut of zucchinis? 50 of the best zucchini recipes

Here’s my review of the revamped Bar Tropic in Sydney’s Manly.From pears to Asian greens, autumn has an abundance so read Why seasonal superfoods make autumn the healthiest time of year.

I have long been a dumpling and Asian ingredient lover. My daughter reminded me that Asian dishes made up a lot of the food of her childhood.  I just loved reading this story Small treasures” The families making dumplings, tofu, noodles and more for Sydney kitchens. However, note that many of these items are available nationally.

In-season figs ripe for the picking and, of course, also for buying, eating and cooking.

How to pick the perfect avocado

Thanks to Eativity News for this piece:
Bad news for plant-based meat
senate inquiry into meat definitions and other animal products has handed down a list of nine recommendations in its report. Meat and farming industries have welcomed the recommendations, which includes the development of a mandatory regulatory framework for the labelling of plant-based protein products. It also recommends the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reviews the placement of plant-based protein products in stores. But the plant protein industry is understandably disappointed. The Alternative Proteins Council says the recommendations “have largely ignored evidence showing that Australian consumers understand current labels” into meat definitions and other animal products has handed down a list of nine recommendations in its report. Meat and farming industries have welcomed the recommendations, which includes the development of a mandatory regulatory framework for the labelling of plant-based protein products. It also recommends the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reviews the placement of plant-based protein products in stores. But the plant protein industry is understandably disappointed. The Alternative Proteins Council says the recommendations “have largely ignored evidence showing that Australian consumers understand current labels”.

Viand Restaurant

Peppered shallots cornfed chicken lemongrass and coriander eggnet

Viand is the long awaited Thai restaurant from talented chef Annita Potter, who made her name heading ventures for global Australian-Thai chef legend, David Thompson, at Sydney’s Long Chim, Aaharn in Hong Kong and other Thompson venues worldwide. Viand translates from Thai as an especially choice food item.

A theatrical entrance of red velvet curtains reveals a central, open kitchen in a 1930s building (previously home to an Italian restaurant), complete with a  courtyard next to the kitchen, and an elevated private dining room cum gallery with a metal curtain. There are mutliple colours of burnt orange, burgundy and brilliant blue, an incredible mozaic around the  kitchen and exposed brick and stainless steel walls. It indeed, feels like a theatre set. At its centre, Annita weaves her magic whether she is pounding spices in a large mortar and pestle or tossing a fiery wok.

Currently there are two tasting menus on offer priced at $145 er person or $120 for vegetarian. This is dictated by staff shortages endemic in the industry now – but she hopes to soon offer a la carte. The food is all about flavour and textural contrast beginning with a crisp, light ball of eggnet with shreds of chicken spiced with pepper, lemongrass and palm sugar.

L: Moreton Bay bugs crispy noodles yellow beans and pickled garlic and R: Stir-fried braised shiitake mushrooms Thai basil and coconut

The flavours and the textures kept rolling yet the overall sensation was one of balance – no fiery chilli or overly sweet sauces.  An unusual duck egg relish was the foil for spanner crab with sticky aged pork freshened with vibrant herbs, green mango and cucumber. A cup of clear yet flavoursome mussel broth worked as a palate freshener yet was one of the star dishes of the night.
Steaming rice was brought out as needed along with Grilled pork curry tomatillos kafir lime leaves and holy basil and stir-fried braised shiitake mushrooms Thai basil and coconut. A finale of black tapioca pearls steeped in palm sugar with coconut poached jackfruit calmed the palate before departure. A very special night out.

South Australian Tour
postponed TBA – maybe August

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

Colourful carpets in the medinas of 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

Experience hands-on cheese making 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

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