Hope and Safety

The Sparkles Choir sings Whistle Down the Wind

I was musing on what to call my newsletter this week. I thought “short and sweet” because with all that is going on for me it can only, necessarily be short, with my long days at the hospital, but also something with some joy in it too. So sweet too.  I am in a strangely removed state, not really engaged in the world around me because my focus is entirely on my partner. So I sometimes get a chance to skim read the paper, or hear a bit on the car radio or the TV about the various stages of opening up post the COVID-19 onslaught.  However, I am scarcely going anywhere except for the odd walk, or a rare quick dash to the shops at a quiet time, so it is as if it is all happening somewhere else. And indeed, I am in NSW, Australia. Things are very different in Queensland with closed borders and my many friends in the UK and around the world are still in lockdown. My daughter and family have already done eight weeks in their home in Singapore and now face another four. So it is different for all of us.

Then I thought I should call this hope and safety as it resonates on so many levels. We hope the worst of COVID-19 is over, and we won’t see a second spike. So that’s where safety comes in. I am dismayed on my walks when I see people not social distancing – and also in shops and even the hospital, though they try to enforce it. Hope too for my partner’s health and his safety as I think I really might be able to bring him home next week. It’s a big responsibility.

Although my lovely friends bring me food to the hospital, it’s weird that I am largely back to eating out of Chinese containers like we were in hotel lockdown. But the contents are much better, along with the wine. So I don’t have any photos of me eating fabulous food somewhere. 

However, the photo above is a link my gprgeous daughter sent me and I think it made me the happiest I have felt this week.  Regular readers will know that she founded Lucy Sparkles and Friends over a decade ago in London. She now has franchises and her own business there, one in Canberra and also in Singapore. Of course, all adversely affected by the COVID-19 closures and restrictions. However, they all pivoted quickly to provide quality online, interactive, educational music and other experiences for children from babies up to 6 years old. Naturally their earnings have fallen dramatically but they are out there creating music like this for us all to enjoy for free. Watch and listen as The Sparkles Choir sings Whistle Down the Wind.

Recipe of the Week

Chinese-style Roast Chicken

I got a massive response on social media this past week when I posted this recipe. Some people even sent me photos of their chicken they cooked following that recipe, which touched me enormously. There are couple of different ways you can do this and you will find the recipe here.

Eggs – Four fun facts

Does colour matter? Read on

Colour means nothing.
When it comes to nutrition and flavour, an egg’s shell colour really doesn’t matter White and brown eggs simply come from different breeds of chickens. If you find brown eggs a little pricier, it’s often because the types of hen that lay them eat more food.

Which labels matter? 
Some labels are an indication of how your the hens which lay your eggs are treated: ‘cage-free’ means that hens are not confined to small enclosures, but this does not mean they are free range as they are usually in big barns. ‘USDA Organic’ eggs come from uncaged hens that are given organic, vegetarian, non -Genetically modified feed and have access to the outdoors. There’s a lot of confusion and debate about just what Free Range means. Ideally they should be free to roam and forage both indoors (for protection as needed) and out with low stocking density. However, the definition is that Free-range eggs are eggs produced from birds that may or may not be permitted outdoors and only limited to 1,500 hens per hectare. Eggs from hens that are only indoors might also be labelled cage-free, barn, barn-roaming or aviary.
It’s safest to be sure that the brand you buy delivers what you want. Choice Magazine did a review, updated recently which is worth reading, click here to read. You can learn about the different certification bodies and check the brand of eggs you have been buying.

Older eggs are easier to peel
In fresh eggs, the albumen (that thin skin on the outside of an egg white) sticks to the inside of the shell. As an egg ages, it contents contract and the air cell between the membranes increases. With more separation, the peel comes right off. However, if you break a very fresh egg into a saucer, the yolk and white will both hold their shape and stand up proud from the plate.

The freshness test
The fresher the egg, the faster it will fall to the bottom of a bowl of cold water. Any eggs that float should be discarded. Eggs should last up to 5 weeks after you buy them.

Versatile Egg Recipes

Minimise the fat with Baked Scotch Eggs

Eggs are marvellously versatile. I always have a dozen free range eggs in the fridge and then I can whip up something for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or supper.
With the weather warming up in the Northern Hemisphere and the possibility of picnics becoming a reality in Australia, it’s a great time to make some Baked Scotch Eggs. Baking them reduces the fat you need if you fry them.
Boiled Eggs in Brioche is an incredible recipe I got from the chef when visiting Maison de la Lagune, a chateau in Bordeaux years ago. I then was very brave to replicate it on live TV. Brave because it involves very softly boiling the eggs, then putting in brioche crumbs and deep-frying.
I featured Gruyere gougére in my Mother’s Day recipe blog, but it’s worth looking at again.
Shakshuka is a dish which is great for any time of day and can be changed to suit your love of spices and different other ingredients. They can be red or green, depeding on your sauce.
Twice-baked souffles are great for entertaining, as the first bake can be done before your guests arrive and they can even be frozen. Although I have a Twice-Baked Cheese and Truffle recipe here, you can just leave out the truffles. This was my contribution to a 5 course truffle degustation dinner at the Truffle and Gum Boot dinner at Borodell on the Mount in Orange which I MCed during the filming of my TV series, Taste of Australia.
Mushroom Egg Nets are a bit of fun. I created these with the fresh produce I gathered at Paddy’s Market in Sydney, also during the filming of Taste of Australia.
Eggs are essential in many sweet dishes and certainly pavlova. Here is a Celebratory Slablova (named for the shape) which I created for cooking demonstrations at the Easter show a few years ago.

International Burger Day

Mr Piggy burger created by Rob Lechowicz from The Blackwood Pantry

Burgers and sliders remain popular. Indeed during times of crisis, we tend to want comfort food and this trend has followed during COVID-19 for takeaways. Well, International Burger Day was 28 May, so sorry I missed it. You might still be able to buy the Mr Piggy from The Blackwood Pantry until 1 June if you are nearby. However here is a whole recipe book of burgers and sliders for you to make at home.
Winning Pork Burger Recipes

Coming Up Next Week

Barossa Valley Chicken with Verjuice

Next week I will be sharing some fool-proof roast recipes for beef, pork, fish, lamb and chicken. I will also be letting you know my tips for how to get your roast right every time and the equipment I recommend.

With the travel ban soon be lifted for travel within NSW I will be talking about regional expeditions and wanting to hear about your future travel plans not too far from home.

World doughnut day is coming up, so you can also expect a special recipe on that topic!

To get the recipes, and much more, makes sure you check out my Facebook and Instagram pages. 

Travel with me in 2021?

Colourful Moroccan Tagines


While I sadly had to postpone my wonderful culinary tours this year, we now have dates for next year. Many more details to come, but I wanted to give you, my subscribers the first heads up. The brochures and final costs have not yet been finalised, and 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
This will be similar to
 the one planned this year.
Morocco culinary tour approx 13 – 24 May – some information here.

Support Cafes & Restaurants 

Beppi’s Restaurant in Sydney has sadly had to deal with no-shows
Photo Credit: Weekend Notes

As some restaurants and cafes are opening up, it’s a great to chance to support them if you are able. But a big reminder – NO SHOW IS NO GO. Making a booking and then not showing up is not good at any time, but with restricted seating numbers it is a really unkind and selfish thing to do to a venue which will be struggling already. Restaurant margins are small and it’s really tough right now with only limited number of seats allowed. Sometimes things happen and you need to cancel – then ring up and do so, with as much notice as possible. It’s also polite to ring if you are running late.
Read Coronavirus: Restaurants Have No Reservations about Charging No Shows

Here are some Sydney venues which will be opening. and also Where to dine out when the restrictions are lifted in Melbourne

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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