How things change ……

The view from our accommodation at Gaia

How much things change in a year! I am sure you all feel that with the global pandemic and all that has meant for different countries. As I write this, a year ago John and I had rapidly departed the UK for Australia because of the way Covid was spreading. We arrived only hours after the rules changed so we were forced into hotel isolation. We were the second flight in and any system was far from set in place. By 31 March, we had been in the hotel for 2 days and I started writing my Isolation Diaries as well as posting on Instagram and Facebook. We have all stopped travelling except to get home if we could with all the challenges of cancelled flights.

The Easter Show
was cancelled las year for the first time since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919.  This was to be the first time since 1987, (except the year my son died)  that I had not given cooking demonstrations in the Show Theatre Kitchen. However, my disappointment gave way to relief as I was able to concentrate on caring for John who was diagnosed with cancer in April. This year a Covid-safe Show starts 1 April and disappointingly there is no Theatre Kitchen for the first time since the Show moved to the new site in Sydney Olympic Park. Sadly with a change in ownership The Australian Women’s Weekly abandoned its sponsorship of the Theatre Kitchen and the Royal Agricultural Society lacked the staff with Covid stand-downs to obtain alternative sponsorship in time. Indeed the Show was only confirmed to be going ahead in the last couple of months. I fervently hope the Theatre Kitchen can return next year. So strangely, I will not be seeing so many of you who come and visit me personally each year. Apologies.

I was very grateful last week to have several nights’ relaxing and nurturing time at
Gaia Retreat & Spa. Such a beautiful, restful and special place with incredible, caring staff, delicious food, diverse exercise options and amazing spa treatments. Thank you John for my belated Christmas present.
I have been given a final, final extension on compassionate grounds,  to complete my thesis for the Advanced Studies in Gastronomy I undertook in France in 2019. I have decided it would be a welcome distraction and will be giving it my all in the next two months – so apologies if I am unable to get these updates out weekly.

Meanwhile have a wonderful, safe, happy and health Easter break. I am doing my best to get back onto Facebook and Instagram regularly.

Warm wishes and thank you for the many kind personal messages I have received,

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
Easter Recipes

Some Things to Enjoy
Travelling with our Tastebuds
Travel with me?

YouTube Video

Everyone seems to love lamb for Easter. This is a very quick recipe using an air-fryer, but can be easily adapted for a normal oven. You can watch this on YouTube or see the written recipe here.
You can subscribe to my channel here, so you can see my other videos including my meals in a minute.

Recipes of the Week

Easter Bread & Butter Pudding

This recipe for Easter Bread & Butter Pudding is a great way to use up left-over hot cross buns and Easter eggs. It doesn’t matter if they are traditional or flavoured buns, the recipe works just as well.

Many people like to eat seafood around Easter and certainly, it’s always popular. Try these Churrasco Prawns with Aji Sauce as they are great for finger food if you are lucky enough to be having friends and family over, or can be served as an entree or even main course with some salad.

Churrasco Prawns with Aje Sauce

Easter Recipes

Slow Roasted Lamb Ribs with Feta Sauce

Easter turns my mind to Greek recipes (especially lamb), lamb in general, seafood, chocolate and hopefully some lazy days enjoying the weather (Autumn in the southern hemisphere and Spring in the northern).
Here’s my comprehensive “go-to” list of recipes to think about:
Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters

Oysters with Pico de Gallo
Smoked Salmon and Nori Rolls
Crab Cakes
Fish Balls with Lemongrass
Betel leaves topped with spicy fish
Potted Prawns
Prawn Pie
Seafood platter with chimichurri sauce and chipotle mayonnaise
Fish with green chilli
Rainbow trout with preserved lemon and herb dressing
Snapper in a salt crust with gremolata
Slow-roasted lamb ribs with yoghurt and feta sauce
Lamb Cutlets with Mint Pesto
Greek lamb burgers
Simple chocolate fudge cake
Chocolate, pretzel and marshmallow slice
Rum and raisin chocolate brownies
The easiest chocolate almond fondant pudding ever
Chocolate Souffles

Some Things to Enjoy

Schapelle Schapelle The Musical
If you’re in Sydney this is one not to miss. 
This musical was first performend at Bathurst’s Sprung Festival as a major work for Charles Sturt University 3rd year Theatre/Media students. It was a sell-out and deservedly won he 2018 Blair Milan Memorial Tour Prize (in memory of my son) and the show went on to play Sydney’s Factory Theatre and the Adelaide Fringe. Now it returns to Sydney with a season at Manning House, the University of Sydney, for the Sydney Comedy Festival. They are dedicating the night of Friday 7 May to my late partner, John Caldon, co-found of The Blair Milan fund with me. I am so very touched and will be there to support them. Try to come, any night you can.
Each time the show is refined and now has two new songs. It is a fast paced musical comedy, a satirical exploration of Australia’s weakness for media sensationalism, as told through the life of Schapelle Corby on her arrest for drug smuggling in Bali in 2005.

Read reviews in Time Out and Australian Stage.
Book through the festival website.

Happy Ali

Happy Ali, the seriously good news website, which I write for, now has free subscriptions. It’s your destination for seriously happy global news. It is a positive news site which publishes uplifting news and stories from around the world. We all agree there is too much negative news out there. Our mission is to redress this imbalance and provide features that will open you up to a world of good news and the many stories traditional media platforms simply do not cover.

Good and Fugly
Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of waste of any sort. Recently I trialed Good & Fugly. Based on the premise that that up to 25% of all produce never leaves the farm because it isn’t pretty enough for supermarkets, this is a service which delivers boxes of delicious, seasonal but mishaped fruit and veg direct from farmers.  I was very happy with my delivery of a small fruit & veg box. 6 – 8kg of mixed fruit and veggies for $39 (less if you subscribe). Large boxes are $59. Delivery is on Wednesdays and Fridays but you must book in advance. Currently only in Sydney but with plans to expand.

Travelling with our Tastebuds

At Neua Thai Street Food: Khao Soi Chicken, Kanom Jeen Nam Ngeaw and Northern Set Menu – Northern Sausage, Pork Crackers, egg & vegetables and in spoons –  larb, chilli paste, tomato chili relish and sticky rice

I think we are all missing travelling. While travel within most of Australia is possible and absolutely to be encouraged, this is not necessarily the case in other countries where I have readers. In any case it’s lovely to experience the tastes of different cuisines. When I was hosting my regular Facebook Live sessions I took us travelling with our tastebuds.  Now savvy tourist boards and agriculture departments are doing the same. Wherever you live, you can enjoy many of these experiences online or, as long as Covid allows you to go to restaurants, seek them out in your own locality.

Malaysian chef Jackie M hosted a celebration of Malaysian Heritage Cuisine with simultaneous online streaming. This was one of eight to run across four days (27-30 March) in five locations around the world – Sydney, Dubai, South Africa, UK and Malaysia. Jackie, whom I have known for years, is very active on YouTube and has had a restaurant, market stalls pop ups and the like. In June 2020 she founded Masters of Malaysian Cuisine (MOMC) in response to the Covid-19 lockdowns. This is a diverse, global group of Malaysian chefs and via  MOMC TV (an online cooking show), MOMC Live, a monthly eMagazine, and onsite cooking demonstrations, aim to create awareness of Malaysian Cuisine, both traditional and modern, across the globe. Along with her demonstration of her Seremban Ngau Lam Fun (Beef Brisket Noodles) there was a tasting of Durian, Jackfruit, Pineapple and Nangchem (Jackfruit & Cempedak hybrid) plus an array of familiar and not-so-familiar Malaysian food products available in Australia.

Monday saw a cheerful group of foodies undertake a regional tour of Thaisland all in Sydney’s Thai Town. I learned a lot. “Thai Select” is an award of approval granted to restaurants outside Thailand and is a guarantee of quality and authenticity.  Look for the “Thai Select” logo for your journey into Thai culture. We were to unearth some hidden gems as we went on a cultural and culinary journey.
At Caysorn Thai Restaurant, Australia’s first restaurant to serve Southern food, we learned that food from the south is spicier than elsewhere. The flavours were also very complex and balanced in a wonderful tasting.
Neua Thai Street Food proudly serves some of the lesser known Northern-style dishes. An attractive “Khan tok” or set menu was displayed individually on palm leaf lined round trays. Well worth revisiting.  Fun was the order of the day at @Bangkok which is open until 5am on weekends and 2am other days. Here the focus is food from the central part of Thaisland, in Bangkok. The spread was incredible from a street food breakfast, to Thai Boat noodles, then a more modern dinner menu and finally a Never Sleep set for late night, washed down with a Midori cocktail served from a bucket.
The finale was a cooking class with
Sujet Saenkham at the legendary Spice I Am restaurant. This was loads of fun with one interesting detail I learned that no shrimp paste is used in curry pastes in the North, rather lots of ginger. Here we also tasted a dessert made from Riceberry Rice a crossbreed of two varieties resulting in a purple grain with health promoting properties. I can highly recommend all restaurants and I felt I had had a little Covid-safe visit to Thailand.
For your own virtual visit you can try some of the recipes on Asian Inspirations

Devour Tours offer online experiences. Next up is Discover Seville’s Holy Week Traditions & Cook Espinacas con Garbanzos  for 19 euros.

 Travel with me?

The wonderful food of Morocco

Dates and accommodation with a couple of upgrades have now been confirmed for my hosted tour to Morocco. Best of all Covid vaccinations have started in Morocco and their numbers are dropping. Also, By Prior Arrangement reports that their  first overseas travelers are now going there!
Moroccan Culinary Tour begins in Rabat on Friday 29 October until 9 November. 
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.

My hosted tour to Puglia is currently on hold and we are looking to move it to the first half of 2022. Watch this space.

There is wonderful shopping in the medinas in Morocco like these colourful tagines

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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