It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

A happy reunion dinner of some of my school friends


It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – so sings Michael Bublé, so click on that link and enjoy.

It’s been a frantic couple of weeks but hopefully my renovation will be finished next week before my daughter arrives. My year from high school was due to have a reunion this year, but, of course, we had to cancel due to Covid. However, four girls got together in Brisbane and 10 of us did the same in Sydney. We have a crazy What’s App group, now with over 30 of us on it, sharing memories and fun. It has proved an amazing connection and we look forward to a bigger gathering next year when travel is easier.

MY BIG NEWS which I wanted to share with you, my subscribers first, is that we are about to announce all the details of my hosted tour to South Australia. It is a very carefully constructed bespoke “behind-the-scenes” trip with lots of experiences which you couldn’t otherwise get. Think Maggie Beer joining us at the Pheasant Farm in the Barossa Valley, David Franz (son of Peter and Margaret Lehmann) teaching us about the tradition of Barossan smallgoods – along with tasting his  wine. A visit to the D’Arenburg Cube, hosted by 4th generation family member and Chief Winemaker Chester Osborn. I will be introducing guests to many of my personal friends. We begin in Adelaide on 29 March 2022 and end there again on 3 April, with so many special things along the way. We will be announcing the whole package next week, but rest assured, every detail will be looked after and guests safety and security assured by experienced travel company Insight Vacations. A minimum of 15 guests and a maximum of 22. Watch this space or register your interest with me. The full programme will be released next week.

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


Guests on my hosted tour to South Australia can meet Maggie Beer in person

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

What’s Happening?
Interesting Reading & Viewing
Try Brining Fish
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Chocolate Truffles make a great gift

I am a fan of homemade gifts, especially if you have many to give, like to school teachers. Chocolate Truffles can be made with, or without a hit of chilli and are a crowd pleaser. They aren’t difficult to make either, no tempering of chocolate as is needed for making chocolates. Here is my simple recipe for Chocolate Truffles You can see how simple they are to make if you watch me make them on YouTube here.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel here for all my videos including recipes in a minute. Enjoy.

Recipes of the Week

Asparagus on Garlicky White Bean Puree with Crisp Pancetta

I never tire of asparagus in season. It is so good, so inexpensive and so delicious. Try this Asparagus on Garlicky White Bean Puree with Crisp Pancetta

It’s time to get in the kitchen and do the Christmas baking which is best done in advanceMy Mum’s Christmas Cake is a boiled fruitcake, which means some of the ingredients are brought to the boil before the whole mixture is baked. The amounts for the dried fruits are flexible – they can be a little less, or changed around to suit your tastes.

My mother, Isabel Hall, first made this cake in a simpler form (i.e. without all the generous quantity of fruit and nuts) during the war years to send to troops overseas. The recipe had been given to her by her mother-in-law when she was first married in 1940.

She rediscovered the recipe and embellished it for my older brother’s 21st birthday in 1963. Since then it has become a family favourite. Cooked every Christmas, for special occasions and for wedding cakes for each of the four children in our family. One was even sent to me in England in the late 70s!

When I first talked about this cake on radio 2UE in 1988 over 400 people sent in a stamped self-addressed envelope to receive a copy! Now the internet makes it so much easier! Thank you Mum for this recipe and all the love you showed us over the dining table.

My Mum’s Christmas Cake

What’s Happening?

Summer Fruit Galette – here using mangoes

Well as I suspected I didn’t get a newsletter out last week so there are a few things to share from social media.

I have more of a savoury than sweet tooth but I do find fruit galettes super easy but very impressive to serve. Given we now have all the glorious summer fruits coming in, I published this Summer Fruit Galette. However, if it is Autumn where you are, it’s simple to adapt so here’s my Apple or Seasonal Fruit Galette.

I am really keen to support the entertainment and hospitality industries which have been so hard hit by Covid restrictions so I was thrilled to get back to the theatre to see Merrily We Roll Along On at the Hayes Theatre, followed by dinner at a newish restaurant I have been wanting to try: Bistrot 916. It was sensational and I will be back. I had scallop quenelles, a dish I haven’t eaten in years (I used to make prawn quenelles from one of Stephanie Alexander’s books for dinner parties years ago).

Remembrance Day I shared Margaret Fulton’s Remembrance Biscuits of Rosemary and Cheese.

Basque Chicken is a great dish to prepare then leave and cook. Appealing enough for all the family but smart enough for guests.

And for all the chocolate lovers Warm Chocolate Chilli Vincotto Soft-Centred Puddings

Next week:
On Thursday this week I supervised the Sydney Royal Pasta Competition  which we started in 1999 for Australian pasta, part of a suite of Fine Food Competitions. There were some incredible pastas there so I will reveal the winners next week. Then Tuesday is International Espresso Day so we will have to celebrate our favourite hot drink.

Basque Chicken

Interesting Reading & Viewing

Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

SBS has shared some great information recently. Such as
The Best Christmas Cake you’ll ever eat comes from Sri Lanka and
What does a recipe mean when it calls for neutral oil?
Mortadella continues to be a focus. After sharing this piece last week in my newsletter, Hospitality Magazine has published a long piece Made with care: rediscovering mortadella. It makes me want to go out and eat the good stuff.Top 500 Bars has unveiled its latest ranking, the 100 most influential bars in the world, so read The world’s 100 most influential bars revealed to see if there is one near you.Here’s 3 dining trends – A new landscape to navigate in 2022.

Now, I have strong views about how I like my very dry martini made, and here’s a video on How to master the martini.  I usually rinse the glass with ice and vermouth and then discard it so for me it’s all about good quality gin. How do you like yours?

Seventeen top chefs, including Neil Perry, Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer, have teamed up with World Vision for Hunger Bites, a famine-fighting cookbook dedicated to feeding a family on a shoestring.

Fourteen dollars is the average grocery spend in Kenya for a week, and these chefs show how it can easily feed four people one delicious, affordable meal. Here is a sneak peek at three recipes. Better still, you can download the free e-book and make a donation.

Over on the Eativity YouTube Channel there are some great videos including an “Explainer Series” which includes:
What is the local food movement?
What are the benefits of urban farming?
Why you should choose organic food
What is sustainable food and tips to eat sustainably
hat is regenerative farming?
ow to become an ethical eater

Try Brining Fish

So we’ve all heard about brining the turkey for Christmas but may find the thought a bit daunting – not least because of its size. Well, how about fish? Why would you do it?
It’s a great way to eliminate the “fishy” taste you might find in darker fleshed or oily fish like mackerel or sardines. And it’s quick and easy. Follow these easy steps:
1. Salt
Spread a layer of cooking salt on a plate or non-reactive tray. Add the fish fillets, skins side down and cover with another layer of salt. If you have a whole fish, rub salt  inside the cleaned fish and then put a layer under and on top of it..
2. Soak
Place fish in a shallow baking dish and add enough rice vinegar to cover. Let soak for 5 minutes for fillets or 10 minutes or more for whole fish, depending on size. Drain and pat dry before cooking.
3. Cook
Prepare as you wish. Here’s my guide on
How to cook fish with a crisp skin.

Do you have any questions you would like answered?

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Experience the taste and ritual of mint tea in Morocco

The world is opening up so join me on one of my two overseas tours in 2022?

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. There are only two spaces left but we will run another tour, probably in 2023. If you are interested please contact us? 

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

Forage and join an authentic cooking experience 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

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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