Flashback to September 2011 when I was filming my Taste of Ireland TV series
Welcome to Winter – or Summer? Well, it’s now officially winter in Australia and in Sydney the weather certainly says so. Some lovely sunny, but chilly days and others of cold rain. By contrast I see friends in the Northern Hemisphere basking in the sunshine. So, further down this newsletter you’ll find all you need to know about picnics, including what to drink.
COVID-19 restrictions are lifting everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. It’s great to see people out and about, though I am concerned at an increasing laissez faire attitude to social distancing. I am ultra-cautious, given my partner’s precarious health position. On that note, we are just home from hospital, after a couple of afternoons and then nights of “gate leave”. It is full on, though again, my family and friends are a wonderful support. It is a big responsibility. Thank you to those of you who have emailed me personally.
Again, no fabulous photos of dining out (I hope some of you are?) or food I have cooked or consumed, so instead a flashback to when I was filming my Taste of Ireland TV series. It is on SBS in Australia this coming week. Times here.You can watch an interview with me about the TV series here.
I am amazed I have been able to get this newsletter out – a bit shorter than my usual monthly one, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.
Microwave Mushroom Risotto
I thought it worth revisiting some of my fast and fabulous one minute YouTube videos. In case you missed it, this is one of my all-time favourite cheat recipes – microwave mushroom risotto. It only takes 20 minutes in real life, can be made with pantry staples and is a hit whenever I demonstrate it Watch me make it on YouTube here. You’ll find thewritten recipe here.You can subscribe to my channel here, so you can see other meals in a minute and I will be adding more videos over time.
Roast Beef Rib with Spiced Salt and Anchovy & Parsley Béarnaise
With everyone cooking more at home, there’s never been a better time for a roast. And roasts aren’t only for big numbers, they are also an easy way to cook for fewer (see my rump roast below). Of course, a large roast like my Beef Rib (above) makes an impressive centrepiece now that we are allowed more people over for dinner.
Roasts aren’t only for beef – think chicken, pork, lamb, vegetables and also fish. Read my blog all about Roasts here.
Slow-roasted Sage & Thyme Beef Rump with Winter Vegetables
What’s in Season in June in Australia
Winter is all about citrus, apples and pears – and the newer fruit papples, now grown in Australia (a hybrid of European & Asian pears)
Oranges: Cara Cara Navel
Fennel, Rainbow Chard and Kumara or Sweet Potato
Recipe of the week
Turbot (or any white fish) with Coloured Vegetables
I created this recipe on the spot from ingredients I collected from the local heroes farmers market at Athenaeum House, Waterford, Ireland when I was filming my Taste of Ireland TV series. My friend Rick Stein has always said turbot is his favourite fish, but I had never tasted it before. Sadly, by the time we had finished filming, the dish had been prepared and sitting in the sun for too long to eat!. There was a wonderful array of carrots there along with rainbow chard. Substitute with any you can get. Find the full recipe here.
With a long weekend coming up in Australia this weekend, and in the UK next weekend, what better time for a picnic? In either place you need to keep it all cool, and manageable so easy-to-eat finger and fork food is best. Light is better than heavy, with Mediterranean and Asian flavours working well. Best not to do a multi-cultural mix as the flavours need to go together.
Decide the “feel” you want – to be stylish with tablecloth even for spreading on the ground, cloth napkins, glass, china and silver , maybe even tables and chairs- or is to be low-key with plastic or disposable?
I kept on record the details of a wonderful memorable picnic I attended many years ago:
rounds of eggplant topped with goats cheese and roasted red capsicum
lamb cutlets flavoured with orange, zucchini salad, olives, roast red capsicum, pickled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, onion & mint frittata a Maltese dish – in a terrine shape made of rice with whole hard- boiled eggs in the middle (does anyone know the name?),and a tossed salad.
Lovely breads, wines kept cold in a dish with ice and some honey chicken for the children
To finish – a wonderful fruit salad of fresh figs, melon, paw paw and berries.
Rumour has it the host took 2 days to prepare this feast – but there are other short-cuts.
My Grabbit & Run Picnic
When I had young children, I kept a picnic basket permanently at the ready – so plastic plates, cups, wine glasses, cutlery, a supply of paper napkins, plastic bag for the rubbish, salt and pepper, sun-cream – and a corkscrew. On more stylish occasions I make the effort to specially pack up the breakables.
Then for an easy “grabbit & run” picnic – – it’s off to the shops for:
Good bread and crackers (some gluten-free)
Antipasta – salami, prosciutto, marinated olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, olives – whatever takes your fancy
Smoked Salmon, prosciutto or jamon
Pickled onions or cornichons
Pate or terrine
A salsa or dip of some kind
A bag of mixed greens for salad – I keep my own vinaigrette permanently in the fridge – otherwise just take a balsamic glaze or a lemon and some extra virgin olive oil
Fresh seasonal fruit
Picnic Tips Planning takes the pain out of picnicking so pack carefully. Remember to pack the heaviest food in the bottom of your esky – ideal for the muffaletta! Don’t forget the napkins and some garbage bags for rubbish and also to keep dirty plates and cutlery together. Don’t forget a board and a sharp knife.
What to drink outdoors on a (hopefully) balmy day far from modern miracles of refrigeration?
Although there are some tricks to keeping things cool, it is best to think immediately of wines which are happiest at room temperature or slightly below rather than those which need real chilling. Flavours and aromas are more apparent at these temperatures, which is why wines are never chilled for show judging. Indeed, in Australia, we do have a tendency to over chill our white wines (and conversely sometimes serve red wines too warm in the height of summer).
Picnic wines need to be soft and approachable, light rather than heavy. Nothing too complex or challenging. Forget champagne or sparkling wine unless you know you can transport and keep it really chilled until opening – there’s nothing worse than warm champagne. Begin instead, with campari. Freeze orange or ruby grapefruit juice in ice cube trays at home first. Transport in a small thermos flask or lidded container in a well-chilled esky. On arrival add some melting orange or grapefruit ice blocks and their juice to campari in the bottom of a glass. The perfect aperitif. Alternatively try a well-chilled Bloody Mary in a thermos (or leave out the vodka and call it a Virgin Mary or a Bloody Shame).
Then move on to broad flavoured white wines without too much oak. Nothing too thin or astringent but neither too rich and buttery. Look for some of the less well-known varieties which are well suited to drinking cool rather than cold like colombard or marsanne. Colombard is fresh and fragrant rather than deep and complex. Inexpensive, it’s not too unlike a very young chardonnay but over chilled can lose flavour.
Marsanne, a native of the Northern Rhone and Hermitage regions of France, is an even more unusual grape variety in Australia, though Chateau Tahbilk have grown it since the 1860s with possibly the oldest and largest plantings in the world. With a soft, lively fruit flavour and rich texture, they have hints of citrus and develop a toastiness with age not unlike semillon. Some traditional white wine blends often called classic dry whites can work well too, as can unwooded chardonnay.
Rose is another option but opt for a dry style which doesn’t need to be chilled as much as a sweeter one.
varietals are also suitable. For whites, wines like bianco, arneis, fiano or pinot grigio and in reds dolcetto or barbera.
Red wines must be soft and approachable – and not too heavy in that midday sun! Almost any pinot noir will be perfect and can be packed either in the esky for minimal cooling or straight in the picnic basket. Other choices include grenache, a soft plummy wine which is sometimes blended with the spice and pepper of shiraz and mourvedre, once known as mataro.
Don’t forget to pack the corkscrew if you are in Europe (best to keep one permanently in the picnic basket), though in Australia we are blessed with wide use of screw caps.
How to keep it all cool? Vacuvin Rapid Ice is a gel-filled sleeve which folds and keeps well in the freezer. Designed to chill a room-temperature bottle of wine to drinking temperature in 5 – 10 minutes, it also keeps a cold bottle of wine cool when transporting in an esky, with can and champagne-sized versions also available. Failing that wrap a wet hand towel around the bottle of wine and place in the freezer for half an hour before leaving. Then wrap it all in newspaper for insulation during transportation. Above all, enjoy!
When it’s all over … Come Travelling with me in 2021
L: Stunning Alberobello and R: colourful tajines in Morocco
MY HOSTED TOURS RETURN IN 2021
While I sadly had to postpone my wonderful culinary tours this year, we now have dates for next yet. Many more details to come, but I wanted to give you, my subscribers the first heads up. 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 Details here. Morocco culinary tour approx 13 – 25 May (dates still to be definitely confirmed) – some information here. Meanwhile read How to enjoy Morocco at home.
Coming Up Next Week
A gin martini, enjoyed at The Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan, Egypt
Matching food and wine is a particular passion of mine and this week on social media, I will be sharing the three golden rules to appreciate any wine, ensuring you make the most of what you’ve got.
I will also be casting my mind back to my last tour through Puglia, reflecting on my favourite Italian cuisine and sharing some recipes along the way.
Next week also bring International Falafel Day and Gin Day. We will celebrate the humble falafel and worship one of my favourite spirits: gin!