With my daughter, Lucy and His Excellency, The Hon. George Brandis, Australian High Commissioner to the UK. Note the kangaroo bush in between us in the background.
I have joined the Australian Women’s Club in London and this week was able to attend my first event. It was their “Annual Summer Party” traditionally held at Stoke Lodge, the residence of the Australian High Commissioner in the UK. Sadly summer has deserted us but it was such a lovely night, meeting new people and amazingly re-connecting with others from long ago. My daughter, Lucy, is visiting from Singapore so I was delighted to be able to take her as my date. I look forward to more such occasions. I was also pleased to attend a very well-organised tasting of Liberty Wines Australian Portfolio. I’ll be publishing a blog on the promotion of Australian wines in the UK, so keep an eye out for it.
The best of this week’s fruit: strawberries, bananas and rockmelon
The ever-popular banana is a must have on the shopping list. Top warm pikelets or pancakes with sliced banana and blueberries and drizzle with honey. Also great pureed and frozen for a lowcal ice-cream. Or try this irresistibleBanana and Caramel Tart.
Jumbo sized, succulent, golden fleshed rockmelons are lovely to eat just as they are. Or peel and slice melon then wrap in prosciutto and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with crusty bread for a light lunch. The sweeter rockmelons have the roughest skin texture.
Blushed with colour and flavour, Kensington Pride mangoes from the Darwin area are retailing at your local, depending on size. Best peeled just prior to eating, ripe mango skin will easily pull away from the flesh. A ripe mango is perfect eaten as is, or use in desserts or serve with cooked prawns or spicy barbecued pork in a salad.
Scrumptious strawberries are not as cheap as last week, but they are still fantastic eating. Add sliced strawberries to your favourite breakfast cereal enjoy them as a snack or serve roasted strawberries with waffles. Between June and October, approximately 33% of Australia’s strawberry harvest comes from Queensland.
Super nutritious and brimming with antioxidants fresh blueberries are sweet and plump. Enjoy blueberries as a low kilojoule snack, no preparation required, just rinse in cold water or have you ever tried fresh Blueberry Scones. Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are wonderful here in the UK too.
Citrus fruits are still in good supply and eating nicely. With their rich raspberry-red succulent flesh and sweet flavour, blood oranges are ideal for juicing. Make the most of the season blood oranges as the season will finish October. Navel oranges are premium quality and top value. Pink fleshed (ruby grapefruit) are refreshing, tangelos are vibrant and tangy and the late season mandarins are still a popular choice.
Limes prices have firmed up as supplies have dropped, so make the most of late winter lemons. Use the juice and zest to flavour marinades, cakes, puddings, salad dressings or whip up an easy lemon curd. Select lemons that feel heavy for their size, this indicates good juice content.
Silverbeet, snowpeas and broadbeans
Premium quality and ultra-inexpensive Australian grown asparagus is in season. Make the most of the extremely adaptable and versatile green asparagus..
Add the flavour of fresh herbs to your cooking. Loaded with lively flavour, the quality of fresh grown local herbs, like mint, coriander, dill, thyme, chives and parsley is exceptional. This herb crusted salmon is makes a fragrant mid-week meal.
Versatile and delicate English spinach is delightful eaten cooked or raw. Toss washed leaves through cooked spaghetti with ricotta cheese and grill pancettaor in salads, add to a pizza topping or serve with Hokkien noodles and sautéed mushrooms. Silverbeet with its large deep green leaves and thick white stems is more robust and can be braised or added to a frittata, vegetable lasagna or ricotta gnocchi.
Fresh bok choy is delicious steamed or tossed in a hot wok. Select bunches with crunchy pale stems and fresh-looking green leaves. Try this Red Chilli Beef With Bok Choy.
Flavoursome broad beans are in season. Remove bean from the pod, shell a second time then simmer in boiling water until just tender. Broad beans team superbly with chicken, lamb, mushrooms, feta, mint, potatoes and artichokes. Try this Broad Bean, Spinach & Lamb Salad.
Snap up freshly picked snow peas this week. Quick to cook, snow peas add a delicious crunchy texture to salads, side dishes and stir-fries.
Vibrant coloured beetroot is delectable. Cut raw beetroot into fine julienne strips and sprinkle over a salad just before serving or steam whole bulbs until tender, then marinate in balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs.
Diced, sliced or cut into batons versatile celery is delicious eaten raw or cooked. Celery is a good source of potassium that helps to control blood pressure and counteract the negative effects of too much salt in the diet. Add celery to a stir-fry with snow peas and asparagus.
With its delicious aniseed flavour and crisp texture, fennel adds vibrancy to spring salads and pasta dishesor finely shred and serve with sliced pears and prosciutto.
Versatile new season baby potatoes, also known as cocktail potatoes are also available in 5kg bags to feed a crowd. They have a shiny cream skin colour and moist white flesh. Boil potatoes with aromatic fresh mint or them tossed in herb butter.
Premium quality large snow-white cauliflowers are a bargain so whip up a low-carb cauliflower rice.
Recipe of the Week
Lemon Poached Chicken with Silverbeet Risotto and Herb Dressing
1.25 litres (5 cups) chicken stock
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (40g) butter
1 (350g) leek, washed and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (400g) arborio or other risotto rice
½ cup (125ml) white wine
4 stems (320g) of silverbeet, leaves only, washed and shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups (500ml) chicken consommé
8 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
Peeled rind from 1 lemon
4 x 200g chicken breasts
1/3 cup chopped mixed herbs such as thyme, parsley, chives, mint
½ cup (60g) Green olives, stoned and sliced
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons verjuice or lemon juice
100g grape tomatoes (assorted colours if available), halved or quartered if large
For the Risotto
Heat stock in a saucepan or microwave. Reduce the heat and maintain at a simmer. Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a large heavy-based frying pan over moderate heat. When the butter has melted, add the leek and fry for a minute or two without browning. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute more. Add the rice and stir well to coat with the oil and butter (it will take on a glassy appearance). Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated.
Reduce the heat to low and add one ladleful of hot stock. Stir constantly until the liquid is completely absorbed. Keep adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring and waiting until it has been completely absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladle. Keep it cooking at a low simmer. After about 15 minutes taste a few grains of rice: it should be tender, not soft, yet still a little firm to the bite. It will probably take around 20–25 minutes to reach this point. When the risotto is ready it should still be a little liquid, not dry like fried rice. Taste for salt and pepper and stir through with remaining butter.
For the poached chicken
Meanwhile, place consommé, thyme, garlic, lemon rind and salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Add chicken and top up with water to cover. Stir. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to medium and poach the chicken for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from liquid, reserving liquid.
For the herbed dressing
Pound herbs in a mortar and pestle until broken up. Add olives and lemon zest pound some more. Mix through olive oil and verjuice, then lightly crush tomatoes and mix to combine.
Ladle risotto into a serving bowl. Cut chicken into strips or medallions and toss through herbed dressing. Place on top of risotto.
This recipe comes from the TV series and cookbook, Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia.
Wine of the Week
2017 Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir $40 – $47
Always a special wine, this 2017 pinot noir is defined by the very late, cool season giving it noticeable acid which will give it longevity and perhaps make it look even better in another year. With typical pinot flavours and aromas of forest floor and red fruits like raspberries. Interestingly the 2016 was at a tasting of Australian wines put on by the distributor Liberty I went to in London this week and here it retails for £59.99.
Pinot noir is the “holy grail” for many winemakers as it is the most challenging grape variety to grow and make. Certainly there were plenty on show which were well received.
Regular readers will know that I have relocated to London for three months, for the second time this year. I lived here in the late 70s and have returned often, especially as my daughter was here for 12 years before she moved to Singapore with her family. Living in a place is very different from just visiting and I have been musing on the differences between Australia and London – not in any qualitative way, but just different.
Things I love:
It is amazingly easy to order online and things get home delivered incredibly quickly – from same day to only a few days later. It makes shopping for everything from carpet runners to groceries a breeze.
Just “being here” amongst the history, the culture, the cut and thrust of business life.
The British Museum – it’s free except for the special exhibitions – so we’ve joined anyway. Other amazing collections like The Wallace Collection, entry by donation.
Enjoying the different seasons and the produce they bring – like figs coming in now.
The ease of getting around London, walking a lot as it is so flat, or the excellent public transport system with not only the tube, but double decker buses which afford a view of where you are travelling
Dining anytime – the distinction between lunch, dinner and super is delightfully blurred with many restaurants open all afternoon and evening
London is SO busy, which gives it a wonderful vibrancy but it can be very hard to get a booking in restaurants. So, if you’re coming, be sure to book ahead.
With such a busy city and space at a premium there is no room for recycling bins and rubbish is mounded up in bags on the footpath for collection.
Things seem to cost in pounds what they cost in dollars.
Finding ingredients when recipe testing for Australia. I’m learning to source things and also to adapt, which is a good thing.
Clockwise from top left: Gammon as it is sold, cooking it in water with bayleaf, cinnamon, coriander seeds and peppercorns, the finished baked ham and the cooked gammon ready to be glazed and put in the oven
Gammon is not something we get in Australia. Here it is in every supermarket. So what is the difference? Both gammon and ham are cuts from the hind legs of a pig. Gammon is sold raw and ham is sold ready-to-eat, though it can also be glazed. Gammon has been cured in the same way as bacon, and smells like it, while ham has been dry-cured or cooked. Once you’ve cooked your gammon, it is then called ham.
I was recipe testing for Selector Magazine November-December issue and needed to test out a new glaze. Rather than try to source an expensive ham or even half-ham, I decided to cook some gammon and then glaze it as I would ham. There’s something spectacular about a whole glazed hams and one is always the centre piece of my annual pre-Christmas drinks party. I’ve been glazing them for years and know how to do it, but wanted to do a modern glaze, with pineapple but in a new and different way. If you want that recipe, you’ll have to wait for the magazine to come out, but I can tell you how to cook gammon. In years gone by it was recommended to soak it first in water, but this no longer seems necessary.
Put the gammon in a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, adding cinnamon, bay, peppercorns, coriander seeds and onion or any other flavourings you care for.
Cook for 30 mins per 500g, skimming and discarding the white froth that comes to the surface.
Drain, (I like to reserve the stock). Cool a little and then it’s easy to remove the top layer of skin, leaving a thin layer of fat around the meat. with a ham, I warm it in the oven prior to this step.
You could eat the gammon, which is now cooked ham, as is
To glaze, score the fat, then brush with your chosen glaze
As I write this update, it is 13 September, R U OK Day, cause for us to reflect and take action to help anyone who is just NOT feeling ok about anything, any time. By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. If they say they are not ok, you can follow recommended conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. If they are ok, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask. The hospitality industry is one with stresses and strains and where we have lost wonderful, talented people to suicide, so it is ever more important for those in it, to be aware. In an Australian first, therefore, the suicide prevention charity is working with the hospitality sector to find better ways to ensure the industry is equipped to handle the pressures that come with what is an exciting, yet demanding, workplace. You can find the results of a recent survey of hospitality workers commissioned by R U OK? here.Therefore, I wanted to share some excellent written pieces with you.
My longtime friend and colleague, Peter Howard sent me this heartfelt piece which may surprise some. It was my generation who were called up to go to the Vietnam War, so it had special resonance for me. With HTN, Australia’s largest hospitality group training organisation, he presents the annual Peter Howard Culinary Scholarship and at the awards dinner, there is a silent auction with proceeds going to R U OK. HTN is a great organisation which partners with training organisations and Host Businesses to create true artisans of the food service industry. They encourage, support, promote, develop the vocational skills of young people who wish to pursue a career in a range of food service industries Jeremy Ryland writes of a philosophy dear to my heart, that hospitality is the act of generously providing care and kindness to whoever is in need. And the serving of food is one of the most hospitable acts. Read his words here.
More from SBS Food here.
Zoe Bingley-Pullen shares her Lifestyle and Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Mind
Michael Bennett, CEO of HTN, Mikaila Mikulic, winner of the Peter Howard Culinary Scholarship 2017 and Peter Howard
New Selector Magazine
Adam Liaw on the cover of the new issue of Selector Magazine
The theme of the Sept/Oct issue of Selector is identity, posing the question what is Australia’s food+wine identity?
Cover star Adam Liaw asks what is Australia’s food culture and proposes his idea of our national dish. Revered wine scribe Campbell Mattinson delves into what wines define Australia and asks, is it time to drop the term ‘Australian wine’. There are also recipe features with Quay chef Peter Gilmore, Electrolux Young Chef of the Year Dan Puskas from Sixpenny, the modern Cantonese of Philip Chun, while I serve up a smorgasbord of sensational seasonal salads.
There is a member’s tasting of Hunter Semillon, an essential list where to eat, drink and be merry in Beechworth, enjoy a Dream Vertical with Yarra Yering and check out how a near-extinct grape varietal kick-started Chile’s wine industry. Available in some newsagents or subscribe here.
Will baking these Chocolate Sponge Kisses with Rose and Raspberry Filling improve your mood? Recipe here.
Good Food Month Sydney returns in October with myriad events
Each state has its own Good Food Month. Let’s Do Lunch presented by Peter Lehmann Wines is back this October.
These events serve up Sydney’s best lunch experiences exclusively at Good Food Guide Hatted restaurants, for a specially curated price of $45 including a glass of wine, beer or soft drink. Best to book early as popular events book out quickly. All events here.
Listen to “Mountain Insights” this coming Saturday 15 Septemberfrom midday to 2 pm local time on Radio Blue Mountains 89.1 FM. This can be streamed through rbm,org.au. Saturday September 15 on Radio Blue Mountains 89.1 FM. I join host Peter Walker and Pam Seaborn to interview Jane & Richard Austenn from Hartley Truffles and Denise Mole from Hartley Harvest. Pam also interviews me and will be doing a live to air interview with Brooke Broughton, President Leura Gardens Festival and Garden Owner Brigitte Mosely about the upcoming Leura Gardens Festival.
In the news
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is in the news, announcing it is time for a change to be more inclusive.
For some years there has been criticism of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards for its After facing increasing criticism for its Eurocentric, male-dominated list. Now The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has conceded more concrete steps must be taken to address its lack of diversity Director Hélène Pietrini penned an open letter outlining the organisation’s plans to tackle the list’s lack of gender diversity. She suggests they’ll recruit more women with gender parity applying to academy chair appointments, and points to new initiatives, including bringing in more female speakers for its #50BestTalks on September 12 and creating an informal advisory board comprised of leading chefs like Elena Arzak, Smyth, Daniela Soto-Innes and Pia León. One hopes that will create a level playing field. Read her blog here and commentary in Grub Street and Hospitality.
In Asia you can see Taste of Australia on Nat GEO People. Times here.
You can also watch segments from my shows on demand on Foodnetwork in Australia, times here.
Please share my update with your family and friends. They can subscribe here.
Bring people together over a meal. Sit down. Relax. Eat slowly. Talk. Listen. Ask your friends, family and colleagues – are you OK? And remember, it’s OK not to be! So enjoy what you cook, eat and drink.