Welcome to 2022

Happy New Year from Sydney Australia (with thanks to Luke Keighery from the Waverton Hub for the photo)


Oh how I hope it will be a Happy New Year for all. Covid continues it inexorable march wreaking havoc with peoples lives and plans. But enough of that – let’s move on. I just hope you are safe and well.

I was blessed to have my daughter and family here though even there our plans went awry when they were locked down with Covid (caught in Australia) for 10 days across what was to be their first Christmas at home in 3 years, Rafferty’s Naming Ceremony and Isabel’s 5th birthday. We made the best of it and I delivered (from a safe distance) Isabel’s requested butterfly cake for her birthday on Christmas Day and my daughter and son-in-law had a “party lunch” for Isabel before I returned with a Christmas dinner delivery.

Despite the disruption and cost they were able to extend their stay but are now safely back home in Singapore. although we missed Christmas together, we were able to rearrange some other things and I had precious time with them. While isolation of various family and friends meant I couldn’t take my grandchildren to play with some as planned, I was able to cook with them – and more of that below. Beware of more grandchildren photo spam!

This year I am honoured to be Australia Day Ambassador for Dubbo and I look forward to visiting the region for a couple of days. This is my 19th consecutive year as an Ambassador and I always request regional NSW.  The theme this year is Reflect, Respect, Celebrate. Here is an interview I gave this week to the local paper.

I am only just back at my desk and still trying to take things a bit easier, so this will be a short and hopefully sweet newsletter to get us back into the rhythm and provide some inspiration for cooking with kids and school kids.

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


A joyful Raffy left on Christmas Day (taken by his Dad) and Isabel with her butterfly cake – note the small one with the candle for hygienic blowing out

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

Cooking with Kids
Things to Read and Share
South Australian Tour
Morocco Tour 2022
Puglia Tour October 2022

YouTube Video

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

How to make the perfect stir-fry is a great recipe for older children and teenagers or anyone beginning to cook. They can follow me, step-by-step on YouTube here . Best to get the ingredients from the written recipe for Chicken, Vegetable and Noodles Stir Fry here first. the basic recipe can be adapted for any meat – or use tofu with vegetable stock  if you prefer vegetarian or vegan.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here for all my videos including recipes in a minute. Enjoy.

Recipes of the Week

Roasted Summer Tomato Tart

In Australia tomatoes are at their peak, but cherry tomatoes can be good grown in greenhouses all year round if you live elsewhere. Those who are following a more plant-based diet may also enjoy Roasted Summer Tomato Tart. Serve it as a main, entree or cut up as finger food.

More easy finger food to take on a picnic or share are these cute summer Stone Fruit and Ricotta Cakes. You can use any stone fruit you like.

Stone Fruit and Ricotta Cakes

Cooking with Kids

Cooking with my Granddaughter Isabel

I like to get kids in the kitchen as early as possible. With both my two, Blair and Lucy, I went to their pre-school and made pasta from scratch with their class when they each were three. It also taught them how simple, natural ingredients make real food. So much as Isabel wanted to make cupcakes, I demurred and told her we were going to make real food which is therefore good for you. I chose a recipe we published in The Australian Women’s Weekly in 2007 when I was Food Director and which is in two of their Kids’ Cookbooks. It is now also on their websiteTo keep things interesting for Isabel (aged just 5) I had everything measured out and chopped first while Raffy was having his nap. Isabel loved pouring ingredients into the bowl and stirring. We made a half quantity but here’s the full recipe.

Cheese, Corn And Bacon Muffins
Makes 12. Preparation 15 Mins (Plus 10 Mins Standing Time). Cooking 25 Mins.

½ cup (85g) polenta
½ cup (125ml) milk
3 bacon rashers (210 g approx), trimmed, chopped finely
4 green onions (green shallots), chopped finely
2 eggs, beaten lightly
60g butter, melted
125g can creamed corn
310g can corn kernels, drained
1½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
50g cheddar cheese, cut into 12 cubes
¼ cup (30g) finely grated cheddar cheese

  1. Combine the polenta and milk in a large bowl. Stand 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to moderately hot (200’C/180’C fan-forced). Grease a 12 hole (1/3 cup/80ml) muffin pan.
  3. Cook bacon in a small heated non-stick frying pan until browned and crisp. Add onion; cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. Add the eggs, butter, creamed corn and corn kernels to the polenta mixture; whisk to combine. Add the bacon mixture and sifted flour; stir until just combined.
  5. Spoon 1 tablespoon of muffin mixture into each pan hole, top with a cube of cheddar. Divide remaining muffin mixture among pan holes. Sprinkle tops with the grated cheese. Bake in a moderately hot oven for about  20 minutes. Stand muffins 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.
  6. Serve warm or cooled.

Suitable to freeze. Bacon mixture suitable to microwave.
Recipe from February 2007 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly

These were a great success. Isabel and Raffy loved them and they even made a suitable easy breakfast.

Now that was my planned cooking session. Then one afternoon when I was going to look after the kids my friend’s grandchildren were isolating and it was raining, so I decided to cook again – with both of them. I looked at what I had to hand and decided to make basic butter biscuits. Thank heavens for high chairs as it meant Raffy could be part of the action in a safe and controlled way. Isabel has her own little biscuit set and I gave Raffy a small rolling pin I have for ravioli and some cutters.  Also MaMa’s rule (that’s me) is that everyone has to sit at the table when they are eating.

Raffy in his high chair rolling out the dough (and eating some of it) and Isabel, full of concentration

I remain loyal to The Weekly after nearly a decade there so looked no further to find a basic biscuit recipe to base mine on. We again only did a half quantity but here is the full recipe.

Basic biscuits
125 gram butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (375 g)  self-raising flour

  1. Preheat oven to moderate, 180°C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. In the medium bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy
  2. Gradually add eggs and vanilla, beating well. Lightly fold in flour until well combined.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Bring mixture together and lightly knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc shape. I would normally wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes but try telling a 2 1/2 year old and 5 year old that – so we went right ahead.
  4. Roll out dough between 2 sheets baking paper until 3-4mm thick. We used a range of different cutters, chosen by the children, to cut biscuits from dough. Place on trays, 2cm apart. Again we didn’t chill for 15 minutes but put straight in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes. They worked perfectly. Cool on tray 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Then we played cafes. MaMa, of course was the waiter. I made them babycinnos and allowed them just a few small biscuits. Then I wrote out the bill and Isabel “paid” me. We all had a wonderful afternoon.

Playing cafes – note the babycinnos

Things to Read & Share

Despite setbacks, things look less grim for travelers in 2022 according to Traveller.com.au
Photo courtesy of Traveler and iStock

There are reasons to be travel cheerful in 2022, despite the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant according to Michael Gebicki, a writer whom I respect for his well-researched and accurate articles. I follow him for the latest travel advice put in simple terms. In Traveler he writes Five reasons travel is looking better in 2022

Hospitality Magazine reports that top Australian Chef Neil Perry reveals his isolation cravings and explains how the virus is ravaging the hospitality industry. Hop over to his Instagram page to see his cravings.

The ubiquity of tapioca made it a Malayan staple during the Japanese Occupation. Aziff Azuddin tries to understand its complicated past and present through his grandmother’s cooking. Read The value of tapioca through the eras .

There is no doubt freshly shucked oysters are best. If you haven’t yet mastered this skill, it’s a good one to learn for the New Year so watch Gary Rodely from Tathra Oysters with the ABC’s Simon Marnie n Youtube show you how. Or if you prefer to see diagrams How to shuck a Tasmanian Pacific Oyster.

Watch Franceso Rota, chef/owner of Trattoria Emilia in Melbourne make Tortelloni with parmesan cream.

I treasure my cookbooks by Marcella Hazan and always will. Recently the New Yorker revealed How Marcella Hazan Because a Legend of Italian Cooking.

South Australian Tour
29 March – 3 April 2022

Behind the Scenes in Adelaide and the Barossa Valley 29 March – 3 April 2022
I’ve really enjoyed planning this trip and promise lots of fun and great experiences. with all the uncertainty with border restrictions, Insight Vacations have promised that should Covid prevent interstate travel, deposits will be refunded in full up until 1 February. So book your space to enjoy:
  • Food, wine and quality time with living legends
  • Meeting, greeting and feasting with Maggie Beer 
  • Learn about Chinese tea and wine at Bai Long Store with the tea master and me
  • Cooking dem and tapas-style feast at the Central Market with Mark Gleeson and me
  • Think outside the square at d’Arenberg where wine meets art
  • Taste and learn abut Barossa  smallgoods and wines with David Franz Lehmann
  • Hear a private recital of the Baroque Organ
  • Meet former Young Chef of the Year at the newly opened Arkhe Restaurant
  • Barossa Farmers Market, dinner at Seppeltsfield Winery, interactive gin tasting at Seppeltsfield Road Distilleryextensive tour and lunch at Yalumba and much, much more with some suprises along the way. Lots of meals included as they are specially planned.no more than 22 (plus Insight travel host and me). Cost is $4,4495 twin share ($925 single supplement).
If you would like to join me in March 2022 on a close to home journey to explore behind the scenes in Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, follow this link for the brochure, and different contact details for the holiday season email directadmin@insightvacations.com.au or PH 1800 001 778.

Morocco Tour 23 Sept – 4 Oct 2022

Colourful tagines on sale in Morocco

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.
Details of the adventure include:

  • Meals as per itinerary: breakfast daily, 9 lunches, 11 dinners with ½ bottle of wine per person at dinner or sometimes lunch
  • Transportation throughout in luxury air-conditioned vehicles with professional experienced English-speaking driver, including related expenses and allowing for physical distancing
  • English-speaking escort
  • English-speaking local licensed guides in Rabat, Volubilis, Meknes, Fes, Marrakech and Essaouira with all entrance fees included to the sites visited with the guides
  • Atlas excursion including mules and the specialist trek guide
  • 3 cooking classes

You can enjoy this experience from AUD $9600 per person twin share (flights from Australia not included). Cost for single travelers is AUD$10,700.

By Prior Arrangement is highly experienced and well-known in Morocco as Principal, Carol Prior lived there for 13 years and has been arranging tours there for over 30. 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

In the unique town of Alberobello

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. 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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