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!
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 onFacebookandInstagramor 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.
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.
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.
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 website. To 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
Combine the polenta and milk in a large bowl. Stand 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to moderately hot (200’C/180’C fan-forced). Grease a 12 hole (1/3 cup/80ml) muffin pan.
Cook bacon in a small heated non-stick frying pan until browned and crisp. Add onion; cook, stirring, 1 minute.
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.
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.
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.
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
Gradually add eggs and vanilla, beating well. Lightly fold in flour until well combined.
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.
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
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or PH 1800 001 778.
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 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 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