Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas meals 2015 2: Christmas Day

The table set for Christmas Day

Kir royale cocktail, foie gras with peaches, caprese salad, bread

Foie gras with peaches and nectarines and fig and peach preserve

Roast fillet of beef and jostaberry sauce, with vegs from our garden: Kipfler potatoes, peas, golden baubles
Home-made chocolate icecream Christmas log with whipped cream and home made marzipan decorations

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas meals 2015: Christmas Eve

Preparing prawn and mango salad(with homemade mayonnaise)

Entree: prawn and mango salad with mango daiquiri

Main course: Rainbow trout sauteed in olive oil and lime, with purslane and garlic chives

Dessert: Blackberry trifle and mango icecream

before the meal: making marzipan shapes to decorate the Christmas log cakes

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cinderella's mini pumpkin coach accompanied by silvery fish with golden baubles

We had a delicious and unusual dinner the other day whose elements made me think of fairytale: a stuffed mini pumpkin which is is our own serendipitous cross: a cross between Queensland Blue and Golden Nugget pumpkins, with a most pleasing Cinderella-coach look, beautiful deep orange flesh and golden skin that you can actually eat if you steam, grill, or roast it; accompanied by black and silver-skinned barramundi, fried whole, and served with onions and 'golden baubles'--actually the immature version of the same mini Cinderella coach-pumpkin, but a lovely yellow outside and creamy yellow inside, and a really delicious taste!
Everything was very simple to prepare as well:
I hollowed out the pumpkin, chopped the flesh up and tossed it in butter with lots of chopped herbs and garlic, with a bit of the Basque piment d'espelette sprinkled on top for extra flavour and colour(you can use hot paprika as a substitute). Then I put everything back into the pumpkin, popped the little top back on, and cooked it in a pan with the lid on--first of all in a little olive oil, then adding some water and letting it cook with the lid on till the pumpkin was cooked through, including the skin.
Meanwhile, I fried the whole small barramundi, crisping the skin, and adding chopped onions and chopped 'baubles'. A sprinkling of herbs, salt and pepper, and there: a fairytale dinner before you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The not so humble potato


Tasmanian pink eyes, cooked

Tasmanian pink-eyes, uncooked

Congo Blues
It's new-potato season again, one of my favourite times of the vegetable-garden year. Sadly, Australians often think of potatoes as a dull if trusty vegetable, a filler, a blank, something that gets mashed and boiled and fried but that's mainly there as filler. And so many people also don't realise that the humble spud, murphy, call it what you will, comes in more than just the clean and dirty varieties you get in bags in the supermarket, either skins covered in brown dirt or scrubbed clean and white or clean and pink. No, potatoes come with different names, colours, origins, flavours, textures that are all different from each other. And as a vegetable they can be absolutely divine, especially when they're new, like right now, and just dug out of the ground, as ours are. 
New England, or at least the Guyra district, used to be known for its potatoes, grown in the beautiful basalt soil on top of the range. There are good potatoes in Dorrigo too. But though they are quite nice when they're new, there's not that many varieties grown there. In fact maybe just two or three-- Sebago, Desiree and Pontiac, the trusty standards of the Aussie spud world. Tasmania is where you have to go to find not only a much wider range of potatoes, including ones developed in the island state--like the famous Tasmanian pink-eye potato--but also more respect for them as a culinary delight--I remember with great affection for instance a wonderful plate of roasted pink-eyes with garlic and rosemary and coarse salt that made a perfect meal in themselves.
This year, in the garden, we have quite a range again: the delicious pink-eyes, with their characteristic yellow, buttery flesh and pink-dotted knobbly shapes(these are also the first to pop up) ; luscious little Kipflers, or 'mouse potatoes', as they're sometimes called, because of their elongated shape with sometimes a little 'tail' remaining where they were connected to the mother plant; blue-skinned Royal Blues and pink-skinned Desirees; white-skinned Sebagos and melting-textured Dutch creams, and the strange, all-blue Congo Blue. All of these grew from 'seed potato' harvested in the supermarket--ie we keep an eye out on new varieties available there, buy some and keep a few back for planting! And they've all grown really well so we'll probably have potatoes for months and months(they keep very well if they're left in the soil and only taken out when you're about to cook them.)
At the moment, because they've just come on and their flesh is so meltingly luscious, we're tending to eat them very simply 'as is', the skins only rubbed off, not peeled, and the vegetable boiled, and served with garlic, herbs, and butter. But later, we'll be doing a whole lot more with them, enjoying them in all sorts of ways, just as they're meant to be, and each variety with special talents. For instance, pink eyes aren't just great simply boiled and srved with butter and chopped herbs(the best way to eat them when they're new and their skin just rubs off) ; they also make delicious chips and buttery mash; while Kipflers are almost always best treated simply, eaten hot, as a vegetable, or cold, in salads, and Sebagos are all-rounders, making creamy mash, crisp chips and roasts, as well as being nice boiled(I guess one of the reasons why they're such a hardy standard)
But whatever you do with them, they are anything but dull! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Simple dinner dish with eggs poached in their shells

I've just finished reading an absolutely fabulous book, Yangsze Choo's first novel, The Ghost Bride. Afterwards, looking on the internet for the author's website, I found that not only is she a fantastic writer and a keen reader, but also passionate about food, and her blog features several great recipes. One of them was for eggs poached in their shells, a recipe she adapted from a traditional Japanese dish called onsen tamago. The eggs are basically cooked in their shells, off the stove, in hot water to which some cold has been added.
I love poached eggs and this seemed like an interesting way to do it. And it worked so well!
I served them on a bed of rice that had been lightly stir-fried and tossed through with onion, finely sliced ginger, young broad beans(the garden is full of them at the moment!)and a selection of chopped garden herbs: garlic chives, coriander and basil, with a touch of soya sauce added, and salt and pepper. The eggs were then cracked over the rice, on each person's plate.
It was absolutely delicious! And very satisfying yet light.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Guest Post: Edouard of MenuChef, brand new start up

Our whole family has always had a great interest in food and cooking, and my entrepreneurial nephew, Edouard de Martrin Donos(brother of talented Paris-based chef Alexis Braconnier) has parleyed that interest into a brand-new start up in Sydney with two of his friends: a company called MenuChef, which offers an unusual new service, turning your home into a fabulous venue for a fine dining experience. To explain the concept, the story behind it, and what's on offer, I invited Edouard onto the blog. Enjoy!

Introducing MenuChef, 
by Edouard de Martrin Donos

My story

My name is Edouard de Martrin Donos, I’m the CEO of
I am a French & Australian entrepreneur, growing up in a large French Australian family that combined the best elements of a successful family reunion: extraordinary dishes & passionate entertaining dinner.

Food & cooking always took a big part of my life as well as that of my whole family (my brother is a celebrity chef in France). I grew up in a family where everyone knows how to cook and shares the same passion of multi-cultural dishes and flavour explosions to bring the true essence to our plates. We always have organised big feasts for family and friends when great food and animated debates were crucial part of these reunions.

I have built my company with two of my friends, Olivier and Chris, who share the same vision and passion of entertaining at home.

Our concept

We want to share our vision and change the way that people think of dining: why dine-out when you can dine-in?

At MenuChef we believe that professional chefs can get out of their kitchen and give you an exclusive access to their world. We want our customers to experience an extraordinary culinary and entertaining adventure in the comfort of their own venue.

What do we offer?

We offer a private & premium personal chef service where the chef will cook for you and your guests.

Also, we are offering some great culinary experiences to choose from:

  1. Romantic dinner to impress your special someone
  2. Cooking class where the chef comes to you and teach you how to cook your dream dish.
  3. Special events for a unique and tailor-made gourmet catering for any corporate or private function (High Tea, Wedding, Celebration, Seminar, Christmas party, etc..)

How does it work?

We know how tricky it can to host a dinner with the stress of cooking, organising and cleaning. This frees you up so you get all of the the pleasure and none of the pain!

STEP 1: Simply jump on the website, select your menu online based on your taste, inspiration and budget. Book your selected menu based on your selected criteria (cuisine type, chef, menu range).

STEP 2: Your chef will contact you and will do the grocery shopping for you.

STEP 3: The chef will come to your door at the date and time indicated on your booking and will cook for you and your guests.

STEP 4: Your chef will serve you and your guests and clean up before leaving.

How do we select our chefs?

Our chefs are selected based on their cooking skills and professional cooking CVs. We have a strict recruitment process that the chef must follow in order to integrate the menuchef team. The chef’s final selection is done with our critic’s team (Bloggers, critics and menuchef representative will validate the chef during a booking trail).
Once the chef is validated, the chef will establish his/her menus and will set up a profile visible on the website. After a final review, the chef is ready to get his/her first booking for menuchef.

For more details, visit us on or call us on 1300MENUCHEF (636 824)

Email: (customers)

Proud to be the first Premium instant booking personal chef service in Australia.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Almost vegetarian spring weekend supper

Here's a truly delicious, light and simple almost-vegetarian supper for a quiet weekend! I say almost vegetarian, because there are two mashed anchovies in the dressing for the asparagus! (Vegetarians can of course just omit them)
Entree: steamed asparagus with a dressing made of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, a dab of sour cream and two mashed anchovies. Served with mache(corn salad) and avocado.
Main: Soft-boiled eggs on a bed of fresh steamed spinach, with chopped fried fresh garlic and garlic chives, and then sprinkled with piment d'Espelette (Basque pepper powder, you can substitute hot smoked paprika)
Dessert was fruit and chocolate.
Made in less than half an hour, spectacularly green, and very very tasty!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Enter the asparagus

As it's asparagus season again, I thought I'd repost some previous recipes featuring this most delicious of vegetables, in three lovely entrees!  
From early September on to the end of October, asparagus finds its way frequently onto our entrée plates. Steamed or braised, cold or warm, they always make a fabulous starter. Here are three simple and delicious ways to serve them: steamed, with a vinaigrette made from virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard;  lightly braised in olive oil, with a slice of melted Brie on top; and  fresh steamed asparagus with semi-hard-boiled egg dressing. Steam the asparagus till cooked but not too soft, let them cool. Boil an egg(not too hard-boiled but not soft-boiled either), peel off shell, then chop the egg into bits. In a small bowl mix a tablespoon sour cream, a teaspoon Dijon mustard, a little salt, pepper, a small splash of either lemon or white balsamic vinegar. Mix the chopped egg in with this and serve the mixture drizzled over the asparagus.
Other delicious ways to serve include: the basic braised one with cooked small cherry chopped tomatoes and olives scattered on top--other toppings for cold entree asparagus include chopped smoked salmon or very good leg ham; and for the warm variety, sesame oil can replace the olive oil, and chopped stir-fried prawns with coriander and Vietnamese mint scattered on top. In fact, the only limit is your imagination, when you start with that basic delightful green handful of aspragus spears!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Alexis doing his magic in Paris

My nephew Alexis Braconnier is a fabulous young chef who has already made his mark in the French TV program Top Chef as well as in hotels and restaurauts across the country. Alexis is featuring this weekend in Paris in a foodie event called 'Les Heureuses Heures de la Tartine', (The Happy Hours of the Open Sandwich, basically!) which is being held in 25 restaurants across the 14th arrondissement. Alexis will be working on the Sunday.
If you're in Paris, check it out! 
You can learn more about Alexis and his wonderful recipes at his Facebook page.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Basque flavour 2: David's Gateau Basque

David's recipe for a simple and delicious Gateau Basque:

Ingredients for pastry: 200g plain flour, 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk, 130 g castor sugar, 130 g unsalted butter, pinch salt, lemon rind. Ingredients for custard: 200 ml milk, 1 egg yolk, 50 g castor sugar, 20 g plain flour, a little cherry brandy(optional), some stoned Morello cherries(he used our own homegrown ones which had been preserved in armagnac but tinned Morellos could conceivably be used). First make the pastry: put the flour in a bowl, make a well in it and into it put the egg yolk, the lightly beaten whole egg , the sugar, pinch salt, and the softened butter. Mix carefully till well combined and forming a good smooth and not sticky pastry. Put it in the fridge to rest while you prepare the custard. Dilute the flour with a little of the milk. Warm the rest of the milk gently. Beat the egg yolk with the sugar, then add to warmed milk, and then add the flour mixture, stir over stove till nice and thick(and do not let it boil.) Off the stove, add a little cherry brandy, and then the cherries. If you want to make the classic custard-filled Gateau Basque, omit both the cherries and cherry brandy. You can also flavour your custard with rum if you like.

Grease a cake or tart tin, roll out the pastry, make a base and sides out of most of it, then pour the custard mixture into it. Make a lid with est of the pastry, crimp the edges well together, then glaze the top with a pastry brush dipped into some egg yolk. Score the pastry with a knife to form a pattern(rather like that on Pithiviers pie.) Bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour. The cake is delicious both warm and cold.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Basque flavour 1: Poulet Basquaise

We spent quite a while in the Pays Basque these holidays, revisiting the ancestral home of my mother's family and reconnecting with many of my aunts, uncles and cousins there. And eating lovely Basque food of course!
The cornerstones of savoury Basque cuisine are red and green capsicums/bell peppers, as well as the long 'sweet peppers'; tomatoes; onions and garlic; and of course the lovely chilli powder known as 'piment d'Espelette', which is made from the long peppers grown there and which has a lovely sweet yet spicy flavour--something in between paprika and hot chilli. Added to dishes during cooking, it really gives a great spicy tingle; sprinkled on afterwards, you get the fruity flavour but it's less 'hot'. Whatever, it's used on everything there--eggs, meat, fish, even occasionally sweets! You can order it in Australia, here and here for instance, but if you can't find it, you can try substituting a hot paprika(not quite as good, as paprika is ground much finer than piment d'Espelette--the latter is quite coarse, which gives it more flavour. )
I'm posting on this blog a couple of recipes that are absolute Basque classics and quite easy to make. This one is for Poulet basquaise , or Basque-style chicken, and in the next one I will republish David's great recipe for a simple Gateau Basque, THE Basque cake par excellence!

Poulet basquaise

Ingredients: (for 4 people)
1 kg chicken pieces, diced--or a whole chicken, cut into pieces
4 good truss tomatoes(or use a can of tomatoes)
1 large onion
2 capsicums--1 green, 1 red
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf, pinch thyme, parsley
piment d' Espelette powder --or if you don't have any, a hot paprika powder can substitute
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for frying

Chop the onion and fry it and the crushed garlic in the olive oil. Separately, saute the chicken pieces in some more olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste(don't add too much pepper, as the piment/paprika powder will be added later) . 
Add the chopped capsicums to the onion and garlic mix, sit well, then add the herbs, and stir a little more. Now add the tomatoes, and cook till the sauce is nice and thick.
Add the sauce to the cooked chicken pieces, sprinkle in some paprika/piment powder, and simmer for about half an hour, till the chicken is completely cooked through. If the saice starts sticking, add a little water, just enough to deglaze the bottom.
Serve with extra chopped parsley and paprika/piment powder on top. Goes well with rice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Easy yoghurt

The yoghurt in process of setting.
We have made our own yoghurt for years and it's excellent, much cheaper than the store-bought variety, and very easy to make. And you need no special equipment. I've been asked to put up the recipe(which is David's invention!)so here it is. We only ever use full cream milk for it as it's such a much better taste; you can experiment with skim but it doesn't set as well, I believe.

David's yoghurt

Ingredients: 1 litre UHT full cream milk, 3 spoonfuls powdered full cream milk, 1 spoonful live yoghurt culture(we use Greek-style yogurt--must be full cream milk yoghurt). Once you have made this once, you just keep back one spoonful from your own yoghurt to make the next batch.

Mix the UHT milk, powdered milk and spoonful of yogurt till well-combined. Heat the mixture to blood temperature(ie the temp of a baby's bottle). Pour into lidded icecream container or similar, and keep at a constant temperature--either in a foam esky or in the linen cupboard or similar.It needs to sit a few hours like that. If you make this in the morning you can then, at end of day, take it out of wherever it's been sitting, and put it in fridge. The next morning, it'll be set and ready to eat!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Visit to a goat farm in southern France

I am back in my sister's home region of the Aude in southern France and last night had some excellent goat cheeses made by a local producer, Xavier Tissot; Two years ago, when we were here, we went to his farm open day, which was very interesting, so today I thought I would republish the article I wrote then about it!

Visit to a local goat farm
We had a very interesting afternoon the other day visiting a local farm, Bourdichou, which specialises in one hundred percent organic goat cheese produced using traditional methods with goats fed entirely off the organic feed produced on the farm itself. Lucky goats--they get not only the usual kind of feed of barley, grass and sainfoin(a coarse hay type feed) but also high quality green lentils produced on the farm, of the Puy variety, of which the farm produces about 6 tonnes. (The lentils are also sold to humans and are delicious!)
As well as buying some excellent cheese and having a bit of a tour of the 30-strong goat herd, who were all very bright-eyed and bushy tailed and very friendly as they are handled a lot, we were also treated to a very interesting free 45 minute slide presentation by owner Xavier Tissot, who explained everything about the farm, how it's run, what crops are grown, what the programme of each day is, etc. This is an added bonus of a visit to the farm to buy cheese--call ahead of time and you can also assist at one of these presentations(best done in a group or family). By the way they have an excellent  and informative website with all contact details and info on how to get there,
The Bourdichou farm is situated in gorgeous rolling countryside in the Aude region, and consists of 102 hectares, supporting 30 high-yielding goats in constant milking. From those 30 goats, milked twice a day, the Tissots get 22,500 litres of milk per year, which converts into 34,700 cheeses a year, or around 120 a day. From the milk, the Tissots make only cheese, in different varieties: plain, flavoured with onions or rosemary, or oregano or thyme or lavender, and also rolled in pepper. (They also sell honey from their own hives as well as lentils). It's plain to see the goats are thriving; they are all extremely healthy, bright and curious and very productive. They also each have a name, as they are very much a part of the family and Xavier Tissot speaks of them with great affection and humour--one funny observation he made was, 'Goats are rather like adolescents; they can veer from endearing to very annoying in record time!' The goats are out in the fields grazing half the day (where they have to be watched)and half the day in their comfortable shed where they are given their hay, grain and lentils.
Of course it's a huge amount of work for the family for it is a never ending cycle. Market days are particularly heavy for the milking has to start at 4.30 am and does not finish till 7pm! Days where markets aren't happening are slightly less heavy--they get an extra hour's sleep and don't have to get up till 5.30 am! Then of course there is the crop work, which they do get outside help with, but still do most of it themselves.
The Tissots only do direct sales--from the farm gate, at local markets where they go several days a week, at special fairs and gastronomic events and occasionally from people who have been to the farm before ordering over the phone or online. They don't sell to restaurants, and most of their sales  are at markets. But if you are travelling in the region, I would urge you to go and visit the farm directly, for not only do you get the chance to buy the products at the very spot where they are made, but you also get an absorbing insight into how the life of a farm.
And the cheese? We bought a platter of it, about six or seven cheeses, in different varieties and it was all absolutely delightful, fresh, tasty and very very more-ish, with the platter being demolished very rapidly. And it was only 10 euros for the whole lot--an absolute steal! Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pippa's delicious salmon gravlax revisited

Today I thought I'd republish my daughter Pippa's recipe for a spectacular salmon gravlax, which I first published on this blog back in 2011. She'd made it for Christmas--but it's something that can be enjoyed at any time of the year, for any special occasion!

Cured in salt, sugar, fresh grated beetroot and orange juice, it looks and tastes fantastic, and is prepared in minutes(though you need to leave it for 24 hours to cure before serving).

Here's her recipe, with quantities suitable for a half-side of fresh salmon, skin off.  (Just modify quantities depending on how much salmon you have)

You need three grated beetroots and 3 juiced and zested oranges. Mix together with some sprigs of dill and pop it in a long china or glass dish big enough to hold the salmon. Then mix 100 g of sea salt(coarse)and 3/4 caster(fine) sugar and coat fish in it, pressing it in on both sides. Then put salmon on top of beet/orange mixture, cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 24 hours. The next day, take it out, wipe off any excess salt/sugar with a cloth , take the salmon out of the dish and slice it thinly to serve. Serve it with sliced Spanish onions, thinly sliced cucumber, and a cream cheese and caper mix on the side.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A simple and tasty autumn meal

In autumn, I crave foods that are not quite so hearty as in winter but are still warmly satisfying; colourful too with a nod back towards summer yet reinvented for the season. Simple to prepare, yet satisfyingly pretty. A meal such as the one I made the other day.

It started with an entree of avocado and roasted tomatoes on roasted bread. The tomatoes and the bread with both brushed with olive oil and roasted at high heat for only a short while, till the tomatoes were cooked and the bread crisp and golden. Then I sliced an avocado, laid it on the roasted bread, topped it with the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chopped sage. Totally delicious!

The main course was a home-made version of that pub favourite, crumbed lamb cutlets. Nice little chops brushed with egg then rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs, pan-fried, then served with chopped coriander, garlic, and home-made preserved lemons. Accompanying them was couscous, cooked in herby stock, and fresh home-grown spinach. very satisfying indeed!

And to finish(but not illustrated), meringues and cream!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pippa's pumpkin risotto

We've got a lot of pumpkins at the moment--our own nameless variety, cross bred accidentally one year between a Golden Nugget and a Queensland Blue pumpkin and which we now grow every year. They have a lovely, meltingly sweet rich flavour and a bright orange skin which is tough to cut but which roasts to a deliciously nutty softness.
My daughter Pippa, who's a fantastic cook, gave me her favourite recipe pumpkin risotto recipe and I made it the other day. It's just the perfect dish to bring out the flavour and colour of these lovely pumpkins. But any good-flavoured pumpkin would work with it. A great colourful rib-sticker on cold grey days!

Pippa's Pumpkin Risotto

1 Pumpkin, cut in 1-2cm dice pieces and roasted in the oven with olive oil and some chilli flakes (salt and pepper too, of course)
1 cup risotto rice
2L chicken stock, warmed
Leek or onion
Parmesan, about ½ cup grated
Basil, torn

After pumpkin is roasted, you will need to start on the risotto. Cook the finely sliced leek or onion in oil till soft and then add raw risotto rice stirring until it starts to look a little translucent. Then add one ladle a time of the warmed chicken stock until absorbed and rice is al dente. Take off the stove top, add about 25g butter diced along with cheese and stir through, then add pumpkin and basil, stir through and then serve!

It’s best if you use a heavy based saucepan.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A menu from a great Jules Verne adventure novel, Mikhail Strogoff

I've been really busy in the last few weeks with work on a crowdfunding campaign for a great new project I'm involved with: bringing back to English speaking readers a wonderful Jules Verne adventure classic, Mikhail Strogoff(first published in French in 1876). I'm part of the publishing team at Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press, which will be publishing the first new English translation in over a hundred years of this rip-roaring adventure tale, set in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Stephanie Smee, who has already authored several bestselling translations of other French classics, will be creating the translation. We are running the crowdfunding campaign to fund production of a celebratory beautiful illustrated limited edition of the novel, and invite you to join us in this wonderful publishing event here.

And to whet your appetite, here's an extract from the book where Mikhail Strogoff, the hero of the story, puts up for the night at an inn in Nizhny Novgorod. As this is a food blog, I thought it appropriate that the extract features the meal he eats!

Translation copyright Stephanie Smee. Edition copyright Eagle Books. 

And thus Mikhail Strogoff found himself wandering through the town, not unduly troubled, on the lookout for some form of accommodation where he might spend the night. But he was not trying very hard and, had it not been for his gnawing hunger, he would probably have wandered the streets of Nizhny Novgorod until morning. For he was more interested in a meal than a bed. And he found both under the shingle of the Town of Constantinople.

The innkeeper there offered him a perfectly satisfactory room, sparsely furnished, but equipped with both an image of the Virgin and portraits of various saints, for which some golden fabric served as frames. He was promptly served up some duck stuffed with spiced mince, drowning in a heavy cream sauce, some barley bread, some curds, some cinnamon-flavoured sugar and a mug of kvass – a type of beer very common in Russia. He would have been satisfied with less. So, he ate his fill; more so than his neighbour at the dining table, who, being an adherent of the ‘Old Believers’ movement of the Raskolniks and having taken a vow of abstinence, left the potatoes on his plate and was careful not to add sugar to his tea.

Having finished his supper, instead of going up to his room, Mikhail Strogoff headed automatically back out to resume his walk around town. But though the long twilight was still drawing on, the crowd was already dissipating, and little by little the streets were emptying as everybody headed for home.
old photo of government building in Nizhny Novgorod, circa 1900

Friday, March 13, 2015

Some recent dishes

Photo gallery of some rather nice dishes we made recently!
Eggplant, pomegranate and crispy sage salad

Crisp-skinned duck breasts with a muscat grape and Marsala sauce

Fresh home grown sweet corn with garlic

Fig and hazelnut tart with creame

Friday, February 27, 2015

Newtown delights

Had lunch the other day with my son in Newtown(Sydney), in a fantastic, buzzy cafe called Brewtown. My dish was pretty spectacular: grilled black sausage with eggplant puree, and fennel, curly lettuce, orange and goat cheese salad(left), while Bevis' (right) was very delicious too: tomato-braised warm lamb salad.
Afterwards, we checked out the Black Star patisserie nearby, and came away with a lovely haul of cakes for that night's dessert at my daughter's place: chocolate eclair, crème brulée tart, and frangipane tart. Also shared one wonderful 'cannelé'  sweet-crispy-glazed batter cake with Bevis--the best I've tasted outside of Bordeaux!
Highly recommended, both Brewtown and Black Star. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Picture That: Illustrators on food, 3: Lisa Stewart

Today I'm featuring the touching, lively and beautiful work of Lisa Stewart, illustrator and musician. Lisa's illustrated seven books, including five picture books and two illustrated books. And I'm thrilled to say that we are collaborating on an illustrated story together, to be published later this year.
Below she tells us a bit about her journey to becoming an illustrator, offers a delicious family favourite recipe devised by her daughter Claire, and shares with us some of her gorgeous illustrations. Lisa's website is at

Lisa Stewart's story
As a young mother, some 17 years ago, pushing my daughter in her pram to any paper, art supply, card or book store I could find I was instantly attracted to wrapping paper with illustrations by Jane Ray wonderful British illustrator and author). I adored her attention to detail and her animals, trees, water, sun, moon and stars. A new love was born, of children's picture books and paper.
Later in Germany I sent a CD of mine (I play the violin ) and a letter of thanks to Jane for her artwork. To my delight she responded with five picture books and a glorious phoenix card of hers and a friendship was formed.

My family and I flew to England to meet her. Seeing her studio and her artwork (admired by her husband and her three children) framed and hung throughout their home filled me with joy. My secret dream was to become an illustrator and be like Jane.
The illustrative style I use came about during the creation of a 20 page wordless love story. I began to cut out hundreds of tiny pieces of paper and create images. Friends and family were represented as trees, birds, fish, dragons and whales. A broken heart became thousands of little flowers and the night sky a full moon on black rice paper.

With support form my dear friend Lynndy Bennett at Gleebooks, I sent some publishers a few of the pictures from the love story and had a call from Ana Vivas from Scholastic Press. We met and I got to send in ideas for a book by Kerry Brown called 'Can I Cuddle the Moon?' I enjoyed doing some little drawings and to my amazement was chosen to illustrate it.
My dream of becoming an illustrator has come true. 

Here is the recipe for 'Claire's Nachos ', a family favourite that my daughter  has been making from around the age of ten. She is nineteen now.

Claire's Nachos
> 1 medium to large brown onion
> 3 tins kidney beans
> 1 tin tomatoes
> 1 small tin corn (optional)
> smoked chipotle in adobo sauce or other chilli e.g. chilli paste
> 2 tsp cumin or premixed mexican seasoning
> Corn chips
> for the guacamole:
> 2 ripe avocadoes
> cumin
> salt and pepper to taste
> the juice of one whole lime
> for the pico de gallo:
> 3 to 4 medium tomatoes
> juice of one whole lime
> salt to taste
> chopped cilantro

> Instructions:
> Dice onion and fry in vegetable oil of your preference until translucent.
> Finely chop/mince half a chipotle chilli and add it to the onion.
> Drain the beans and fry them in with the onion and chilli until the beans soften.
> Roughly mash the beans, then add the tin of tomato and the cumin.
> Add the corn.
> Stir well and season to taste.
> Guacamole:
> halve the avocadoes and scoop out the flesh into a medium mixing bowl.
> Mash with a fork and add the lime juice, salt, pepper, and cumin.
> Mix well.
> Pico de Gallo:
> finely dice the tomatoes, and place in a bowl with the lime juice, cilantro and salt. mix well.
> To serve, place bean mix on top of corn chips, with pico de gallo and guacamole on top.