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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Picture That: Illustrators on food 2: Beattie Alvarez

Today, I'm featuring gorgeous illustrations and a yummy easy recipe by Beattie Alvarez, young multi-talented illustrator, author, editor, toymaker, mother of two lively children--and passionate reader! She is also one of the team at Christmas Press Picture Books and at the gorgeous toyshop, Granny Fi's Toy Cupboard.

Mi Goreng for the busy reader
by Beattie Alvarez

Too busy reading a book to do the shopping? Just got to the exciting part and don’t want to stop for long, but your tummy is grumbling? Want something hot, simple, and delicious to eat while you’re reading your book?
I have the perfect recipe for you!
Mi Goreng!
Most people have had this delicious noodle concoction, a favourite with students and people on a budget. They’re cheap, quick, and yummy. Most people have also gone to the cupboard in their hour of hunger only to discover that they have RUN OUT! Oh, the horror!
This happened to me yesterday.
It was a quiet afternoon and I was happily reading Harry Potter in the sun when I realised that I was drooling on it as I read about the fantastic feasts. NOT GOOD. Being the day before payday, my pantry was looking sad. What could I make that was warm and cosy and QUICK? I didn’t want to put down Harry for too long.
I found two sad looking spring onions, half a Spanish onion, tomato sauce, and manis (sweet soy sauce). And a ten pack of dry two-minute noodles.
Five minutes later (I kid you not!) Harry was safely tucked under the edge of my bowl as I wolfed down my meal. To be fair, mi goreng is not ideal for eating with Harry Potter. What you need with Harry are pies and puddings, cakes and sweets, hot chocolate, baked potatoes, and all those other fabulously English things. However, my meal was perfectly adequate and (with the right book) would have been perfect! 

1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (manis – available from most supermarkets in the Asian food aisle).
1 tbsp tomato sauce
pepper – I used a lot, but some people would prefer less. Start with half a teaspoon and go from there.
Onions of some description
3 packets of dry noodles
soy sauce to taste
egg (optional)

1.      Pick your favourite book. Get it ready for later.
2.      Mix tomato sauce, pepper, and sweet soy sauce in a bowl.
3.      Boil and drain your noodles
4.      Finely chop, and then fry your onions in the oil until they are nice and crispy, but not burnt.
5.      (optional) poach or fry your egg
6.      Turn the heat off, throw everything into the frying pan and mix, adding soy sauce to taste.
7.      (optional, but advised) transfer to plate or bowl.
8.      Open your book and read while eating.
9.      Go back for seconds if necessary.
 NB. All quantities are approximate and to my taste. I don’t like things very saucy (read want you will into that statement!), so I used three packets of noodles. Some people would only use two. I also like quite sweet savoury dishes. If you prefer salty, then add more soy sauce or lessen the amounts of Manis and tomato sauce. And if you aren’t kissing someone later, fried garlic works well too. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Picture That: Illustrators on food: 1: Trish Donald

A couple of years ago, I ran a series featuring the favourite recipes of authors. This time, I'm inaugurating a new series, Picture That, which features illustrators talking about food and giving us a favourite recipe, but also showcasing favourite new illustrations. Picture That will be running from time to time over the next couple of months, but today is the first of the series, and it features the fabulous illustrator Trish Donald.

Trish usually paints landscapes using acrylics but in recent years she has been shifting focus toward character design where she likes to blend natural with digital medium. Her latest exhibition, in November 2014, contained works created through  a combination of pen drawings, collages, and digital drawings. Trish spent many years working as a graphic designer after which she spent 14 years teaching graphic design at TAFE. She currently works in Industry at the University of New England. Trish runs creative workshops at NERAM, in Armidale and the New England Writers' Centre teaching others how to develop characters, use colour, or use mixed media.  Most recently, she had a short story and illustration published in Once Upon A Christmas (edited by Beattie Alvarez, published by Christmas Press, 2014) and she looks forward to future creative endeavours.

Trish presents here a favourite recipe: Portuguese Marinated Carrots.

When I make these for friends they are always impressed and absolutely love them so I am going to share it with you too.

Cenouras De Conserva - Marinated Carrots
(a Portuguese aperitif)

4-5 carrots
1 Cup water (from cooking the carrots)
Pinch of salt
1-2 cloves garlic
Parsley - Continental
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (virgin)
2-3 tsp white vinegar
1tsp red paprika (not hot)
Toothpicks – for serving

Peeled and slice carrots into thick circles.
Put carrots in pot, cover with water and add some salt.
Boil for 3-5 minutes depending on tenderness – you want them to be soft but firm so they don’t fall apart.
Strain and put aside some of the carrot water (if you do not have enough carrot water you can just add water from the tap)
Put carrots in the fridge
Chop the garlic finely
Chop the parsley finely
In a cup combine the olive oil, vinegar, paprika and carrot water.
Pour this mixture over the carrots and stir through, put back in fridge.
Taste mixture and add vinegar or oil according to taste.
Traditionally the carrots are a little bit on the vinegar side.
If you have added too much vinegar add more water and stir through.
Put on a shallow dish and supply toothpicks when serving.
Your guests will not be disappointed!