Friday, February 26, 2010

Essential Ingredient … and a Frenchman

I do regular cooking demonstrations at various gourmet food stores including The Essential Ingredient, who have incidentally just moved from Crows Nest to a fab new location on Darling Street at Rozelle.

One Saturday recently, I was at The Essential Ingredient cooking from my book The Best Collection and I met the charming Jean-Marie Liere. We got chatting, as you do with charming Frenchmen, and he told me about his business French Impressions from Sydney.

On his website there is a plethora of French inspired recipes, events, shops and restaurants in Australia. Jean-Marie also talked about his plans to host culinary tours to France (Luberon and Les Baux in Provence are planned for next year) – sign me up!

I love meeting new, interesting people at my cooking demos and booking signings. Here is a list of what I’ve got coming up.

Come and see me … maybe you'll meet a Frenchman too…

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wine, glorious wine

You may know that I’m a board member and Councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. What you may not know is that as well as the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the RAS of NSW also runs the Sydney Royal Wine, Fine Food and Cheese & Dairy Produce Shows. I am committee member of all three and Chair of Fine Food.

Today’s post is dedicated to wine, glorious wine. I’ll blog about the other two shows shortly.

The Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Show wrapped up last week, after the judging panels tasted more than 2,300 wines from a myriad of varietals and styles.

The judging panels are comprised of an interesting selection of wine professionals such as winemakers, sommeliers and educators, chaired by the well-informed Iain Riggs. This year the local contingent was joined by the very charming and articulate Ch’ng Poh Tiong, a Singapore based wine commentator. His insights into selling wine in China were fascinating, pointing out that China is in fact many countries, so diverse are its regions.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting fruity

Ah late summer fruit. My favourite. Everything tastes sweeter and more luscious. And the variety available is seemingly endless.

I’ve previously written about my love affair with Summer Flame peaches, however I’m also enamoured with nectarines – as a speedy breakfast with natural yoghurt and a sprinkle of muesli or a quick lunch sliced in a salad with rocket or watercress, crumbled goats cheese, a few toasted almonds or pecans and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My dessert favourite is finely sliced on butter puff pastry or layers of fillo, sprinkled with sugar and baked to make a galette.

You should also look out for plums – the best from Forbes, Swan Hill and Cobram are coming into season right now – especially Amber Jewel and Black Amber varieties. Eat them fresh or poach them with spicy spices such as cloves, star anise and ginger and serve as an easy dessert with a scoop of vanilla yoghurt or ice-cream. This week a friend served very ripe plums, brushed with egg white and rolled in sugar then frozen for an hour and a half – amazing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Celebrity dish … Matt Preston, food journalist, restaurant critic, and television presenter

The second series of MasterChef returns to our tv screens later this year. Whether or not you think it should be called MasterCook, it has engaged the Australian public, kids in particular who now talk about “plating up”. So I thought we might get the inside scoop from one of the judges.
Although Matt was an experienced writer in his native UK, it was not till he came to Australia that he started writing about food and soon made his mark, winning “Best New Writer” in the Australian Food Media Awards when I was President of the Food Media Club Australia (now the Australian Association of Food Professionals).

What is your earliest food memory: A casserole from my grandmother’s wood-fired aga or a World Cup Willy nougat bar.

What is the strangest meal you’ve ever been served: A meal at El Bulli that included a plate of rose petals, undercooked kidney and another dish of ice. Grilled scorpion was also pretty weird.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Australia Day in the Hastings Region

This post is a little late, however I wanted to share with you my special Australia Day experience at Port Macquarie and the Hastings Region.

The Australia Day Ambassador program has been running for 21 years and, briefly, allows for Australians from diverse backgrounds to be involved in local community celebrations and share their experiences and national pride around the country. This year there were over 320 Ambassadors nationally and 165 in NSW from various backgrounds such as sport, medical research, music, the arts and, of course, food and wine!
Some of this year’s Ambassadors

I am very proud to have been involved with this program as an Ambassador for the past eight years and this year was lucky to be welcomed by the kind and generous people of Port Macquarie and the Hastings Region. My two day visit was packed with activities, including: delivering my own Australia Day address, participating in emotionally moving citizenship ceremonies, helping make community awards and getting to know the area. Made that much more special as I have a very special god-daughter who lives there.

I had a fantastic time and fell in love all over again with the great produce from the Hastings, especially Ricardo’s tomatoes and strawberries. But as I said in my address regionalism is not only about the produce in an area, but about the people who live there, and what they do in their communities.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Well RED (and FED) in Port Macquarie – Ricardo’s tomatoes and strawberries

When I was in Port Macquarie as an Australia Day Ambassador I dropped in to Ricardo’s – around 10 minutes drive from town and just down the road from Cassegrain Winery where I attended Oysters in the Vines.
Anthony Sarks and his tomatoes

The farm, farm-gate produce shop and adjoining Café Red are run by brothers Anthony and Richard (‘Ricardo’) Sarks, who planted their first crop of tomatoes back in 2002 and now produce over one million annually.

Farmed hydroponically, the varieties include: Conchita cocktail tomato, Flavorino mini roma style and full size Tradiros. Obscenely red, sweet yet sharp and incredibly juicy, Ricardo’s award winning tomatoes are among the best you’ll ever taste.