When kitchens were built around large hearths and blackened pots bubbled while suspended over hot coals, pot roasting was a popular technique used to transform cheap cuts of meat into flavourful meals. Not much has changed. Sticking a chicken in a pot with some bacon, veggies and half a bottle of wine will result in a big flavoured, robust meal that will reward a decent appetite.
It’s the teamwork of the meat and the vegetables that I appreciate in a pot roast. They nestle together in the close quarters of a dutch oven, sharing cooking liquid, adding flavour and collaborating to produce a well-balanced offering. Continue reading →
A few spectacular storms and crisper, darker mornings have heralded the start of Autumn in Kyneton. The grass in the backyard is becoming less crunchy underfoot as it soaks up the rain, soothing its sunburn, and the pear and apple trees have started to give us their fruit.
This is my first Autumn in 18 months. The endless Spring/Summer afforded to me from a cross-hemisphere move six months ago has been delightful. I’ve had a year of juicy stone fruit, fragrant tomatoes, crisp lettuce (some of which I grew myself), barbecued meat and long, warm evenings sitting outside with friends.
But as I pack away Summer, preserving fruit, making tomato sauce and pulling up the bolted lettuce, I’m anxious to start a new season of cooking. The produce at the Farmers Markets is also in transition and my basket had a bit of each season in it this week. When I spied a bundle of watercress I also picked up a potato and some spinach to go with the broth I had bubbling away in the slow cooker at home. It’s (finally) time for soup! Continue reading →
If you have an egg, you have a meal. Eggs are wonderfully flexible and will happily lend themselves to an otherwise boring dish to make it a tasty feed. A scrapped together mess of lentils and leftover veggies becomes a treat with a fried egg on top. And yesterday’s rice gets a second life when fried with onion, sloshed with soy sauce and served with a well-seasoned, chopped omelette stirred through.
My fondness for eggs has grown in direct correlation to my increased access to fresh eggs. Living in a country town means I now have friends with chooks and I am gifted a dozen eggs relatively regularly. The difference in colour and flavour of these eggs to the ones sitting on supermarket shelves is vast. Cracking an egg and seeing a bright buttercup yolk is enough to make me very happy. Turning those eggs into simple but beautiful meals is even better.
Recently a friend reminded me of a dish I used to serve up very regularly. If you came to my house for dinner circa 2006, it is highly likely you ate this dish. It had all the elements required for a casual dinner party; simple ingredients, no real recipe required, easily expandable to feed a few extra, quick to prepare, and impressive enough to serve to guests. My friend liked it so much that after only a brief explanation of how to cook it, it went into heavy rotation in her house and is still going strong. And now it’s made a comeback in my kitchen.
Placing a hot, steaming baking dish in the middle of a table with a big serving spoon is my idea of a good time. I like starting a communal meal with the shared experience of passing plates around the table, arms reaching over to scoop large servings of something delicious, wine glasses clinking as they’re shuffled around making room for the salad bowl to do a lap of the table. An atmosphere is created; an open, casual one of giving and receiving, setting the tone for the conversation to follow.
Uprooting oneself and moving to the other side of the world is a delicate business. Like repotting a plant, it’s relatively easy to pull up a life by its stem and place it elsewhere. But it takes time, attention, the right conditions and a welcoming environment for a life to thrive in its new location.
I’ve spent the last three months finding a good pot to plant myself in back home in Australia. The desire I felt in NYC to slow down and focus on the things that make me happy has lead me to something new: a country life.
Last week I moved to Kyneton, a small town nestled in the Macedon Ranges, about an hour from Melbourne. 6,629 other people live here, which is around 8.2 million less than New York City. I have traded in my Brooklyn apartment for a large weatherboard home with a garden that boasts an apple and pear tree, and my new oven is roughly the same size as my Williamsburg kitchen (only a slight exaggeration). Life is definitely slower. And so far, I’m loving it.
All this decision-making and moving is hunger making work. And as Spring unfurled its petals here in Australia I found myself craving comfort food, but on the lighter side. Well, lighter if you call adding some mint and lemon to a lovely, fried hunk of cheese “light”.
Here I am on holidays! And I am enamoured with California. We’ve driven from the foggy, rugged coast of the north to the searing heat and modernist architecture in the southern desert. The diversity and beauty has been startling and I’ve loved getting to know the West Coast. Next stop is Oregon and Washington by way of a camper van – more adventures ahead!
I’m taking a moment out from sitting by the pool at the deliciously mid-century Ace Hotel in Palm Springs (I know. Tough life, right?) to share a recipe of mine that has just been published in a magazine, a real-life printed magazine! Remedy Quarterly is a lovely little journal full of food writing and recipes. The latest issue is centred on the theme of Discovery and I wrote about my discovery of cooking as a way to find my sense of home in New York City. I shared this recipe for baked mushrooms that I cooked at least once a week over Winter.
The furnace that powers the NYC summer is burning at full capacity this week. That, combined with the fact that my apartment is in various stages of disarray in preparation for the international move, has meant that cooking has been nonexistent. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying goodbye dinners at some of my favourite restaurants (Momofuku, Diner, Porsena, ABC Kitchen, any Mexican, Fat Radish – I will miss them all!) which has left my kitchen lonely. But I did need to eat something at home, and this salad was perfect. No cooking – just assembling.
Next week is my last week in New York City. I’m in the process of packing up my little apartment and sending everything home to Australia where I will join it in September after travelling down the West Coast of America (ROAD TRIP! Sightseeing suggestions welcome…).
New York is a city that changes you. It becomes a character in your story that exerts its influence whether you like it or not. New York made me focus. It made me prioritise what was important in my life, because there is no way you can do everything it offers. I was quite surprised to find that my priorities included simple, uncontrived things: cooking, friends, family, nature. The antithesis to a pulsating metropolis.
When I’ve told seasoned New Yorkers that I’m leaving, a look of pity crosses their faces and they nod in an understanding way. “You couldn’t take the pace”, they state, implying that they are made of tougher stuff than I. They may be right. Or I just miss home, the ocean, and stars. And a slower pace of life. And Melbourne coffee shops. I have loved my time here and will miss the convenience, the culture and the variety of people and experiences I encountered every day. Those interactions will stay with me as I head home to a wide open sky.
I’ll still be blogging while I’m travelling, though not as often as I have been. Here’s to new adventures! Continue reading →
One thing I miss about Australia is easy access to fresh, aromatic and cheap Southeast Asian food. I have cravings for a steaming bowl of rare beef Pho topped with fragrant Vietnamese mint, a squeeze of lemon and a squirt of chilli sauce that’s so hot it makes my nose run. Or a big mound of Pad Thai noodles piled with crushed peanuts, spring onions, fresh bean sprouts and herbs.
Although I miss my local Thai take-away, you will not find me complaining about the plethora of fantastic and cheap Mexican restaurants nearby in Brooklyn (that deliver!). I have happily swapped Southeast Asia for Mexico when in need of a I-can’t-be-bothered-cooking Thursday night meal. But this week I wanted a simple taste of Asia. And I had a picnic to cater, so a noodle salad was made. Continue reading →
On a late-summer evening many years ago, I followed my Lonely Planet guidebook down a tiny street in Nice, France to find somewhere to eat socca, a traditional chickpea pizza served on the shores of the Mediterranean. The street was lit by the warm light of a restaurant that vibrated with the happy noises of people enjoying excellent food. I joined them, and was promptly served a chilled glass of rosé and a large plate holding a pancake-like base topped with glossy tomatoes and olives.
It was my first taste of the earthy, peppery socca, and it was not my last. I returned to that restaurant the next night and on other trips and have since started making socca at home. I can’t replicate the soft mediterranean sun or the atmosphere of the old town, but this recipe is almost fool-proof and definitely brings a little bit of Nice into my kitchen. Continue reading →