Acts of Kitchen: Cheryl and Bec

AoK_logo_v2In which I discuss waffles and donuts, and announce that Patreon patrons at the $2 level and above will now have access to a Slack where you can chat to me and other folks…

Cheryl is Flag and Spear

Check out some of imbue’s previous events! (I went to the Brunch one.)

Bec is In the Art of Entertaining (website coming soon but the picture is from the brunch I attended)

Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook: the food

Julie Goodwin's Essential CookbookThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It’s out now; RRP $39.99.

Yesterday I talked about the book as an object; today I will discuss some of the recipes I’ve followed.

Because this is aiming to be an ‘essential’ for the Australian family, I thought I should make some things that I was already pretty familiar with, to be able to see how these compare with things I’ve already made.


Osso bucco. I don’t always – in fact, never – brown the meat before throwing in the slow-cooker, but I did this time. The recipe isn’t specifically for a slow cooker but it is suggested as an option at the top of the recipe.

Cheesy meatballs: stuff a piece of mozzarella inside straightforward meatballs (3/4 pork, 1/4 beef) that already have parmesan in them too? Oh heck yes I am there for that. These were great, and easy.

Chicken and chorizo paella: very tasty, very easy. Not Goodwin’s fault that I kept itching to stir it because I have way more experience with cooking risotto.

Cannelloni: stuffed with ricotta and peas and pine nuts, wrapped in fresh lasagne, baked with a tomato sauce. These were fantastic; I’ve not used fresh lasagne sheets before and it’s a great idea (cut in three, width-ways).


IMG_1431.JPGScones! I have made scones before, and have recently discovered that the point is to mix them very lightly. Goodwin makes this point strongly. They weren’t perfect but that’s my fault: I didn’t turn the oven on early enough so it wasn’t as hot as it should have been, and my guest was arriving soon… so I had to cook them for longer than prescribed. Nonetheless they were quite tasty, and as light in texture as I had hoped. I am intrigued by the notion of adding lemon zest; I didn’t add as much zest as suggested (three lemons’ worth) partly because I wasn’t going to make the curd (next time, Gadget) and partly because I didn’t want the lemon to overwhelm the jam I was going to use (it was Kate’s jam, so you know… gotta let stars have their moments). The zest was definitely an excellent addition and I’ll be adding it from now on.

Apple crumble slice: I had to leave out the almonds because I was taking them to a nut-free venue, but nonetheless this was very tasty and successful. They kinda tasted like blondies, so I’m tempted to add white chocolate next time; I would also add more apple, as “three Granny Smiths” is not specific enough.


The recipes are easy to follow and those I’ve tried are great. This falls under what I guess would be “modern Australian” cooking: Beef Wellington, apple crumble, Victoria sponge and lamb sausage rolls; Greek chicken tray bake, coq au vin, Vietnamese fish curry, and Lebanese chicken… I have no hesitation in recommending this to someone just starting out in cooking, or someone who wants a good all-round home cooking book because they have plenty of speciality books already.

Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook: the book

Julie Goodwin's Essential CookbookThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. RRP $39.99; out now.

This is an overview of the book as an object; I’ll discuss some of the recipes tomorrow.

The cover makes this seem like it’s going to be all about baking; it most definitely is not. In fact, baking and dessert are a relatively small portion of the book.

In her introduction, Goodwin says this is “a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love”. It’s home cooking, not Palomar. So it’s much more my sort of thing.

The book is divided into sensible but also intriguing chapters: Eggs; Meat; Poultry; Seafood; Sauces, soups, and dips; Vegetables and Preserves; Baking; and Desserts. In that order. They largely make sense, although sauces, soups, and dips isn’t intuitive to me. What I do like is that each chapter has differently coloured page numbers, and they progress down the side of the page so all teal Egg pages are grouped, and so on. Easy to flick to the chapter you want just by looking at the edge of the book.

The meat section is divided into beef, pork, and lamb, while poultry is chicken, duck, turkey and quail. Seafood is shellfish, fish, squid and octopus. The vegetable chapter is mains, sides, salads, dressings, pickles and preserves. Each chapter has a short introduction to the chapter. This is fairly extensive for the meat chapters, with information about how to cook different cuts.

Not all of the recipes fit onto one page, which could be a bit annoying if you need to flick back for ingredients. I think this is partly because not every recipe has a picture, so you’re getting more recipes into the book (only 310 pages including index etc) than you otherwise might. It just means you need to take that into consideration. The recipe pages themselves are set out with nice wide margins, and nice spaces between each step, so it’s straightforward to figure out where you’re up to (and add notes if necessary); the headings for each recipe are easy to find and the ingredients are a different colour from the method, which I really like. What photos there are are generally indicative of the finished product, and don’t come across as TOO highly workshopped. The index seems quite thorough.

As an object, this is a nice book. It’s got perfect binding and the flop is surprisingly good. The paper is thick enough that splatters aren’t going to ruin it and I’ll be able to write on them without going through to the page behind.  The front and back covers have half-flaps, which I personally like to use as bookmarks.

A couple of nit-picks: in the Cook’s Note, Goodwin says that for her, shallots are “the long green onions that are sometimes called spring onions”. I found this quite surprising since I don’t remember coming across an Australian author who didn’t just use spring onions! And in the baking section, there’s an instruction to whip eggs and sugar until there’s a ribbon… and in the next recipe, there’s an explanation of what “a ribbon” actually looks like. I can only assume that the recipes were originally in a different order.

I got to interview Julie briefly, too.

Acts of Kitchen: Jo runs a cafe

AoK_logo_v2In which I make hot cross buns and cook from Julie Goodwin’s new cookbook (my interview with Julie), and chat to the wonderful Jo, who runs John Gorilla. (You really want to follow their Instagram account, too.)

My Patreon: recipes and postcards and even food!

Hot cross buns! From Bake Class.


Interview: Julie Goodwin

Julie Goodwin2017.jpg

Julie Goodwin was Australia’s first MasterChef. You can find her online, where there’s a bunch of great recipes as well as information about classes that Julie runs.

Tell me how you came to cooking. Is it something you’ve been doing since childhood, or came to later?

I have some great memories of cooking with Mum as a kid, but it was really only when I had my own kitchen to mess up that I really got started. Part of that was coming to the realisation that if I was going to eat nice food, I would have to work out how to cook nice food!

 Who are your inspirations when it comes to cooking?

My food philosophy of sharing meals and entertaining comes from my mum. Other cooks who I greatly admire are Margaret Fulton, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and Nigella Lawson.

Do you have a favourite ingredient? 

It’s hard to pick one favourite ingredient but I get nervous if I don’t have eggs, lemons and garlic in the house.

Are there ingredients or techniques that scare you?

I’ll give anything a go, I’m not scared because I’m not scared of failing. I reckon if you’re not having a kitchen disaster every now and then you’re probably spending too much time inside your comfort zone!

Cooking is one thing; compiling a cookbook is something quite different! You’ve got a number of books under your belt now; what inspires you about creating them? 

I find food inspiration everywhere – when I visit friends, or travel, read books or magazines or talk with other food lovers. My latest book was really inspired by the fact that my three sons are now all young adults, and I wanted a book for them that would teach them what they needed to know – the building blocks of cooking, along with the recipes we have enjoyed over the years.

In ten years’ time, what would you like to have achieved or changed?

Julie Goodwin's Essential CookbookGosh, considering what the past ten years has held I can barely even begin to speculate where the next ten years will take me. I’ll work hard, keep my eyes open for opportunities, and who knows what the next ten years will bring!

Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook
($39.99), published by Hachette Australia, is out today. 


25 years of Nebbiolo

IMG_1436 copyI enjoy wine, but I am by no means a connoisseur. For me, going to an event like this (with friends Gillian and Andrew), is an interesting exercise – doing a vertical tasting of the same variety of wine to see if I can actually taste a difference in them. It’s also usually more about the food and company though.

Organised as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, this was a celebration of Pizzini Wines having made wine, and especially nebbiolo, for a quarter of a century. We didn’t get to drink any of that first vintage because they drank it all…

IMG_1437.JPGIn the first bracket, I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I really didn’t enjoy the 1993, although it did actually improve with some air (I’ve always been a bit sceptical of this claim). The 1995 was definitely my favourite of this trio, although the 1997 was also fine. The 21st century wines, however, were far more to my liking. The 2004 in particular was very drinkable… we later discovered that this vintage was stored in new oak, which basically equates to sugar in wine-making terms; thus, no surprises. The 2006 was fine – I would drink it although it wouldn’t be my choice; I found it too dry – and and 2011 was a bit meh, although it too improved with some air; it didn’t have quite the flavour of the 2004. The last pair were intended to be a bit special, and they certainly were. Sometimes I have tasted wine that’s meant to be all ‘this is the reason we have a top shelf’ and I’m all ”I’d pay $25 a bottle”. The 1998 magnum was quite tasty. The 2004 Coronamento, though, was definitely the best wine of the evening. I don’t have the training to use all the proper wine-snob words, so all I can say is: it was very, very tasty.

The vertical tasting was definitely worth it in that sense – the same grape tasting different based on growing conditions and time in bottle and all those sorts of things. It was a good education in that.

…well, the Coronamento was the best nebbiolo, anyway. Because not listed here was the final wine we tried: we tried it out of a cask, because it hasn’t actually been bottled yet. I don’t know if it has a name but it’s made from trebbiano grapes, is a dessert wine, and whooooaa. A. Maze.

The food was provided by Project 49, in the restaurant which isn’t officially open yet. The first course was a wee plate of four types of mushrooms, accompanied by a white bean puree and truffle paste with dehydrated/rehydrated mushrooms and was spectacular. Next was a risotto of pine nut, pear, pear, ash… and rabbit. And it was also amazing. Then main was two thick slices of a pan-fried sausage, which was a bit like chorizo and all caramelly from the frying and delicious, with lentil and pickled radish. So good. Dessert was fig-leaf pan cotta and rhubarb, with a hazelnut shortbread. Overall, I enjoyed the food more than the wine (except for the trebbiano); this is no reflection on Pizzini and absolutely a reflection on me!

The event was well-organised, with quite a small number of people and tables fairly well spaced – it was still a pretty loud environment, thank you concrete floors, but it was bearable. There were four members of the Pizzini family present (it’s family owned and run), with one at each table, and they were pleasant and generous with their time and knowledge. Papa Pizzini should have been made to use notes, though, when he spoke… The Project 49 staff were delightful, and the food as noted was excellent.

Poshing it up

IMG_1425.JPGA while back I interviewed my dear friend Alison. This year marks the 20th anniversary of us knowing each other, so we went on a date to the State Library of Victoria for high tea.

High tea was part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The idea behind it was to have food inspired by some of the collection that the SLV has: there’s heaps of ephemera from various people important to Victoria’s history including place cards-cum-menus for dinner parties, an awesome fold-out fan menu from a Melbourne Cricket Club event, old Jimmy Watson menus, and what is apparently the oldest cookbook printed in Australia: one for different flavours of ice cream. We got to see a bunch of this stuff – it’s not usually on display, so that was fun.

IMG_1429.JPGThe food was also good. The prosecco was lovely and the English breakfast tea not stewed, which is always a concern… The sandwiches were delicious, with the chicken and pear and basil being quite a surprise but definitely a winner. I think my favourite of the sweet things was the chocolate waffle tartlet with salted caramel; I ate the popcorn but eh, I always think it’s a waste of space. The scones were not as light as I had expected; they were still tasty, as was the jam. The bachelor’s buttons were the big surprise – really quite tasty. And oh look, a recipe from the National Museum!

It was one of those sit-with-other-people events. We were the only people not with our mothers, on our table (one group was three generations). It was a very popular Christmas gift apparently.

It was a lovely event, in a lovely space.

Acts of Kitchen: Shalini on food and family and the CWA

AoK_logo_v2In which I experiment with not-meatballs and Shalini talks about growing up Fiji Indian, curries, baking, experimenting, and being a founding member of a new, city-based CWA (Country Women’s Association).

The not-meatballs I made.

I set up a Patreon page!