Cooking Across 4 Generations

Using recipes collected from 4 generations of one family


July 2011

So what do you like to cook the most?

This is a question I invariably get asked when ever someone finds out I am a chef. This usually causes me to pause and try to think of an answer. Most of the time I just say one thing I like to cook and then change the subject. So what do I like to cook the most? I really like to cook desserts and sweet things.

But I also like to try cooking new things that I may never have tried before. For example one of the chefs was sick on Saturday and the macarons needed to be made for the show dinner. Having never made them before, I decided to jump in and give them a hand by making the macarons. Wow they aren’t that scary to make, although they don’t compare to what we had a t Laduree in Tokyo they were still pretty good.

I also used to be a bit wary of souffles but heck now I will cook one up if I feel like it. Same with brulee, love knocking up a batch at work. Even molecular gastronomy techniques are something I want to try so who knows, on one of the menus for our wine dinners there may be something a little scientific(really want to try some’caviar’ making). I guess you could say I really like to cook things I haven’t tried to cook before. It gives me a challenge and sense of achievement.

I also really like to cook the things my Grandmother and Mother taught me. I sometimes have an urge to bake, but there being only two of us a whole cake is excessive, so I usually put it on hold. I could say as an answer to the question, “I really like to cook things that I was taught by Mum and Nan and things I haven’t yet tried.”

Another comment that usually gets directed to Rene when someone finds out a I am a chef is “wow so you must eat really well at home having a chef for a wife”. Unfortunately poor Rene doesn’t always get a restaurant quality meal. When chefs get home we usually like to keep it a little more simple and basic. Rene would probably get more exciting things if I didn’t work nights, so he gets lots of stir fries and pastas that are quick and simple for him to reheat. There are three nights a week where I am home, so then I get to do things a bit more complicated for him.

So if you meet me please don’t ask me what I like to cook. You know now.

Thanks for dropping in!!

Wishing for Sunny Days and Watermelons

This cold weather we are having has me wishing for summer. My recent post on our judging night had me craving watermelon.

Watermelon is one of my favourite summer fruits. Having done the compressed watermelon salad for the Chefs Table competition and our Taste Tasmania dinner at work, I now see it as more versatile than just a fruit to eat by itself.

I like a cocktail of watermelon chunks, vodka, cointreau and melon liqueur blended up with ice to form a slushy. Perfect summer drink.

The watermelon salad that we did at work, is very simple. Chunks of melon, mint leaves cut to julienne, Persian fetta(nice and creamy), pistachio nuts, extra virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon, finley diced olives. If you have some rosewater lying around a couple of drops adds an exotic touch of the middle east. If you have a dehydrator, remove the seeds from the olives and then dry the flesh. Grind it up in a mortar and pestle, you will see it is still moist due to the oils, return to dehydrator on paper towel for a little bit until quite dry. Sprinkle a little of the olive dust over the salad in place of the diced olives.

Growing up in the Hunter Valley, when we wanted watermelon we would drive off to the watermelon man. This was a local farmer who would drive his tractor to the edge of town with his freshly picked melons. Rush home so Mum could cut it in to wedges for us and then we would sit out on the back step eating our melon. Seeds of course had to be dealt with, so we simply spat them out on to the grass. Eating melon is not the same if you can’t spit the seeds out.

Of course for special occassions we had to have a melon basket( how 1970’s is that). Mum or Nan would shape the watermelon in to a basket and then we would help ball the watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melon, and put it all back in to the basket. Of course there were plenty of off cut bits for us to eat while we worked.

Thanks for dropping by to see my latest post! Roll on spring and summer!!!

Escape to Auckland

After all this time and global travel Rene and I never quite made it New Zealand before, despite it only being a three hour flight from Sydney. This is quite surprising considering that my Aunt lived there for several years, and my Nan and Pa went quite a few times as well.

The ‘City of Sails’ was our first foray into this magical country and we weren’t disappointed. Auckland sprawls over a narrow isthmus between the sparkling waters of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours. A cloak of rainforest covers the surrounding hills, dozens of dormant volcanic cones dot the landscape and enchanting holiday islands are scattered throughout the vast Hauraki Gulf. It is also a city that lovingly keeps it’s heritage buildings intact while allowing modern developments to be incorporated into the cityscape.

Staying in luxury at the Langham Hotel gave us a good vantage point to explore what the city had to offer. We hadn’t realised just how hilly Auckland is, which gave us plenty of exercise as we walked from and to the Langham on our daily walks in to the city centre.

Of course we paid a visit to Auckland Sky Tower which is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Next time we will perhaps try the bungee jump from the top of the tower.


We were pleasantly surprised by some of the unique speciality food and drink venues that the city has on offer.

One of our favourite places for lunch, and judging by the lunchtime crowds the locals must agree, was  Elliott Stables in Elliott Street. This is a fantastic collection of little cafes and restaurants. It is organised  with  restaurants, bar and cafes around the edges of a seating area. While you order and pay at each outlet, meals are delivered to your table when they are ready. There is even a bottle shop and a well stocked whisky/whiskey shop. An added bonus is the Kapiti Dairy shop on the corner for some ice cream or cheese, which makes for a great end to a meal.

For such a petite city the nightlife had some surprising atmosphere, we enjoyed having a few drinks at the Northern Steamship Co. Brewbar which is located in the 130 year old headquarters of the Northern Steamship Co. Of particular interest were the upside down floor lamps(real retro) which made it even more funky not to mention the fabulous Macs beer. They even have pots of hop plants growing, very apt for a brew bar. Northern Steamship Co is owned by the well regarded Macs Brewery in New Zealand.

Vulcan Lane was another great place to spend time when you are hungry and thirsty. All manner of food and drink is available in this heritage lane. Many of the restaurants and cafesin Vulcan Lane also retainthe heritage feel in their interior decor. Laneways such as this are something that Sydney desperately needs. Even the adaptation of heritage bank buildings in to restaurants was a great reuse of spaces. One such example that we stumbled upon was O’Connell Street Bistro. Ambience is as important as the food and O.S.B. does both really well.

The highlight of our holiday was definitely a private tour of Villa Maria Estate’s Auckland Winery. The winery was founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich who, through his dedication to quality, has led Villa Maria to become the New Zealand wine icon it is today. Villa Maria Estate is New Zealand’s most awarded winery and remains proudly family owned.

The winery is not far from Auckland airport so we hired one of the cute Langham cars (Toyota IQ) to get there.

The Auckland vineyard is situated at the winery site in the base of an extinct volcano, on the Ihumatao peninsula in Mangere.

Auckland enjoys a warm coastal climate without extreme temperatures which suit the twenty hectares of vines that are planted at the Auckland winery.

The vineyard park with its volcanic soils, is planted with Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Verdelho. The vines are predominantly Gewurztraminer as the variety has a history of producing excellent examples of this style in the Auckland wine region.

We met Mary Winstone, Ville Maria’s guest co-ordinator who took us through to meet Mark Polglase(cellar door manager) and Ian Clark(export and PR manager). We left Mark to organise the wines for us while Ian took us on a tour of the Villa Maria production facilities. Villa Maria’s very modern and efficient facilities were amazing to see. The use of eco friendly systems for lighting, heating and cooling was very interesting to observe. Generally when we make a trip to the Hunter Valley here in Australia we go for the tour at Tyrrell’s Winery. Being an old winery the history of the place and the retention of old methods/equipment is on display. It was therefore an eye opening experience to see the more modern machinery, with a huge emphasis on being as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible being used at Villa Maria.

Bottling was a very exciting sight to, even more so given the focus on sustainability. It is rather noisy in the bottling room, and they fill and cap around12,000 bottles per hour.

Now we turned to the serious side of the visit, the wine tasting and we weren’t disappointed. We arrived at the tasting table to be confronted by 12 bottles of wine lined up ready for us.  I was the driver was so I was only able to taste and spit while  Rene got to taste and swallow.

The wines we tasted were:

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Villa Maria Cellar selection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris 2010

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Gris 2010

Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay 2010

Villa Maria Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2009

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2009

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2009

Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot 2009

Villa Maria Private Bin Syrah 2008

After our tasting session we were invited for lunch in the Villa Maria restaurant. Set in the cellar room which opens on to a broad terrace, it has a spectacular view of the vines. Not only does Villa Maria operate the restaurant, but there are also several options for functions depending on the size required. They also have picnic catering available for when they have entertainment in the vines( eg Sir Elton John).  I enjoyed a wild pork and game rillete with plum, apple and ginger relish, poppy seed toast and micro salad, while Rene had seared tuna pepper crusted with anchovy, basil, roast capsicum and caper salad followed by oven baked lamb rack  with crushed new potatoes, bean, olive and truss tomato salad, tahini dressing. We also enjoyed a lovely lemon curd tart for dessert. Our meals were delicious and greatly enhanced by the beautiful views and wines. After our visit to Villa Maria it was back to the hotel for a much needed afternoon nap.

We enjoyed a relaxing, slightly wet, but quick week of enjoying some of what Auckland had to offer. We will definitely be heading back again to explore more of Auckland and New Zealand.

As the Maori would say: Ka kite anō (see you again!)

Photos from our judging night…

You may remember in an earlier post, that my partner chef Rachel and I got through to the finals of Clubs NSW Chef’s Table. We had our judging event on the 28th March 2011.

I got back from my holiday to Auckland on Saturday 26th March and next day(still on holidays) I went in to work to start prep for the competition. As some things really needed to be done the day before it was necessary to go in. So first up a few photos of the prep as I went along.

The first thing I needed to get on was our slow cooked feather steak. This is an oyster blade that is slow cooked then lightly compressed before being cut in to steaks. I seared the meat then sauted some vegies and garlic deglazed with a bit (ok 1.5 litres) of shiraz added a bit of stock and then covered it all and cooked it for 3 hours on a low temperature. Nice and easy dish.

I also needed to get the pannacottas set to go with the feather steak. Pannacotta, I hear you say? We needed to have mushrooms somewhere in the menu. So a little play time resulted in mushroom pannacotta with red wine jelly. First step was to make the jelly, set it and then top with the pannacotta mix which also needed to set. As we needed to have exact measurements out came the syringe to measure exactly 10 mls jelly and scales to weigh exactly 50 mls of pannacotta.

Next up was a batch of brioche dough for the bread and butter pudding. I love making this bread it is so easy.

So from the bread to the finished product, Brioche Bread and Butter puddings with Pecans, Maple Syrup and Mascarpone Ice-cream. I love making mascarpone ice cream. Sweet but with a touch of acidity from the mascarpone. Of course we made our own mascarpone, so much cheaper and tastier than bought.

Mushroom beignets to accompany our feather steak.

Some photos of how we set the room up. We had the “A Team” of waiting staff for the night Ernesto and Di. They did such a great job of setting up the restaurant and serving the meals, having them both working the floor made our job a breeze.

And finally some photos of the plated meals.

We had a great night at the awards ceremony too and congratulations to the winners Elanora Country Club – Paul Sanders & Christopher Devine.

Thanks for having a look and yes we are already starting to plan for next year!

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