Port Poached Pears

As you know, my preference is to eat by the seasons and incorporate seasonal produce into my cooking daily. There are so many benefits to this! To name a few: the produce is at its optimum taste, it lasts longer, it is least expensive, and with less food miles to travel it is better for the environment.

Pears are in season right now and this elegant dessert is a winner at a dinner party. Shapely pears standing upright in a puddle of deeply coloured syrup – what’s not to love? These Port Poached Pears are best made the day before to allow the flavours to infuse, and can be served either hot or cold. Serve with mascarpone or crème fraiche alongside a glass of liqueur muscat, and you will be sure to be the host(ess) with the most(ess)!

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Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower au Gratin (aka Cauliflower Cheese) is always popular on a winter table. With cauliflower in season (and now affordable), it would be a shame not to make this at least once or twice while the weather is chilly. My version uses Gruyère cheese to make it extra special, but a mature cheddar would also be a good choice. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try a smoked cheddar or even a flavoured cheese! Serve this as a side to any roast or winter dish like Braised Lamb Shanks or Osso Buco. You can vary the recipe by substituting some of all of the cauliflower with blanched broccoli or fennel (also both in season).

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Fettuccine Carbonara

Nothing says comfort food like pasta, especially if it’s fresh and home-made. Pair that with a Carbonara sauce and you have a winner! There are many versions of Carbonara sauce, and this is my take on the classic, which contrary to popular belief is traditionally made without cream. Unlike the original Roman recipe, mine uses pancetta instead of guanciale (which can sometimes be hard to find), Parmesan instead of Pecorino, and a little garlic for extra taste. Of course if you can get your hands on guanciale and Pecorino, go for it! And use dried commercial pasta if you must.

Now if you already know how to make fresh pasta and have the gear to make it, I highly recommend putting in the effort. If you’ve always fantasised about making fresh pasta but have no idea how to go about it, I recommend taking a cooking class to learn this valuable skill. Our cooking school life’s a feast, which we are excited to announce is reopening on the 18th July after our period of forced hibernation, offers two pasta making classes: Pasta Making & Italian Sauces and Advanced Pasta Making.  In our interactive, hands-on classes, I guarantee you will be making perfect pasta in no time. I look forward to seeing you in our kitchen soon!

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Dutch Pea & Ham Soup (Erwtensoep)

Many years ago before I made food my career, I worked in the corporate world and my job took me to The Netherlands for a three year assignment. Yes, I survived three long winters (not to mention three pitiful summers). In fact, two of the three winters I spent there were so cold the canals of Amsterdam froze, and it was possible to ice skate from my front door!

To stay warm in these freezing temperatures, it was necessary to nourish oneself with plenty of hearty comfort food. This traditional Dutch winter soup certainly fulfils the brief: made with split peas, ham and packed full of vegetables, this soup is more like a stew. The Dutch claim that Erwtensoep should be so thick that you can stand a spoon upright in it!

All the vegetables used in this soup are in season and readily available at this time of the year, as are ham hocks. This is really a main-meal soup, as you are well and truly satisfied after a bowl of it. However, if you prefer to serve it as an entree, just serve small portions. Erwtensoep is traditionally served with addition of smoked sausage but this is optional.

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Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Being a staunch advocate of OzHarvest, I am always looking for ways to reduce food waste.  Nasi Goreng (which literally means “fried rice” in Indonesian), is typically a dish made from leftovers.  This is an authentic recipe which we cook in our Indonesian Banquet Cooking Class, and was passed down from my Mother-in-law who grew up in Indonesia. Whilst we use Speck (smoked pork) in the cooking class, you can use whatever leftover meat you have. It’s a great way to use leftover cooked rice (which you can freeze for later use), and feel free to add any leftover vegetables.

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Braised Lamb Shanks

This is one of my favourite winter recipes when the temperatures get really chilly, as they did last weekend. Tender lamb, falling off the bone in a rich and tasty sauce of vegetables, wine and seasonings. Who can resist?

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Sweet Roasted Carrots

With temperatures plummeting, it’s the perfect time of year to fire up the oven and cook a homely roast. Whenever I have the oven in use I like to maximise its space, so I will invariably find something else to throw in there too. This side dish accompanies any roast very well, and indeed most main courses. Roasting carrots enhances their flavour due to the caramelisation process, making them sweet and irresistible. And with prep time under 10 minutes, it’s super simple as well as delicious.

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Smoked Salmon & Basil Mini Frittatas

With Covid-19 restrictions starting to ease, picnics are a great way to reconnect with friends (in Queensland we are permitted groups of up to 10 from this weekend). These frittatas are a cinch to make and are perfect picnic food as they can be made up to 24 hours in advance. They are also wonderful served at a cocktail party, or as part of an antipasto platter.

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Stir Fried Beef with Szechuan Peppercorns and Vegetables

Another mid-week marvel that I make regularly, this Chinese-style stir fry packs a punch thanks to the Szechuan peppercorns and fresh chilli. You can replace the beef with either chicken or pork, and substitute beans, asparagus or other vegetables for the snow peas.

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Pasta with Broccoli, Garlic, Anchovies and Chilli

This is a go-to mid-week meal at my place when I need to have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. It’s tasty and satisfying plus you’ll get a good serving of greens. Serve it with a mixed salad and a glass of pinot grigio and you’ll feel like you’re dining in the best Italian restaurant in town!

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