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    This is one of my favourite recipes in the book, due to my current adoration of anything containing chipotle! These are sticky and sweet and spicy and sour  –  a great option to cook up on a weekend and serve with cold beers.


    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced.
    2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, then add the ribs and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any fat from the surface from time to time.
    3. Whisk together the chipotle sauce, agave nectar, lime zest and juice, chilli and a good pinch of salt in a bowl until combined. 
    4. Place the ribs in a baking dish, cover with the sauce and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C fan-forced and roast for a further 1–1¼ hours, basting well every 15 minutes, or until the sauce is thick, glossy and caramelised. 
    5. Serve hot with lime wedges to the side and coriander scattered on top.
    Katie Quinn Davies
    Serves 4

    1.5 kg free-range baby back pork ribs

    1 cup (250 ml) chipotle sauce

    1 cup (250 ml) light agave nectar

    finely grated zest of 4 limes

    1 cup (250 ml) lime juice

    3 jalapeno chillies, seeded and finely sliced

    sea salt

    lime wedges and coriander, to garnish

    What Katie Ate: At the Weekend

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    These are incredibly naughty. You can cut them into squares, or into larger pieces and serve them warm for a dinner-party dessert with a good vanilla ice cream. When you are adding the butterscotch layer, don’t worry if it blends into the batter a bit, just spread it out as best you can. The side bits are the best as the caramel goes all sticky and chewy!


    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced and grease and line the base and sides of a 28 cm × 18 cm × 3 cm slice tin.
    2. For the salted butterscotch, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low–medium and simmer for 15–20 minutes until thickened and smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.
    3. Place the melted butter, kirsch or vanilla, sugar and eggs in a bowl and mix together. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa and combine well with a wooden spoon. Mix in the milk, then fold in the chocolate and cherries. 
    4. Spoon half the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Dollop with salted butterscotch, then top with the remaining batter. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until cooked through and the top is cracked a little. 
    5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
    Katie Quinn Davies
    Serves 12

    110 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled a little

    1 tablespoon kirsch liqueur or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    ½ cup (110 g) caster sugar

    3 free-range eggs

    ¾ cup (110 g) plain flour

    ½ teaspoon baking powder

    ½ cup (50 g) Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted

    2 tablespoons milk

    100 g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped

    250 g sour or morello cherries from a jar, drained well

    icing sugar, for dusting


    2/3 cup (150 g) firmly packed brown sugar

    1 cup (250 ml) thickened cream

    75 g unsalted butter, cubed

    ¼ teaspoon sea salt, crushed

    What Katie Ate: At the Weekend

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  • 09/10/14--17:44: Italy
  • In my mind, Italy is one of the most magical places on this planet. Despite the 24+ hour journey to get there from Sydney, it’s a place I fall in love with more and more each time I visit. The people, the landscapes, the history, the medieval towns, the language – I am smitten by it all, but in particular, the food, as well-noted over the years on my blog.

    Italian food is my favourite of all cuisines, and I love exploring all the regional cooking styles. Ergo, for my most recent vacation, rather than head back to my regular haunts of Siena and Tuscany, I decided to travel north to Venice and then onto Bologna to savour the culinary wonders this part of the country is famed for: parmesan cheese, cured meat, pork dishes and the most amazing balsamic vinegars I have ever tasted. 

    I started in Venice, a magical city I feel everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. I’ll never forget seeing the city for the first time on the super-fun water taxi ride from the airport, pinching myself that I was actually there – in Venice! – and marvelling at how utterly bizarre it is to see a city floating on the water. My parents used to have a painting of Venice hanging in our family home that I would gaze at for hours, and now, finally, I had made it here in the flesh!

    Visiting Italy in July is always going to mean a lot – note, a LOT – of tourists, so admittedly Venice was jam-packed with people, but it was wonderful to see the men in their striped tops paddling gondolas down the canals, ferrying around tourists who were all manically snapping away at everything with their cameras. I chose to splurge a bit on this trip and booked one of the most beautiful hotels in this fairytale-like city: the famed Gritti Palace. It was divine and offered a romantic view of the Grand Canal and across the water to Santa Maria della Salute; enjoying dinner there by candlelight is a memory I will savour for many years to come. 

    Next stop: Bologna. What an incredible city, which sadly is often overlooked by visitors to Italy. I was a little underwhelmed initially, but when night fell, this university town came to life. I loved it! It’s not half as touristy or expensive as Venice, and I got a very chilled and relaxed vibe from the town. 

    I decided to book myself on a food tour to get the best out of the city, the home of ragu alla bolognese. After the somewhat rude awakening of having to rise at 6 a.m. (on my holiday!), I was picked up at the hotel by a driver and joined seventeen others for an incredible day spent visiting a parmesan factory, prosciutto manufacturer and, best of all as I adore the stuff, an authentic Modena-based family-run boutique balsamic vinegar business. This was the highlight of my trip and even inspired me to fork out a few hundred dollars for a 100-year-old bottle of balsamic, which I bring out for special dinner parties at home. I learnt how 99 per cent of most balsamic vinegars – even the ones you see in gourmet shops for over $100 per bottle – are not, in fact, ‘proper’ balsamic, as the real stuff must be bottled in the authentic Modena balsamic bottle, and must only contain 100 per cent pure grape must, without any additional ingredients.

    The tour company was a hubby-and-wife set-up; the host, Alessandro, was crazy passionate, extremely knowledgeable and witty. He guided us expertly through a jam-packed, yet leisurely day – the highlight of which was a big group lunch where the food and wine flowed. Take it from me, a food tour is a must if you visit this area.

    From there I headed south to check out Capri and the Amalfi Coast, a place I had long heard about but never seen. After the fastest, scariest train ride/rocket journey in my life (no kidding, I think we hit 400 kilometres per hour at one point), I found myself in Naples in all its crazy glory. Sadly, however, it was just for a few hours (I will be back with my camera as the photo ops looked abundant), as then it was straight onto a ferry to Capri.

    Oh. My. God. Did someone say nirvana? Capri is stunning. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie; it was so colourful and incredibly pretty. I took the cable car up the hill to Piazza Umberto, the little town square located in the historic centre of Capri. Buzzing with people (all dressed in obligatory white) and the odd glamorous wedding, I was in awe of its beauty. I made my way up the narrow, winding white-walled streets, passing enormous Capri lemons tied in bunches outside shops, to find the hotel where I’d be staying for the next two nights; the uber-stylish Capri Tiberio Palace. It was very chic, and sparked my current obsession with hand-painted patterned tiles – they adorned the balcony of my room and I am now totally obsessed with them! A little further afield, I discovered the quieter and even more beautiful Anacapri, my favourite part of the island. It is a photographer’s dream, with abundant bright pink and purple flowers cascading down chalky white walls. 

    Of all the amazing places I visited on this trip, the one that stood out over all the rest was Positano, the most picturesque village nestled in a bay south of Naples, where the buildings look as though they’ve been stacked higgledy-piggledy, one above the other, rising up the hillside. I met a Canadian woman there who said she’s been back every year for the past twelve years, and I can understand why. As I sat on the ferry approaching Positano from Capri, I must have taken 1,985 photos as the boat pulled into the harbour. Never in my life have I seen such outstanding beauty. The various bright colours of the buildings crammed together climbing up the hill is utterly glorious. 

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  • 09/10/14--18:14: MoVida Solera
  • Journey with Frank Camorra as he searches for the traditional recipes of Andalusia in the south of Spain – a land of ancient cities, whitewashed villages, and plains planted with olive groves and vineyards. The largest and southernmost of Spain's regions, this is a place where cultures and cuisines have always collided and mingled.

    Frank meets the food and wine producers, farmers, fishermen, chefs and cooks who share the recipes they have cooked in their kitchens for generations. Along the way, he takes in riotous spring festivals, lively markets and peaceful sherry bodegas, and reveals his favourite places to eat, drink and stay. From an olive picker's breakfast to cuttlefish in saffron sauce and the smoky lamb skewers called pinchitos morunos, MoVida Solera is a celebration of Andalusian food and culture.

    400 pages
    Date Published: 
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    Available in eBook: 
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    MoVida Solera

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  • 09/10/14--18:44: Salt cod fritters
  • There are a handful of bars in Seville’s Plaza del Salvador, a small square opposite the baroque Iglesia del Salvador, or Church of the Saviour. I head here every time I am in town – for the bars, not the church. They now know me, not by name but by reputation: the big Australian chef and his ever-hungry crew. I come here for the delicious buñuelos de bacalao. Deep-fried yet light, fishy yet meaty, they are a good way to use up the lesser parts of the cod.


    1. Wash the excess salt off the salt cod fillet, then place in a large bowl. Cover with water and leave to soak for 36 hours, changing the water three times.
    2. Place the milk and the drained cod in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the cod is cooked. Transfer the cod to a plate and leave until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin and any remaining small bones, and break the flesh into flakes. Reserve the milk.
    3. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and bay leaves and cook for 6 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes or until the flour begins to colour. Pour in the reserved milk a little at a time, mixing it into the flour. Once all the milk has been added, cook the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until it is as thick as soft polenta and the flavour of the raw flour has been cooked out. Add the flaked cod to the pan and stir in well, then remove from the heat.
    4. Break in the eggs, one at a time, mixing them in well, then stir in the herbs and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking tray and leave to cool before covering with plastic film and chilling in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
    5. Pour the olive oil into a heavy-based saucepan or flat-bottomed wok and heat to 170°C or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds.
    6. Remove the salt cod mixture from the refrigerator. Take a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and push it off the spoon into the oil with your finger. Working in batches of 6 fritters at a time, deep-fry the fritters for 3 minutes or until golden, crisp and cooked through.
    7. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Season with salt and serve hot. 
    Frank Camorra
    Makes 24

    350 g salt cod fillet

    600 ml milk

    75 g butter

    ½ brown onion, finely diced

    2 garlic cloves, finely diced

    3 fresh bay leaves

    100 g plain flour

    3 eggs

    1 tablespoon chopped chives

    1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

    finely grated zest of 1 lemon

    1 litre olive oil, for deep-frying

    sea salt

    MoVida Solera

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    Sweets and pastries treats have been served from the splendid counter at Confitería Rufino since 1875. Owner Pilar Rodríguez stands proudly in front of the carved wooden displays and mirrored cabinets filled with eel-shaped sweets made of marzipan and others made with egg yolks and walnuts cooked in sugar. But one of her biggest sellers are honey-glazed pestiños, little folds of short pastry just rolled and deep-fried. In some parts of Andalusia, they are simply dusted with icing sugar. In other parts they are sprinkled with sesame seeds, and in Cádiz are made with sherry. They were once only made for Holy Week and Christmas but are now often made all year around.

    1. Sift the flour into a stainless steel bowl. Place the fennel, cumin and salt on top of the flour, but resist the temptation to mix them in.
    2. Heat the 200 ml of olive oil in a small heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Pour the hot oil over the flour and spices in the bowl, then immediately pour in the wine, taking care to avoid getting splashed by the oil. Mix well with a wooden spoon to form a smooth dough, but be careful not to over-work it or the pastry will toughen. Roll the pastry into a ball and cover with plastic film, then leave to rest for an hour.
    3. Roll out the pastry on a cool well-floured benchtop until it is about 2–3 mm thick. Cut into discs using an 8 cm crinkle-edged round pastry cutter (or a jar lid about 8 cm in diameter). Brush the edge of half of each pastry disc with cold water, then bring the opposite edge over until slightly overlapping and pinch together to hold in place. Place the pestiños on a lightly floured tray or plate.
    4. Place the honey and sugar in a small heavy-based saucepan with 100 ml of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low–medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until it thickens a little. Keep warm.
    5. Pour the olive oil for deep-frying into a heavy-based saucepan or wok and heat to 170°C or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds.
    6. Working in batches, fry the pestiños for 2–3 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain on a wire rack set over a double layer of paper towel. While they are still warm, bathe the pestiños in the honey syrup, then leave on the rack to drain and set for 20 minutes.
    7. Serve at room temperature with hot coffee or Spanish brandy.
    Frank Camorra
    Makes 24

    500 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

    1 tablespoon fennel seeds

    pinch of cumin seeds

    pinch of sea salt

    200 ml olive oil

    200 ml dry white wine

    500 g mild-flavoured honey

    500 g white sugar

    1 litre olive oil, for deep-frying

    MoVida Solera

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  • 09/10/14--22:18: Chilled pine nut gazpacho
  • I like to think of gazpachos as loosely related cold soups that have pounded bread and garlic at the root of their family tree. Added to this could be nuts, often vegetables or perhaps fruit – one of chef Dani García’s signature dishes in the past has been cherry gazpacho with anchovy. Ajoblanco is a deliciously refreshing pick-me-up and is usually made with almonds, but this version uses pine nuts, which are native to the Mediterranean coast. Keep a jug of this in the fridge on a hot summer’s day when family and friends are around.


    1. Break the bread into pieces about the size of a walnut. Place in a shallow bowl, cover with cold water and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
    2. Use your hands to firmly squeeze out the bread, then place in a blender. Add the pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt and blend thoroughly to form a very smooth paste. Add 1.5 litres of cold water and blend again until smooth and velvety.
    3. Chill in the fridge for 2–3 hours before serving. Garnish with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil.
    Frank Camorra
    Serves 4-6

    100 g two-day-old bread, without crusts

    200 g pine nuts

    ½ garlic clove

    100 ml mild-flavoured extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

    1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar

    1 tablespoon sea salt

    MoVida Solera

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  • 09/11/14--16:46: Spring in Seville
  • A huge arch fills the early evening sky. Lit with thousands of light bulbs, it glows gold against the darkening blue heavens. Hanging from it are tens of thousands of lanterns that bathe the fairground in soft, colourful light and illuminate the promenading crowds, who have come to eat, drink, dance and sing well into the night and, for some, into the next morning. This is La Feria.

    Every April, the city lurches into a week of bacchanalian celebration, when hundreds of casetas or marquees are erected on the fairground on the other bank of the Guadalquivir. At the back of each marquee is a small kitchen where plates of tapas are prepared, perhaps fried fish, perhaps tortilla, but more likely pinchitos morunos, spiced lamb skewers. The spectacle is the crowd itself, clothed in Andalusian traditional costume. The women look stunning, dressed in body-hugging flamenco dresses, the men walking proudly beside them sporting their traje corto (a short jacket) along with tight trousers and riding boots. The children dress in diminutive versions of the same. It is as much an exposition of local culture as it is a party. This rather beautiful display of humanity is juxtaposed with La Calle del Infierno, or Hell Street, on the other side of the Feria – hectares of theme-park rides and teenagers drinking rebujitos, a potent mix of dry sherry and lemonade.

    The Feria de Abril kicks off with a street parade of traditional horses and carriages, which also signals the start of the spring bullfighting season. Seville’s bullring is the oldest in Spain, with construction beginning in the early 1700s. However, the banning of bullfighting by King Carlos III in the late 1700s halted the building work, and it was only after his reign ended that the stadium was completed – the result is a mélange of different styles unified by its gold and red ochre colouring. The bullfighters make their way into the ring through a phalanx of fans. Bullfighters are revered in Spain, their artful heroics when pitted against a tonne of angry bull making them demi-gods. While there is no escaping the barbaric fact that no bull makes it out of the bullring alive, there is the chance the bullfighter may not either. So, despite the ecstatic adoration that surrounds them, bullfighters seem oblivious to the festivities, instead carrying with them a dark cloud of fatalism and certain aloofness. Perhaps they know they may be closer to heaven than the clamouring masses around them.

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  • 09/11/14--17:53: Running Away from Home
  • Paris life

    Paris life: Me rugged up in winter white. - Photo by Magali Courouge

    Jane de Teliga had it all – a glamorous and fulfilling career as style director for Australia's best-loved magazine, a happy family life and a beautiful home in Sydney's stunning eastern suburbs. But when empty nest syndrome struck, she suddenly found herself wondering what it all meant. Who was she when she wasn't being defined by her career and motherhood? To find out, she did what many people long to do - sold the house, left her job and went to try her luck in Paris. Along the way she discovered meditation, yoga and the inescapable truth of the Buddhist saying: 'Everywhere you go, there you are'. Read an edited extract from her book Running Away from Home.

    Bright shiny day: Sydney Heads from Watson’s Bay on a dazzling Sydney afternoon.

    One dreary, sad winter’s day I found myself at Sydney’s unprepossessing international airport, two suitcases in hand, clutching my beautiful daughter Emily, struggling to breathe as I said goodbye to everything. The enormity of what I was doing was shimmering like a mirage somewhere at the back of my brain. ‘Let’s pretend I’m just going on holidays,’ I croaked, ‘I just can’t say goodbye.’ And weaving their way through that brain mirage in big letters were the words, ‘What the fuck are you doing, Jane! You’re leaving your girls! The most important thing in your life! You’re leaving your family, your friends, your job and your home. Are you completely bloody crazy?’

    Family portrait: Emily, me and Madeleine in Sydney, 2010.

    After a final clutch I made a strangled dash into the immigration hall. A middle-aged, middle-class Australian woman in her comfy velour tracksuit pants struggling to regain her composure, basically making a run for it; a run towards a new life.

    This is the part where I say, ‘I had it all’. Well, yes, I did but I didn’t. A pretty little cottage in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, ten minutes from the beach, the smell of sweet jasmine wafting on a warm night, a palm tree swishing in the breeze in my tiny courtyard – my home. .  .  But until you’ve experienced the empty-nest syndrome you will probably wonder what the problem was.

    I still had my all-consuming job as Style Director on the Australian publishing icon, The Australian Women’s Weekly. And it had taken up eight full-on years of my life while my girls were growing up. Being the style director meant that my working life involved organising, creating and directing the photographic images that enlivened the magazine. God, my working life was marvellous but after nearly eight years – hello burnout. Plucking ideas from my head, creating a concept and making it happen with a fantastic photographer and team was the best job anyone could have had and I loved it. But it finally wore me out, plundering my brain of every creative idea. In the end, it refused to cough up anything any more and I realised I needed some serious rebooting for myself and for new inspiration. Europe was the place that beckoned.

    On the beach: The sublime Broome shoot with Megan Gale and Chris Colls.

    Whoever I was had been submerged a long time ago in the frantic pace of just keeping everything going – juggling a really demanding full-on career while bringing up my children (albeit with the unstinting help of Damien, my very responsible ex-husband). The constant struggle with myself, the questions about who I was and how I wanted to live the rest of my life ran round and round in my brain like a hamster on a wheel.

    And so an idea gradually grew in my febrile mind, it grew and groaned, it fluttered and festered, it skipped and it shuddered and it became a plan. I was going to run away from home. For so long I’d had the feeling that I wanted to live in Europe again. At twenty-six, I went to Europe, where I lived for two years, learning Italian in Perugia, and then I was awarded a scholarship to study at the British Museum, spending a year in London. I loved living in Europe. Everywhere you turned there was beauty, from incredible buildings to glorious landscapes, from simply delicious food (in Italy, not in 1970s London!), to divinely covetable clothes (I still remember seeing a trench coat lined with rabbit fur, in a window in Perugia and thinking it was the chicest thing I’d ever seen).

    Style director at work: Me styling a shoot about celebrity stylists for the Australian Women’s Weekly. Photo: Juli Balla

    And one could never get to the end of it; there was and is always the promise of more. At the risk of sounding precious, the search for beauty has always been my pole star, the navigation point for the way I live my life. I’d always longed to go back and live in Europe, and now there was no reason not to. There was nothing stopping me.

    First, I had to ask my girls. One day when the three of us were together, I very tentatively asked, ‘I’ve been a good mummy, can I go now please?’ Emily looked alarmed. I explained haltingly that I wanted to live in Europe and that I thought I might live in Paris and – it all tumbled out. Finally Madeleine said, ‘Go, Mum, otherwise you’ll drive us mad. Just do it.’ I had their blessing! Well, more or less. I reasoned that their caring father was in Sydney and so was my mother who they adored, so I wasn’t abandoning them, was I?

    La Tour Eiffel at dusk.

    I put my pretty house up for sale . . .  and I moved into a shabby but great flat that I rented right above my mother (oh yes), in a down-at-heel, liver-coloured brick art deco block, minutes from the beach. It was cathartic and prepared me well for a life lived with much less. I invested all my money, being told that I would never have to work again . . . yippee! There it was, all in place, my ‘running away from home’ money. I bought a ticket to Europe and packed two suitcases with some clothes (which would mostly prove all wrong for my new life), my techno lifelines – MacBook, iPod and iPhone, my trusty camera, photographs of my girls, a few books, the odd jewel and way too many shoes. Finally, unbelievably, the fateful day came and it was time to GO. I found myself at the airport walking out of my life. And interestingly, like many of the important moments of one’s life, there is no photograph of my leaving. Just the poignant memory of clutching Emily goodbye (my other daughter Maddy was in New York) and walking through the airport, overwhelmed by sadness and fear but also elation and anticipation, thinking, ‘Oh. My. God. I’ve done it.’

    Yes, I did it. I had finally run away from home.

    Running Away from Home - Jane de Teliga

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  • 09/16/14--17:16: Anna Spiro
  • Anna Spiro is a Brisbane-based Interior Designer with a passion for vibrant colour. In addition to running her renowned interior design practice and shop, Black & Spiro, Anna is the author of an internationally acclaimed blog, Absolutely Beautiful Things. She has a flair for layering fabrics and textiles with antiques and special one-off pieces to create a diverse and inspiring space full of individual charm.
    Anna has designed a wallpaper collection in collaboration with Porters Paints, with a second collection in the pipeline.
    Although the majority of her work has been with residential clients, Anna has started to expand into the commercial market with numerous restaurant projects and a beachside hotel.
    Life & Style

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  • 09/16/14--17:27: Absolutely Beautiful Things
  • In Absolutely Beautiful Things, successful designer Anna Spiro shows you how to create an interior that's just right for you. To her, it's all about the mix, not the match, and, with her help, you'll find beauty in unexpected places. She'll give you the confidence to put together a layered and very individual home using elements you love, and make you see your old belongings in a new light.
    As well as lavish photographs of rooms Anna has created, she shares many of her secrets from a life in decorating, gives practical details on how to work with pattern and colour, and provides a room-by-room guide to furniture choice. 'I always endeavour to create happy, interesting, layered and uplifting spaces. That means mixing everything: colour and pattern, old and new, square and round, quirky and conservative. It's the imperfections and surprises that make a space interesting'.  
    Life & Style
    224 pages
    Date Published: 
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    Available in eBook: 
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    Absolutely Beautiful Things

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    Spanish home cooks rarely use a chopping board to cut vegetables. Instead, they simply hold the vegetable in one hand and the knife in the other, then cut directly into a bowl or pan. It sounds funny, but this cutting technique affects the flavour and texture of the food. Take potatoes: the slight twisting motion of the knife causes the potato to break, leaving a rough and ragged surface, which allows more starch into the cooking liquid, and this in turn thickens the stock.


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    Heirloom carrot varieties - Photo by Simon Rickard

    Heirloom Vegetables: A Guide to Their History and Varieties is a new book by Simon Rickard. Simon is best known as the former head gardener at the Diggers Club, in which role he oversaw the magnificent gardens of Heronswood and the Garden of St Erth until 2009. Until 2012 he collaborated with restaurateur Annie Smithers, designing and operating her kitchen garden in country Victoria. These days, Simon works as a garden designer, gardening coach and garden communicator.

    Simon states: ‘Heirloom vegetables were a revelation to me. Right off the bat they appealed to my sense of aesthetics and my love of the quirky and, above all, they appealed to my tastebuds. But the more I got to know heirlooms the more I began to appreciate them for their stories. It turns out that their stories are our stories, too. Thousands of years of human history are written in their genes if we only know how to look for it.’

    Simon Rickard

    Turk's turban pumpkin

    Heirloom vegetables have been enjoying a renaissance since the 1980s. With their often unusual appearance, surprising flavours and multifarious culinary uses, heirlooms have become the darlings of the horticultural and foodie sets. They have breathed new life into gardening and cookery, encouraging a whole new generation to take up those noble pursuits.

    These days, heirloom vegetables are so frequently encountered at farmers’ markets and on the tables of fine dining establishments that it is hard to imagine we nearly lost them completely. Yet until their revival three decades ago, these precious horticultural jewels teetered on the edge of extinction.

    Mantovano Cabbage

    Since the 1950s our society has abdicated responsibility for its food supply to agribusinesses and middlemen. It was their business models which came to dictate which vegetable varieties farmers would be allowed to grow and which varieties people would be able to eat. Such decisions were taken out of the hands of food producers and consumers. As a result, vegetable breeding businesses became obsessed with homogeneity. Seed companies bred dozens of new hybrid vegetables each year but, far from giving consumers more choice, they began to converge on a single point of uniformity.

    Many of us remember the days, not so long ago, when you could buy any kind of tomato as long as it was red, round and tasteless, any kind of lettuce as long as it was ‘Iceberg’, and any kind of cucumber as long as it was eight inches long and the prescribed shade of dark green.

    Sweet pea flower

    Then heirloom vegetables came along and reawakened our jaded eyes and palates. Far from being alarmed, we were fascinated by them. Heirlooms reminded us that food could be a complete sensory experience. Heirloom vegetables were beautiful to behold and delicious in unique ways; they had unusual names and interesting stories to tell about their provenance or culinary use. Heirloom vegetables snapped us out of our stupor. They woke us up to what was happening to our food under our very noses. So what exactly are heirloom vegetables and why are they special?

    Loosely speaking, heirloom vegetables are varieties which pre-date WWII. As the name suggests, heirloom vegetables have been handed down through families or communities for generations. Just like your nanna’s wedding ring or your granddad’s fob watch, or a beloved local custom like the Birdsville Races or the Melbourne Cup, heirloom vegetables are cherished as precious cultural touchstones. They mean something to the people who grow and eat them. Heirloom vegetable varieties have been selected over many generations with two aims in mind. First, they have been selected for their culinary attributes: their flavours, textures and usefulness for specific purposes in the kitchen, such as bottling, drying, and eating fresh. Naturally, different cultures have their own culinary preferences, and this in itself has driven an enormous amount of diversity.

    The second attribute for which heirlooms have been selected is to grow well under particular climatic conditions. For example, the onion Tropeana Rossa Lunga was selected in Sicily to thrive in the hot, dry conditions there, while Ailsa Craig was selected in Scotland to cope with that country’s cool, wet summers. This means that there is an heirloom variety suited to just about any set of local conditions.

    Jaune Flamme is a tomato that ripens reliably in cool summer districts. Gold Rush is a lettuce that resists bolting in hot, dry climates. Modern hybrid vegetables are by their nature one-size-fits-all (or, perhaps more accurately, one-size-fits-none).

    Violetta artichoke

    For example, the French like small, crisp radishes for eating fresh while the Japanese like huge, solid radishes for pickling and cooking. On the other hand, the French like enormous pumpkins while the Japanese prefer pumpkins that fit in the palm of your hand. Heirloom vegetables are exquisitely beautiful, sublimely delicious, fascinating and unique; one can easily run out of superlatives when describing these masterpieces of human ingenuity. Far from being moribund museum pieces, heirloom vegetables are still being created by a vibrant network of individual breeders and organisations around the world. Vegetables and people have come a long way together, and I believe we have a lot further yet to go.

    Viroflay spinach 

    Heirloom Vegetables: A Guide to Their History and Varieties by Simon Rickard

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  • 09/18/14--01:12: Dessert Divas
  • Welcome to the pleasure dome! Desserts are all about pleasure – and what's life if there isn't pleasure?
    Acclaimed chef Christine Manfield believes that desserts should appeal to all the senses. They should be utterly seductive, ethereal and delicious, with aesthetics that capture your imagination. Desserts must also be big on personality, which is why she has christened this collection Dessert Divas – they are dramatic showgirls!
    In a sumptuously illustrated tribute to the desserts created at her Sydney restaurant Universal, Christine unveils the mystery, elegance, whimsy and fantasy behind such iconic desserts as Gaytime Goes Nuts, which stepped into the limelight in the finale of the 2012 season of MasterChef Australia. Her 'dessert divas' are designed to capture the four seasons, and to celebrate cheese and chocolate, ingredients people eternally lust after.
    A good dessert takes you on a taste journey. Let Christine Manfield be your guide as she shares the techniques, craft and precision that go into her signature creations. Be inspired and let the seduction begin, then taste with pleasure.
    240 pages
    Date Published: 
    3D Image: 
    Available in eBook: 
    Sort Title: 
    Dessert Divas

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  • 09/19/14--00:00: Carmen meringay
  • Here is a parody to pay tribute to the camp nature of Carmen Miranda, the infamous Brazilian singer/dancer who emerged as a Hollywood film star in the 1940s, and that crazy fruit-bowl hat that became her signature. Like Carmen, this is a bombshell, only an edible and immensely moreish one, with its contrast of dark red fruit, wicked aerated chocolate and crisp meringue. The aerated chocolate cream needs to be made the day before serving and refrigerated overnight in the canister.

    1. Combine the caster sugar and pro espuma in a small heavy-based saucepan, then stir in the milk. Warm the milk mixture over medium heat, stirring with a whisk and cooking until the sugar has dissolved and the milk comes to the boil.
    2. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, then pour one-third of the hot milk mixture over the chocolate, stirring with the whisk to melt the chocolate. Stirring constantly, slowly add the remaining milk mixture to keep it smooth. Blend with a stick blender to emulsify. Cool quickly over a bowl of ice until completely cold.
    3. Pour into a soda siphon canister with 2 cream chargers. Shake and refrigerate overnight.
    Note: Aerating the chocolate cream in a soda siphon canister gives the texture a wonderful lightness so it doesn’t feel heavy or dense on the palate. You can use the cream to fill a pastry shell, adorn the top of a chocolate mousse or Sacher Cake or just serve it in a glass with ripe figs, strawberries or roasted pear.
    1. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the motor running, slowly add the caster sugar, continuing to whisk until stiff peaks form.
    2. Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together and gently fold into the meringue.
    3. Spoon the stiff meringue into a piping bag fitted with a round number 6 nozzle.
    4. Preheat the oven to 50°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
    5. Cover the outside of 8 pastry horn moulds with baking paper, tucking the paper into the hollow centre to secure and keep firm. Stand the papered moulds on the lined tray. Pipe the meringue onto the papered moulds, working in upward strokes so the meringue lengths come halfway up each mould, then flick your hand outwards so the meringue creates peaks halfway up the horn; the cases should stand about 6 cm high.
    6. Transfer the remaining meringue into a piping bag fitted with a round number 3 nozzle. Pipe meringue dots onto the baking paper between the horn moulds (these are used as a garnish). You only need 8 meringue dots, but can use the remaining mixture to make extra and store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
    7. Bake the meringue cases and dots for 2 hours or until dry. Carefully transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for 1 hour.
    8. Carefully remove the meringue cases from the moulds, then remove the paper from the meringue cases. Store the dots and cases in airtight containers in a single layer, standing upright so they don’t break, until ready to use.
    1. Puree the blackberries in a blender until smooth. Stir in the sugar syrup and lemon juice until well combined. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and discard the seeds. Cover closely with plastic film and refrigerate until required.
    1. Drizzle a little blackberry sauce on the centre of each plate, then sit a meringue case on top; the sauce will hold it in place. Cover the inside base of the meringue case with blackberries and cherry halves, reserving 16 blackberries and 8 cherry halves for the garnish, then add a teaspoon of blackberry sauce. Squeeze the aerated chocolate cream from the canister to half-fill each meringue case. Repeat layering the fruit, blackberry sauce and chocolate cream until each meringue case is full, finishing with the chocolate cream.
    2. Stand 2 blackberries and a cherry half on top of the chocolate cream, placing them above the top surface of the meringue (so they resemble a mad hat), then top with a meringue dot. Serve immediately.
    Christine Manfield
    Serves 8


    56 g caster sugar

    12 g Sosa-brand Pro espuma cold thickener

    600 ml milk

    160 g Valrhona P125 (Couer de Guanaja) chocolate, finely chopped


    100 g egg whites

    100 g caster sugar

    100 g pure icing sugar

    15 g cornflour


    125 g blackberries

    25 ml sugar syrup

    5 ml strained lemon juice


    250 g blackberries

    24 cherries, pitted and halved

    Dessert Divas

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  • 09/21/14--19:14: Birthday suit
  • Created to celebrate Universal’s fifth birthday in 2012, I wanted to showcase strawberries at their juiciest best and to marry them with rhubarb, a quintessential winter ingredient, to contrast the flavours of both fruit. My aim was to visually to mask the soft, voluptuous pink and white centre with fine sheaths of white chocolate, like sheer lingerie over a nude body – hence the name. A happy birthday indeed!

    1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
    2. Heat the milk in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat to simmering point. Add the softened gelatine and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat, then gradually pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl of chocolate, whisking until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Leave the mixture to cool until it registers 30°C on a probe or sugar thermometer.
    3. Meanwhile, whip the cream until medium peaks form – it should just hold its shape when the beaters are lifted above the bowl. Fold the whipped cream through the cooled chocolate mixture.
    4. Wrap plastic film around ten 6 cm round ring moulds to create a secure removable base and prevent leaking. Divide the mousse among the moulds to form a 1.5 cm-thick layer. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours in an airtight container).
    1. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper and draw ten 6 cm-diameter circles on the paper.
    2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the motor running, gradually add the caster sugar and continue to beat until the meringue is thick and glossy and the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and fold through to combine.
    3. Divide the meringue among the marked circles, spooning it on to form 3 cm-high rounds, then use the spoon to make a hollow in the centre of each meringue.
    4. Bake the pavlova puffs on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 hour. Leave to cool completely in the turned-off oven with the door ajar. Store the pavlova puffs in an airtight container until ready to serve.
    Note: You can make the meringue into individual pavlovas, then fill them with whipped cream and berries or diced mango, or sandwich two small meringues with little peaks on the top (as pictured above) together with white chocolate ganache studded with dried cranberries. Alternatively, use the meringues to adorn a chocolate mousse or flavoured jelly, or arrange them on top of a cake that is slathered with a creamy icing. 
    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
    2. Place the orange zest in a small heavy-based saucepan, then cover with cold water and slowly bring to the boil over medium heat. Immediately drain and repeat twice with fresh water.
    3. Scatter the rhubarb in a baking tin in a single layer. Sprinkle the caster sugar, orange juice and drained blanched zest over the top, then cover with foil.
    4. Bake the rhubarb for 10–12 minutes or until it has softened but retains its shape, checking it every 2 minutes after the first 8 minutes; it should not be mushy. Remove the rhubarb from the liquid and cut into 2 cm lengths, then set aside.
    5. Strain the rhubarb cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve over a small heavy-based saucepan, then simmer over medium heat for 10–12 minutes or until it has reduced by half and reached a syrup consistency. Set aside to cool completely. (This is the rhubarb reduction to use in the strawberry sauce below.)
    1. Place the strawberry puree, orange juice, rhubarb reduction and caster sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Cover with plastic film, then refrigerate until required.


    1. Heat the fondant and glucose in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat until the mixture registers 155°C on a probe or sugar thermometer and is clear and hard. Immediately add the white choco-late and stir until it has melted and the mixture is smooth and well combined. Spread the mixture onto a silicone mat to form a 1 cm-thick layer. Set aside for 30 minutes or until cooled and hardened. Break into uneven chunks and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
    2. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
    3. Working in batches, place 6–8 small pieces of the chocolate mixture on a silicone mat on a baking tray. Bake the pieces for 1–2 minutes or until they have softened. Remove the tray from the oven, then lay another silicone mat on top. Using a rolling pin, roll out the mixture to make a thin wafer sheet; the melted pieces will join together to form a sheet when heated and pressed.
    4. Wrap the sheet of wafer surrounded by the silicone mats around a narrow rolling pin, then open it out again. Remove the top silicone mat and break the wafer into 8 cm-long shards (see picture on pages 82–83). Each sheet will make enough wafer shards for 1 serve, so repeat this process 9 times so you have enough shards to serve 10. Set aside to cool.
    5. Store the wafer shards in an airtight container, layered between sheets of baking paper to prevent them from sticking, in the refrigerator until required. (These are best baked on the day of serving.)
    1. The pavlova puffs usually expand slightly during cooking so, if necessary, trim the edges with a round 6 cm cutter by carefully pressing down to make a perfect clean edge, discarding the offcuts.
    2. Smear a little strawberry and rhubarb sauce onto the centre of each plate and sit a pavlova puff on top; this will hold it in place. Mix the strawberry slices and roasted rhubarb sticks together with the remaining strawberry and rhubarb sauce and arrange half of this fruit mixture evenly on the centre of each pavlova puff, without allowing any sauce to spill down the sides.
    3. To unmould the white chocolate mousse from the ring moulds, carefully remove the plastic film, then heat the sides of each ring mould with a kitchen blowtorch to loosen. Let each mousse slide from its mould, then use a right-angle palette knife to gently slide it on top of the fruit, so it is aligned with the pavlova puff base. Spoon a little of the remaining fruit mixture onto the centre of each mousse.
    4. Stand the white chocolate wafers upright around the sides of the layered pavlova, fruit and mousse – like a fence – to conceal the centre. Dust lightly with strawberry powder. Serve immediately.
    Christine Manfield
    Serves 10


    90 g Valrhona Opalys white chocolate

    45 ml milk

    1.5 g gelatine leaf, softened and squeezed

    90 ml pouring (35%) cream


    75 g egg whites

    110 g caster sugar

    1 teaspoon cornflour

    ½ teaspoon white vinegar

    ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract


    Zest of 1 orange, removed in long thin julienne strips with a zester

    10 thin rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 10 cm lengths

    50 g caster sugar

    40 ml strained fresh orange juice


    75 g strawberry puree (I use Ponthier)

    25 ml strained fresh orange juice

    25 ml Rhubarb Reduction (see roasted rhubarb above)

    20 g caster sugar


    60 g fondant

    40 g liquid glucose

    40 g Valrhona Opalys white chocolate


    15 ripe large strawberries, halved and finely sliced lengthways

    2 teaspoons freeze-dried strawberry powder

    Dessert Divas

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  • 09/21/14--19:48: Gaytime goes nuts
  • While it may take its initial inspiration from the commercial ice-cream confection on a stick, this dessert is an entirely grown-up affair, paying tribute to my sexuality and gay culture in Sydney and beyond. Gaytime in its various forms has been a constant feature on my restaurant menus since the mid-nineties. It really came into its own at Universal in 2007, where it achieved iconic status, well before it was the dessert that determined the winner of the 2012 season of MasterChef Australia that featured in the final challenge. That clinched it, taking this dessert into a whole new realm altogether, where it gained an even wider recognition for the seemingly unbeatably sexy combination of flavours. Its popularity saw people queuing at Universal to get their fix until the day we closed. It certainly was nuts! The comforting flavours here are universally appealing, so having a Gaytime has become synonymous with desire and a benchmark for excellence – gotta love that!


    1. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
    2. Place the caster sugar, glucose and water in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat until the mixture comes to the boil, then cook for 10–12 minutes or until it reaches a caramel colour.
    3. Carefully add the bicarbonate of soda, then whisk quickly as the hot mixture will expand immediately. Pour onto the lined tray and leave to cool completely.
    4. Break into large chunks and store in an airtight container until required. (Honeycomb will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
    1. Heat the milk and cream in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat to simmering point.
    2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl for 5 minutes or until pale and creamy. Slowly add the hot milk mixture, then whisk to combine.
    3. Sit the bowl over a bain marie, making sure the bowl does not touch the simmering water, and cook the mixture to a custard consistency, stirring continuously until it coats the back of the spoon (it should register 80°C on a probe or sugar thermometer). Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean heatproof bowl, then cool quickly over a bowl of ice, whisking constantly to keep the custard aerated as it cools.
    4. Churn the cooled custard in an ice-cream machine following the manufacturer’s instructions until firm. Fold the honeycomb through the churned ice cream. Spread crossways into one half of a 25 cm × 16 cm base × 3 cm-deep slice tin; the caramel ice cream will fill the other half of the tin. Cover with plastic film and freeze until required. (Ice cream will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 week.)

    Note: Simple to make, honeycomb can be used in so many ways – crush it to sprinkle over a creamy mousse, break it into bite-sized pieces and coat with melted chocolate (better than anything you will buy in a packet), or serve small chunks with your favourite ice cream.

    1. You will need to make the custard base and caramel simultaneously so both are ready at the same time. Heat the cream and milk in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat to simmering point.
    2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks and 90 g of the caster sugar in a heatproof bowl for 5 minutes or until pale and creamy. Slowly add the hot milk mixture, then whisk to combine.
    3. Sit the bowl over a bain marie, making sure the bowl does not touch the simmering water, and cook the mixture to a custard consistency, stirring continuously until it coats the back of the spoon (it should register 80°C on a probe or sugar thermometer).
    4. Meanwhile, place the remaining 300 g sugar and the water in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil, shaking the pan occasionally but not stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves before the mixture comes to the boil. Continue to boil for 10–12 minutes or until the sugar syrup reaches a deep caramel colour.
    5. As soon as the caramel is ready, add a ladleful of the custard to the caramel in the pan, then gently shake the pan to combine; this loosens the caramel. Immediately pour the hot caramel mixture into the custard base and whisk until smooth and combined. Strain the caramel custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean heatproof bowl, then cool quickly over a bowl of ice, whisking constantly to keep the custard aerated as it cools.
    6. Churn the caramel custard in an ice-cream machine following the manufacturer’s instructions until firm. Spread the caramel ice cream into the other half of the 25 cm × 16 cm slice tin, alongside the honeycomb ice cream. Cover with plastic film and freeze for at least 2 hours or until required. (Ice cream will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 week.)
    1. Heat the milk and 125 ml of the cream in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat to simmering point.
    2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl for 5 minutes or until pale and creamy. Slowly add the hot milk mixture, then whisk to combine. Sit the bowl over a bain marie, making sure the bowl does not touch the simmering water, and cook the mixture to a custard consistency, stirring continuously until it coats the back of the spoon (it should register 80°C on a probe or sugar thermometer). Add the softened gelatine and stir to dissolve, then cool quickly over a bowl of ice until it registers 45°C on the probe or sugar thermometer.
    3. Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a bain marie, making sure the bowl does not touch the simmering water, then heat until it has melted and registers 45°C on the probe or sugar thermometer.
    4. Fold the melted chocolate through 150 g of the cooled custard base until combined. (The remaining custard base can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks.) Strain the chocolate custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, then cool quickly over a bowl of ice, whisking constantly to keep the custard aerated as it cools.
    5. Whip the remaining 225 ml cream until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate custard. Transfer to an airtight container, then seal and refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm.
    1. Heat the cream, glucose and vanilla bean in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat to simmering point.
    2. Meanwhile, heat a clean and dry heavy-based saucepan over high heat for 1 minute or until hot. Add the caster sugar and cook without stirring for 8–10 minutes or until a dry caramel forms. Immediately add the warm cream mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring until combined. Add the butter and stir to melt and combine. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool completely.
    3. When ready to serve, mix the chopped hazelnuts and vanilla salt into the cold caramel.
    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. While the oven is heating, place a baking tray upside-down inside to become very hot.
    2. Heat the fondant and glucose in a small heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until the mixture registers 180°C on a probe or sugar thermometer. Add the chocolate and stir until well combined to form a smooth paste. Spread onto a silicone mat on a baking tray. Using a rolling pin, roll the wafer mixture until 5 mm-thick. Set aside for 10 minutes or until completely cooled and hardened.
    3. Break the wafer mixture into small pieces. Using a mortar and pestle, break down to roughly 1 cm pieces; this prevents the mixture from heating while it is blitzed. Transfer to a blender (or use a Thermomix on speed 8–10) and grind to a fine powder.
    4. Sift ½ cup of the powder at a time though a fine-mesh sieve onto a silicone mat on a baking tray, using a rectangular 20 cm × 7.5 cm acetate template for shape, to form a 2 mm-thick layer; the powder should just be level with the thickness of the template.
    5. Place an index finger at one end of the template to hold it in place, then gently lift off the opposite end, taking care not to touch the powder. Lift the template away completely. Take the hot upside-down baking tray from the oven and place it upside-down on a heatproof work surface.
    6. Gently slide the mat onto the hot upside-down tray and allow the powder to melt completely; this will take 60–90 seconds. If the powder doesn’t meld together completely, place the tray in the oven for 15–30 seconds, watching carefully to ensure the powder doesn’t burn.
    7. Run a small right-angle palette knife over the wafer to check the consistency – you want it to be set and cool enough to be pliable and easy to roll, but not hot enough that it stretches easily. Lift up one end of the wafer by gently flicking it with the palette knife. Lay a 5.5 cm base-diameter plastic squeez-y bottle over the hot wafer and roll it up around the bottle to make a cylinder. Gently press the edges around the bottle onto the hot mat to seal them together, then gently ease the cylinder wafer off the bottle.
    8. Repeat this process 7 times with the remaining powder so you have 8 cylinder wafers in total. Leave to cool.
    9. Line a large airtight container with baking paper, then stand the wafer collars upright in one layer and seal until ready to serve. (The wafers need to be made on the day of serving.)
    1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
    2. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the caster sugar, ground almonds, flour, cocoa, butter and salt on medium speed until combined to form a coarse, sand-like texture the consistency of crumble; it should not come together like dough.
    3. Spread the crumble mixture on a silicone mat on a baking tray to form a 1 cm-thick layer; it won’t be smooth but will look a bit like coarse breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and fragrant; it should taste cooked.
    4. Leave the crumble on the mat on the tray to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container until required. (The crumble can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)
    1. Blitz the chocolate crumble, savoiardi, nougat and honeycomb in a heavy-duty blender (or use a Thermomix on speed 8) to form fine crumbs. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until required; this prevents it from clumping.
    1. Place a spoonful of honeycomb nougat dust on the centre of each serving plate, then flatten it into a 6.5 cm diameter circle. (It should fit a chocolate wafer collar standing upright, leaving a border showing around the edge; do not add the wafer collar yet.)
    2. Using a round 4.5 cm pastry cutter, cut the honeycomb ice cream into 8 rounds. Repeat with the caramel ice cream.
    3. Place a round of honeycomb ice cream on the centre of the dust on each plate. Dip each round of caramel ice cream into 3 g of the dark chocolate pearls to cover the surface, then place on top of the honeycomb ice cream.
    4. Gently ease a chocolate wafer collar over each ice-cream stack to encase it, then fill with a couple of small chunks of the ice cream (about 1 teaspoon in total) if required, to bring the ice cream to 1 cm below the top of each wafer collar.
    5. Spoon a little salted hazelnut caramel evenly over the top of the ice cream on each plate to cover, filling to the top of each collar.
    6. Place a spoonful of honeycomb nougat dust over the salted hazelnut caramel and top with a quenelle of hazelnut chocolate mousse. Serve immediately. 
    Christine Manfield
    Serves 8


    360 g caster sugar

    120 g liquid glucose

    60 ml water

    15 g bicarbonate of soda


    750 ml milk

    700 ml pouring (35%) cream

    8 large egg yolks

    300 g caster sugar

    250 g honeycomb (see above), roughly chopped


    750 ml pouring (35%) cream

    375 ml milk

    9 large (270 g) egg yolks

    390 g caster sugar

    75 ml water


    125 ml milk

    350 ml pouring (35%) cream

    50 g (2 large) egg yolks

    25 g caster sugar

    2 g gelatine leaves, softened and squeezed

    250 g Valrhona Gianduja (hazelnut) 36% milk chocolate, finely chopped


    200 ml pouring (35%) cream

    75 g liquid glucose

    ½ vanilla bean, split

    100 g caster sugar

    25 g unsalted butter

    225 g hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and roughly chopped

    1 teaspoon Halon Mon Vanilla Salt


    240 g fondant

    160 g liquid glucose

    160 g Valrhona Caramelia 36% milk chocolate, finely chopped


    50 g caster sugar

    50 g ground almonds

    30 g plain flour

    45 g cocoa powder

    35 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

    ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes


    50 g chocolate crumble (see above), broken into small pieces

    150 g Savoiardi sponge fingers

    30 g hard nougat (available from Simon Johnson), roughly chopped

    25 g honeycomb (see above), roughly chopped


    24 g Valrhona dark chocolate pearls

    Dessert Divas

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  • 09/22/14--20:55: Introduction
  • Memories! Memories of youth. Memories of my roots. Memories of the smells coming from the kitchen. The nostalgic, particular flavour and aroma of a dish my mother and grandmother used to prepare for the family, made with a passion that inspired so much tenderness, love and serenity. Yes, we were eating because we were hungry, and their cooking certainly wasn’t gastronomy, but in later years I understood that the celebration of the produce of each season was a clear reminder of civility and culture. And I came to realise that cooking is one of the most civil of pleasures!

    It is this respect for the freshness of ingredients, regionality and tradition – and, of course, my passion for food and love of people – that inspired me to write this book. Not to mention the fact that I feel as if the more we experiment to find something new, the more we discover that what we actually yearn for are those old traditional flavours of our grandmothers’ cooking. As we become increasingly preoccupied with the provenance and freshness of our ingredients, we get closer and closer to the real peasant way of looking at food, where hardly anything is bought, because everything comes from just outside the front or back door.

    And so it was with my family. I remember watching my father come back from our vegetable garden on a hot summer’s day, carrying some wonderful tomatoes, cucumber, basil and red onions. He never cooked, but with these simple, incredibly fresh ingredients he made a stunning salad. Of course, as a kid I refused to eat it, only appreciating it many years later, when I put it on the menu at Lucio’s as insalata di papà.

    The classic Cucina Italiana, which is essentially a regional cuisine, developed through centuries of political change, poverty and domination by other cultures. But probably the most significant impact came with the discovery of the New World, and the subsequent introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, capsicums, corn and a variety of beans to the markets. All ingredients that go very well with Italian cooking, to the extent that now, two centuries later, it feels as if they belong more to Italy than the Americas!

    The south went more for tomatoes, chillies and capsicums, which grow better in the warmer weather and marry wonderfully with their Mediterranean-style dishes. The north went for potatoes, corn and beans, which generations of creative cooks have transformed into gnocchi, polenta and nourishing soups, all perfectly suited to the cooler climate. But the thing that unites the north and the south is passion: passion for quality ingredients; passion for pasta; and passion for conviviality. The regional diversity, extreme simplicity and seasonality is what makes La Cucina Italiana so special, and so loved and appreciated the world over.

    As more and more people are discovering or re-discovering the pleasures of cooking, the kitchen and dining room are again becoming our chosen places to entertain. To my mind, there are very few people who can invent something completely new in the kitchen – and even then, most of the time they are just rearranging traditional recipes. So, let’s leave our inventiveness aside for now and concentrate on the Italian regional cuisine that took centuries to perfect . . . and it is perfect!

    Traditional Italian food is unsurpassed for creating incredible flavours using simple, local produce chosen and cooked with care. Always serve good bread with an Italian meal, and leave it on the table so everyone can help themselves at any stage of the meal. I am a firm believer that bread should be made by the fornai (bakers), not at home, so seek out a traditional Italian bakery, and visit often.

    For me, the art of cooking has always been inseparable from the art of hospitality, and over more than 30 years at Lucio’s, we have welcomed artists to our restaurant and proudly hung their works on our walls. So when we started gathering recipes for a new cookbook, it seemed only natural that art would share the pages with food. The artists were each given a chapter or other element of the book, and were then free to respond to the recipes and stories in any way they liked. The results exceeded anything I could have hoped for. The title I have chosen for the book then, The Art of Traditional Italian, is not only in recognition of this extraordinary collaboration with so many of my artist friends, but is also in homage to the early cookbooks like La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene (‘Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well’) and a time when cooking first started to be considered an art.

    My hope is that the traditional food shared in these pages will not only be respected and remembered, but also that it will inspire you to pass the recipes on to the next generation with pride and love, so we can build up new memories. Enjoy the book.

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  • 09/22/14--22:36: Tuscan fish soup
  • And here we are at the cacciucco, probably the most well-known fish soup. It originated in Livorno, the port city in northern Tuscany, before being adopted by the town of Viareggio, the poshest of the summer resorts on the Tuscan continuation of the Ligurian Riviera. 

    The name comes from the Turkish word kuciuk, meaning ‘small things’. According to legend, it was first prepared when a Livornese fisherman’s boat was overturned in a huge tempest and he drowned, leaving his wife and children in poverty. His hungry children went to the port and asked the other fishermen for some food. Everyone gave something: octopus, calamari, some black mussels, some little bony, unsellable fish . . . The children took it all home to their mother, who prepared a soup with it. The neighbours were so taken with the beautiful aroma that they went to the woman and asked her what it was. And so cacciucco was born, and it is said there are as many types of fish in the cacciucco as there are ‘c’s in its spelling!

    1. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole over medium heat and cook the onion and celery, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for about 6 minutes, until soft. Add the chopped garlic, chilli and parsley and sauté for a further 2 minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
    2. Add the baby octopus, cuttlefish and calamari to the pan, stir gently and sauté until the water they release has evaporated (9–10 minutes). Turn the heat up slightly, add the wine and continue cooking until it evaporates. Stir in the tomato, turn the heat down to low–medium and cook gently for 10 minutes. 
    3. Meanwhile, cut the fish into 3–4 cm pieces. Add all the fish to the pan, spoon over the sauce and cook for about 7 minutes. Add the mussels, clams, prawns and scampi. When the mussels and clams open, sprinkle with the extra chopped parsley, shake the pan and cook for another 2 minutes.
    4. Toast the ciabatta bread, rub with the squashed garlic clove and serve with your beautiful cacciucco.
    Lucio Galletto
    Serves 6-8

    130 ml extra virgin olive oil

    1 white onion, finely diced

    1 stalk celery heart, finely diced

    5 cloves garlic, 4 finely chopped, 1 peeled and squashed

    3 red chillies, finely diced

    Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, plus 1 tablespoon extra

    200 g baby octopus, cleaned

    200 g small cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into small pieces

    200 g baby calamari, cleaned and cut into small pieces

    125 ml dry white wine (ideally the same one you will be drinking with the soup)

    800 g tinned tomatoes, passed through a mouli or squished with your hands

    2 kg small whole fish, such as leatherjacket, rock cod, red mullet, cleaned (leave the heads attached for extra flavour) or 1 kg fillets of larger fish, such as john dory

    500 g black mussels, scrubbed and debearded

    500 g clams (vongole), cleaned

    4 raw king prawns in their shells, cut in half lengthways

    4 medium scampi in their shells, cut in half lengthways

    4 slices ciabatta

    The Art of Traditional Italian

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  • 09/22/14--22:54: Valdostana cutlets
  • This tasty and easy-to-prepare dish is a speciality of the Valle d’Aosta region in the very north of Italy. It takes advantage of the superior dairy products of this verdant area, including butter and fontina cheese. Although it’s now popular all over the world, and made in different ways, this is the traditional recipe: veal on the bone, filled with fontina, crumbed and cooked in butter. The only addition permitted is white or black truffle.


    1. Trim the fat from the veal cutlets and use a small sharp knife to make a pocket in each one, to hold the cheese filling. Flatten them a little with a meat mallet. Cut the fontina into thin slices and place inside the pockets. To close the pockets, lightly beat the edges with the mallet and press down with your fingers to seal, so they won’t open during cooking.
    2. Season the meat with salt. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs into separate shallow bowls. Coat each cutlet in the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip in the egg, allowing any excess to fall back in the bowl. Finally, coat well with the breadcrumbs, pressing them on with your fingers.
    3. Heat the butter in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. When hot, place the cutlets in the pan, making sure they do not overlap, and cook until golden on both sides – about 5–6 minutes in total should be enough. Drain on paper towels, garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve hot . . . No lemon!
    Lucio Galletto
    Serves 4

    4 × 250 g veal cutlets

    200 g fontina cheese

    Sea salt

    4–5 tablespoons plain flour

    2 eggs, lightly beaten

    200 g dried breadcrumbs

    150 g butter

    Rosemary sprigs, to serve

    The Art of Traditional Italian

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