Tomato couscous + pan-fried kale, carrot and celery salad

Tomato couscous, and Sicilian-style salad of pan-fried kale, carrot and celery with fennel and currants

Some dishes travel with you and are good in many places … Though they don’t jump into luggage by themselves. You pack them mentally; take the building blocks. You will them to come. This couscous has been on a few holidays of late. It went canoeing down the Glenelg River in 2023, and to the summit of Mount Feathertop in 2024. Where there are good times and adventure, there is couscous!? Continue reading Tomato couscous + pan-fried kale, carrot and celery salad

Crumbed sardines, beetroot, skordalia mayonaisa

Plate of crumbed sardines, beetroot and lemon wedges with a bowl of Greek skordalia mayonaisaGreek skordalia mayonaisa (mayonnaise) and grilled asparagus on toast

I’ve been teaching cooking classes for the last few years, discovering how much I like it. It’s an extension of writing recipes, really – wanting to put something new, inspiring and delicious under people’s noses. But you are really in the driver’s seat and can push the boundaries a little more … You see, a recipe book can be full of exciting things, but you can’t make people cook them. With a class, you have a captive audience! You choose something to cook, guessing people may not have cooked it before, hoping for positive results. If there are ooohs and aaahs, you get to witness them, and with a bit of luck, you hear people say they are going to make this at home. The kitchen is always filled with lovely chit chat as we cook together, and I also learn many things. Continue reading Crumbed sardines, beetroot, skordalia mayonaisa

Mekong fish soup with choko shoots

Bowl of Laos-style fish soup with rice vermicelli, choko (chayote) shoots, cabbage and herbsChoko (chayote) shoots – sechium edule – illustration by Alex Hotchin

Chokos are on my mind, even entering my dreams! (Well, this happened once – I dreamed I was living in the country near a friend and a block of land came up for sale that stretched behind both our houses. We decided to buy it together so we could plant a choko vine that would grow in both directions, reaching each yard. Ha ha, it was a lovely idea and made me grin when I woke up.) … An actual choko grows over our Melbourne back fence, coming from the courtyard of our Indian neighbours, Roopa and Giri. We probably would never have met them had it not been for this plant straddling the palings, and also an old plum tree down the back of our yard (we met for the first time while I was clambering on a shed roof picking plums, and offered them some of the harvest). We don’t see each other much (the nature of back fence neighbours), but when it’s choko season I pop my head over and a little exchange begins consisting of chokos, lemons, herbs, chit chat and recipes, and sometimes even cups of chai. Continue reading Mekong fish soup with choko shoots

Olive oil chocolate truffles

Olive oil chocolate truffles rolled in raw cacao powder on a plate. The bowl of mixture is in the background and an orange jug of olive oil.

Chocolate season is on its way. I’m not suggesting you eat these instead of Easter eggs … maybe as well as?! Or enjoy them in the lead up while waiting. They are so much better for you than just breaking off a square of chocolate and shoving it in your gob (which has to be done sometimes). They do contain some chocolate from a block, but make that block go much further – and also include extra-virgin olive oil and raw cacao powder. I created the recipe for Mount Zero using their mandarin-pressed extra-virgin olive oil a few years ago. Having whipped the truffles up another few times recently, I am still a bit proud! They are silky and divine with the vibrant note of mandarin (but you can also use fresh mandarin or orange zest and regular EVOO). Continue reading Olive oil chocolate truffles

Noodles with prawns, leek and lotus (or potato)

Japanese stir-fried noodles with prawns, leek and lotus root
I’ve written a little about ‘supper’ before … What does it even mean?! I just like the word, and think it goes with Christmas trees, vintage tunes and fancy drinks. Simple but beautiful dinners with nibbles and dessert either side. Australia doesn’t have snow in December, but we have all the produce of summer, no rules, and the flexibility to make Christmas whatever we want. I think many of us make different food every year, on the whim of whatever we feel like. I know of some local people who might be making nasi ulam with a bounty of Asian herbs and rice stained blue with pea flowers. I love that idea, and weirdly enough, think it sums up Australian Christmas. Continue reading Noodles with prawns, leek and lotus (or potato)

Best egg curry

A bowl of egg curry. The eggs have been boiled in their shells, and the sauce is brick red with onions and curry leaves. Surrounding the plate are different coloured eggs and egg shells.

A new happy era has descended on our chicken coop … Not like that time when we hatched baby chicks after three weeks of high tension, going a few days over the due date then flipping out with joy when we heard tweets coming from inside the eggs. (Something happened not long after I wrote about that. It involved a fox and a self-closing solar door that we mis-programmed. It was horrible.) … This year we have four new hens of different heritage varieties, including one of those cute silly chooks (kids’ choice) called a Silky with a fountain of feathers atop her strawberry blonde head. Another is a lavender Araucana, a tall grey hen who you couldn’t describe as cute – more rugged beauty with sideburns – but she lays the most beautiful green eggs. Continue reading Best egg curry

Shiso fish skewers with vermicelli salad

Red shiso (perilla) leaf illustration by Alex HotchinRed shiso (perilla) growing in the summer vegetable garden

Herewith an ode to one of my favourite herbs – one I think you should bring into your kitchen. Perhaps even your garden!? Yes, I’ve taken a deep dive into all things shiso (perilla/beefsteak plant/purple mint) since growing it in my veggie patch the last few summers, and I’ve discovered so much. There are things I want to share with you – a magical iced tea, Korean pickled shiso, and many more ideas for what you can make with a little market bunch or a whole crop. Plus there’s a recipe for shiso fish skewers, my riff on the classic Vietnamese ‘beef in betel leaf’. Come along for the journey! I’ll also tell you about the beautiful image above … Continue reading Shiso fish skewers with vermicelli salad

Nougat ice cream cake

Nougat ice cream cake with raspberries

This recipe was born from a failure, as my son likes to remind me! You could call it an experiment – because I knew it could fail, but was excited by the challenge anyway. I was trying to make nougat without a thermometer. It’s tricky to know when the sugar is cooked to the right point for the nougat to set and not ooze … Continue reading Nougat ice cream cake

Fig and cinnamon ice cream

Fig and cinnamon ice cream made with honey-roasted figs

Salt-crusted and wrapped in beach towels, we’re standing on the polished concrete floor of our favourite holiday ice-cream shop, waiting in line though not standing still. The kids are darting off to check the cabinet and make up their minds, while I, their much more respectable adult, am subtly standing on tippy toes and peering around the people in front of me. My two kids have taken to betting which flavour I’ll get – plum, quince, prickly pear; if there is something fruity and unusual, it has ‘mum’ written all over it they reckon. The give me their vote; I feel annoyed, pigeon-holed; then invariably get what they thought. Continue reading Fig and cinnamon ice cream

Two favourite Ethiopian dishes

Injera in three colours - wheat (white), sorghum (pink) and teff (brown)Atakilt - Ethiopian turmeric and ginger cabbage with potato and beans

I count myself lucky to live in a multicultural pocket of Melbourne. Footscray is particularly rich with Vietnamese and African communities, and when COVID hit I felt luckier than ever. As restaurants closed and we had to stick to our homes and neighbourhoods for months, I relished all the magical little food shops and groceries that stayed open. I made a short video about living and cooking in Footscray if you want to take a look! [Jump to my IGTV here.] The injera bakeries are my favourite, especially one, where the Ethiopian ladies behind the counter smile so broadly when you enter. My face cracks open too – no matter that we are all wearing masks; you can feel it. Continue reading Two favourite Ethiopian dishes