An Italian Coffee Worth Discovering

“Sprezzatura is the art of making things look easy. It doesn’t reveal the amount of work involved.”

- Stefano Manfredi.

With decades of passion, Stefano Manfredi joined forces with master blender Wayne Archer from D.E Coffee (Douwe Ebgert) in 2000 to produce his first blend of his Espresso di Manfredi (Sprezzatura) range.

When Stefano first came onto the restaurant scene in the 80’s, the coffee scene of Australia didn’t align with his expectation of the coffee he wanted to serve.

“We started importing coffee from Tuscany, which became a problem because we aren’t importers, so it was around 1998 that we were approached by Douwe Egberts,” said Stefano.

Stefano went on to say that he wanted to change the coffee culture of restaurants because not all restaurants had dedicated baristas, so it was likely that they didn’t pay particular attention to the coffee they were serving.

“If you wanted a coffee at one of my restaurants, I wanted to give you a good one,” said Stefano.

From this simple idea came the creation of the Classico blend in 2000 and in 2013 this blend was complemented with Chiara and Audacia. Along with coffee, Stefano and Julie Manfredi Hughes enlisted renowned Australian ceramicist Roderick Bamford to create Ceramica di Manfredi which accompanies Espresso di Manfredi.

“We designed the ceramic cup range so that our four cups fit onto one saucer, which means cafes didn’t have to store multiple saucers for the different cups. We have designed them in white as well as a colour range,” said Stefano.

Here at AGFG we were able to sample the Classico blend which is a complex and full bodied coffee that draws balanced fruity flavours to the front of your palate before washing it down with a hint of caramel/chocolate at the back palate. It’s a beautiful coffee that is easily enjoyed black with a teaspoon of sugar (the Italian way of course)!

For more information about Espresso di Manfredi head here.

To learn more about D.E Coffee whom have been producing coffee since 1753, head to their website here

My Italian Kitchen – A feast of Family Recipes by Laura Cassai

What better time to share Laura Cassai’s new cookbook My Italian Kitchen than when Australia celebrates all things pizza and pasta in the lead up to Italian National Day (June 2)?

Laura Cassai is MasterChef Australia’s 2014 runner-up, and at nineteen, was the youngest contestant to ever compete in the grand final. Admired by MasterChef judges, respected by fellow contestants and loved by the Australian public for her warmth and her hard-working nature, she considers herself lucky enough to have been born into an Italian family and attributes her adoration and passion for food to her heritage, giving light and life to her new cookbook, My Italian Kitchen.

Laura’s fond childhood memories of living in Italy for two years and growing up with legs swinging, sitting on the kitchen bench, hands coated in a dusting of flour, stirring pots and making pasta with her Nonnas, has fostered her love and respect for traditional Italian cooking. Other vivid memories of first encounters with food are recalled at the start of each chapter or recipe; the smell of chestnuts cooking over an open fire, the damp forest floor while foraging for mushrooms or cockling in the sand at Goolwa beach. Experiencing Melbourne’s culinary hotspots, followed by being surrounded by the fresh produce of South Australia’s bountiful Fleurieu Peninsula, has encouraged Laura’s passion for cooking almost her whole life. Combine this with refining her cooking skills on MasterChef under the guidance of professionals and in the company of equally passionate, fellow contestants; Laura has developed an incredibly keen sense of what works and an insightfulness that many consider beyond her years. 

Showcasing her roots in traditional Tuscan and Sicilian cooking, My Italian Kitchen celebrates Laura’s love of simple dishes enhanced by her ability to create sophisticated flavours. Alongside long-loved Italian classics, Laura’s MasterChef knock-out dishes are also included, such as lobster and scallops with herb butter, mushroom panzanella, fennel and orange, and featuring one of Laura’s proudest creations, her rolled gnocchi with porcini mushrooms, caramelised onions and crispy sage which captured the attention of Marco Pierre White during her time as a MasterChef contestant, garnering Marco’s kind words and praise.  

Rolled gnocchi with porcini mushrooms, caramelised onions and crispy sage, p. 40 -41.

Food is and will always be a way of life for Italians, Laura’s spritely enthusiasm and love for everything food oozes out the pages of her book and leaps straight into the dishes you try and master.  

We were able to ask Laura a few questions about her new cookbook, MasterChef and her current adventures. 

AGFG: What did you enjoy most when putting together your own cookbook?

Laura: My favourite part would definitely have to have been the week we spent photographing the book. I just loved seeing all the dishes coming together in the kitchen and in the shots!

AGFG: If you had to pick one recipe from My Italian Kitchen as your favourite, which one would you choose and why?

Laura: Easy – the Tiramisu.  It is by far one of my all time favourite recipes. I love the complexity a dish like that has with such minimal ingredients.  It’s a family recipe that has gone back generations and one that I hope to continue on in my own family one day.  I just can’t go past a tiramisu. 

Chestnut Forest - A modern tiramisu, p.122-123. 

AGFG: How has Australian produce influenced your traditional Italian recipes?

Laura: I don’t think there’s anything better than getting your hands on some of Australia’s best fresh produce and what I  absolutely love is going down to the local country markets on the weekend to collect the freshest of produce.  The way I was taught how to cook traditional Italian food was by using the freshest ingredients that were in season at the time, so I’m a true believer in fresh, seasonal local produce.

AGFG: What is the greatest piece of advice you received from the MasterChef judges?

Laura: Cook the food you love to eat, the food your Dad loves to eat, and the food your Nonna’s taught you how to cook.  Because that’s the food we love to eat too. 

Slow Roasted Boneless Pork Loin, stuffed with chestnuts and cranberries, p. 115.

AGFG: What has life after MasterChef held for you?

Laura: Life after Masterchef has been non-stop. I took a few weeks off after filming then went straight into a full time job at Restaurant Orana/ Street Adl – Jock Zonfrillo’s Restaurants in Adelaide, and that was about 11 months ago now.  I was lucky enough to publish my cookbook through Hardie Grants ‘My Italian Kitchen’, I am an ambassador for San Remo Pasta, Heatlie BBQ and get to do a little bit of travel here and there which is always fun, and I’m an ambassador for the Starlight Foundation.

AGFG: What are three ingredients you can’t live without?

Laura: Artichokes, dark chocolate and anchovies.

AGFG: Do you still have plans to open a tapas bar in McLaren Vale? If yes, where, when and what might it be called?

Laura: I think I am all over the place at the moment with what I would like to do. I think a lot of people turn you off having your own restaurant which is really hard. If anything, I would really love to maybe open a cooking school one day … To be continued…

AGFG: How have your friends and family reacted to your new-found fame and success?

Laura: This is a great question! [laughs] Well my friends absolutely LOVE it! They still get all giggly and excited when people recognise me on the streets.  My family are all for it too, I mean they’re all so supportive, but so embarrassing when it comes to public recognitions.

AGFG: Have you been back to Italy since the competition ended? Do you have plans to go?

Laura: No I haven’t, but God yeah I intend on going back! I think if I had it my way, I would have got on a plane after MasterChef finished and stayed there for a few months. I will go back soon though; I think if I’m going to do it, I want to do it properly and spend about six months there starting at the top and working my way down to the bottom, chasing all things food!

AGFG: If your family asked you to cook for them right now, what would you make?

Laura: Lasagne – hands down! It’s a family favourite!  

All images from My Italian Kitchen by Laura Cassai published by Hardie Grant RRP $39.95 available in stores nationally and online here

By Annabel Rainsford. 

A Rare Red Certainly Worth Trying

By David Ellis from vintnews. 

 

When one-time doctor-become-vigneron, Larry Jacobs and journalist Marc Dobson migrated from South Africa in 1997 to pursue their passion for wine, they fell instantly in love with and bought the boutique Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills, that was then on the market.

 

They were particularly fascinated with the number of Germanic and Austrian grape varieties that had been planted by the winery’s previous German owner in the early 1990s, with one of these being Blaufrankisch, which is an Austrian variety that thrives in the Adelaide Hills’ warm days and cold nights, and was being used to make Rosé.

 

In 2008, however, Larry and Marc took a bolder step, deciding to make a 100% varietal Blaufrankisch – and to this day are the only Australian makers doing so, although the variety has recently been planted in both Victoria and Tasmania.

 

The just-released 2013 Hahndorf Hill Blueblood Blaufrankisch is a stunner drop, and well worth ordering directly from the cellar door: if you are wondering about flavours, think along the lines of a blend of Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Shiraz, with elegant red berry fruit and a touch of spiciness, nicely cocooned in gentle tannin.

 

Certainly well recommended at $40 to enjoy with venison, lamb or duck; order online through at www.hahndorfhillwinery.com.au

 

One to note: cold, wet and windy conditions just as vines were flowering in the Yarra Valley last year, meant fruit production was markedly down – but conversely quality was “exceptional” thanks to a rapid change from those adverse conditions to “fantastic” during the subsequent growing season.  

 

For Domaine Chandon, flavour intensity, freshness and abundant natural acidity in that fruit has resulted in a 2014 Chardonnay being a real stand-out, with upfront fresh pear and apple flavours, a lovely zesty acidity and great length of flavour. Pay $32 and enjoy with roast barramundi fillets and herbed roast potatoes.  

 

Playing With Food and Fire

Roaring flames, glowing coals and piping hot metal tongs – these things are no longer limited to the domain of weekend campers or the token guy manning backyard barbeques on hot summer days. Increasingly, we’re seeing classically-trained chefs in city restaurants incorporating the age-old technique of cooking over blazing fire into their repertoires – and it seems like a trend that isn’t going to be extinguished any time soon.

Casual eateries boasting rustic wood fire ovens are now commonplace around Australia as are high-end establishments providing their own spin on wood-fired cuisine – think Sanctuary Cove’s Fireplace Restaurant who specialise in provincial-style wood-fired cuisine with dishes such as fire-roasted fish with prawn roulade and wagyu rump steaks grilled on a bed of fiery coals.

Meanwhile, Perth-raised chef David Pynt has ignited fervour in the Singapore dining scene with his gourmet wood fire barbeque restaurant Burnt Ends, cheekily named after the flavourful pieces of darken meat from the pointy half of a barbequed brisket. Closer to home, Chef Lennox Hastie (formerly of Spain’s Etxebarri) has recently launched Firedoor in Surry Hills where the menu focuses on using wood, coal and fire to enhance the natural characteristics of every ingredient used for each dish. Given that bookings at Firedoor are said to be harder to come by than a scorching heatwave in winter, it looks like we just can’t get enough of fired up food.

So, why is fire cooking creating proverbial fireworks in restaurant kitchens all over? Firstly, this cooking technique allows chefs to keep things simple in the kitchen by doing away with pricey equipment and complicated gadgetry to create dishes filled with a greater depth of flavour that is hard to achieve using mainstream cooking methods such as pan-frying, grilling or even oven-roasting. The method allows dishes to develop deep smoky flavours and woody aromas, with the ingredients’ natural flavours shining through. Secondly, the soaring hot temperatures mean that chefs can sear meat more quickly and efficiently than if they had used a pan on a gas stove.

Even humble vegetables are given new life after a stint through fire and smoke; the likes of cabbage leaves and cauliflower heads are given a crisp veil of texture and smokiness, making them side dishes worth splurging on. Moreover, naturally earthy vegetables such as mushrooms equally benefit with an added flavour boost by spending time amongst naked flames.

Wood fire cooking, however, it isn’t easy to master. For one thing, it’s very difficult to control the heat – unlike stovetop cooking, there is no dial that you can turn up or down to adjust the temperature. Other variables also affect the way in which a dish will taste – for example, how successful your mesquite wood fired baby back ribs will turn out may depend on the air temperature, humidity, how moist or dry the wood is, or a combination of all those factors. 

The beauty about wood fire cooking, though, is that there will always be new ways to experiment with the method and new flavour combinations to discover. Ultimately, this trend is likely to see more creative dishes being presented to diners with appetites to burn – and that can only be a good thing.

By Libby Margo. 

Our Favourite Coffee Recipes

Australians love a good caffeine hit to jolt us awake in the morning, to enjoy with friends at the local cafe and to carry us through a day of running kids around, hectic work hours, a tonne of house cleaning or preparing for a late evening. We’ve come up with six of our favourite recipes to mix up the caffeine hit and to help you explore your love of coffee. 

The Beccacinno Cocktail:

Cocktail Connoisseurs may like to try recreating one of the first craft cocktails to be invented using all kinds of wonderful ingredients; The Beccaccino cocktail by Murray Stenson - the best bartender in North America and certified cocktail icon from Canon, Seattle. 

Cold Brew Smoothie: 

Waking up in the morning just became that little bit easier with our combination of caffeine and breakfast in one convenient and tasty smoothie. Throw it in a jar with a lid and take it with you to sip on throughout the morning to stay full and energised.

Mocha Walnut Brownies: 

If you haven’t tried and loved brownies, it’s likely you’ve lived a pretty rough life and therefore deserve to give this recipe a try at the nearest possible convenience. Perfect as a mid-morning snack, hide these brownies from your colleagues and don’t let the kids get into these ones after school! 

Coffee Risotto:

A creamy winter treat that is sure to disappear shortly after prepared, the simple risotto is livened by the addition of coffee for a rich and fragrant dessert. 

Coffee and Berry Trifle:

Are you sick of bringing the same old salads or dip and chips to the weekend barbeque? Try this impressive coffee and berry trifle to wow guests with colour and bursts of summer flavours. 

Coffee Crusted Lamb:

A succulent meal for the whole family that can stretch over two nights of dinners if you try, the humble lamb roast is given an aromatic make-over with a coffee crust. Before jumping into this recipe, note that the instructions call for the lamb to be marinated overnight (or 6 hours). 

Breaking an Italian Stereotype

As Festa della Repubblica (Italy’s National Day) draws closer and closer (June 2), we couldn’t help delve into the world of Italian cuisine, wine and its seductive charm.

There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese dressed with real parmesan and a glass of chianti on a cold winter’s night followed by cannoli dipped in warm caramel syrup, however, imagine for a moment something completely different. It’s still winter, but it’s lunch time and you happen to be at a family gathering, the sun is beating down on you and suddenly that chianti is not looking like the right drinking companion - may we dare suggest you veer towards the white varieties of Italian wine?

You really can't ignore the vibrancy of this dish.

We even put this wild and crazy suggestion to the test. Beginning our winter lunch with an aperitif of Prosecco, straight from Italy itself and from Calabria Wines’ Private Bin Range was a deliciously light, fresh bubbly that seduced you from the first sip. With delicate aromas of white peach, apple, pear and lemon it cleansed the palate and prepared you for the main event of Chilli, Lime and Chive Crab Linguine (find the recipe here).

To pair with our lunch, we chose Calabria Wines’ Vermentino. Calabria’s 2014 Vermentino is the first of its vintage and certainly promises a bright future for this exotic and late ripening white grape as it was the perfect wine to pair with such a light seafood dish. A palate of lime zest and lemongrass as well as a particularly fruity floral taste was just enough to sweep away the intensity of the chilli.

Now we know we’re going against the grain here and it might be a little too much to handle, however, if you have a winter lunch (may we even say dinner) planned, go against the cravings of heavy tomato sauces and vigorous reds, you may just be pleasantly surprised.

You can find Italian recipe to try at home in our AGFG Italian Recipes Section.

If you want to know more about the Italian lifestyle, check out our dynamic interview with Stefano Manfredi.

Want to know more about Calabria Wines? David Ellis put together a tantalising wine review here.

Don’t want to make a mess in the kitchen? Check out these Italian Restaurants near you. 

Happy Festa della Repubblica! 

Cool: Banjo's Run A Highland's Winner

By David Ellis from vintnews. 

 

We happily admit to a fondness for Merlot, an easy-drinking, food-friendly drop that today is the second-most consumed red in the world after Cabernet Sauvignon, with around  260,000ha (640,000 acres) planted to the variety globally. 

 

While it thrives in warmer regions it can do exceptionally well in cooler climates too, and where because it doesn’t ripen too quickly, it develops a beautiful softness along with lovely fruity varietal flavours. One such cool climate label we suggest is worth trying is from the boutique Banjo’s Run at tiny Exeter in the NSW Southern Highlands, around half way between Sydney and Canberra and 1.5hours from each. 

 

Their 2013 is medium bodied with nicely recognisable Merlot red berry and blackcurrant fruit flavours, and with its suggestions of spicy tannin makes for a great match with an Italian tomato-based pasta, herbed chicken or osso bucco. 

 

Banjo’s Run 2013 Merlot is just $25 a bottle by the 6- or 12-bottle pack: order direct, and check cellar door hours if thinking of visiting the Southern Highlands, with vigneron Bill Hall on bill@banjosrun.com.au or www.banjosrun.com.au. Freight begins from just $10 per pack depending on distance.  

 

One to note: The late (great) Auberon Waugh, writing for The Spectator Magazine’s Wine Club,  once described Chateau de Sours Rosé as “probably the greatest Rosé in the world” – somewhat high praise indeed. 

 

Be it so or not, this company has been producing exceptional wines (not just Rosés) out of Bordeaux for some 200 years, yet remarkably a 2013 Chateau de Sours Rosé that’s just been released here sells for an extraordinarily modest $23.95. 

 

A blend of Merlot and Cabernet, it has a palate akin to strawberries and cream, a wonderfully sparkling freshness, and with 12.5% alcohol it’s a ripper drop for that special-occasion dinner to go with grilled lobster… or maybe a more everyday Thai or something similarly spicy.

Our Top Seven Italian Inspired Chef Recipes

Australia is blooming with cultural festivities of all kinds and Italian National Day on June 2nd is no exception. 

Festa della Repubblica means Festival of the Republic, referring to when Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in 1946, now recognised by Italians around the world. The latest Census in 2011 recorded 185,402 Italian-born residents in Australia* with many more proud to say they have Italian heritage – all the more reason to embrace incredible flavours, or rather; belle sapori known only to Italian cuisine. We have compiled seven Italian and Italian-inspired recipes from chefs of all backgrounds to help you to celebrate at home on Italian National Day (and all year round, if you like!)

 

1 – Enjoy a taste of Italy’s coastline with this Snapper Aqua Pazza by Pete Evans. 

2 – Pre-heat the oven for this Chilli Tuna Pasta Bake by 2013 Masterchef contestant Andy Allen. 

3 – Sure to be a hit with the kids, try Best Ever Spaghetti Bolognese by George Calombaris. 

4 – Wake up to Baked Eggs by Tobie Puttock. 

5 – It’s not Italian without a good pizza! Try this Pizza Supreme recipe by Annette Sym. 

6 – Delight in a delicate Italian dessert with Strawberry Cannoli by Guy Grossi. 

7 – A gourmet take on classic risotto, try Forest Mushroom and Shaved Truffle Risotto by our resident chef, Shawn Sheather. 

- Una cena senza vino e come un giorno senza sole 

- A meal without wine is a day without sunshine. 

Take a hint from the Italians and check out some of our featured wineries to visit on Italian National Day. 

*Statistics taken from Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics sourced on 27/04/2015 at the following link.

By Annabel Rainsford. 

Nothing Flat About It

America's Pizza Obsession by Michelle Tchea from My Little SoHo Kitchen.

~~~ Interview with Chef Johnny Di Fracesco of Gradi Crown Included ~~~

Getting a good slice of pizza in the US is pretty easy. Pop into any pizza parlour and pick up a glorious slice of cheese flatbread for under $3. You could do better and get a small slab for 99c, but you wouldn’t be getting the best slice, and that’s exactly what you should be after. When it comes to fast- food options, Americans go by a few simple rules. Bigger is better. 

Lots of food trends have come and gone in the US and like many street foods from Asia, they have been recreated and at times butchered by novice cooks wanting to be the next big thing in the Big Apple. The Japanese must squirm at the NY ramen burger; the French are probably going to new heights to turn their noses at the cronut; and us Aussies, aren’t very impressed with the half-asked lattes in Brooklyn.

Yet, when it comes to Italian food, Americans seem to have done something right.  

A New York Slice - All you have to do is fold and devour!

Pizza, round or square, flat or stuffed, thin or thick, pizza is affectionately adored by all Americans. It is most definitely fundamental over here than even in the South of Italy where it apparently originated.  Americans have made it their own and possibly perfected the Italian specialty. Whether you demand a thin crust with spicy sausage, or the heartier Chicago rendition, pizza is best eaten in America. Real pizza aficionados probably agree that the best pizza is not in the topping, sauce or cheese, but its crust. Clean, no-fuss tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese (fresh for the gourmets out there) and a blistering hot oven equals pizza perfection. 

The beauty of pizza in the US is that it caters to all gourmets, budget-conscience eaters from all walks of life. You don’t need a pesky knife and fork, nor do you need a spot to sit down. Hand held pizzas are at their best when on the go. Toppings are not essential and quite frankly pointless. Pizzas along the East Coast are thin, smeared with a bit of tomato sauce and a generous sprinkle of cheese. That’s it. Vegans, veggie hipsters and meat lovers, find common ground and keep it simple too. Toppings like mushrooms egg or God forbid pineapple are a sacrilege to say the least. 

The first time I ate a real New York pizza was unforgettable. I longed for that first bite but it couldn’t be just any pizza joint, it had to be the best. Eating a New York slice is all about the execution. The pizza has to be fresh, hot out of the oven but not burn-the-top-of-your-mouth hot. For mere tourists, the size may be overwhelming, but don’t be shy; it is after all a thin crust pie, so you’re safe if you are worried about the carbs. 

Lovers of social media, don’t jeopardize the pie with all your tedious instagraming, facebooking and other food porn nonsense, a pie is at stake. Hold the pie from the crust, make the New York pizza fold with the paper plate still supporting your pie and bring it up to your drooling mouth.

Taste the sauce, remember the cheese and savour the crust. If you know what’s good for you, you will pop back in for another slice of New York history.   

A delicious margarita pizza from Scoozi. 

Of course – if you don’t live in New York City – or Italy for that matter, there are great pizza places everywhere. Rewarded ‘best pizza’ in the world, Chef Johnny Di Francesco calls Melbourne home and has added to Melbourne’s dynamic pizza battle.  

My favourite Pizza joints around Melbourne (and not necessarily on Lygon Street): 

  • Gradi, Crown 
  • Scoozi 
  • La Svolta
  • 90secondi 
  • La Zerpig 

I had the great chance to interview Chef Johnny Di Fracesco of Gradi Crown on how to get the perfect pizza at home and what he loves most about Melbourne. 

What's the secret to a great pizza?

High quality ingredients. What you put into your pizza - from the dough to the toppings - is absolutely what makes or breaks it. I also believe that fewer toppings is the secret to a really great taste, I've never believed in loading up a pizza with as many ingredients as you can! 

For people with pizza ovens at home, what are the best ways to control the heat and fire of a HOT oven?

There are a few ways to manage the temperature - the easiest is of course a temperature gauge. The flour test is another good one, which you can do after an oven has been burning for about an hour and a half so it should be close to ready to start cooking. Scatter flour inside the oven, and if your oven is at the right temperature to cook the flour will start to turn golden then darken but not too quickly. If the flour darkens quickly and starts to burn, the oven is too hot and you should stop adding wood to the fire. 

What's next for you? 

I'm working on opening another restaurant in Essendon which is exciting. It will be a similar concept to 400 Gradi, but like Gradi at Crown, it will have its own personality and take on the menu. 

How would you describe Melbournes dining / food scene?

Eclectic and evolving. I love that there are so many different variations of dining available here - you can eat from a food truck or you can experience absolute fine dining. All facets of the food spectrum are covered, and there's always something new happening, somewhere new to eat, some new food trend to try. It's food heaven! 

Where are your favourite places for pizza around the world?

Naples of course - there are so many great pizzerias in my home town that I find it difficult to get to all of them whenever I am there. I can also admit that I don't mind a giant slice of New York style pizza when I'm in the USA! 

What are your favourite spots for eating / breakfast and coffee in Melbourne? 

I spend so much time at Crown and on Lygon Street that most of my favourite spots are centred around those two areas. There's a great Cafe, Code Black not far from 400 Gradi that I stop in at when I have time to grab a coffee, but to be honest I spend most of my time in my own restaurants so I tend to literally live, breathe and even eat Gradi Group!

Book Review & Interview: My Delicious Life by Michelle Crawford

Michelle’s heart-warming story of leaving a successful career in Sydney for the simple, fresh, country life in Tasmania exudes vibrancy through every page of her new cookbook and memoir, A Table in the Orchard.

Glamorous cocktail parties at the Opera House were left behind for muddy gumboots, a veggie garden or two and a cottage in the country, surrounded by crisp and bountiful Tasmanian wilderness - and Michelle hasn’t looked back. From renovating a house and importing a three hundred kilogram Rayburn oven from England while raising two beautiful children with her partner, to breeding chickens, picking wild blackberries, sticking nettles and haw berries to curating MONA markets and now consulting on Tasmania’s seasonal food festivals; Michelle certainly has strong perseverance, a profoundly deep passion and a wealth of wisdom from experiencing first-hand the trials and triumphs of country living. 

Daydream Tart, p. 26. 

Michelle’s lively commentary is perfect content for anyone wistfully daydreaming of making a ‘sea change’ to the country, and is a source of encouragement for those a little shy of stepping into the kitchen for culinary experiments. Linger over dozens of comforting, wholesome recipes throughout Michelle’s cookbook and when inspiration strikes, pick up the spade and start digging a new veggie patch, or perhaps dabble in a few tasty recipes yourself. 

On top of the vast knowledge packed into the pages of her charming cookbook, we were lucky enough to have Michelle spare some precious time and give us an update on her Delicious Life. Here is what she had to say:

Your love for Tasmanian produce is evident in your book, but what do you miss about Sydney’s food scene?

I miss the easy access to food from so many different cultures and visiting the “villages” of Sydney where it feels like you’re in other country – Chinatown in Haymarket, Vietnamese in Cabramatta, Italian in Haberfield and Turkish in Auburn.  I also miss those massive food halls in Chinatown where you can get an amazing bowl of noodles to slurp, the Asian grocers selling piles of fresh greens to stir-fry and Sunday morning yum cha with towers of bamboo steamers filled with har gow dumplings. Sigh.

What is the biggest culinary lesson learnt as a result of moving to Tasmania?

It’s such a cliché, but it really is all about the ingredients, their freshness and where and how they are grown, along with also eating foods that’s in season. Having great produce means you don't need to do much at all to the food. It really does affect the flavour of everything you cook.

Mushroom and Spelt Soup, p. 288. 

You have a very funny tale of dispatching and preparing your own roosters because they bred quite fast. Where do you source other meats from, what do you look for and how is the chicken breeding situation now?

I’m lucky enough to have friends who raise lamb, beef or pork that we buy direct. They’re shipped off to the butcher and you order the meat how you like it. A big chest freezer is compulsory!  If we do need to buy meat, our local butcher is fantastic and he can pretty much tell you which paddock the meat’s been raised on.  We always look to eat meat from animals that have led happy outdoor lives.

We don’t have any roosters anymore, so the chicken breeding situation is stable. Our dog, Patch, killed the last rooster - his name was Alan.  However, only yesterday I was wishing I had a rooster in the freezer to make a soup with the tomatillos we’re picking from the garden. So, while we’re enjoying our sleep-ins without the roosters crowing, I do miss the tasty dishes we used to prepare with them.

If you asked your family what to cook right now, what unanimous reply are you most likely to receive and why?  

Probably roast pork made from pigs raised on our friends’ farm, with lots of crispy, roast potatoes and baked apples and piles of green vegetables.  And why, you ask? Well, crackling.

Are there any foods your family won’t eat?

We’re always hungry and pretty much eat everything. Although the children might question where an ingredient comes from if it doesn’t taste right; “Whose carrots are these?”  We probably wouldn't eat fast food - no-one really likes the taste of it.

If you had to choose a single recipe from A Table in the Orchard, which one would it be?

Probably the baked beans - they’re so easy; just dump all the ingredients into the pot and walk away. Then keep the cooked beans in the fridge and you have fast, delicious snacks for the week. I like to heat them up in a ramekin with an egg for breakfast, or fill a jaffle with beans and cheese or have them on toast with avocado and spinach.

Your storytelling of creative cooking and gardening is insightful and also very entertaining. Have you experienced any huge cooking disasters? What happened?

Oh gosh. All. The. Time.  Mostly my disasters stem from being distracted and burning things, toast, jam, soup…I’ll put a pot on, then walk outside and start working in the garden and come back to a smoky kitchen.  I’ve had to toss out a lot of pots that have been burnt beyond repair.  I’ve been known to chip burnt jam off with a screwdriver from my Le Creuset pots, but don’t try that at home, it’s not a happy outcome.

Living the simple life seems immensely complex – can you offer some advice for anyone wanting to make a country move?

Just do it! You can make it as complicated or as simple as you like. While I don't know anyone who lives entirely off their own garden (although some people come close) even a few chickens and fruit trees can provide so much pleasure with minimal effort.

Salted Apple Caramels, p. 58.

What adventures are in the pipeline for you and your family and what aspect of country life are you hoping to conquer next? 

We’d like to try for an overseas holiday to Ireland, maybe rent a cottage overlooking Galway Bay.  And really, I’m still dreaming of a sweet jersey house cow so we can have lots of milk and make our own cheese. 

By Annabel Rainsford. 

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