When you were a child, what was your favourite thing to eat?
I used to like spaghetti bolognaise, mum’s roast chicken and my grandmother’s desserts. Lemon mousse or a really good crumble, they’re the kind of things that used to rock my boat as a kid. My tastes have changed slightly now but basically anything your mum or your grandmother cooks, good or bad, is always delicious. You love them so your view of what they cook tends to be rose-coloured, somewhat.
Describe what you would eat if you could choose your last supper
It’d have to be pizza, because I think pizza would be the ultimate food. There’d have to be some sushi because I love really good sushi. There’d have to be a really big sexy salad with lots of crispy greens and crunchy nuts and seeds because I love fresh veg – probably more than I love meat. To finish, there would be some really beautiful fresh peaches and some really beautiful fresh cherries, little crisp almond biscuits to go with them, and ice-cream to match. And finally a Snickers bar – my guilty pleasure. I should also add, there has to be my mother-in-law’s beautiful lamb-braise – she cooks the lamb really slowly with pineapple juice and a bit of soy sauce and she throws walnuts in at the end and it’s delicious. It’s the kind of classic Aussie country dish – just delicious.
If you could only own one cookbook, which one would it be?
I’d advise you to buy Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery, which is brilliant because it teaches you how to cook everything really simply and really well. But then there would be a book like The River Café – any of the River Café books… the first book is brilliant. Obviously I’d want a Gary and George book in there because I love the way they cook.
What three things do you always have in your pantry?
I always have parmesan, I always have bacon and I always have cucumber, but I would also always have lemon, I would also always have some ricotta and I would also have – I love iceberg lettuce I love zucchini, I love tomatoes and I don’t mind an avocado or two.
Your friends are coming over in 30 minutes- what do you cook for them?
It’ll probably be a pasta, it might be fresh gnocchi, a ricotta gnocchi you can knock out really quickly and all you need is ricotta and flour and it’s really quick to cook. Or it would be salad – I love salad that you maybe start with iceberg lettuce and you throw in some hard-boiled egg, and throw in some smoked almonds or some roast vegetables and you build it up so you’ve got a huge bowl that everybody can dig into and every mouthful is an exposition of flavours.
What foods can’t you live without?
I’d struggle to live without pizza, I’d struggle to live without sushi and I’d struggle to live without cold sweets – so whether it’s just blitzing up some delicious Australian frozen fruit to make a quick sorbet or whether it’s a scoop of really, really good ice-cream, there’s something really wonderful and fresh about finishing a meal like that.
What has been your most memorable meal?
I was asked this question the other day and I ran through a list – I’ve eaten at some amazing places around the world and some amazing people’s homes and had some amazing home cooking, and the one thing I realised that underpinned all those experiences, the first thing to justify the meal, was not the food, it wasn’t the place, it wasn’t the status of the chef, it was the other people around the table. So my most memorable meals tend to revolve around being with the woman I love, being with my children, being with my friends, eating out with George and Gary when we’re away. Those are the meals that become really memorable. When you’re cooking with your friends and with your family, the number one thing to remember is about enjoying their company. The food can be simple, the food can just be a beautiful flat bread, some slow cooked meats in the oven and just delicious fresh vegetables on the table with some yoghurt and freshly chopped up lemon – it’s about them sitting and enjoying and lingering over that meal and the more you linger over that meal the more you linger with people you love.
What’s your favourite comfort food?
It depends when it is – I love that lamb braise that my mother-in-law makes. I’ve got a slice that our next door neighbour makes and it’s just delicious – it’s a cup of tea and a bit of that slice which is chewy and it’s sweet and a little bit salty and it’s got lovely chewy sultanas in it. That’s pretty special. And when I go home I beg my mother to make polish-style cabbage rolls, which I love, love, love.