food styling class Melbourne July 2014

Great news!

I’m giving a food styling class at Essential Ingredient in Prahran on Saturday July 19th.

The following day, I am giving another class, along with SImon Griffiths, a respected food and travel photographer. We will be demonstrating, styling and photographing some difficult foods, including ice-cream, roast chicken and soup.

More info on the essential Ingredient website. I have posted a link on my facebook food + style page too.

Please come along.

Mum’s caramel bananas



Caramel bananas with banana and dulce de leche icecream

My childhood treat of caramel bananas is given a makeover, with the addition of a super easy ice cream and the bitter crunch of praline. Can you ever have too much caramel?



4 over ripe bananas

1 cup dulce de leche*



¾ cup caster sugar

½ cup almonds



60g butter

½ cup brown sugar

4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut in thick slices on an angle


To make ice cream, blend bananas in a food processor until smooth. Add dulche leche and blend. Pour into a plastic container and place in freezer for 4 hours until firm.

To make praline, line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat a heavy based frypan over high heat. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar, allowing it to melt before adding more. As it melts, stir with a wooden spoon to ensure it doesn’t burn. Keep adding the sugar and stirring until it is a dark golden brown colour.

Quickly add the almonds and pour the mixture onto the tray.

Allow to cool, then break into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse until roughly crushed.

For the bananas, melt butter in a pan over medium heat, add brown sugar and stir. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring, until caramel forms. Add sliced banana and continue to cook until banana is soft and golden.

Remove from heat and drizzle over any extra caramel from the pan.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream and sprinkle with praline.

Serves 4.


*To Make Dulce de leche:


Place a tin of condensed milk in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours, topping up with extra water to keep the tin covered. Remove and allow to cool.


Australia Day



Australia Day is a good excuse to make some lamingtons.

Here is a recipe of mine that first appeared in epicure’s Chocolate cook book.

My Lamingtons

My Aunty Pat was a great cook, known for her sponge cakes. When I was a child I gave her a battery-operated sifter which she good naturedly used and claimed that it made her sponges ever lighter!

I have used her sponge recipe here as the base for my lamingtons. Just bake the mix in a lamington tin. You won’t believe how delicious these are! Moist and light as a feather. And no battery-operated sifter required!


1 sponge cake (see recipe below)

½ cup hot water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons dutch cocoa

1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind (optional)

1 – 2 teaspoons orange essence (optional)

2 cups pure icing sugar

2 cups dessicated coconut


Cut cake into small squares using a serrated knife. This is easier if the cake has been slightly chilled.

In a medium bowl, combine hot water, butter and cocoa and whisk until smooth. Add orange rind and flavouring at this point if you want jaffa-flavoured icing. (Traditionalists can ignore this step.)

Beat in icing sugar with a wooden spoon. Add extra hot water if the mixture is too thick for dipping. You want it quite runny, but still of a coating consistency.

Now for the messy bit. Using two forks, dip the pieces of cake in the icing, one at a time, and turn them over to cover completely. Don’t fuss too much about any errant crumbs. Now roll the cake in the coconut and place on a cake rack for the icing to set. It is a good idea to have a tray underneath to catch any drips. Repeat the process with the remaining cake. If your forks get too messy, just replace them with clean ones. Ditto, the coconut.

Store in an airtight container – if there are any left!

Auntie Pat’s Sponge

4 eggs

¾ cup caster sugar

¾ cup corn flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon SR flour


  1. Separate eggs.
  2. Beat whites until stiff.
  3. Add caster sugar.
  4. Add yolks.
  5. Sift cornflour, SR flour and baking powder
  6. Fold into mixture.
  7. Pour into a greased and lined 22cm square lamington tin.
  8. Bake 20 minutes 200C.

To further celebrate Australia Day, I slow cooked some lamb shoulder, made some soft pitas  and served souvlaki. Here are the recipes below.






slow roasted lamb shoulder with chilli and sage

I tried this dish at The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Masterclass. The rich flavour of the lamb is balanced with the bold flavours of chilli, garlic and sage.


1 shoulder of lamb, bone in, about 2kg

salt and pepper to season

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 head garlic, cut in half

1 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves

3 bay leaves

6 good quality anchovy fillets

½ cup red wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 160C fan forced (180C conventional).

Ask your butcher to cut the lamb through the bone, on the underside, at intervals. Trim off most of the surface fat, then season well with salt and pepper. Heat a large frypan, add oil and brown the lamb on all sides for 10 minutes, until well browned.

Place browned meat in a roasting pan and add the remaining ingredients, reserving the grapes to add later.

Cover the pan with foil and cook in the oven for 3 hours, basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes or so.

The lamb should be meltingly tender by now. If not, cook further until tender.


serves 4-6.



Pita bread

This recipe belongs to Cath Claringbold. It is now firmly in my recipe folder and I use it to make the best soft pita bread. Just ask my kids.

Makes 12 pita bread




1¼ cups tepid water

1½ teaspoons of dry yeast

1½ teaspoons caster sugar


Mix together in a small bowl and leave in a warm spot until mixture foams, around 20 minutes


460g plain flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup of olive oil


In a large bowl mix the flour and salt and make a well. Add the olive oil and the yeast mix and combine. Work the mix until it comes together and then turn out on to a lightly floured bench and knead for a few minutes until the dough becomes silky and smooth.

Put it back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for around 15 – 20 minutes.


Preheat the Barbeque to a medium heat.


Divide the dough into 12 and roll out into flat thin even disks approximately 16cm in diameter.


Brush the flat bread with some olive oil and place it oil side down on the bars of the BBQ. Gently brush a little oil on top as well.

In a matter of seconds the bread will start to puff and after 20-25 seconds flip them over and cook for 20 seconds more. Do not cook for too long or they will dry out too much and become crisp.

When they are cooked stack them one on top of the other and wrap them tightly in a clean tea towel or even cling wrap to keep them warm and help them sweat a little and stay soft until ready to use.

silverbeet from the garden


My first crop of silver beet was ready to harvest. But, what to cook? I consulted two of my favourite cooks, Stephanie Alexander and Yotam Ottolenghi. The following recipes were so delicious, I will definitely be making these again.


Ottolenghi’s Warm salad of chickpea, silverbeet and carrot with lemony yoghurt

300g silverbeet or Swiss chard, washed

40ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm dice

1 tsp caraway seeds

400g tin chickpeas

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh mint, torn

1 Tbsp fresh coriander, torn

1 Tbsp lemon juice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup thick Greek style yoghurt

zest and juice of 1 lemon


Separate chard stalks and leaves. Chop stalks into 1 cm pieces, roll up leaves and chop into 2cm strips. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil, add stalks and cook for 2 minutes, add leaves and cook for further 2 minutes. Then drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again, wrap in clean tea towel and squeeze out excess moisture. Chop roughly and set aside.

Heat oil in large heavy based pan. Add carrots and caraway seeds and cook for 5 minutes. Add chard and chickpeas and cook for 6 minutes. Add garlic, herbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.

Mix yoghurt with lemon juice and zest and serve with the salad.


Serves 4.


Stephanie’s crustless silverbeet, pinenut and olive tart


300g silverbeet leaves and stems, washed well, leaves and stems separated

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp pinenuts

4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

12 black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

½ cup fresh breadcrumbs

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 free range eggs

½ cup Greek yoghurt

20 butter, melted,

2 Tbsp grated parmesan


Preheat oven to 180C.

Bundle silverbeet leaves together and cut into 2cm wide ribbons. Slice really thick stems lengthwise into 1cm wide strips then 1cm pieces.

Drop stems into a pan of simmering water for 2 minutes. Add leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Drain in a colander. Refresh with cold water then squeeze out excess moisture. Roll up in a clean teatowel to extract as much liquid as possible.

Chop roughly and tip into a bowl.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a large frypan over medium heat and sauté pinenuts until golden. Remove and set aside. Add remaining oil to pan and saute spring onions and garlic for 30 seconds. Add silverbeet and mix well, sauté for 1 minute.

Tip mixture into bowl then stir in olives, pinenuts and 2 Tbsp of the breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

Lightly whisk eggs and yoghurt, then tip into silverbeet mixture.

Grease a 20cm pie dish with melted butter, then coat base and sides with remaining breadcrumbs.

Tip silverbeet mixture in and scatter over parmesan.

Bake for 25 minutes or until firm.

Serve warm or cold.


Serves 6.





Soft and sweet, with texture as light as air, marshmallows are a favourite treat. Making them yourself is easier than you think. The equipment required to make the job easier is a stand mixer with whisk attachment and a candy thermometer (a digital thermometer is my preference). This recipe is adapted from Gary Mehigan’s marshmallow recipe from “Cook with Us”. I was the food stylist on this book and can personally vouch for his marshmallow (I have also tried all the other recipes, if you’re interested!)

Anyway, back to the marshmallow. It is very easy to flavour and colour as you like. We decided on raspberry flavour with swirls of colouring.



100g pure icing sugar

100g cornflour

vegetable oil, for greasing

10 leaves gold strength gelatine

240ml water

450g caster sugar

1 tbsp liquid glucose

2 large egg whites


food colouring




  1. Sift icing sugar and cornflour into a large bowl and set aside. Lightly oil a shallow baking tin approx.18cm x 28cm. Line the base with baking paper and dust the base and sides generously with the sifted icing sugar mixture.
  2. Soak gelatine in 140ml of water.
  3. Place caster sugar, glucose and remaining water in heavy based saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook for 12-15 minutes until mixture reaches 127C on a digital sugar thermometer.
  4. Carefully add the softened gelatine and water. The syrup will bubble up a little. Gently swirl in the pan until the gelatine has dissolved.
  5. Whisk eggwhites in a bowl of an electric mixer until stiff.
  6. Slowly pour in the hot syrup whilst continuing to whisk. Continue whisking for 8 minutes until the mixture thickens and cools down. (At this stage you can add colouring and flavouring if you like.)
  7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and smooth the surface with a wet palette knife. (At this point you can add swirls of colouring. Add drops of food colouring to the surface and use a skewer to swirl the colour through the marshmallow. This is what we did in the photo.)
  8. Dust the top of the marshmallow with some of the icing mixture and set aside for around 2 hours.
  9. Unmould the marshmallow from the tin and use a sharp knife to cut into pieces. Toss in the remaining icing sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Makes 24 large marshmallows.

Summer salads

This has to be one of my favourite salads for this time of year. Combining sweet corn and tomatoes, it’s bursting with summer flavours. When I’m rushed for time, I simply use tinned black beans from my local grocer. You could substitute other tinned beans, too. The little trick of soaking the onion first, before lightly pickling it, takes away any strong raw onion flavours and softens the texture. Search out smoked almonds for their wonderful smoky salty flavour. If you can’t be bothered frying your own eschalots, grab a bag already prepared from your asian grocer or the asian section of the supermarket. I always keep them handy in the pantry and they give the salad some extra crunch. And be sure to use lots of fresh herbs. I always have plenty growing in the vegetable garden at this time of year (although the coriander does tend to bolt to seed quickly).


Grilled Sweet corn salad with black beans, almonds and pickled onion

Grilled sweetcorn salad with black beans and pickled onion

Grilled sweetcorn salad with black beans and pickled onion


This salad has a hint of Mexico. Delicious on its own or with barbecued meats.


1 cup black beans, soaked overnight

2 small red onions

juice 2 limes

juice 1 orange

3 ears of sweetcorn, husks on

400g punnet mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes

100g smoked almonds chopped

1 avocado, peeled and chopped into large chunks

2 eschalots, thinly sliced

½ (half) cup olive oil for salad dressing

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

salt and pepper to season

handful coriander leaves, washed and dried

handful mint leaves, washed and dried


Cook beans in plenty of water for around 60 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Peel and slice the onion thinly. Pour over boiling water to cover for 10 minutes. Drain then marinate in orange and lime juice for an hour.

Heat a bbq hot plate to high and cook corn in its husks, turning over to colour evenly for 30 minutes.

Remove and cool.  Peel the outer husk off and slice kernels off the cob. Place cobs in a mixing bowl and discard the corn husks.

Roughly chop the smoked almonds.

Fry the eschalots until crispy. Drain on paper towel.

Drain the pickled onions, reserving a little of the liquid for the salad dressing.

Make a simple dressing with the reserved juice, finely chopped garlic and chilli. Whisk in as much olive oil as you need. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix all the ingredients together and serve.


serves 4.

sugar free banana bread recipe

ImageThis is my favourite recipe at the moment. It’s from Jude Blereau’s Wholefood cookbook. I make variations of this all the time -sometimes without any eggs, sometimes without the walnuts or raisins, sometimes without the butter. It is important to toast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes or so, to improve the flavour. Use good quality walnuts as you’ll notice the difference. The original recipe doesn’t have eggs, but I prefer the texture with eggs and it seems to keep longer. When I don’t add eggs I need a bit more yoghurt and milk. When the bananas are really ripe, black, soft and squishy, I don’t add as many dates. Sometimes I use stevia for added sweetness (up to 1 tablespoon of granulated stevia). I also add in vanilla -either extract or powder.

I whip this up in my thermomix as it purees the bananas and dates in a flash. For a more rustic cake, you can chop by hand.

Banana cake

1 cup whole wheat flour (wheat or spelt)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (wheat or spelt)

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts

1/2 cup fresh dates, seeded and chopped

3 very ripe medium size bananas, mashed

2 bananas, extra, sliced

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

3-4 large eggs (optional)*

1/2 cup yoghurt

1/2 cup milk (dairy or soy)

Preheat oven to 170C fanforced.

Lightly grease a large loaf tin and line with baking paper.

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add walnuts, dates and raisins and stir through.

Add mashed bananas and all other ingredients and gently mix (add extra milk if required, so the batter moves well over the spoon as you mix). *Add eggs here if you are going to use them.

Place in loaf pan and bake for 50-70 minutes, until golden and cooked in the centre.

Remove from oven and leave for 15 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cake rack.


thermomix instructions:

No need to mash bananas or chop dates first. 

Place bananas and dates in thermomix and blend on speed 4 for 5-10 seconds or until smooth. Add yoghurt, milk, butter, eggs* and blend on speed 4 for a further 5 seconds until combined.

Mix flours, baking powder and spices, then add to bowl and blend slowly for approx 5 secs on speed 2 to incorporate.

Add raisins and walnuts and blend on speed 1 for a few seconds to fold in.

If the mixture is too stiff, add extra milk and blend slowly on speed 1 until the mixture is moist (if you are not using eggs, this may be an extra 1/2 cup milk).




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