1. Tell us about your favourite food occasion
New Years Eve is the most important yearly event for my family. It’s my grandmother’s native Scotland’s Hogmanay and Sydney’s best show rolled into one. For us it’s all about the food, free-range Guiness-glazed ham, little potato scones with my father’s homemade gravlax, loads of crunchy salads using all the season’s veg. It’s celebratory, real food that we love and which brings us together.
2. What’s the best piece of advice you have for home cooks
Follow the recipe. Creativity does belong in the kitchen, but it’s important to get the fundamentals right as well. If you really want to improve your own cooking, first follow the recipe, using all the ingredients you don’t typically have in the kitchen, and then do tweaks that you think will improve it. Otherwise your food will always taste the way it always has, there’s no room to expand and discover. Recipes let us challenge ourselves and become better, more adventurous cooks.
3. Are you a sweet or savoury fan?
I’m a savoury girl. I love a perfect bone broth with its rich umami flavours, or a healthy salad using in-season produce and pasture-fed chicken or beef. I’m a huge fan of vegetables, simply cooked. But having said that, there’s nothing better than a not-too-sweet chocolate roulade, that chocolate sponge rolled with whipped cream and strawberries. It’s been my birthday cake for as long as I can remember, and it’s impossible to resist.
4. What’s the best recent foodie experience you have had - either in or out of the kitchen?
Vietnam is thriving with food experiences for the die-hard foodist. Steaming bowls of pho, filled with tender meat and fragrant herbs, sold on the side of the road for a pittance. There’s no beating it. I have a recipe for pho in my next book, Margaret and Me, because basically I’m forever trying to recreate that experience of sitting on a tiny plastic stool on the side of the road, slurping those flat rice noodles through the broth, adding more chilli and usually overdoing it.
5. Biggest mistake you can make in the kitchen?
There are too many. But what a shame it is when people overcook meat. To me it’s such a waste, turning something best served with a tender, soft texture and exterior crust into something dry and grainy and tasteless. It’s worth investing in a temperature gauge to test the inside of the meat when cooking.
6. The one cooking or kitchen utensil/appliance you can't live without?
A good pan. I see many cooks wondering why their steaks don’t develop that gorgeous outside crust, or why nothing will cook evenly, and so often it comes back to the pan. A heavy-based pan helps enormously, and it’s a worthwhile investment.
7. Who has been your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?
My mother Suzanne is hugely influential, and while everyone loves their own mother’s cooking I really have been lucky in that regard. Obviously my grandmother Margaret Fulton has impacted the way I cook and eat, enough so that I wrote a book about it! I often use Neil Perry’s recipes, because they work so well, and encourage me to try new ingredients and techniques. I adore his Asian, spice and herb recipes in particular.