Winter Cooking Classes Ahead

I’m excited to announce the next round of cooking classes held up at the glorious home of Anna Middleton in Coopers Shoot just outside Byron Bay. Taking bookings now for deliciously  hearty Italian three-course Sunday menus: cooking lesson followed by sit-down lunch with wine!JunJulAug15_ItalianCookingClass

I'm taking bookings now! Come and join us for great Italian food and wine in the stunning Coopers Shoot setting just outside Byron Bay!

I’m taking bookings now! Come and join us for great Italian food and wine in the stunning Coopers Shoot setting just outside Byron Bay!

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Upcoming Cooking Classes

Wining, dining, and general jollityThree new dates for the next 3-course Italian cooking classes/lunches announced!

Sunday 29 March  at Victoria’s at Ewingsdale

Sunday 26 April at Wahgi Hill, Coopers Shoot

Sunday 3 May at Wahgi Hill, Coopers Shoot

Baked Herb Ricottas, Snapper Puttanesca, Spicy Beef in Red Wine, Olive Beer Breads, Fish & Fennel Stew, Rustic Bluberry Tart and much more!

11 am start for demonstration, hands-on lesson then sit-down lunch with Italian wines. Small groups no larger than 12. $125 per person.

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Cooking Classes for 2015

Sunday 1 February kicks off the new season of Italian cooking classes/lunches and it’s back at beautiful ‘Wahgi Hill’, Coopers Shoot home of Anna Middleton. Watch this space for the menu soon!

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Cooking Classes 2014/15

The cooking class at Coopers Shoot scheduled for November 30 is already full so I am running one the following Sunday, the 7 December, a final one before Christmas. There are still places left for the fantastic three-course Italian -accented lunch I will be demonstrating before the class gets stuck into the cooking of it,  then the devouring. Anna Middleton’s home is utterly gorgeous with ocean views and breezes and a long table where we will all sit over glasses of Italian wine. Then, as of 1 February 2015, there will be at least monthly classes held there, details forthcoming! For bookings and further enquiries call me on 0400189818.

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Cooking Class at Coopers Shoot


Sitting down to lunch

Sitting down to lunch


Poached PearsThe last Sunday in October – ferociously hot and blowy and even more so high up on Coopers Shoot – saw a small group of eight people attend a cooking class whose theme was Three Course Italian Lunch. I took the group through demonstrations of Olive Tart with the world’s simplest olive oil pastry; beef in spicy red wine sauce; and beurre bosc pears poached in white wine, lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. Then they all cooked! Chilled Pinot Grigio flowed as did the conversation – six women and two men – before we all settled down at the long table set divinely by the so-stylish Anna Middleton, and ate lunch. Next cooking class in the same heavenly location will be the last Sunday in November, the 30th, with eight people already booked in so only four spots left…

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Cooking classes ahead!

Freshly returned from a summer break in Tuscany where, apart from abandoning myself to the hedonistic pursuits of dining and wining and shopping, I taught cooking classes in beautiful Belsole Villa outside Tuscany’s Certaldo, I am now excitedly planning new classes for 2014/15. To be held in a stunning home in Byron Bay, they will take place on Sundays, the cooking class leading seamlessly into a long leisurely lunch. Groups are no bigger than twelve people ensuring everyone gets to pitch in and make the various dishes demonstrated in an informal atmosphere. Further details will be forthcoming!

Burrata with grilled summer vegetables

Burrata with grilled summer vegetables

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Birthday Baking Greek-Style

pastitsoMost of the people I love have birthdays in November: Scorpios the lot of them! Not least  my Spero, whose half-Greek heritage inspired me to bake birthday treats accordingly. He has often spoken fondly of his grandmother’s Pastitsio:  that, then, was to be the savoury component, and for that I turned to George Colombaris. For something sweet the choice was selfish: an almond lemon syrup cake because out of all the cakes I bake my most adored are dense, moist, nutty, sticky ones drenched in syrup.

Both, I now brag, were a triumph. The pastitsio, a sort of Greek lasagne: bottom layer pasta, middle layer a beef ragu and the top a deep couple of inches of exquisite cloud-soft béchamel lightened by eggs and enriched with loads of freshly grated parmesan (in the absence of the recommended keflagraviera). We dined on it, shamelessly, two nights in a row.

As for the cake, one of New Zealander Annabel Langbein’s,  it was all I could have asked for, and more. The syrup especially – an infusion of cardamon pods, star anise, vanilla bean, loads of sugar and water and the tediously peeled rind – no pith! – of three lemons – was spicy and complex. Whole blanched almonds adorned the top and all it needed was thick cream. Several days later it, like the pastitsio, was only better.

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Birthday Baking Greek-Style

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Peppertree Kitchen Antipasto Workshop

Salmon Slicing in ByronA highly successful day at Lismore with a lovely group of eleven women whipping up nine different types of antipasti which positively shone on the platters before being devoured.

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The Cook Wayne Macauley

Nothing prepared me for the ending. And while of course I would never divulge it here, it is to the author’s credit that he twists his tale so subtly and with such craft that the denouement delivers a force quite mighty. Largely set in a Cook’s School, a farm where wayward boys have been sent as a sort of second chance in life a la Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen project, it is recounted by Zac, a likeable-enough character, at least initially, whose crime is never disclosed. Zac, unlike all the others, really does want to learn how to be a great chef and the lengths he goes to in order to do so are often extreme – such as feeding his personal ewes grain, rosemary, pinot noir and sea salt in order that the unborn lamb he
will subsequently slaughter and cook will take up those flavours via the placenta. The relative paucity of punctuation and idiomatic tone – following the rhythms of Zac’s thoughts and speech – rapidly become unnoticeable as he takes you further into
his obsessive mind. And while the book may be described as a satire on themes like modern cooking, the celebrity status afforded chefs and the purist’s pursuit of impossible and often outlandish perfection, I found it disturbingly close to what really goes on
in today’s food-fanatical and food-gimmicky world. I was also reminded of M J Hyland, another writer we were lucky to have grace our Writers’ Festival last year, whose seemingly simple, spare style of storytelling merely paves the way for the horror ahead. Equal measures moving and funny, chilling and entertaining, this book is well worth the journey – even if cooking is not your thing.

The Cook – Wayne Macauley. Text Publishing.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview author Wayne Macauley, a telephone session between Melbourne and the northern rivers. My first question was whether in a past life he had worked as a chef, so knowledgeable had he been in his evocation of food and cooking and a chef’s life.

‘No’, was the response. ‘I came to it completely naively – just as the character Zac had done. Sure, I picked  up a few tips along the way, but I’m an amateur cook… I guess that a lot of the research was into really high-end restaurant food, which I would never emulate.’

It was, he told me, a deliberate artistic choice to start out as naive as his protagonist – ‘so my journey into culinary knowledge was the same as Zac’s… I wanted to begin in the dark, like him, and fill in the gaps of knowledge as he went along. I was doing the research as I wrote… I tend to write my books like that. I don’t like to plan too much – it kills off creative possibilities if you plan too much. If I don’t have an answer at my fingertips at a certain point I’ll leave a blank on the page.’

I brought up the satirical nature of the book, and Wayne remarked that a lot of his work is indeed satirical. ‘But the word is much degraded now’, he continued. ‘I approach satire in a political way, like Jonathon Swift. It’s that kind of satire that informs my work. As a writer I have my ear to the ground, always reading the Zeitgeist… There’s something excessive about all this (fascination with food, cooking, celebrity chefdom) – the crazy amount around us in all the media. You can’t get away from it. So as a satirist and simply as a writer I can’t help taking that and putting it under a microscope. At the moment cheffing is how you get your head on the telly – I find that strange, and funny. It’s not hard to see humour in us human beings. We are sad and funny at the same time. When you take away God and reason we are left sad and funny. I wanted always to explore that in my work. I’m most interested in us stripped bare…’

Wayne Macauley appears alongside local author Jim Hearn (High Season) at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival on Sunday 5 August in the Blue Marquee at 12 midday in a session entitled ‘Cooking Your Way To Salvation’.

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