Literary legends

Last week was a great week. How often do you get to meet your literary and culinary heroes in the space of seven days?

On Sunday March 6 I finally met author Armistead Maupin, creator of the Tales of the City series. I own all of his books and have been lucky enough to interview him twice. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet Armistead when he visited Perth in 2007 due to being overseas, so the chance to hear him speak at the Perth Writers Festival about his latest book Mary Ann in Autumn was not to be missed.

Nor was the chance to have a book (or two) signed – and a photo.


Meeting Armistead Maupin


I’m re-reading the original Tales of the City book for book club this month. It has been a long time  – close to 20 years, since I first became acquainted with Mary Ann Singleton, Michael Tolliver and the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, so I look forward to renewing their acquaintance.

In my dream world, I’d get to see the musical of version of Tales that opens in San Francisco in May.

On Saturday March 12, I got to meet Nigella Lawson, whose cooking I adore. While some may focus on the fluttering eyelashes, sultry looks and flicking of the hair, all I really care about is Nigella Lawson’s food.

How to be a Domestic Goddess is probably my most used cook book. Nigella’s blueberry muffins, jam doughnut muffins, Victoria sponge, dense chocolate loaf are all favourites that never fail to appeal and to impress friends, family, kids and colleagues. Simply delicious.

Although I may have been able to organise an interview with Nigella through her pay-TV connections, the weekend trip to see her Masterclass with the supremely funny muso turned celebrity chef Anna Gare was pure pleasure. A chance to head to Melbourne for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and for a short while forget about TV.


Meeting the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson

Meeting the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson


My husband wasn’t entirely thrilled to be attending the Masterclass (tickets were hard to come by so when I managed to get through back in October I snapped up two) but he quite enjoyed himself.

He reckons he may even cook Anna’s Persian fillet of beef. I said I’d do the scallop ceviche, upside down potato salad and trip of tarts to go with it.

It has been a great month for foodies, with March featuring both #eatdrinkperth and #mfwf (I’m so used to those hashtags) and plenty of opportunities to eat.

I’ll soon, hopefully, get round to posting a few pix from the places we ate in Melbourne including Movida Next Door, Cumulus Inc, Bistro Vue and Circa The Prince. I may not have made it to many official #mfwf events but I did my best to eat in as many Age hatted restaurants as I could.  And we walked just about everywhere so that helped keep the extra kilos at bay!


Cooking up a storm

The inclement weather in Perth over the weekend and general malaise of the week offered the perfect excuse to not leave the house all day Sunday and instead, spend it in the kitchen.

First meal of the day, crispy bacon and scrambled eggs with fresh chives. Surprisingly, my son didn’t try to pick out the greenery.

Leftovers and not so great freezer fare for lunch so we’ll skip that part (Friday night had been home made chicken soup and beer bread, Saturday Justin slow roasted fillet steak with garlic and peppercorn sauce).

Had hoped to contain all the baking and cooking to about two hours but it stretched to three of four and yielded:

Anzac biscuits and chocolate slice (for the kids’ lunch boxes), Nigella Lawson’s orange baby bundts (to use up yoghurt), zucchini slice (for my lunches)…

part of Sunday's bake-fest

part of Sunday's bake-fest

But wait there’s more. No pictures, though.
Husband made chocolate eclairs (for my book club) and lamb biryani (his lunches) and I made veal and pork bolognaise, chicken meatballs and bangers with mash, veg and caramelised onion.
That should keep us going til, mmm….Tuesday!

Julie Australia’s first MasterChef

From more than 7500 applicants, Julie Goodwin was tonight named Australia’s first MasterChef.

The mother in me felt Julie’s was a well deserved win; I don’t know if I could spend three months away from my husband and children (although my husband seems to think I could and wants me to apply for series 2!?).

Julie’s now trademark nerves and flustered state looked like they’d be the end of her but she managed yet again to scrape through. Anyone who has had guests coming for dinner only to discover something has gone awry at the 11th hour could relate to her. In the end, she just had really goo, solid food sense even if she scrambled to plate and pretty her dishes up.

But the Asian half of me would also have liked to see Poh emerge victorious. I think it was fantastic that she embraced her Chinese and Malaysian heritage and cooked Hainanese chicken rice. And that she went a step further and cooked pandan chiffon cakes, too.

They are two of my favourite dishes and are not easy to get right; there’s one place in Perth that tries to serve up tough chicken breasts as chicken rice and I am sure the same chicken is used in all their dishes.

As for the pandan cake, I hate packed cakes but have used packet pandan to cheat – and still not quite got it right.

Matt Preston was right, there aren’t many good Malaysian cookbooks around so hopefully Poh will find and fill a niche in the market. It will be a beautiful book to look at if her plating skills and artistic skills are any indication (wonder if her artworks will now all increase in value!?)

Julie’s cookbook will clearly do well (can we expect a foreword from Donna Hay?) – be interesting to see if they can get it out for the Christmas rush or maybe time it for Mother’s Day 2010 (probably too late).

There will also be a series cook book out next year and a DVD later this year. I just hope they keep all the recipes and videos online at least until series 2.

Suite Francaise

I have just finished reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. I chose it as part of my induction/initiation into a new book club.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it (as much as you can given it is set during the German occupation of France during WWII and the author died at Auschwitz) so I guess I passed the test.

The author has certainly ignited passions and Ruth Franklin’s article in The New Republic has created a major stir – just Google her to see for yourself. Thanks to Rose for pointing us to the story that appeared here in the AFR.

I’ll write more about the book when I can keep both eyes open. But I have to admit choosing it based on the Robert Doisneau-like cover image and Amazon/Borders recommendations (I ended up buying it at Dymocks!) but was pleasantly surprised by her vivid and at times brutally descriptive  characterisation