December, 2018

September, 2018

August, 2018

  • Cracking the code on cheffy terms

    28 August, 2018 Cracking the code on cheffy terms

    Sometimes fine-dining menus can seem like more of a maze than a relaxing pre-dining experience. Here, we breakdown some of the cheffy terms you’re likely to come across and include recipes so you can test them out at home.
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  • Cooking the classics

    27 August, 2018 Cooking the classics

    We consider those classic recipes we go back to time and time again.
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  • IGNI: The first year

    06 August, 2018 IGNI: The first year

    VIDEO: Acclaimed chef Aaron Turner's stirring account of love, loss and starting again.
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May, 2018

February, 2018

  • How a chef cooks for those he loves

    13 February, 2018 How a chef cooks for those he loves

    Skipping the crowds in favour of a lovingly prepared meal at home is your best bet for a romantic Valentine’s Day. This is chef Jock Zonfrillo's idea of a nice night in.
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January, 2018

December, 2017

October, 2017

September, 2017

  • Win a pro toastie pack

    18 September, 2017 Win a pro toastie pack

    Indulge in the ultimate comfort food with this kit, including a no-mess Breville press, a copy of Darren Purchese's Chefs Eat Toasties Too and a subscription to Cooked.
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August, 2017

July, 2017

June, 2017

  • Winter entertaining with Gill Meller

    08 June, 2017 Winter entertaining with Gill Meller

    Gill Meller is in the country, his first time to Australia, showcasing his beautiful book Gather with a series of dinners and classes. We caught up with him to find out what's on the menu for his Aussie guests.
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April, 2017

February, 2017

January, 2017

December, 2016

October, 2016

September, 2016

August, 2016

July, 2016

June, 2016

May, 2016

April, 2016

March, 2016

February, 2016

January, 2016

December, 2015

November, 2015

  • Christmas basics: the perfect custard

    27 November, 2015 Christmas basics: the perfect custard

    We're looking at those staple recipes that can make or break your Christmas spread. First up, the much-misunderstood sweet seductress, custard.
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  • Halfway Home

    16 November, 2015 Halfway Home

    I’ve been sugar-free for a total of two weeks, and things are going surprisingly well...
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  • Bubbles or nothing

    11 November, 2015 Bubbles or nothing

    Out to impress this party season? To take your entertaining game to the next level, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Halliday Wine Companion to share tips on matching sparkling wines to a range of show-stopping canapes.
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  • The anatomy of the perfect burger

    11 November, 2015 The anatomy of the perfect burger

    Looking for your next weekend challenge? Why not have a crack at making your own cheeseburgers from scratch? Chef Daniel Wilson shares the secret recipe to recreating his famed Huxtaburger, from bun to patty and everything in between.
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  • No Sugar November

    04 November, 2015 No Sugar November

    This month while the boys are growing staches, I’ll be growing a conscience about all the confectionary I consume.
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October, 2015

September, 2015

May, 2015

April, 2015

March, 2015

February, 2015

January, 2015

December, 2014

November, 2014

October, 2014

September, 2014

August, 2014

July, 2014

June, 2014

May, 2014

April, 2014

March, 2014

February, 2014

  • Margaret Fulton's expert guide to preserves

    27 February, 2014 Margaret Fulton's expert guide to preserves

    Jams, pickles, chutneys, sauces, compotes and conserves are the best way to preserve abundant produce so you can enjoy your fruit and veg all year round. Margaret Fulton shares her guide to the art of preserving.
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  • Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014 | Our picks

    27 February, 2014 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014 | Our picks

    The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, running from February 28 to March 16, begins in just over a week. We’ve put together our picks of the fest.
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  • Philippa Sibley's expert guide to sweet pastry

    24 February, 2014 Philippa Sibley's expert guide to sweet pastry

    Master of the dough Philippa Sibley shares her step-by-step guide to making sweet shortcrust pastry, taking you through everything you need to know to perfect the art of peerless pâte.
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  • In season | Eggplant

    21 February, 2014 In season | Eggplant

    The unsung hero of the nightshade family, eggplant is found in cuisines the world over. From Sicily to South East Asia, the Middle East to the Mediterranean, many signature dishes feature the versatile aubergine. We sing the praises of the humble eggplant.
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  • Everything you need to know about cuts of pork

    17 February, 2014 Everything you need to know about cuts of pork

    Meat expert and chef Adrian Richardson explains the different cuts of pork, and what you should use them for.
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  • Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

    14 February, 2014 Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

    Skewers, kebabs, shaslicks, yakitori … Whatever you call them, meat just tastes better when cooked on a stick. We share our tips to help you ace the skewers at your next barbecue.
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  • In season | Figs

    06 February, 2014 In season | Figs

    Figs evoke the flavours of exotic decadence. Sweet and visually striking, figs make for a decadent tart topper, a sumptuous sticky jam or a delightful savoury venture with cold meats. We share some of our favourite fig recipes.
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  • Guide to styling handmade edible gifts

    05 February, 2014 Guide to styling handmade edible gifts

    There's nothing more thoughtful than a handmade edible gift. April Carter shares her tips and tricks for making beautiful and delicious treats for those you love.
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January, 2014

December, 2013

November, 2013

A very cheffy Christmas

Michael James, Matt Wilkinson & Mike McEnearney
12 December, 2018

We caught up with three acclaimed chefs and authors – Michael James of Tivoli Road Bakery, Matt Wilkinson of Melbourne eatery Pope Joan and Mike McEnearney of Sydney canteen Kitchen by Mike (clockwise from top-left below) – to find out their traditions and tips.

Getting ahead

Unless your heart's set on an aged plum pudding, chefs agree that a few weeks is all you need to prepare. “We plan our Christmas in the first weeks of December before it gets too mad at the bakery,” Michael James of The Tivoli Road Baker says. “It’s always good to beat the rush and get your fish, meat, veg and bread orders in early. It saves you from the intense, stressful moments in the days leading up to the event.” Sydney chef Mike McEnearney reckons if you’re not making the classic cakes and pies, you can knock it out the day before: “We sit around a table in the kitchen peeling vegetables, making stuffings and so on, so all we do is cook and eat on the day.” Matt Wilkinson of Melbourne's Pope Joan likes to plan in advance: “Usually we decide on our menu around November,” he says.

The bird is the word

Mike has a hot tip for how you can prepare your turkey perfectly: “I usually bring it out before I go to bed and leave it in a cool place covered with a tea towel overnight, so that when I get to roasting it in the morning it’s at room temperature and will cook evenly. The biggest problem with cooking turkeys is their size and how cold they are in the centre. Your breast will overcook by the time the heat penetrates the inner parts of the bird and the legs – cook it nice and slow to be safe.”

Menu matters

Michael’s menu is traditional and elegant with a few local twists: “We’ll ease into the day with some bubbles and a few croissants. For lunch, we’ll have homemade gravlax and a leg of ham from our friends at Meatsmith, with salads using veggies from our garden and local farmers’ markets. In between courses we’ll have Stilton cheese from Harper & Blohm and mince pies. We’ll finish with a pudding from the bakery; we made them in March, so we’re super keen to tuck into them! I’ll serve that simply with clotted cream – a favourite of mine from my childhood in Cornwall, UK.”

Matt likes to freestyle and incorporate more Australian flavours: “Originally hailing from England, it took me a while to fall in love with Christmas here, but now I could not think of anything worse than hot turkey, gravy and all the trimmings,” he says. “For the past nine years, we’ve had Christmas in country Victoria at Sharlee’s (aka Mrs Wilkinson) mum Leah’s house. We wake up, open one present for each of our hooligans (the kids) and then have a light breakfast. The rest of the present opening happens and we have a second, bigger breakfast of Aberdeen sausage with tomato smash and a few poached eggs from the in-laws’ chooks. We sit down for a long lunch around 2.30pm – a simple affair with minimal cooking. There’s always a free-range ham. Liam, Sharlee’s brother, is with us this year and he’s a fisherman from Queensland, so we’re having scallops, prawns, whiting and Moreton Bay bugs. I’ll probably cook those in the morning and make a few sauces like salsa verde, Parmesan cream, and good old tomato sauce and mayo. We share the salads – I’ll probably do a grain salad, a soy bean salad with sesame oil and miso, and a quick tomato salad. It’s a safe bet that Sharlee’s mum will make a zucchini salad of some sort and a potato salad. Sharlee always does dessert and it’s usually free-form pastry with berries and yoghurt, or peach tartlets with cream. Lunch finishes late and we generally have toasted sandwiches for dinner using leftovers. Boxing Day is similar: we often have friends over, and this year I’ll cook up a big T-bone steak and a Chinese-style duck recipe with about five salads, plus leftover ham and seafood.”

Mike will be spending the day in the English countryside, so the food will reflect the place: “My mother-in-law has a beautiful farm in Wales that rears all types of animals and has all the vegetables we could possibly want. I will be cooking turkey this year that they’ve grown for themselves and for a number of others in their village. I love roast parsnips and potatoes with my turkey.

Thirsty work

The Australian Christmas is steaming hot, so hydration is high on the agenda. “We always have sparkling wine or Champagne,” says Matt. “I think we’ll have quite a bit of rosé this year – Stuart Proud’s is the one I love at the moment – and then I reckon it will be Mac Forbes’ Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir with lunch. There’ll also be a few G&Ts and beers around.”

A special day with family calls for a special bottle, according to Michael: “This year we’re planning to have the long-awaited pudding with a 1985 Gran Reserve Pedro Ximenez,” he says.

For Mike, it will be slightly different with the Northern Hemisphere season, but the drinks share the same celebratory feel: “Our day usually starts with a glass of Champagne. It’s a special occasion and we often allow our boys to have a sip also. We always have a pot of mulled wine on the AGA stove that we can help ourselves to throughout the day – for me, the smell that emits throughout the house is Christmas.”

Everything but the food

There’s so much more to occasions than what you put on a plate. There’s the company, of course, but elements such as music can really elevate the mood.

“It’s the only day I can abide Christmas carols,” Michael says. “The bakery is a carol-free zone throughout December. It also depends on who is on the decks… our three-year-old daughter would probably have Puff the Magic Dragon on repeat if it were up to her.”

Mike goes even more traditional at his cold-weather Christmas: “We always listen to the Kings Choir Christmas Carols and The Messiah. My mother-in-law has a set of bells that we all gather around and play throughout the day… I’ve never been the best at these and it’s usually me that plays out of tune,” he says.

If you’ve gone to the effort of making a beautiful meal, what you serve it on matters. Whether it’s a sentimental set of ceramics, a shiny brass platter or a statement-making bowl, everyone has their own style. Michael’s favourite piece speaks to his passion: “For me, it’s our Laguiole butter knife. We plate up everything for sharing on our collection of serving dishes we’ve built up over the years… They all have a story that means something to us.”

For Mike, it’s all about the turkey: “I always like to have a nice carving fork and a very sharp carving knife in order to cut slithers of breast and leg so everybody gets even amounts. I stuff the neck with chestnut and apricot stuffing, so a blunt knife just won’t cut it. You need a sharp knife to glide through the breast, so everybody gets a lovely thin slice of stuffing and breast in one piece.”

For more ideas, flip through The Tivoli Road Baker by Michael James, Real Food by Mike from Mike McEnearney, and How it is at Home and Simply Dressed Salads by Matt Wilkinson. 

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