For everyday cooking, recipe books without photographs are fine. But recently I needed visual guidance for a special occasion. The gorgeous images in Annie’s Garden to Table, by Annie Smithers, won me over. They start with Smithers feeding the chooks and driving the tractor on her farm at Malmsbury in central Victoria and document the garden’s progress over 16 months and the recipes inspired by its bounty. There’s an image of almost every dish too – from a tiny shot of a herb omelet to a luscious full-page image of baked honey and lavender custard. Smithers, who was apprenticed to Stephanie Alexander, opened her first restaurant, Annie Smithers’ Bistrot, in Kyneton, in 2005. She followed that with du Fermier (from the farmhouse) café in Trentham and tries to sustain most of its meals with ingredients produced on her own patch. And the dishes that got my vote? A duck confit with mustard sauce, and some pretty, pale-green leek custards.
» We’re giving away a copy of Annie’s Garden to Table, by Annie Smithers.
» ($49.95) Lantern, Penguin Books
Scott Eddington, head chef at popular Mexican trendsetter Mamasita, is already organised for his cooking class at the Queen Victoria Market Cooking School next month. The theme, Springtime in Mexico, has clearly inspired him. His menu will include ceviche de Yucatan (market fish ceviche with coconut milk, green tomatoes and spring onions) and tamale de huitlacoche y calabazin con salsa de arbol (a street dish of fine dough, filled with a corn fungus and zucchini, topped with spicy tomato salsa and served in a corn husk). Eddington worked in London under Nuno Mendes for five years and joined Mamasita two years ago. There’s also a chocolate flan on his menu, made with toasted cocoa nibs in a rich caramel sauce, with fresh strawberries.
» We’re giving away two tickets to Springtime in Mexico at the Queen Victoria Market’s Electrolux Cooking School on Saturday, September 8, 10.30am, valued at $180.
I thought SodaStream was just for kids – an inexpensive way of turning cordial into fizzy drink – until I saw the latest range of drink makers from the 106-year-old company. There’s the new Fizz (available in bold colours) and the streamlined Penguin and Crystal units that come with an elegant glass carafe. There are sophisticated flavours, too: pear and kiwifruit, pink grapefruit, forest fruits and lemongrass, a sugar-free collection, lemon ice tea, sports drinks and even tonic water. Kids aren’t forgotten with apple, strawberry and orange flavours, plus there’s classic cola, lime, raspberry and orange. The SodaStream system uses refillable gas cylinders, refillable bottles, and recyclable syrup bottles (which make up to 12 litres). We (that included children) experimented with the Crystal unit over several weeks. It was fast and fuss-free enough for one 10-year-old tester who, in true kid-style, created a lot of strange flavour combinations.
» We’re giving away a SodaStream Crystal drinks maker, $199, plus a collection of syrups, $50.
Donovans’ new head chefs took over the St Kilda restaurant in October 2010, having learnt their craft well from Robert Castellani, who had spent 14 years at the stoves. For Adam Draper and Emma D’Alessandro, filling those illustrious shoes has been an adventure. The duo is bringing back lost traditions, butchering their own meat and cooking on a raw-wood barbecue. They were both selected by Castellani as second-year apprentices and have been honing their skills at his side for the past 10 years. D’Alessandro’s Italian background has been a strong influence, as has Draper’s youth on a dairy farm in the Western District. The pair use only Black Angus from Hopkins River Beef and have added dishes such as Queensland leader prawns grilled with chilli and oregano to the menu. However, they promise the Bombe Alaska will always be on offer.
» We’re giving away a meal for two at Donovans, ideally suited to lunch bookings to make the most of bay views. Valued at $200.
This 20-centimetre multipurpose G-2 knife by Global tackled everything I put in front of it – meat, fruit, herbs and vegetables of all kinds – with finesse. It’s super-sharp, sleek and lightweight, with a seamless, functional design. The Japanese-designed range is made of high-quality stainless steel and forged with techniques guaranteed to hold its edge. I particularly liked the carefully balanced feel of its weight and its distinctively patterned handle, which provides excellent grip. The G-2 is part of a limited-edition collection featured on the recent series of MasterChef and is endorsed by celebrity chef Matt Moran. If that’s not enough to win you over, the marketing folk tell me it was voted the “best buy” by Britain’s Which? magazine in 2011. I’m sure their tests were more rigorous than mine, but I came to the same conclusion.
» We’re giving away a Global G-2 limited-edition MasterChef 20cm cook’s knife, $159.
One lucky TWR reader will win all the items in this month’s hamper. For a chance to win The Hamper pack, CLICK HERE and tell us to whom Annie Smithers was apprenticed.