Like most busy cooks and food lovers, I’ve relished the luxury of returning home to the smell of an inviting, ready-to-serve meal prepared earlier in my slow cooker. But I’ve always felt there were two flaws in the process: two particularly messy pans to wash up – the frypan for browning the meat first, and the saucepan for reducing the sauce later. Sunbeam’s new SecretChef Sear and Slow Cooker has solved both those problems with a non-stick frypan-style cooking dish that’s wide enough to brown large batches of meat and can be used to thicken a dish at its finish. The innovative browning mode has five temperature options and there are low and high slow-cooking modes, plus an automatic keep-warm function. Combine that with its just-right 5.5-litre capacity, easy-to-use timer and dishwasher-safe lid and pan and there’s nothing left on my wish list.
We’re giving away a Sunbeam SecretChef Electronic Sear and Slow Cooker (rrp $199)
Event catering company Bright Young Things does things in style – from a carnival-themed racing tent to a 1920s-inspired corporate function or the treat of a glamorous private dinner party. Director Kate Stewart has a dynamic young team. We sampled some gorgeous petit four lemon pound cakes with a citrus-curd centre, and a tinted Italian meringue, topped with hand-piped surgared diamond rings prepared for a jubilee-themed function on the Queen’s Birthday weekend. Bright Young Things offers functions in a variety of locations with menus and themes to suit any occasion.
We’re giving away a voucher for custom-designed canapés from Bright Young Things ($200)
With witty names such as Warrior, Booze Hound and Zen, She-Tea has been designed with today’s woman in mind. Each of the brews in the range has been inspired by the experiencess of a trio of women friends and colleagues. The Warrior blend, made up of orange pieces, mandarin peel, black tea, cinnamon and cloves, is refreshing and energising, while the calming combination of chamomile, passionflower, rose, lemongrass and more is truly Zen. Original oil paintings by Daylesford-based artist Jodie Fergusson-Batte feature on the packaging. The range includes organic teas, loose-leaf teas and pyramid tea bags. Co-director Vanessa Carslake says the trio creates many of the blends themselves, sourcing the teas from around the world and matching them to the emotions inspired by the paintings. Custom blends also are available.
We’re giving away a six-pack of She-Tea’s three premium loose-leaf blends and three organic pyramid tea-bag packs ($120)
This collection of preserves is created in a kitchen at the basement of the Wild Cattle Creek Winery. There’s a rich, red rhubarb, raspberry and vanilla-bean jam, a zesty roasted capsicum and chilli relish and a sweet honey and mustard salad splash, to name a few. The range, produced by Yarra Valley Gourmet Foods, takes the best of local produce and creates meal-enhancing kitchen staples. Three years ago, managing director Jacqui Harvey gave up corporate life and bought into the six-year-old YVGF family business. “The daughter of the previous owners still makes most of the products for me, using some of my own new ideas,” says Harvey.
We’re giving away a Yarra Valley Preserves collection ($70)
Ryan and Stephanie Simpson, the owners of new Chapel Street bar Kid Boston, worked in London and New York during the GFC and witnessed the trend from fine-dining to bar dining. The couple, with Adam Paurini, who ran the Melbourne-based Croft Institute’s cocktail program for five years, saw Windsor as the ideal place to re-create the cosmopolitan venues they had experienced overseas. The menu, designed by Dylan Evans (ex Noma, Copenhagen, Pearl, Melbourne and Pier, Sydney), features smart, imaginative appetisers such as vegetable tempura, rabbit terrine and a fabulous cheese platter.
We’re giving away a voucher for two to Kid Boston, 44 Chapel Street, Windsor ($120)
Artichoke soup or macadamia and pumpkin soup, quince and potato curry or wintry apple compote were the sorts of comfort foods I wanted to try in this nippy weather. But I’m intrigued by Cecile Yazbek’s summery recipes too, such as a saucy bean salad made with cider vinegar, or her eggplant pickle salad. In Mezze to Milk Tart, Yazbek, a Sydney-based cooking teacher, has put together a collection of vegetarian recipes inspired by her Lebanese background and her experiences from the Middle East to Africa.
She says vegetarian eating is “more than just toast and cheese or lentil soup”, and proves it with an imaginative collection of recipes that use tofu and legumes in myriad ways. Her milk tart, with its buttery pastry and luscious custard filling, was a hit in my house.
We’re giving away a copy of Mezze to Milk Tart, by Cecile Yazbek, Wakefield Press ($34.95)