Strawberry Fields Forever

This is the time of year when I look forward to eating an abundance of the sexiest fruit on the planet. But of course just as the punnet got cheap somebody had to sabotage the whole thing by sticking needles in them! Although I didn’t buy into the strawberry crisis back in September, the saga continued on national television for days, which made me think about how much I need strawberries in my life as much as Aussie farmers need the public to keep consuming them. After two months of complex investigation, authorities have arrested the strawberry tamperer in Queensland today. The 50-year old woman who threatened a whole industry and wasted so many delicious strawberries has to face the magistrate tomorrow morning.  She obviously didn’t know strawberries are considered an aphrodisiac because why would you tamper with that? The only tampering a strawberry should face is dipping it in dark chocolate.  A well-picked strawberry doesn’t need anything to enhance its flavour, but when you bite into a dark chocolate-coated strawberry its flesh becomes even more brilliant in colour and flavour.  It’s a very sensual experience that nobody should miss out on in their lifetime.  These little heart shaped morsels are so full of flavour and low in fat so you can spoil your friends and loved ones this Christmas while giving off the impression that they were either store bought or it was a very time consuming and delicate procedure only achievable by a trained chef.

Let’s celebrate a whole new season of strawberries this Summer.

Strawberry Fields Forever!

How to make dark chocolate coated strawberries

1 punnet of Piñata Strawberries (Or your favourite brand)
200g of Dark Chocolate for melting

Easy First Step
Line a tray with baking paper.  
Break dark chocolate into even pieces.  Place into a heat proof bowl.

Easy Second Step
Fill a saucepan with water a third of the way and bring to the boil. 
Reduce heat to low heat.
Place bowl you filled with chocolate pieces over the saucepan without it touching the water. 
As the pieces melt stir with a metal spoon until smooth.
Easy Third Step
Carefully holding the strawberry from its green stem dip the strawberries into chocolate one at a time.  
Let the excess drip back into the bowl before placing chocolate strawberry onto tray. 
Let strawberry set at room temperature or in the fridge if you prefer.

Final Step
Consume without guilt


Please always make sure you are not allergic to any foods in the ingredients provided before ingesting.





Chimichurri – The hero of the BBQ


I’m not much of a meat eater, but I can’t say no to a display of slow barbecued beef ribs and chorizo attentively cooked by a proud Uruguayan. The Uruguayan male is defined by his ‘parrilla’ (barbecue grill). It’s where he feels most comfortable and grounded.  Here he can nurture his family and friends, while he shows off his home-made ‘parrilla’ and grilling skills.  It can take hours of carefully arranging coal to get it to the right temperature, and the meat must be cooked at the right angle.  Because of this slow process there is a tendency for Uruguayans to pick at junk food or bread before the main meal as the women exchange memorable and hilarious migrant stories, while the men stand around the parrilla watching the host’s skills, secretly believing they could do it better.

By the time the meat is ready everyone is so bloated, but continue to push through the boundaries of human capacity by eating meat until the cows come home.  Other delicacies found on a Uruguayan barbecue that I avoid, or politely turn down, is ‘morcilla’ (blood sausage), chinchulines (small intestines), mondongo (tripe) and other bits and pieces known as ‘offal’.  A ‘vegetarian’ Uruguyan among these guests or ‘carbonarians’ as my cousin and I affectionately call them, will graze on more bread, potatoes, and ‘masitas’ (savoury and sweet pastries). There is always a mayonnaise doused potato salad on the menu, and if you’re lucky you may find a ‘healthy’ alternative with a wilted iceberg lettuce salad or a tomato and white onion salad sprinkled with dried oregano.

What really makes the Uruguyan barbecue so unique is ‘Chimichurri’. There is nothing more tasty, fresh and healthier than this salsa for anything that comes off that ‘parrilla’.   It is truly the hero of the barbecue.  It takes the meat to another dimension and balances out all the naughtiness of a typical Uruguayan diet.  The special mix of herbs called ‘adobo’ gives the salsa its distinguishable taste that no other salsa verde offers.

Being an offspring of Uruguayan parents I’ve been to a lot of these barbecues (asado) in my lifetime , and they never evolve! This is what I love about them.  There is comfort knowing nothing changes and that there will always be a bowl of Chimichurri on the table, made by a Uruguayan for the Uruguayan.  There is just no pretence!  It’s still normal to see side dishes displayed on cardboard plates suffocated by cling wrap, just as it is normal for someone to point out how much weight you’ve put on! Gee…thanks.

Once you try Chimichurri you will throw out the tomato sauce forever. Next time you go to a barbecue take a jar of Chimichurri for your host and watch yourself become the hero of the barbecue.

Chimichurri Recipe


2 x bunches of curly leaf parsley chopped finely (avoid food processor)

1/2 cup sunflower oil or vegetable oil*

1/2 cup boiled hot water

1/2 fresh lemon (squeezed)

1/4 vinegar

5 x cloves of garlic

1/2 cup Adobo* spices

Salt to taste

Yields about 2 cups

Nb: Chimichurri is not meant to be spicy hot.  Only red bell peppers are used.


Chop the parsley finely, but do not process it. By using curly parsley you will get the traditional texture and slight bitter taste qualities.  Chop garlic cloves finely. Transfer chopped parsley and garlic into a bowl.  Add the dried herb mix of adobo and a good pinch of salt. Combine with a  fork.

Next add the warm boiled water, lemon juice, vinegar and oil to the fresh/dried herb mixture and combine until it resembles a balanced oil to herb ratio (see pic for reference above)  This depends how big your parsley bunches were to start with. By sight you should be able to judge if you need more adobo or oil, water and vinegar. Nb: The salsa should not be oily or watery or taste like vinegar.  Taste before adding more salt.

Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and let rest for at least 20 minutes.  The longer the better for better infusion. To store, transfer to a glass jar with an air tight lid. Can be stored in fridge for up to 7 days.

Nb: This salsa also works well with chicken and fish (as a marinade)

*Sunflower or a vegetable oil is required in this recipe as olive oil is too heavy and gives the salsa an olive oil flavour found in Mediterranean dishes.

*Adobo is a traditional South American seasoning that combines oregano, red bell pepper and cayenne pepper. It can also be used as a rub on meat as a marinade.  You can buy a packet of adobo from any good deli in Sydney for about $3 or contact Milano food traders on to find stockists.



Please always make sure you are not allergic to any foods in the ingredients provided before ingesting.

‘Ichigo Ichie’ – Once in a lifetime encounter

I recently attended a tea ceremony in Kyoto where I was introduced to a Japanese proverb, ‘Ichigo Ichie’. The saying is used to remind people to treasure every moment as a ‘once in a lifetime encounter’.  This concept made me pay special attention to my surroundings with a renewed sense of appreciation, and set the scene for the rest of my stay in Kyoto.

Tea Ceremony

Kyoto Tea Ceremony – May 2016

Kyoto has a mysterious and magical energy that fills you with curiosity, so I had an intensively aware experience, admiring everything from the pebbles on the ground to the utility wires that drape through the ancient city.  Stories would pop into my head about the locals as they walked passed.  I saw elderly people on bikes looking so fit they could easily live forever, their faces like a time machine that took me far back into their history.  Among the faces I saw the fear of war, the devastation of earthquakes and the relief of survival. Their spirituality and bond to the land was obvious and showed me what contentment really looks like, a state I hope to achieve in this lifetime.

My visit to the Gion district continued to make my Kyoto experience special. After reading ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ many years ago,  I was like every other tourist that had arrived in Kyoto with the hope of seeing a glimpse of the mysterious Geisha.  I don’t know if the appeal of Geisha is my unconscious desire to please a man or because I feel pride when I see Geisha representing the power of beauty, intelligence and creativity that all women can be. Geisha are not as popular as they once were and the numbers are declining, so I was really excited when I spotted this beautiful Meiko (apprentice Geisha) heading out to an appointment.  I had been strolling through the Gion district, enchanted by the old Japanese town houses and lanterns that light up the streets and alleyways at dusk. Still sensitive to my surroundings I noticed a taxi had stopped outside the front door to one of these ancient homes, then the driver got out of the taxi to meet his client. I sensed there was a level of importance present, so I prepared myself for the unexpected. The front door opened and the Meiko carefully stepped out onto the pavement making it into the taxi just before other tourists swarmed the taxi. With my finger on the shutter button of my camera, I was able to capture this moment which was as satisfying as taking a shot of rare snow leopard. An encounter I will treasure forever.

Meiko – May 2016

Of course food was the main highlight of my stay in Kyoto.  Japanese people have a way of intensifying the beauty of nature and creating an environment that is based on pride and respect which extends to their food, especially noticeable in Kyoto.  As expected the food was unbelievable. The Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto was my paradise and I was blown away by the freshest and most traditional food I’d ever seen.  It felt like I was walking through an episode of food safari with my favourite celebrity chef, Adam Liaw. If I could try everything I would, but I was content watching the buzz of the locals busily shopping for their favourite ingredients in preparation for their weekly nutritional meals, inspiring me to explore Japanese cuisine in my own kitchen….

I started with Ramen because I tasted so many varieties in Japan. Although I was never disappointed I came to the conclusion I prefer Miso based Ramen and discovered it’s so easy to make a home-made version. This Ramen actually cured my Japanese withdrawal symptoms and I’m sure will warm you up all through winter.



Miso Ramen – Homemade

The broth

The broth

2 litres of water

100g of white miso paste

3 x Tbs of cooking sake or mirin

3 x Tbs of sesame oil

4 x Chicken legs

1 kilo of pork spare ribs

1 large leek (chopped roughly)

1 x large carrot (chopped or shredded)

6 x cloves of garlic (whole)

1 x red chilli (medium heat or to taste)

30g of Fresh ginger (or to taste)

6 x Shitake mushrooms (sliced into long quarters)

Salt to taste

Spring onion (finely chopped) for serving

1 soft boiled egg shared between 2 people (chopped in half) for serving

Seawood or Nori sheets (roughly chopped) for serving

Bamboo shoots (chopped lengthways) for serving

50g – 100g of Ramen fresh noodles per person or soba noodles (cooking instruction on packet)


In a slow cooker or pot on low heat throw in all ingredients starting with sesame oil, pork and chicken bones then vegetables etc on top. Cover with 2 x litres of water or enough water to cover the ingredients.  Note: There is no need to sautee anything in this recipe as it is primarily a stock.

*Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours with a lid so the moisture does not evaporate. Add water if you see the pot drying out!  Nb: You will not have this problem if you use a slow cooker.

Straining the broth

Once cooked, take out pork ribs, chicken legs and shitake mushrooms before straining the soup. Separate the chicken from the legs but keep the pork on the bones and set aside with the shitake mushrooms which will be added back into the broth in the final heating stage.

Strain the broth using a fine sieve or strainer.  Let the broth cool down completely to scoop out any remaining fat that comes to the surface.

To serve – Yields approx 6 medium bowls

Reheat the cooled down broth including the now boneless chicken pieces, pork ribs and shitake mushrooms.  Before transferring to a bowl make sure you are happy with the salt content of the broth.  You may want to add a bit more to enhance the broth flavour.

To serve place some chicken and 2 x pork ribs into each bowl with shitake mushroom. Add noodles then fill the bowl up with broth. Add bamboo shoots, seaweed or nori sheets, half an egg and spring onion on the surface of the broth.


Final result with boiled egg


Please always make sure you are not allergic to any foods in the ingredients provided before ingesting.


P1050454 Yes

Ginger hearts are my signature cookie.  I designed these about 15 years ago before Pinterest existed.  The gingerbread recipe was not passed down by my grandmother because she didn’t even like to cook!  It was a teacher at a cake decorating course I did once. She was an old school baker with good old fashioned recipes and tricks that I still use today.

The first time I tried this gingerbread I was transported back to Pizza Hut in the 80’s where you could buy a gingerbread man cookie at the counter after stuffing your face with pizza. Weird combination I know, but they were so good.  I decided I would make my own version that would never become discontinued.

I chose the heart shape because it conjures up sweet loveliness and I’m secretly a hopeless romantic at heart, even though my love life hasn’t been so sweet.  When I recall my first romantic experience I’m still mortified about getting dumped for being ‘frigid’.  I was only 10 years old and inexperienced, so naturally I was terrified of kissing my first boyfriend for the first time.  It didn’t help to imagine what my mother would do to me in that moment if she found out I wasn’t just playing on the swings in the park at the bottom of our street.  He was so confident and I was so shy….and paranoid. I now understand that one kiss in two weeks warranted dumping me, so I can hardly blame him for making the decision that somehow might have ruined my love life.  Since then I’ve heard it all. ‘I don’t love you’,  ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, ‘I love you as a friend’, ‘I’m not your man’, ‘I’m not in love with you’.  It’s hard to put on a happy face when the guy you secretly adore shares all his intimate dreams with you, but you’re not any part of it, or when the ‘love of your life’ tells you he’s ‘having a baby with someone else’. That really hurt, but I survived that one too. Most people in my position end up believing that love is cruel and only for the lucky ones. I’m not so sure I believe that. I feel lucky that I dodged so many bullets and have more time to cook in the kitchen!

So back to the Ginger Hearts before I get side tracked again…every single person that has eaten one loves them from the very first bite.  I’ve sold them in cafes, made them as gifts and make them on request for friends and family regularly.  The icing takes time but worth the effort for all the love you get in return.

P1050469 yes
Ginger hearts


1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup caster sugar

100g butter

2  tsp Ground ginger or to your taste

Melt the above ingredients on the stove then cool down before the next step

Recipe continued….

3 cups of self-raising flour

1 egg slightly whisked

Pre-heat fan bake oven to 180 degrees


Whisk the egg in a bowl then slowly pour your cooled down honey, butter, sugar and ginger into the bowl (pic #1)  Nb: If your wet mixture is too hot you’ll end up with scrambled eggs when you add it to the egg.

7. Knead the gingerbread

Sift the 3 cups of self-raising flour and add to your moist ingredients (pic # 2).  The flour will start to soak in all the goodness of spice and all things nice.  Once the mixture has combined, knead the dough until you have a log of gingerbread (pic #7)

If the dough is too sticky you need to sift some more flour and knead in until you have a non sticky feel. (pic#4) If the gingerbread resembles a crumbly texture (pic #5) you are ready to roll. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper (pic #6)

The dough should be 1 cm in thickness (pic #1).  Use a heart shape cookie cutter about 5cm in diameter.  Any bigger and they look too giant once they expand. Put into the pre-warmed oven making sure every heart has about 3cm distance from other hearts.

Bake for approx 10 – 12 mins.  The tops should look very light brown but not golden (pic #2).  The bottom of the heart is where you want it to be golden (pic # 3).  Once cooked put aside to cool and cook another batch.

Royal Icing

500g of pure icing sugar (not soft icing sugar which has corn flour in it)

1 egg white

2 drops of Rose pink food colouring (add rose colour drops to white icing only after you have iced the white batch first)

Combine in a bowl (pic # 4) until all lumps disappear (pic #5).  The consistency should be runny but not watery.  You can add either a little chilled water or lemon juice to get it moist again.  Once all biscuits are completely cooled down you are ready to ice with a flat knife (pic #6) It’s better to add more than less to start with then take off excess icing using the edge of your knife to neaten off the edges of the heart. Work as quickly as possible to avoid the icing drying up. Once iced, leave aside to dry before putting into storage.

This recipe should yield about 12 – 15 cookies. Keep stored in a glass jar. Should store for up to 3 weeks if not exposed to air.




Please always make sure you are not allergic to any foods in the ingredients provided before ingesting.







corn addict

I’m not sure where my obsession with corn comes from, but I am fascinated by this human protected plant originating from Central America, that has been nourishing people for thousands of years.

I remember one summer eating corn as a young girl at my grandfather’s house in Uruguay. He would take me horse riding bareback, followed by an afternoon session of eating corn on the cob he’d thrown onto the coals of a makeshift fire pit. I loved watching him stride his way out of the cornfields just behind the main house, carrying corn so fresh they looked like they were pulsating. Without fuss and without a word he would prepare the corn to produce the most delicious corn on the cob I’d ever tasted. There were no lashings of butter or even a hint of seasoning, just sweet corn. I was addicted. Popcorn, salads, soups, corn fritters, corn bread, polenta! I love how corn is so versatile, and my favourite colour!

Later I married a Mexican water polo player from San Francisco. This marriage may have been an unconscious decision based on food, but you can imagine my joy when visiting the in-laws meant an abundance of corn and maize dishes so tasty and ingenious, my taste buds would quiver. On the first visit I was introduced to tamales, a genius Mexican invention using corn that translates to ‘wrapped food’. My husband couldn’t care less about seeing his parents, he just wanted the tamales, and now I understood why. When I opened the little parcel made of cornhusk for the first time, it felt like the moment Charlie from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, found the last golden ticket. The steamed golden cornmeal inside the parcel contained a wonderful filling of shredded pork and Mexican spices that melted in my mouth.   Not exactly like Willy Wonka chocolate, but Mexicans make sweet tamales as well! I was obsessed and made it my mission to master the art of tamale making, and now, I share the recipe with you.

My grandfather is no longer alive, and my husband is no longer my husband but I just love that one little ingredient, corn has kept these memories alive.   What ingredient keeps your memories alive?

Tamales – different shapes and sizes

The classic Tamale has been interpreted in many ways since the Mexicans invented it. Here are some examples of the different shapes and sizes found all over South America using different leaves to wrap the filling. I used the traditional corn husk but made my tamales the shape of a corn cob.

Sourcing Mexican Products in Sydney

You need the right corn flour and dried corn husks to make tamales. To buy Mexican groceries online, visit the website.  They have a good variety of authentic Mexican products and if you’re based in Sydney they deliver pretty quickly too.

Ingredients – approx 3 Dozen tamales

  • 2 kilos pork shoulder (you can use any meat or filling you prefer) e.g beef or chicken
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 4 cups Minsa Mix corn flour
  • 1 cup lard
  • Corn husks (1 pack)


Cut the pork shoulder into large equal chunks and place into a pot or slow cooker.  Add garlic, onions (quartered) tsp chilli powder, salt, pepper and cumin. Cover pork with water (I added a carton of this adobo broth to the water) and slow cook for at least 4 hours.  I cooked my pork overnight in a slow cooker for 8 hours.  The meat literally fell apart as I transferred it out of the pot.

Slow cooker/Adobo Broth/8 hours

Shred the pork using two forks . Set aside left over juices. Soak the corn husks before you start making the masa (dough).

Shredded slow cooked pork shoulder

To make the masa (dough) combine the corn flour and lard by using the tips of your fingers to make a course sand-like texture.  Add salt and a pinch of chilli powder for an added kick. The masa will start to come together naturally but if you think the masa needs some extra moisture add small amounts of left over juices from the pork.  Once you are satisfied that the masa has a smooth and spreadable consistency you can start the next step of assembling the tamales.

Tamale masa is smooth and easy to spread

Assembling is quite therapeutic and fun. Its a great opportunity to start a tradition with the family just like Mexican families do.

Spreading the masa on the corn husk

To assemble the tamale pat dry a corn husk that has been soaking in water.  Grab enough masa to make a golf ball.  Press the masa down into the middle of the of the corn husk with the palm of your hand then evenly spread across the corn husk with your fingers or the back of a spoon (if your masa is more runny) until you have a thin layer.  Leave 1cm – 2cm off all four edges of the husk so the contents don’t spill out when wrapping.  Add 1-2 tbsp of shredded pork down the middle and roll up the corn husk so both sides of the masa meet up. Use the corn husk to neatly and firmly tuck your masa around the pork then close off the tamale at both ends tightly using cotton twine or strips of corn husk.

Steaming the tamale

Steam your tamales for about 15 minutes. All other tamales can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months or until you are ready to steam!

Tamale ready to eat

Once steamed, un-wrap your tamales carefully.  You will know the tamales are cooked when you see the masa (dough) falling away from the corn husk. Add your favourite salsa or spicy sauce and enjoy!


The amount of tamales may vary in quantity depending on how much masa (dough) is spread on the corn husk and shredded pork you use.  Please always make sure you are not allergic to any foods in the ingredients provided before ingesting.