I love jobs that are different to the norm and recently I spent a couple of days working on a project that I can honestly say I have never done before for a client, although I had done a similar shot once for my own portfolio. I do quite a bit of work with the creative agency BMF and I was asked to work on a project for the agency themselves, rather than one of their clients. I helped create an entire cookbook where only one dish was actually cooked and the recipes were all written out on blackboards by Roger, an amazing signwriter. My part of the job was to help design each board then arrange all the raw ingredients onto the board to create the ‘recipe’. The actual recipes had been contributed by the team at BMF but I had to make each recipe come alive on the board. Working with a great fun team from BMF, we worked our butts off but it was seriously worth it. Here are some of my favourites from the day – what do you think?
I have a feeling lots of BMF’s clients are going to be asking for future work in the style of this book.
Here’s Roger working on one of the boards. Sometimes he could do the words and images before I put the food on, but often it wasn’t practical so he had to work around the ingredients. A couple of times there was a last minute spotting of a spelling mistake that involved intricate rubbing out, rewriting and ‘smudge’ removing.
Luckily the two mistakes on this board were spotted before it was finalised!
The finished cookbook “Beautiful Mouthfuls of Food” is the Christmas gift to the clients of BMF and I really hope I get one in my stocking too! Thanks Gav, Rita and the rest of BMF and happy Christmas!
What a great day I had yesterday. As a freelance food stylist and food writer I am always interested in new challenges and I’ve found a brilliant new area of work that I’m loving and felt I needed to share the love! I’ll apologise right now, this is quite a long post, so sit down with a cup of tea and read on. It’s worth it.
I’ve started doing some work for OzHarvest. For those who don’t know who OzHarvest are, they are an Australian charity that rescues quality excess food which would otherwise be discarded. This excess food is distributed, at no cost, to charities providing much needed assistance to men, women and children. (Yes that was taken directly from their 2012 annual report – but I couldn’t have written it any better!)
Here are some amazing/shocking figures:
- Since they began operating in late 2004 they have delivered approximately 21 million meals, diverting more than 7 million tonnes of GOOD FOOD from landfill.
- Australians throw away food worth $7.8 BILLION which equates to about 178 kilos of food per person each year.
- On average people throw away 1 in 5 of every shopping basket-worth of food they buy.
I am getting involved with their “Cooking for A Cause” programme. This is a brilliant progamme because it engages the corporate community, but not just in terms of money, in terms of people too. Teams of volunteers from corporate companies either come to the OzHarvest kitchen (donated by Goodman+) or they prepare and serve a meal at one of the charities that OzHarvest delivers to. The volunteers then get into teams and cook up some of the food that has been donated. The menus are planned around what has been donated that day or the day before, so Travis, the head of Cooking for a Cause, is constantly having to come up with brilliant dishes that are nutritious, delicious, interesting to make and easy to transport. This programme is fantastic in so many ways – it teaches new cooking skills, provides volunteers with time away from their corporate environment, teaches them about food excess and how to prevent it and really importantly at the end of the day several hundred meals have been cooked. These meals are then quickly whisked away to one of the many charities that benefit from OzHarvest.
The logistics of this charity are phenomenal. In Sydney they have a team of drivers, driving 12 refrigerated vans constantly on the move ready, as the phone calls come in about available food, to pick up and deliver to over 500 recipient charities. Charities that include women’s and children’s refuges, homeless shelters, church missions etc the list goes on. Using this system the majority of the food is delivered directly to the charities without having to be stored by OzHarvest. The van drivers are also educated in food safety and will check the food to ensure the food is suitable. I must stress that the food that is ‘rescued’ isn’t food that is bad or going off, it is just excess. Maybe a corporation has hosted a barbecue and they rather over-catered and have 60 kilos of sausages and buns leftover – so who you gonna call “OzHarvest” of course. Top Sydney restaurants, fruit and veg shops, hotels and catering companies, businesses like Bourke Street Bakery, Thomas Dux, Harris Farm and Lindt Cafe to name a few examples, all donate their excess food. Many TV cooking shows (Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules) also donate all that beautiful food that is used in those stunning sets but is never used and where possible food photo shoots are helping too.
So back to my day! Yesterday was a little bit different again, I was involved in Cooking for a Cause, but this time not only did it involve a corporate group, it also involved a group of 13-15 year old indigenous kids who are part of a scheme being run by the University of Technology Sydney called ‘How big are your dreams?” The kids arrived, got aproned up and after a few quick lessons on general kitchen safety and knife skills were straight into cooking fabulous meals. My role isn’t to cook, it’s to guide and encourage. Two boys were allocated to making pizzas for everyone for at the end of the session and what great guys they were.
The pizza was fabulous and although I’m not sure they’re going to be making pizza every night, they did seem genuinely proud of what they had achieved. We also made beef kofta which the kids squished and squashed and formed into hundreds of patties and we made flat breads from scratch, vegetarian kofte from donated lentils and a huge pile of vegetable couscous and masses of chicken salad wraps. With just a very few exceptions all the ingredients had been donated.
I also learnt something myself, a cool trick for how to get pomegranate seeds out easily. Bash it all over with a wooden spoon, then slice it open over a bowl and bash the seeds into a bowl – how cool is that – so much easier than picking them out one by one!
In chatting with the kids it became very clear that most of the kids cooked at home on a regular basis for their brothers and sisters and I was hearten to hear most of them say they enjoyed it.
Here’s a pic of what we achieved. As I mentioned, this day was slightly different to others as its aim was also to engage the kids and show they what they can achieve, it wasn’t just about producing hundreds of meals – but in actual fact we did both.
I’m so pleased I’m involved with this charity as I’m very aware of how fortunate I am in life and this charity it a perfect fit for my love of cooking and education and my hate of food wastage. Saving and distributing excess food has been something I’ve been doing for a long time. Way, way back when I worked on a London magazine I used to package up food (and plastic knives and forks) leftover from recipe testing and hand it over to homeless people along the River Thames. It wasn’t always easy nor were my meals always accepted but I couldn’t bear throwing the food away. I also remember the sheer joy on my 8 year old neighbour’s face when I handed him a 10 litre tub of ice-cream left-over from an ice-cream shoot!
So next time you go to throw away some food think twice and see what you might be able to do with it. Only buy what you really think you need and if you absolutely have to throw away fruit or veg at least put it in a compost bin or worm farm and nourish the ground if you can’t nourish your body!
If you want to find out more about OzHarvest go to http://www.ozharvest.org/index.asp or contact your HR department and see if your company is already involved and if you can get involved too.
And lastly I will leave you with something to really get you thinking – every day in Australia 1 million children go to school without breakfast or to bed without dinner. OzHarvest is helping to change this and maybe you could too either as a volunteer or as a corporate sponsor.
My book has been out for just over a month now and what a fantastic month it’s been. The publicity has been amazing and my book has been received with open arms by shops, newspapers, magazines and radio shows. So many people have said to me that I’ve hit a nerve – writing and styling a camping cookbook that contains fresh, healthy, easy to make recipes that look delicious and use minimal cooking equipment. I’ve also had so many positive comments about the photos of family and friends who appear in the book. I was a little worried that it might be too much, but it seems not. I always wanted these kinds of shots in the book to make it genuine and add some reality. And as a bonus, what an amazing record our family now has of this particular time in our life.
So, pretty much every Australian state newspaper has done a review or asked me to write an article, several women’s magazines including marie claire, taste.com.au, NW and Women’s Day have reviewed it, an article I wrote about cooking while camping has been taken up by tonnes of fantastic websites and I am currently in the middle of a busy schedule of radio interviews. Wow, what more could I ask for?
The radio interviews were nerve-racking to start with, but I soon realised that there isn’t anything controversial in my book for the presenters to trip me up on, the radio presenters are interested in it and I’m the expert! The questions have been varied and apart from forgetting where one campground is (yes I know, I know Honeymoon Bay is in Jervis Bay!) I haven’t faltered in any of them. The only slightly off-putting thing that happened was when the airport changed the flight path schedule just as I was about to do a live phone-in interview, so every couple of minutes a plane would take off rather loudly pretty close to our house. At one point, the presenter interrupted me to jokingly announce “there goes flight QF77”!
I’ve also been having lots of fun finding my book in the shops and, of course, rearranging it to give it pole position. Move over Jamie and Nigella that’s my spot!
So a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has bought, or who is intending to buy, my book, to all the newspapers, magazines, websites and radio presenters who have been plugging my book and for all the lovely comments I’m getting, it’s been a wonderful month.
Now, time to get started on the next one!
The Hungry Campers Cookbook is available in Australia from BigW, Myer, ABC bookstores, independent bookstores and on-line. Available in the UK from Amazon.co.uk and in bookstores from May 2014.
Photography Natasha Milne (copyright Explore Australia Publishing)
If it’s not on the list, it won’t get packed!
I have a ‘thing’ for lists. My mum gave me a note pad once called ‘my list of lists’ and I have an entire document folder on my computer entitled ‘lists’ and it is full of packing lists.
My camping lists are doubtless the most used. I have a winter camping list, a summer camping list, a short trip list and a long trip list and so on and so on. My lists evolve as new equipment is bought or our requirements change, but I can’t think of a time when I haven’t gone camping and I haven’t been crossing off those final few things as everyone else is piling into the car. Although I’m sure trips would still be good if my pc crashed and no list could be printed off, for me, life is so much easier if I have the right tool for the job and if I have a list I know I have the tool.
And rather strangely I also get nostalgic for old lists! I’m sure you must be thinking I have far too much time on my hands if I think about these things. But if I come across an old list it will have things like nappies, security blankets and musical box on it, all the things that we used to have to lug everywhere with us that we no longer need as the kids grow up. You might think it makes travelling a lot easier, but no, these things have just been replaced with other things like boogie boards, wetsuits and bicycles!
Another advantage to my list making is that when a friend who is new to camping asks me ‘what do I need?’ I just email them a list. But my obsession with my lists can have a downside – when I am unable to ‘think outside the list’. I get so hung up on what is ON the list I forget that maybe there is something missing from the list and it never gets packed! I’ve learnt from this too, so now I take a few minutes away from my list going through things that I might have forgotten. And, of course, if I do think of something it is immediately added to the list ready for updating that particular list on our return!
So here’s my tip, whether you’re new to camping or you’re a seasoned camper start a list, it will make finding things and packing that much quicker. Happy packing and happy camping!
Our whole family loves camping, which is just as well really considering how often we do it! We all get something different out of it and I thought it was time to share some of the things that the kids love.
Freedom! Our kids get the freedom to roam, the freedom to explore, the freedom to splash and the freedom to roar!
Water…. They get to play in rivers, build dams, float on their backs and splash each other …. endlessly. They get to swim in the sea, hunt for shells and jump in the waves.
Trees …. Climbing trees, cycling around (and occasionally into!) trees, discovering new trees and checking out the amazing bark on scribbly gum trees. Looking up into the trees to spot possums, kookaburras and cockatoos.
Fire…. Gathering bundles of kindling, building the perfect fire, poking sticks in the fire then cooking over the fire.
Animals…. Kangaroo, wallaby, dingo, emu, wombat, possum, platypus and snakes, the list is growing.
Food…. Camp cooking is loads of fun and is a chance for the kids to get involved without worrying about a messy kitchen. Favourites are filled tortillas or pitta bread, honey and soy marinated sausages, damper on a stick (recipe here), decorating cupcakes (recipe here) or helping me create new recipes – especially if it’s cake!
The daytime sky…. The home of wedge-tailed eagles, flocks of noisy galah and the endless expanse of a stunning blue, blue, blue Australian sky. It’s amazing what you can spot.
The night-time sky…. Constellation and satellite spotting. Following the length of the milky way and if they’re very lucky the rare thrill of a shooting star – quick make a wish.
Sleeping…. Crawling into a sleeping bag at the end of the day, reading by torch light, listening to mum and dad chatting quietly outside, drifting off to sleep hearing real (or imagined) wombats munching on the grass by the tent or the thump, thump, thump of a kangaroo hopping by.
Then silence! Camping is there anything better?
What do you love about camping?
Like many stylists I love typography and I have various random letters and words scattered around our house and once I even picked up a very large discarded letter ‘U’ during an early morning walk!
But it isn’t just the alphabet that fascinates me, I also love shodo – the Japanese art of calligraphy. I was lucky enough to study this while living in Tokyo and find it a very peaceful way to relax. I’m not normally one for rules, but I really appreciate the strict rules that govern the pratice of shodo – once you commit your brush to the paper there is no going back, if you make a mistake you start all over again. Of course I could break that rule but somehow I never want to. The end of each stroke and how you finish it is very important and it can be so frustrating when you have almost completed a complicated, multi-stroke kanji only to mess up the very last flick! Sadly white-out is not an option!
As a leaving Tokyo present, my shodo teacher, Waka had my own personal ‘rakkan-in’ made for me. This is essentially my signature on a stamp. Every Japanese person has their own personal hanko (stamp) which they use in place of a signature in everyday life and shodo artists have their own too, but it is called a rakkan-in rather than hanko. They use it to ‘sign’ their paintings. If you look at a piece of shodo you will see, usually on the bottom left and usually in red ink, a square containing some characters. This is an artistic interpretation of their name. This is mine:
My friend Jane Lawson (cookbook author and fellow Japanophile) asked me to do some shodo for her latest Japanese cookbook and although the thought terrified me, I felt an amazing sense of achievement when I finished those six kanji. I shalln’t tell you how many pieces of paper it took to get the six, but it was worth it!
Although I don’t get much chance to practise my shodo at the moment, I recently themed our book club evening to the Japanese book I chose and along with preparing Japanese food I also wrote everyone’s name in Japanese and then got them to try and pick their own name. Every time I take the time to do some shodo I realise how much I love it and think I should do more!
To see more of Jane’s stunning cookbook/seasonal food journey Zenbu Zen here.
Recently we’ve become more adventurous with our desserts while we’re camping and I’ve set myself some challenges to create ever more delicious desserts cooked over a camp fire. This rich, gooey chocolate pudding is my latest creation and was most recently used to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday while camping at Abercrombie River National Park. It’s a fantastic end to a meal eaten under the stars, but it can just as easily be cooked in your oven at home (see the end of the recipe) and for my friend’s 40th, I stuck candles in the top and served it as afternoon tea. It’s pretty forgiving so don’t worry if you can’t follow the exact measurements. If you’re cooking this while camping, make your life much easier by following these three suggestions:
1: before you leave home, weigh out the dry ingredients for the pudding and the sauce and put into two labelled ziplock bags,
2. write the remaining ingredients and quantities on one of the bags in case you forget the recipe,
3. write the liquid capacity of your camping mug onto the mug itself, so then you can use your mug for the wet ingredients instead of having to worry about a cup measure or a jug.
All that dark stuff on the right is the gooey sauce that forms while it cooks!
Serves about 8 (although our latest one served 6 adults and 6 kids)
150 g (1 cup) self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
100 g (½ cup lightly packed) brown sugar
80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable or olive oil
125 ml (½ cup) cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
thick cream, to serve
berries, to serve (optional)
125 g (¾ cup lightly packed) brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
310 ml (1 ¼) cups boiling water
Brush the base and lower sides of you camp oven with some oil. Combine the flour, cocoa and sugar in a large bowl.
Make a well in the middle and add the oil, milk and egg.
Whisk or mix until well combined. Spoon into the camp oven and smooth the top.
To make the gooey sauce (which will end up on the bottom), combine the sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over the top of the pudding.
Slowly pour the water over the top of the pudding until it is all covered. Put the lid on.
Put your camp oven in amongst the coals, but do not sit it directly on the coals or it will burn. Put some coals on the lid as well. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the pudding springs back when gently pressed, the time really will depend on the heat of your coals. Scoop out the pudding and the gooey sauce at the bottom and serve with lots of cream. If you’ve got any fruit like blueberries, raspberries or strawberries these will go really well too.
* If you’re making this at home, put all the ingredients into a Le Creuset or similar ovenproof casserole dish, cover with a lid and bake for about 25 minutes at 170 degrees C or until the top feels springy.
For more great camping recipes check out my cookbook Hungry Campers Cookbook (published by Explore Australia) available from BigW, Myer, Dymocks, many independent book stores and on-line.
So spring has well and truly sprung in and around Sydney and the weather is so glorious it’s more like summer than spring, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to load up the car and head out for the weekend camping. We chose Burralow Creek, near Kurrajong Heights in the Blue Mountains National Park because we didn’t want to take time off work and this area is perfect as it’s only about a 90 minute drive from home. Although driving up in the evening means arriving and having to set up our tent in the dark, it also means that when we wake up on Saturday morning we are all set up and have the whole weekend ahead of us.
On this trip we were with another two families and all the kids are great mates, which makes for happy kids and happy adults. As usual we did a check of the small river close by and ascertained that it was so shallow they were completely safe playing there without adult supervision. On all our camping trips, our kids get a lot of freedom to roam and explore the great outdoors. This is one of the huge appeals of camping – giving our kids the freedom they don’t get in their city lives. However, they also know they have to come back to camp regularly so we know they are all safe and in turn an adult will also wander down to whatever river is close by to see what they are up to. In the case of this trip, never has so much fun been had with a couple of logs across a river, yucky jelly-like brown algae and 5 kids! Bicycles were even wheeled across the logs while the other kids clapped and cheered. With the bikes on the other side of the river the possibilities for even greater adventures were endless. Oh happy times.
From Burralow Creek campground it’s about a 20-25 minute walk to Bulcamatta Falls. The walk is interesting because it starts off as what I would term Australian bush, towering scribbly gum trees and other eucalyptus, a yellow dirt path and fallen trees and branches. But all of a sudden you realise it has become more like rain forest with masses of bright green ferns nestling under towering tree ferns, one of my favourite plants. Bulcamatta Falls themselves aren’t particularly spectacular during the day but at night they sparkle with strings of glow worms. If you’re walking from the campground at night, don’t forget your torch. To the kids the falls were another source of adventure and I lost count of the number of times they went back and forth.
As is usual for me I got stuck into the cooking. I prepared Friday night’s dinner before we left as although I don’t mind putting up a tent when I arrive in the dark, starting dinner from scratch isn’t so much fun. I made a pasta salad with bacon, avocado, roasted cherry tomatoes and rocket. This salad can be eaten warm or cold and as it was a cool evening I quickly heated it up in a frying pan over the fire that, luckily, our friends had built before we arrived. See here for the recipe.
The whole weekend was wonderfully relaxing. I did go on a short walk, I couldn’t even call it a hike as it was just a stroll through the bush to see what we could spot and to see where the path lead to. The answers being lots more trees, a classic huge blue Australian sky and a path to nowhere!
Probably the greatest excitement of the weekend was coming across a very large brown snake sunbathing by the toilet! I have no idea what type of snake it was, although as with all snakes I will presume it was venomous. I was in such a relaxed state of mind walking to the loo that when I saw it I barely reacted except to say to no-one in particular as I was alone “oh there’s a rather large snake” before it slithered back into its hole under the toilet! Future visits to the toilet weren’t such relaxed affairs, but the snake was never spotted again.
And finally, I also spent a bit of time during the weekend trying out some new recipes and I think I’ve perfected a rather delicious gooey chocolate pudding cooked in my camp oven, but I’ll save that for another time!
Homeward bound again!
For more PRACTICAL INFO about this campground click here
Water: You’ll need to bring all your own water for drinking and washing.
Firewood: Fires are permitted in the steel fireplaces only. Bring your own firewood and kindling. Firewood can be bought from service stations in Richmond, North Richmond and Kurmond.
Facilities: There is one non-flush toilet, bring your own toilet paper. There are no showers or washing facilities.
Phone: There is mobile phone coverage.
Access: There are two routes in. From Kurrajong Heights, take the fire trail off Burralow Road, 4WD only. Alternatively from Bilpin take the Patterson Range Fire Trail, also 4WD although AWD should make it. The signpost for the Fire Trail is pretty hard to spot and if coming from the Richmond side is just before you get to Bilpin itself.
For more information about camping at Burralow Creek, go to:
This salad is great to cook before heading out on a camping trip so you’ve got a healthy, filling meal to eat when you arrive or once you’ve set up your tent. Alternatively, cook this while you’re camping and if you know you’re going to be cooking this for lunch or dinner, cook extra bacon at breakfast and store it in your cool box until later. And of course it can be cooked at home too!
600-700 g cold cooked pasta (or 300 g dried pasta cooked, drained and cooled)
6 middle rashers of bacon, cooked until crispy, roughly chopped or crumbled
2 avocados, diced
250 g cherry tomatoes, quartered
Couple of handfuls of rocket or other salad leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic or white wine vinegar
1 red chilli, seeded and finely diced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add the bacon, avocado, tomatoes and rocket* and mix well.
2 Combine the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Mix well and if you have time, leave for about 20 minutes to allow all the flavours to mingle. Can be served warm or cold. If taking on a trip, store in an airtight container in an esky (cool box).
*If you’re making this in advance, leave out the rocket and toss it through just before serving.
For more great camping recipes check out my cookbook Hungry Campers Cookbook available from BigW, Myer, independent book stores and on-line.
Photography Natasha Milne (copyright Explore Australia)
These delicious little meatballs are perfect for barbecuing or char-grilling. They also taste great cold, so pre-cook some and take them on a picnic or in your lunch box. These can also be prepared in advance then frozen – perfect to take for your first meal when you’re camping. The lettuce leaves, bean sprouts and mint leaves are easy to pack separately, but if that’s all too hard the meatballs are delicious on their own too. If you’re on the move with these meatballs, pack the lime dipping sauce in a small leak-proof container. To make them kid-friendly leave out the chilli, although they’re not really that spicy.
Serves 4 (makes 16-20 small meatblls)
800 g lean minced pork
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
6 cm piece lemongrass, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
Vietnamese lime sauce:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
½ small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice (or lemon, but the sauce won’t be as tangy)
1 teaspoon sugar
To serve: crisp lettuce leaves, 100 g bean sprouts and a handful mint leaves
Put the pork, chilli, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce and chopped herbs in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper then mix with your hands until the pork turns a paler pink, this helps the meatballs stick together. Form into 16-20 meatballs, then cover and chill for 30 minutes.
To make the Vietnamese lime sauce, put all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Shortly before you’re ready to serve, arrange the lettuce leaves, bean sprouts and mint leaves on a serving plate.
Preheat a barbecue or chargrill pan to medium–hot. Cook the meatballs for 8–10 minutes, turning regularly, until just cooked through. Be careful not to overcook them, otherwise they will become dry. You can also thread the meatballs onto metal skewers to cook; for ease, thread four onto each skewer.
To serve, invite each guest to place a meatball in a lettuce leaf with some bean sprouts and mint. Spoon over a little of the sauce, then wrap up and eat. To make this a more substantial meal, serve some rice or noodles on the side.