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Crazy About Caramel

Got a spare 5 minutes up your sleeve? That’s all you’ll need to make a perfect caramel sauce.


I could watch this gooey, golden sauce being poured over chocolate cakes, fruits and tarts all day long, it’s a mesmerising sight to see. And it’s super simple. The most important thing to remember is to keep your eyes on the saucepan to avoid burning the sugar – burnt caramel tastes bitter and sticks to the bottom of your saucepan, which is no fun for anyone. Here’s how to make it:



In a medium heavy saucepan, stir 1 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar) and 2 tablespoons water over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring for about 5 minutes, or until it turns a deep golden brown colour and registers 200°C (390 °F) on a candy thermometer. Add 3 tablespoons thickened cream (heavy whipping cream) room temperature, and cook for about 30 seconds, or until the cream is slightly reduced.


Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in 110g (4 oz) unsalted butter.


Strain through a fine sieve. Cool slightly and mix in 1 teaspoon salt.

Serve as a dipping sauce alongside a Banana Soufflé, make Caramel Popcorn or Chocolate Salted Caramel Cashews, dunk churros or Ricotta Fritters in the sauce or pour over ice cream. There’s so many ways to use it, we’re lucky caramel is ‘in season’ all year round.


Homemade Corn Chips


Ever wondered how to make your very own golden and crunchy corn chips? Maybe not. But once I let you in on the secret to how easy they are to prepare, I know you’ll be reaching for corn tortillas and canola oil ready to give handmade chips a go. Really and truly, tortillas and oil are the only ingredients you’ll need, plus a little salt to taste. To make about 8 cups of corn chips, here’s what you do:

Add enough canola oil to a large heavy pot to reach a depth of about 7.5 centimetres (3 inches). Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 175°C (350°F). Meanwhile, tear each tortilla in half down the middle, and then tear those halves down the middle again.

Working in batches, cook the tortillas in the hot oil, stirring nearly constantly with a spider, for about 3 minutes, or until the chips are golden and crispy. Use the spider to remove the chips from the oil and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season immediately with salt to taste. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

The chips will last up to 3 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature. You can rewarm them in the oven on 190°C (375°F) for 5 mins, if desired.


Aside from the fact that homemade corn chips are delicious, I love making them because they’re a snack that many people default to buying at the store so guests are thrilled when they’re presented with the homemade kind. Serve with Eggplant DipHomemade Tomato Salsa and/or Guacamole. Or if you want to get a little fancy, serve with Fresh Crab and Avocado Dip. Ooh la la…


Pucker Up! It’s Chocolate Ganache Time

It’s hard to look at all this chocolate without hugging the screen. That’s the chocoholic in me coming to the fore.


There are two things that I really love about chocolate ganache – it calls for three basic ingredients – chocolate, cream and oil – and it can be spooned, dolloped, drizzled, poured and piped over and into so many beautiful desserts. You can pretty much let your imagination run wild when it comes to ganache – ahem body paint – but here are my top 7 favourite ways to put ganache to work:

  • Slice a fresh croissant down the middle, spoon the ganache inside and heat until the croissant is golden brown and the chocolate is oozy and warm.
  • While the ganache is still warm, pour it over your favourite chocolate or butter cake for a gorgeous and simple glaze.
  • Whip it goooood! Allow ganache to cool down to room temp (this will take about an hour, stir often) and smear it over cupcakes. Take these babies into school or work and knock the socks off your mates.
  • Spread it down the middle of a thin crepe, roll it up and grate any remaining chocolate pieces over to serve. A microplane grater will give you the prettiest and most delicate result.
  • Fill a family-size sweet tart or little tartlets with ganache – you’ll need a piping bag for tartlets however, a spatula will work perfectly for a larger tart. I’m almost equal parts crazy about caramel as I am about chocolate so I fill the bottom of the tart with caramel, let that set in the fridge then pour the ganache over the top. Pop the tart back in the fridge to set again and top with fresh raspberries.
  • Fondue baby fondue…. Dip your favourite fruits, slices of cake, brownies, marshmellows or (ok, this is going to sound super American of me but..) dip your salty pretzels in there too! Decadence personified.
  • Pucker up. For an episode of Take Home Chef, I convinced a lovely couple to paint one another’s lips in delicious, silky chocolate and smooch until they were chocolate-free. Chocolate is the quintessential sexy ingredient, right? So you’ve gotta have a bit of fun with it.


Surely I’ve suitably romanced you into whipping up chocolate ganache by now?? Let’s do this:

In a small heavy saucepan, heat 1/2 cup heavy cream over medium-high heat just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat, add 100g (3.5oz) high-quality chopped dark chocolate (70% cacao) and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and set aside for 1 minute. After 1 minute, whisk the mixture to blend.


  • Chop the chocolate into the thin little strips then cut across the strips to break it down into smaller specks. This will allow the chocolate to melt and blend into the warm cream with ease.
  • As tempting as it is, resist from stirring the cream and chocolate together until that 1 minute is up. Stirring too early will result in a grainy mixture.

Eggplant: It’s a Charred Life


There is one pothole that many of us fall into when it comes to eggplant – we don’t cook it for long enough. And I hate to say it but chefs aren’t always an exception to this faux pas either. If you’ve ever ordered a grilled veggie focaccia from a café, nine times out of ten you’ll find a thick slice of eggplant that’s slightly bitter and spongy in texture stuffed between the toasted bread… which is probably the reason you walk right on by these ink-skinned veggies at the markets. Well, it’s time to give eggplants the justice they deserve and position them firmly on the culinary map because when they’re cooked to creamy and silky perfection, they’re incomparable to the sponge-fest you may be used to.

When cooking most veggies, you want to retain a lot of their natural shape and texture; just think of grilled asparagus and blanched green beans, but it’s not the case for eggplant. You want to char and soften it right up. Remember: char and soften, char and soften!!! Refrain from removing your eggplant from the heat source until you’ve achieved this.

One of my very favourite ways to eat eggplant is in a dip or puree form. It’s a great snack to keep in the fridge for the week or to serve as part of an antipasto platter. Eggplant and feta cheese go famously together so I often sprinkle feta over the dip or crumble it into a little bowl and serve alongside the puree. Another party trick is to dust your homemade corn chips with cumin powder and dunk them into the dip; the smokiness of both the spice and charred eggplant are complementary to one another.

To whip up the dip, you’ll need:

4 eggplants
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup tahini (if desired – if you’d rather hold onto that pure eggplant flavour then omit the tahini)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

To prepare the eggplant dip:


Preheat the grill or barbecue for medium-high heat. Using a small knife, make slashes all over the eggplants and rub them each with 2 teaspoons of oil. Insert two cloves of garlic into each of the whole eggplants.


Place the eggplants on a pan under the grill or set the eggplants on the barbecue and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until charred all over and softened, turning often to ensure even colouring and cooking. Remove the eggplants and garlic from the grill or barbecue and set aside to cool.

Remove and discard the skin from the eggplants. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. By this stage your eggplant is deliciously slimy, so kids love getting in there to help remove those bitter seeds.


In a food processor, blend the eggplant pulp and garlic to form a smooth puree. Blend in the tahini, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in the parsley. Season to taste with salt. Note: If you are omitting the tahini, feel free to give the eggplant dip just a quick whiz in the blender rather than puree it, in order to retain some of its natural fleshy texture.


How To Make Rosemary Salt

You’ve probably seen salt and herb mixes in the stores but I like to mix up my own blends because they’re super fresh, inexpensive, I always have the ingredients to hand – I use salt, pepper, lemon and rosemary for this one – and they’re dead simple to make.

rosemary salt collage

Here’s how: In a small food processor, combine 1/3 cup rosemary leaves, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper and 1/4 cup coarse sea salt. Process to finely grind the mixture. Add another 1/4 cup sea salt and pulse to incorporate the salt while leaving the mixture the size of breadcrumbs.

If you’d like a super fresh mix, then lay the rosemary salt on a baking tray to dry out for 1 hour – the mix will remain zesty and fresh for around 3 days. To keep your mix for up to 1 month (salt blends make awesome edible gifts), completely dry it out in the oven on a low temperature (90C/200F) for 1.5 hours and store in an airtight container.

So, now for the delicious part. Massage, sprinkle or rub your salt on a nice piece of steak or salmon, pork, baked potatoes, hot chips, homemade crisps or a whole roasted chicken, turkey or any other poultry. It tastes great over grilled or slow roasted veggies, especially on pumpkin, carrots, eggplant and tomatoes. And don’t forget to season your sandwiches and baguettes with a pinch of this good stuff – it’ll take your lunch from zero to hero.

For sage or thyme salt, simply swap out the rosemary replace with these fresh herbs.



Be Corny

Corn has multiple personalities. Sweet and juicy, the pale yellow veggie is the very nature of summer. But with a growing season that stretches into October, corn also has the richness and depth to hold up to autumn’s heartier cool-weather dishes. Which means, there’s no end to what you can do with corn.


Grilled corn on the cob makes a slightly sweet snack or side dish. Boiling or steaming works great too, especially if you’re in the mood for clean, bright flavour. Squeeze a bit of lime and sprinkle with salt and pepper before eating. There’s really no limit what you can do with the fresh kernels of corn. They add a touch of juiciness to quesadillas and mixed salads and lend their sweetness to a chunky salsa or relish. Add to potpies and pasties; corn gives these rich baked dishes a hint of crunchiness. Reduce the corn to make a pudding-like sauce or show off their sweetness by making some homemade sweet corn ice cream.

Get creative. But first, you’ll need to pick up some fresh corn.

To buy: As soon as it’s picked, corn’s natural sugars begin to turn to starch, which over time robs the cobs of their sweetness. Head to your farmers’ market or supermarket and ask when the corn was picked. You want to buy it as close to picking as possible.

Look for: Ears with bright green husks that fit snugly against the corn. The silk should be a golden brown and a little sticky (which shows you that the corn was picked recently). Peek inside the husks. The kernels should be plump, spaced tightly and visible all the way to the tip of the ear.

Use it or lose it: Corn will taste best if you use it within a day of buying it. Corn will stay sweet up to 3 days if you tightly wrap the ears in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge.

Kinds: Yellow, aka Golden Bantam, has large kernels and a strong corn flavor. White, or Country Gentleman, are smaller and sweeter tasting, while butter and sugar, a mix of white and yellow, offers up the best of both worlds. Indian corn has red, blue, brown and purple kernels. We see it used mostly as decoration but it’s edible. Just don’t cook up the centerpiece. It’s definitely been dried and probably coated with varnish.

Go organic: There’s a lot of talk these days about genetically modified organisms, whether they carry health risks, their impact on agriculture and whether GMO foods should be clearly labelled. Some 61 percent of corn grown in the US is genetically modified. To avoid GMO, you have to buy organic.

I first fell in love with corn eating my mum’s delectable muffins, which inspired these Corn and Bacon Muffins with Herb Butter.


Chicken Liver Mousse Parfait in Maude-Style


For my Hollywood Bowl picnics, I love to make this delicious chicken liver mousse parfait, similar to the one I make at Maude, because I can make it in advance and tuck it into my picnic basket as I head out for the concert. Serve it on a board with shaved prosciutto, salami, mortadella, capicola, and comte cheese for an casual but elegant picnic. Sliced fresh ciabatta, my Pickled Onions and Mustards Seeds, Madeira Jelly (stay tuned for these recipes, they’ll be on the blog soon), and wine, of course, all go great with my favourite picnic!

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Make-Ahead: The parfaits can be made up to 1 day ahead, covered tightly and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.


  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup Madeira
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 225g (8 oz) cleaned chicken livers, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 225g (8 oz) unsalted butter, gently heated until melted but still creamy, and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Preheat the oven to 68°C (155°F)
  • In a small saucepan, add the brandy, Madeira, sherry, shallots, thyme, bay leaf, and 3 grinds of fresh black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the liquids are reduced to a near glaze. Remove the thyme and bay leaf and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • In a blender, blend the chicken livers, shallot reduction, and pink salt. Slowly add the eggs and blend. Slowly add the butter. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve and season with the kosher salt.
  • Transfer the mixture to two 225mL (8 oz) ramekins. Cover the ramekins tightly with plastic wrap. Set the ramekins in a square 20 cm (8 in) baking pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with foil.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the mixture still moves slightly when the ramekins are gently shaken. Remove the ramekins from the water and set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the parfait to set completely.





Plating Up at Maude


Take a photographic journey through plating up the Smoked Duck Egg dish on Maude’s morel menu. The slideshow is complemented by a sweet little beat, so make sure your volume is turned on. Enjoy!


Oysters on the Half Shell with Habanero-Tomato Mignonette


Oysters finished with a piquant Mexican-style salsa are designed to really impress and kick off a great night or celebration. Serve up to your first time date, a bunch of friends or long-time lover and they’ll be flattered with the effort you have gone to. It’s important to take the time to finely dice and chop your ingredients because you want teeny tiny pieces in your sauce; chunky is not an option here. I like oysters that are on the smaller size so they slip and slide with ease but I still get a good taste of the slightly spicy sauce on its way down.

Here’s a idea: Double or triple the mignonette sauce and make a Mexican fiesta out of it. Serve as a salsa for corn chips (that way vegetarians get to taste it too) or serve over barbecued prawns or white fish like halibut, snapper or scallops.

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Make-Ahead: The mignonette can be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated. The oysters should be eaten as soon as they are shucked. Haven’t shucked before, no drama. I’ve got the answer right here.


  • 1 medium heirloom tomato, seeded, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 habanero chilli,* seeded, minced (3/4 tablespoon)
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • Rock salt or kosher salt
  • Crushed ice
  • 24 fresh oysters, shucked, on the half shell


To make the mignonette:

  • In a small bowl, fold the tomato, shallot, coriander, lime juice and habanero chilli together. Season to taste with sea salt and set aside.

To serve:

  • When ready to serve, sprinkle a generous handful of rock salt or kosher salt over a nonreactive rimmed platter, and then arrange a layer of crushed ice over the ice. Sprinkle with another generous handful of salt. Combining the ice with salt helps prevent the ice from melting.
  • Arrange the oysters in their shells on the ice, nestling them a bit so they don’t jostle around and spill their liquor. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the mignonette over each oyster. Transfer the remaining mignonette to a small serving bowl. Serve the oysters with the remaining mignonette alongside.
  • Habanero chillis are very hot, so wear disposable rubber gloves when handling them and add them to your liking.

To make barbecued oysters:

  • Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat. Arrange the oysters in their half shells on a bed of rock salt over a large baking sheet or platter – this will help prevent them from jostling around and spilling their precious liquor! Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the mignonette over each oyster.
  • For a gas barbecue, spread 2 cups of drained soaked hickory or apple wood chips on a piece of heavy-duty aluminium foil. Place the foil directly on a lit burner. For a charcoal barbecue, sprinkle 2 cups of the drained soaked wood chips over the coals.
  • When you see a wisp of smoke, quickly arrange the oysters on the barbecue grate. Close the barbecue hood and grill for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the juices and sauce just begin to bubble. Serve immediately.

Feta with Charred Baby Bell Peppers


Some like it hot baby! The heat in this Spanish-style tapas dish with a Greek twist comes from the padrón and sweet Fresno (deseeded) chillis but do not fear, they rate on the lower end of the mouth-on-fire scale. The whole roasted peppers are balanced by a combination of flavours synonymous with traditional Greek dishes – lemon juice, olive oil, fresh oregano and shaved feta cheese. Serve it up family style on a big platter and pick away at the peppers over a glass of txakoli; a light, spritzy and palate refreshing Spanish white wine.

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Make-Ahead: This simple dish is best served immediately.


  • 12 multi-colored baby bells
  • 8 padron or shishito peppers
  • 6 red Fresno chillis or long red chillis, stemmed, halved, and seeded
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 30grams or 1 ounce feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves


  • Preheat the grill/broiler.
  • Coat the baby bells, padrón peppers, and fresno chillis with 1 teaspoon of the oil and the salt. Pick out the padrón peppers and set aside. Broil the baby bells and fresno chillis for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the baby bells and fresno chillis and add the padrón peppers. Grill/broil 5 minutes longer. Remove from the grill/broiler and transfer to a platter.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice over the peppers and drizzle with the remaining oil. Using a microplane grater, grate the feta on top of the peppers. Sprinkle with oregano and serve.