Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

MFF_Christmas2014_BooksSo Christmas is almost upon us and if you’ve left it to the last minute to buy the ones you love a gift, here are some of my favourite cook books from my own collection that I think everyone should own. They might not be the newest books out there (some have even had sequals published) but these are my tried and tested favourites.


Chin Chin: The Book
Benjamin Cooper
$49.95 RRP

If you’ve been to the restaurant why not try cooking some of the delicious dishes yourself? Full of beautiful photography and great South East Asian recipes, this book is an ode to it’s namesake, documenting how Chin Chin has grown to become one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne.

The Flavour Thesaurus
Niki Segnit
$39.99 RRP

If you’re looking for something for the experienced cook, this is an excellent book. It caragorizes flavours into distinct groups, pairing them in both classic and unusual combinations. Great for cooks who like to create their own recipes and like to experiment.


Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen
Hetty McKinnon
$34.99 RRP

If you love your veggies and your mouth waters over a good salad, this is the book for you. Full of simple, easy salad recipes that make both excellent side dishes or stand alone main meals.

Cumulus Inc.
Andrew McConnell
$59.99 RRP

Easily one of my favourite cook books of all time, this book is based on the cooking of McConnell’s iconic Melbourne restaurant Cumulus Inc. Full of easy to follow recipes using beautiful ingredients, this book belongs in every good cooks collection.


Frank Camorra & Richard Cornish
$59.99 RRP

The debut cook book from the iconic Melbourne restaurant, this is a great book full of slow braises, bold flavours and classic Spanish recipes. It’s a great documentation of Camorra’s lifetime of cooking knowledge.

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals
Jamie Oliver
$49.99 RRP

Even great cooks get lazy. Following the success of Jamie’s 30 minute meals comes the even more impressive 15 minute meals. Great for the busy home cook who is short on time but still wants to eat well.


Adriano Zumbo
$24.99 RRP

Have you got a friend who’s an amazing sweet chef? Have they perfected the art of the macaron or maybe just want to experiment with some new flavours? Then this one is perfect. With 40 flavour combinations including cherry coconut, mandarin, tonka bean or salt and vinegar, this is THE book for macarons from the man that made them mainstream in Australia.

What Katie Ate
Andrew McConnell
$49.99 RRP

Successful Sydney blogger Katie Quinn Davies’ debut book, “What Katie Ate” is beautifully designed and photographed, making it the perfect gift cook book. She has also published two additional books since: “At the Weekend” and “Recipes and Stories”.


Yotam Ottolenghi
$49.99 RRP

Yotam Ottolenghi is a successful restaurant owner based in the UK who is known for his salads. This book is a great one for vegetarians looking for inspiration to dress up their veggies.

Sweet Studio
Darren Purchese
$50.00 RRP

The perfect book for the budding pastry chef, Sweet Studio gives the home cook the chance to create some of Darren Purchese’s amazing creations. Aimed at intermediate to advanced home cooks, this one contains a few tricky techniques for those looking to improve their skillset.

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Housemate Christmas 2014


Still haven’t quite got your Christmas menu sorted? Recently my housemate Miss R and I hosted our families for a sit down dinner that might give you some inspiration. Given there were 20 of us, we made the main dishes and asked people to bring the sides. But of course I couldn’t help myself and made a couple of my own as well ;)

I made my first ever brined turkey with amazing results, went old fashioned with a cranberry glazed ham, and turned some ready-cooked king prawns into something special with some hot herb butter. For sides, I put a modern spin on your regular roast corn with some aioli and parmesan, and turned a $2 bag of nectarines into a great summertime salad with gorgonzola and rocket.



5.5kg turkey
800g fine salt
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 onions, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 leeks, peeled and sliced
50ml white wine
15g fresh rosemary leaves
15g fresh thyme leaves

  1. Remove the wing tips and reserve along with the neck for gravy.
  2. Place the salt and 10 litres of cold water in a large tub big enough to fit the turkey. Stir the water until the salt dissolves.
  3. Place the turkey in the brine breast side down and leave in the fridge for 12 hours.
  4. Remove turkey from the brine and submerge in fresh cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 210C. Using your hands, work the skin away from the breast meat, careful not to tear the skin. Push 100g of the butter under the skin, rubbing any remaining butter over the skin.
  6. In a large baking tray, place the onions, carrot, leeks and white wine. Place the turkey on top and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place the turkey in a hot oven and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 130C and cook for a further 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until the juices run clear when you prick a skewer into the leg. Alternatively, use a meat thermometer and cook until the internal temperature reaches 70C.
  8. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving, reserving the pan juices for the gravy.

Serves 10-12



4kg half leg of ham
100g cranberry jam
35g brown sugar
50ml bourbon
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Using a sharp knife, trace around the fatty white area of the ham, making a cut around the ham shank. Using your fingers, carefully remove the skin over the fat. Use your knife to score a diamond pattern into the fat.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the cranberry jam, brown sugar, bourbon, red wine vinegar, cinnamon and ground allspice. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened slightly. Brush half the glaze over the ham, reserving the other half for basting. Stud a clove in each corner of the diamond pattern.
  4. Place ham on a lined baking tray and bake in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes or until beginning to caramelise. Baste the ham with the remaining glaze and return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes or until golden.
  5. Slice the ham thinly and serve hot or cold.

Serves 12



2kg cooked king prawns, shelled
100g butter
2 tbsp rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped

  1. Arrange the prawns on a serving tray.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the herbs and season with a little salt. Pour the hot butter over the prawns and serve immediately.

Serves 8



12 cobs of corn, peeled
olive oil
1 egg
2 tbsp dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
300ml canola oil
100g finely grated parmesan

  1. In a food processor, place the egg, mustard, lemon juice and garlic and process until well combined. With the motor running, gradually pour in the canola oil until you have a thick aioli. Season with salt to taste.
  2. Heat a large griddle pan or BBQ until smoking hot. Rub the corn with oil and place on the hot grill, turning until slightly charred on all sides. Remove from grill.
  3. Brush each of the corn with a few tablespoons of the aioli and sprinkle with parmesan.

Serves 12



6 nectarines, deseeded and cut into wedges
200g gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
200g rocket leaves
10 sage leaves
50g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

  1. In a bowl, combine the nectarines, gorgonzola and rocket.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sage leaves and fry until golden. Mix the sage leaves with the salad, olive oil and vinegar.

Serves 8

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Raw Mini Christmas Puddings

MFF_Christmas_RawPuddingsIf you’re feeling a bit guilty about all the Christmas treats you’ve been enjoying this month, have I got a great recipe for you! Today’s recipe is for Raw Mini Christmas Puddings that are gluten and dairy free – perfect to take to your next Christmas party. These puds have all the flavours of the real deal, but without the guilt.


70g dried figs
zest of 1 orange
100g flaxseed meal
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
115g dried apricots
285g dried dates
125g almond meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp coconut oil
24 fresh raspberries (to serve)

100g coconut oil
100g coconut cream
1 tbsp good quality maple syrup

  1. Line a 24-cup mini muffin tray with plastic wrap.
  2. Place all the pudding ingredients except the juice, coconut oil and raspberries in a food processor and process until well combined. Add the juice and coconut oil and process until the mixture comes together.
  3. Divide the pudding mix amongst the mini muffin tray, pressing down firmly. Place in the fridge to refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until needed.
  4. When ready to serve, unmould the puddings and arrange on a serving tray. Whisk together the coconut oil, cream and maple syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat until the coconut oil melts and you have the consistency of cream. Transfer into a pouring jug, then pour a little over each of the puddings.
  5. Top each with a fresh raspberry to serve.

Makes 24

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Pidapipó Gelateria opens permanent store on Lygon st

Pidapipó Gelateria
299 Lygon Street
Carlton VIC 3053
(03) 9347 4596


Many gelato fans were saddened by the closing of pop-up gelateria Pidapipó, but fear not as it’s back just in time for summer, and this time it’s for good. After closing the doors in June, owner Lisa Valmorbida has been spending her time perfecting her gelato recipes, and is relaunching Pidapipó TODAY in a new location just a few doors down from the original pop up.

Named after an Italian version of a Simon Says-style game she used to play with her nonno, Pidapipó is Valmorbida’s first solo venture after working in numerous restaurants such as Donovans as a qualified chef. After deciding she wanted to focus on the sweet side of the hospitality industry, she drew on her Italian heritage and jumped on a plane to Carpigiani Gelato University where she learned how to make ‘real Italian gelato’.

After returning home, Valmorbida decided to combine the traditional Italian techniques she’d learnt with modern ingredients and flavor combinations to create Pidapipó’s signature flavors. Favourites include Fior Di Latte, Bacio, Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, and a range of sorbets such as Mojito flavored, Pinacolada and Passionfruit. “Since it’s Christmas, we’re also opening with some Christmasy flavours like eggnog and Christmas pudding,” says Valmorbida.


Valmorbida has also collaborated with a number of chefs, designers and people outside of the food industry to create unique flavor combinations to be released as special editions throughout the year. First to be released is her collaboration with Melbourne food van and donut guru Raph Rashid, where she has created a “Coke Float” gelato inspired by his recipe from his new book ‘Hungry for That’.

Made fresh from scratch daily, Pidapipó prides itself on using the highest quality ingredients from Italian and local producers, including pistachios from Bronte in Sicily, hazlenuts from Piedmont, milk from cows in Warnambool and cheese from St Kilda cheese monger La Formaggeria. Nic Dowse aka Honey Fingers has also set up a bee’s nest on Pidapipó’s rooftop where they will source honey for their flavours.



Pidapipó will also serve more than just gelato – sweet brioche rolls will also be available to make your very own Italian ice cream sandwiches, and traditional Italian affagatos will also be available: “In Italy, an affogato has all sorts of different toppings,” says Valmorbida, “not just coffee. So we’re implementing that concept and will have chocolate sauce, zabaglione, amarena (Italian sour cherry) and espresso toppings.” There’s also a chocolate tap behind the counter to coat the inside of your cone with dark, milk or white chocolate.

Designed by Melbourne interior architect Rabindra Naidoo, the space is inspired by Italian design of the 50’s and 60’s and features unrendered walls, wooden shelving, and a large marble counter that dominates the space. Inlaid in the counter are the silver tins that house the gelato, keeping it at the optimum temperature.




Pidapipó will also host resident DJ’s regularly on Friday nights including Laila Sakini, Edd Fisher and DJ Prequel, making Pidapipó a must visit this Summer.

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Christmas Dessert Ideas

To finish my 3 part series for Christmas comes everybody’s favourite course – dessert! I’ve got a classic Aussie Pavlova, perfect for a hot summer day. If chocolate is more your flavour, why not try making your own Chocolate Tart with chocolate pastry, made fancy with red wine pears? Or finally, if you want something with a little Christmas spice, try my Ginger Cake, sure to keep the elders happy.



4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp corn flour
1/2 cup boiling water

300ml thickened cream
1 punnet strawberries, halved
1 punnet blueberries
1 mango, diced
1 large crunchie bar

  1. Preheat oven to 175C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. In a glass or metal bowl, beat all the ingredients until stiff (about 10 minutes). Divide mixture between the trays and shape into rounds, approximately 25cm wide.
  3. Place in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce oven to 150C and cook for further hour.
  4. Turn oven off and allow pavlovas to cool completely in oven.
  5. Meanwhile, whip the cream until thick. Once the pavlovas have cooled, Place one on a serving plate and spread over half the cream. Top with half the berries, mango and crunchie bar. Place remaining pavlova on top and spread over remaining cream. Top with remaining berries, mango and crunchie bar. Serve immediately.

Serves 12



4 firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut in half (keep the stems on for presentation)
2 cups (500ml) red wine (I used a whole bottle, 750ml)
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
150g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
300ml thickened cream
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/4 cup (60ml) dark rum (I used whisky as that’s what I had)
whipped cream (for serving) 

1 cup (150g) plain flour (I used a bit more)
1/3 cup (40g) almond meal
1/3 cup (60g) icing sugar mixture
1/4 cup (30g) cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
150g chilled butter, chopped
2 egg yolks

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the pears, red wine, caster sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes until the pears are tender but hold their shape. Remove pears from the pan and set aside to cool. Bring the sauce to the boil and allow to reduce until thick and syrupy (you will have about a cup). Set aside to cool. Refrigerate both the pears and syrup until needed.
  2. In a food processor, process flour, almond meal, icing sugar, cocoa powder, and butter until they resemble bread crumbs. Add egg yolks and process until it all comes together. If your pastry is a bit sticky as mine was, add a little more flour. Form into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes until firm.
  3. In another saucepan over low heat, combine chocolate and cream and stir until chocolate has melted. Make sure it doesn’t burn! Remove from heat and whisk in the rum. Allow to cool a little before adding egg yolks one at a time, whisking well after each addition to prevent them scrambling.
  4. Preheat oven to 200C. Once rested, roll out pastry to 3-4mm thick. Transfer to a 23cm fluted pastry tin with a removable base and trim edges. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest. Line tart shell with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and pastry weights and bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until pastry is cooked through. Remove from oven.
  5. Reduce oven to 150C. Pour cream mix into the pastry shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until jest set – any longer and it will bubble. Test if it’s set by gently shaking the tray – it should be firm in the middle. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove tart from tin before refrigerating for at least an hour or until needed.
  6. To serve, dust tart with a little extra cocoa powder. Arrange pears in the center and drizzle with the red wine syrup. Serve with whipped cream.

Serves 8



150g unsalted butter
125 brown sugar
200g golden syrup
200g treacle
2 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp warm water
250ml milk
2 large eggs

300g plain flour.

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the bicarbonate of soda and water until soda dissolves. Add milk and eggs and stir until mixture is well combined. Pour in the butter mixture and stir until well combined.
  4. Sift in the flour and beat until well mixed. Pour into a 20cm x 30cm cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is firm when you wiggle the tin. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool slightly before inverting and removing the cake from tin. Serve warm or cold.

Serves 12

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