When one of my food heroes calls to let me know they're in town and asks if I'm free for a coffee, I'm there... especially if that person happens to be the lovely Lyndey Milan OAM!
Lyndey and I caught up when she visited Canberra recently. Our conversation follows below:
Lyndey, thanks taking the time to catch up with me. Congratulations on the success of Lyndey Milan's Taste of Australia. Tell me about the TV series and the book.
Thank you, Liz. This book is my ninth and a companion to my TV series of the same name, which is currently screening on LifeStyle FOOD on Sundays at 6.30pm and repeated on Saturdays at 9.30am and on +2 two hours after all broadcasts. So it was a long time in the making. I shot the TV series over more than a year, as I wanted to show Australia in all her climates. The recipes in the book come first and foremost from the show where I traversed the country, meeting producers and then cooking with what they showed me. Then I asked some of the guests on the show to contribute recipes, which I tested and then chose which ones I would keep. I then looked at the balance across the book and developed other recipes as needed. All of the recipes are based on Australian primary produce and then show the diversity of flavours and cultures we embrace here. I also make a wine style recommendation to go with each recipe, as I am also very proud of Australian wine.
The book, Lyndey Milan's Taste of Australia, has won a number of awards. Further congratulations are in order!
The book won Best Culinary Travel book in Australia and Best TV cookbook in Australia in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Now I have been advised that the book is shortlisted in the Best TV Cookbook in English in these awards, which have entries from 240 countries. There is an awards ceremony in Yantai in China on 8 June, as well as an expo, so I’m going!
For more than three decades you have had a stellar career in the Australian food industry, Lyndey. How did it all begin?
Cooking was a hobby for me ever since I used my pocket money to buy the Margaret Fulton cookbook in about 1969. Soon I was cooking dinner parties and loving the fun and hospitality of it all. I remained a keen amateur until after the birth of my first child. Despite a career which had encompassed teaching Art at high school, and advertising in London and Sydney, it was cooking I turned to when I started a catering business soon after his birth. Then one thing led to another and by the late 80s I was on radio and started writing and cooking on TV around 1990.
What's your earliest food memory?
I’m not sure if it is my earliest food memory or one which just springs immediately to mind. My mother’s parents lived in Brisbane and when I was three her Mum was quite unwell. I was the youngest of four children and the only one not at school, so Mum took me with her on the plane to Brisbane. I remember Mum was served a meal and I was given a little plate from her tray. I remember thinking it was all terribly exciting – but I can’t remember what I ate. Aside from that it was probably Mum’s Sunday roast. Dad would always say “Your mother’s baked dinner is better than the food in any fancy restaurant”.
Who are your food heroes, and/or what inspires you the most when it comes to food and cooking?
My food heroes are the Australian farmers and producers who grow such amazing produce in this challenging land of ours. Despite bush fires, droughts and floods, they keep on. Without them there would be nothing for us to cook or drink. So they come first. Then, of course, I have always acknowledged Margaret Fulton, who is now a good friend. She taught Australia to cook. I have a soft spot for Marcella Hazan’s books, and have variously taken inspiration from Claudia Roden and Madhur Jaffrey.
Do you have an all-time favourite recipe?
I’m pretty proud of my paella. I’ve been to Spain several times and just loved it and have evolved my recipe over the years. Recipes from Lyndey & Blair’s Taste of Greece are special to me – the slow-roasted lamb ribs are amazing – and I am loving those ones in Taste of Australia too.
What fresh ingredients are always in your shopping basket?
Anything which is in season. I try to avoid buying imported fresh produce. So, Australian artisanal cheese, grass-fed lamb or beef, free-range pork, garlic, onions, kale or cavalo nero, mushrooms, asparagus in season, heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, Greek yoghurt, lemons, ginger, chillies, seasonal fruit and strawberries are always on my list. I also regard extra virgin olive oil as fresh product especially at the moment when some producers have a First Harvest bottling.
Is there a recipe from the book that you'd be happy to share with my readers?
Yes, my poached yabbies in native flavours with lemon myrtle butter and macadamia warrigal greens. I caught yabbies myself at Murray Bank Yabby Farm near Albury, and took inspiration from local Wiradjuri woman, Leonie McIntosh, to incorporate indigenous ingredients into this stunning dish. Scroll down to see the recipe and a photograph of the dish.
And finally, what's for dinner tonight?
I’m on the 5:2 diet so tonight, before my Italian class, I will have barramundi with mushrooms, onion, garlic, ginger and chilli splashed with lime juice and oyster sauce baked in the oven. And, in case you were curious, tomorrow night I'm making a deconstructed lamb sandwich made from shoulder of lamb with Middle Eastern spices, eggplant and capsicum with a cumin yoghurt sauce – a recipe I am developing for the annual calendar I do for Selector magazine. Yum!!
Thanks so much Lyndey for taking the time to chat with me, and also for giving me a copy of your beautiful book. It was great to catch up when you were in Canberra, let's do it again!
My pleasure, Liz. I'm looking forward to it.
Friend, fellow food writer and cook, and a popular regular presenter at my former cooking school, Lyndey has long been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine. She has a thirst for life and a great sense of fun, coupled with a love of good people, good food (and a sparkling shiraz).
Lyndey's career in the Australian food industry spans more than 30 years and her list of achievements is most impressive! In 2014, she was In awarded an OAM in the Australia Day Honours List for services to hospitality, the food and wine industry and the community. She also won The Vittoria Legend Award at the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide 2012 awards and was named as a NSW finalist in the Hudson Private & Corporate Sector Award category of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
In terms of cookbooks, Lyndey has published nine books including Lyndey & Blair’s Taste of Greece; Lyndey Milan, the Best Collection; Just Add Spice (co-authored with Ian Hemphill); Flavours; Plates; Lyndey Milan's Fabulous Food; and Balance, Matching Food and Wine, What Works and Why (with Colin Corney) which won Best Food and Wine Writing at the 2006 Australian Food Media Awards. The book to accompany the TV series, Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia, has also just been released.
Since 2011 Lyndey has hosted six television series, all of which have been viewed by international audiences. They include Lyndey Milan’s Baking Secrets; Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Ireland; Lyndey’s Cracking Christmas; Lyndey & Herbie’s Moveable Feast (co-hosted with spice king Ian ‘Herbie’ Hemphill); and Lyndey & Blair’s Taste of Greece (which follows Lyndey and her late actor son and co-host, Blair, on a tour of the Peloponnese seeking culinary delights and adventure). Her latest series, Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia, is screening currently on LifeStyle FOOD and Qantas Inflight.
She is a popular regular guest on the various morning shows on all three Australin commercial networks and was previously co–host of Fresh for over eight years. Lyndey’s television profile extends beyond Australia. In 2000 she presented a live segment on Australian food on the top rating NBC Today Show, during the Sydney Olympics. She also appeared with Anthony Bourdain when he was filming in Australia, taking him to Tetsuya’s restaurant. Lyndey was featured on Rick Stein’s Seafood Odyssey. During her years on Fresh on the Nine Network Australia, she regularly hosted high profile visiting chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay.
Lyndey contributes to Selector magazine, a quarterly publication for food and wine enthusiasts, after over ten years at ACP where she was the Food Director of The Australian Women’s Weekly. And if that isn't enough, Lyndey is also Vice President of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, Chair of the Sydney Royal Wine Show and was formerly founding Chair of the Fine Food Committee – a committee which judges thousands of Australian products in categories including aquaculture, branded beef, branded lamb, bread, cake and pie, coffee, beer, pasta and noodle, regional food, olive oil and deli meats. She also holds co-directorships of Flame Media and runs her own food and wine consultancy.
In short, wow. Lyndey is one amazing woman!
Thank you kindly Lyndey for taking the time to chat with me and giving me the opportunity to showcase your latest book.
Lyndey Milan's Taste of Australia cookbook...
'Australia is a gastronomic delight... brought to life by the unique character who help reveal our Australian culinary culture,' writes Lyndey. 'This book showcases the bountiful variety of food and wine from the many landscapes... and I hope you enjoy my Taste of Australia'.
The chapters in Lyndey Milan's Taste of Australia are divided into collections from each land type – The City, The Waterways, The High Country, The Bush and The Vines - all of which explore the produce and flavours that make up our national palate and capture the freshness and simple elegance synonymous of Lyndey’s food.
Lyndey's recipes are well-written, eclectic and achievable - and and range from a simple platter of oysters with pico de gallo (a fresh uncooked salsa), to a spicy goat's cheese quesadilla, then on to a sumptuous chocolate hazelnut fondant pudding.
Among the deliciously interesting and more unusual recipes are barramundi 'larb' with native Australian flavours, Peking pork belly with pineapple pickle, seared kangaroo loin with licorice sauce and parsnip colcannon, and crocodile nori tempura cigar!
My favourites include fried green tomatoes with green olive gremolata; prawn crackers with salmon, salmon roe and nori; and a chocolate, cabernet and rhubarb dessert that made me want to lick the picture on page 94 of the book!
Definitely one to add to your kitchen bookshelf! Lyndey Milan's Taste of Australia ($39.95, HardieGrant Books), can be purchased online here.
POACHED YABBIES IN NATIVE FLAVOURS WITH LEMON MYRTLE BUTTER AND MACADAMIA WARRIGAL GREENS
1 tablespoon salt
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
250 ml (1 cup) white wine
1 tablespoon native pepperberries
2 tablespoons lemon myrtle leaves
1 sprig flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
For the Lemon myrtle butter:
125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground lemon myrtle
2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
125 g cold butter, diced
For the Warrigal greens:
1–2 tablespoons macadamia oil or extra-virgin olive oil
250 g warrigal greens, leaves picked
60 ml (1/4 cup) water (optional)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
40 g (1/4 cup) macadamia nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
Place the yabbies in the freezer for 15 minutes to put them to sleep. Meanwhile, place 2 litres (8 cups) water, the salt, onion, wine, pepperberries, lemon myrtle leaves and parsley in a large stockpot, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the yabbies to the pot and poach for 10 minutes or until red in colour and the tails spring back when pressed. Drain and refresh under cold water.
To peel the yabbies, twist off the heads. Using scissors, cut down the side of the shell and peel off; discard. Remove the intestinal tract.
For the lemon myrtle butter, place the white wine, lemon juice, lemon myrtle and ginger in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil and reduce the liquid by half. Strain and return to the heat then whisk in the butter until all the ingredients have emulsified. Remove from the heat.
For the greens, heat one tablespoon oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the warrigal greens and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly wilted and bright green in colour. Add the water if necessary to help the wilting process. Once wilted, add the garlic and macadamia nuts.
Add the yabby flesh to the same pan as the warrigal greens (with an extra tablespoon of oil, if desired) and flash-fry to brown slightly and heat through.
To serve, divide the warrigal greens among serving plates. Top with two yabbies and spoon over the lemon myrtle butter.
Serves four as an appetiser. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 10 minutes.
Lyndey’s note: Warrigal greens, also known as warrigal spinach, New Zealand spinach or Botany Bay greens, were used by Captain Cook to prevent scurvy among his men. The plant was taken back to England by the botanist Joseph Banks. Warrigal greens should always be blanched, even if using for salad, to remove the oxalic acid. You could substitute silverbeet (Swiss chard), English spinach or kale.
Wine: The lemony flavours are well suited to a semillon, and the butter dictates an older one with toasty aged flavours.
Native ingredients: available online from Herbie's Spices.
N.B. This recipe appears courtesy of Lyndey Milan and HardieGrant Books.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.