Christmas was fun especially with a three year old in the house for Christmas Eve sleepover. And she did sleep. Her aunt and I were eager to see her reactions to discovering the carrots had disappeared and to see her bulging stocking but she refused to wake up. We finally prodded her awake at 7.45! My memories of my own childhood Christmases were of waking about 4am, hunting through stockings (more often a pillow case) conveniently found at the end of the bed, and dropping back to sleep. But she finally got into it and loved the unwrapping as much as the gifts.
For the last two months I have been dividing my time between touring the country promoting my latest book The Cook’s Apprentice, and whenever I was back in Melbourne, being the Founder of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.
I was thrilled to have the following comment posted on Instagram by Yotam Ottolenghi
‘Love lemons on book covers, you may have noticed. But forget the lemon, Stephanie has written another classic, the ultimate teaching book for young cooks.’
For the last 6 weeks I have been travelling to promote my new book The Cook’s Apprentice.
A book tour can strike fear in the heart of shy and introverted authors. It is a heady mix of admiration even adulation, long car journeys, solitary moments in hotel rooms, lots of signing and smiling, and for me at least, ragged sleep as I dwell on the last event and anticipate the next. However I have been treated wonderfully well and have met many dedicated and enthusiastic bookshop proprietors.
I was lucky to visit this exhibition at the Art gallery of South Australia with a few of my fellow French students just days before it closed. Many thanks to frenchwithnicole.com.au for organising the day. What a splendid show it was! And what a beautiful gallery it is. There were not too many people, it was possible to stand in front of any painting for as long as you wanted and, dare I say it, far fewer visitors snapping away with their phones.
Many of the works were familiar from visits to the Quai d’Orsay in Paris but the way in which the show was curated was exciting. The works were grouped to show how these much-loved artists used colour in new ways, starting in the first room with rich blacks and deep tones, moving into a room of snowy scenes with blue reflections, then works of blue and green, then rose and violet. The walls of the various rooms were painted in complementary colours to show off the paintings. A cool lavender for the snowy paintings, a deep blue-green in the blue and green room.
On these chilly mornings I am reminded of the superlative breakfasts I enjoyed at Ballymaloe House in County Cork, Ireland. The porridge was one of the highlights. It was made from stone ground oats, alongside was a jug of cream and unrefined brown sugar that melted almost instantly into toffee-like trails. Steel-cut oats, or pinhead oats, are different from the rolled oats that are more commonly used. Rolled oats are first steamed, then pressed between rollers and dried. They absorb liquid more quickly and thus the porridge cooks faster but with a loss of flavour. For steel-cut oats, each oat ‘groat’ is split into several nubby pieces. Usually simmered with water (sometimes pre-soaked) the porridge retains much of the shape of the groat, resulting in a chewy and nutty-tasting porridge.
Being made with water you can add cream to this bowl of porridge without any twinge of guilt. As a child my favourite was hot milk, brown sugar and a lump of butter. I enjoyed watching the butter melt into a golden pool on the surface of the bowl before I stirred it in and ate it. I have never been a fan of slicing raw fruit such as bananas into my oatmeal. And I would prefer to have a separate bowl of stewed fruit rather than combining them.