Feeding the artists - part 1


As some may know; my mother Annie Herron, is an artist (the bird sculpture a few pics below is one of her works). She also teaches residential art classes at our family home near Rydal, just over the Blue Mountains of NSW. These classes have been running for just over 10 years and in this time, hundreds of people have learnt what Mum believes so firmly; that anyone can draw or paint. It's just about having the confidence, inspiration and time to try.

Last month I joined in to help out. My job was to cook for her and the students and I loved it. Over the month, we ran three classes of five days each, catering for both beginners and advanced level artists. For my part; the food was pretty simple but seasonal, not too heavy and hopefully full of good flavour. We all sat together every meal and dinners particularly were fun, often followed by a game of kelly pool or charades.

Most of the recipes I used came from my own book (which, wouldn't you know - is still available right here via my little shop). Not because I was shamelessly self-promoting (honestly!) but really because it's just full of the kind of food I like to feed people, and I seem to keep coming back to it. We ate lots of soups (like this pumpkin and apple one, and this chicken harira), plus cakes, slow-roasts and salads and I'd sometimes take big trays of warm scones or pikelets over to the studio for morning tea. Recipes for these treats and a few desserts and cakes I cooked during the month will follow in a separate post. But for now, I thought I'd put up some of the lunches we had together. 

I wish I'd taken more photos of the food to share here, but as I also find up at the farm kitchen, when cooking, serving and plating up for big groups, it's hard to find the time to pull out a camera. Plus, I still feel a bit awkward about snapping away at dishes when there's a group waiting to be served them!

Celeric remoulade

This recipe was given to me (verbally) by veggie grower Fabrice Rolando, whose vegetables were the star of pretty much every dish I served at during my time at Rydal. And because I could hardly read my notes from the visit with Fabrice (they ended up worse for wear after being dropped in the mud...hmmm), I turned to Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion for her celeriac remoulade recipe and found it filled in the gaps perfectly. So the below recipe is an amalgamation of sorts. In any case, Fabrice recommended I serve this spooned over roasted baby vegetables which I did, and it was the perfect partner for a main of roast venison and quince jus that we had for dinner on day one. The leftover remoulade was put up with a salad or two and a slab of hot foccaccia for lunch the next day.

Crunchy, creamy and tangy, good remoulade really is a beautiful thing to bring to the table. It's perfect on its own with good crusty bread, alongside cured meats and a simple salad for lunch or as Fabrice advised and I discovered; over sweet roast veggies as the ultimate side dish. Makes about three cups of remoulade.

the mayonnaise
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
300mls mild olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

2 celeriac
1 handful parsley, finely chopped

First, make the mayonnaise. Place a tea towel on your work bench then set a bowl on top of that. Combine the yolks, mustard and lemon juice in the bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking all the time, pouring it in a thin, constant stream. You should see the mixture emulsify and grow into a thick, pale golden sauce. Keep whisking until you’ve used up all of the olive oil. Season to taste then keep in the fridge until needed.

For the celeriac; fill a bowl with water and add a few lemon quarters. Peel and trim the celeriac then cut into thick halves. Place these in the acidulated water until ready to chop. When you are; do so as finely as possible. You can use a mandolin here but I usually end up taking off the top of a finger with mine, so prefer to use a sharp knife to slice the celeriac into matchsticks.

Mix the sliced celeriac with about half a cup of mayonnaise (or to taste), stir through the parsley then season to taste.

Rosemary focaccia

600g strong flour
1tsp sea salt
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
5 tbsp olive oil
300mls warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful rosemary 

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a bowl. Whisk the oilve oil and water together in a jug. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the wet ingredients. Stir to combine then either knead in an electric mixer with a dough hook or by hand for about 10 minutes, or until the recipe is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for one hour or until doubled in size. Line a tray with baking paper and gently turn the dough out onto the tray. Press the dough flat until you have a large rectangle about 2cm thick. Cover with clean tea towel and aside to rest for twenty minutes. Sprinkle with the rosemary, press your fingers into the dough to make indents then add a little extra sea salt and a final drizzle of olive oil before baking in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve warm in little cubes or slices.

Prosciutto, bocconcini and crouton salad

This is one of the easiest but most popular salads I know of. I tend to serve it next to a simple risotto for lunch and it went particularly well with this sorrel one. Aromatic with garlic, crunchy, golden and draped with pink prosciutto; how could it not be? The trick, as with all torn bread salads, is to add the croutons to the dressing mixture straight from the oven, so they really absorb all the flavours well. Serves 4-6.

Like all salads, this one is hardly a recipe, more a compilation job. So basically what you do is just tear a few big handfuls of stale bread (sourdough is best) into good-sized chunks. Place these on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes, or until nice and golden. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine a cup of torn bocconcini with two crushed garlic cloves, 200g prosciutto slices and 5 tbsp olive oil and toss well. Just before serving; arrange a few handfuls of baby spinach on a large platter. Toss the hot croutons with the prosciutto mixture then arrange this over the baby spinach. Season with cracked black pepper then a finishing drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Mushroom oreccihette

I served this simple, tasty pasta with a bit of parmesan on the side and loads of peppery rocket tossed with crunchy almonds and dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette. It's a great vegetarian lunch and the sauce can be made up well in advance. The recipe is adapted from one by Michele Curtis and Allan Campion in their wonderful book In the kitchen. Serves 4-6

1 onion, diced
3 cups mixed mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
A pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
500g dried orecchietti
1 cup finely chopped parsley

Heat a large, heavy-based pan over medium heat and in it, cook the onion with a little olive oil for five minutes, or until translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Pour in the wine and let bubble for a minute before adding the stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli and seasoning (to taste). Stir well, bring to the boil then reduce heat and cook on low for about 25 minutes, stirring every now and then. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, drain then toss through the hot sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste then serve.

Smoked salmon with mustard cream, pickled veggies and salad

Here is possibly my favourite kind of lunch; a big platter of goodies to pick and mix from then graze away at slowly. You can use good quality smoked salmon here as I have, or make gravlax which makes the whole thing even more special. The honey mustard sauce and pickled vegetable recipe* both came from Gourmet Traveller and I turn to them often. And though they didn't make the below picture, I also served this spread with mugs of beetroot soup and boiled eggs.

*I added a few thinly sliced target beetroot (see below, aren't they pretty!) to this recipe and was very glad of it. The colour and flavour gave a great lift.

Baked ricotta with Dad's spinach

My father Henry, is, among other things, very good at growing veggies (particularly spinach). And his (and Mum's!) garden was a great source of produce during my time in the kitchen last month with a glut of spinach making it's way quite often into this baked ricotta dish.

Very very easy and always a hit; I really recommend giving it a try! You can make it without the spinach if you like, or substitute this for a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, or any other cooked or raw vegetable you fancy. Serves 4-6.

1 big bunch of spinach
1kg fresh ricotta
5 eggs
1 cup parmesan, grated
1 tsp thyme leaves
Seasoning to taste

Preheat oven to 180 and grease and line a baking tray with paper (I used a 20cm square tin). Strip the spinach from their stalks, roughly chop then blanch in boiling water for two minutes. Drain and set aside for a moment. Combine the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, thyme and seasoning (to taste) in a large bowl and whisk to combine (I find that if you work it too much the end result will be a bit too dense). Squeeze excess water from the spinach then finely chop and fold through the ricotta mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth over the top then bake for about 25 minutes or until the ricotta is springy to touch (you want it to be just set). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Potato and leek soup with creme fraiche and hazlenuts

Creamy, mild and finished with  crunchy and tasty hazlenuts; this soup is perfect for wintery lunches. It is slightly adapted from one given by Mathew Evans in last month's SBS Feast Magazine. If you don't fancy making the stock yourself, just use a good quality store-bought one. Serves 6.

For the stock
2 onions
1 carrot
1 parsnip
2 bay leaves
1 cup mushroom stems
2 leek tops

Combine all ingredients plus two litres of water in a large saucepan on high. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cook for a couple of hours at a gentle simmer. Drain, discard the vegetables and set the stock aside.

For the soup
100g butter
3 leeks, washed and finely sliced
6 floury potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
To serve; toasted, roughly chopped hazlenuts (from Fourjay Farms if you can source them!), creme fraiche and extra virgin olive oil.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, bay leaves and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Discard the bay then puree in batches, adding a little more hot water if necessary to get the desired consistency. Serve with the hazlenuts, creme fraiche and a drizzle of really good olive oil.

If you are at interested in joining us at one of Mum's classes one day, please check out the website for upcoming dates (the next round is in Spring, then next Autumn). Or email Mum directly. They really are a wonderful, unique experience and I am proud to now be a part of it!


  1. So much lovely colour, light and beautiful food Sophie. What a fun job cooking for these creative people! The baked ricotta has particularly caught my eye! Yum x

  2. I love cooking for big groups of people. There is something soul nourishing in providing for people in this way.
    Everything looks absolutely delicious too. Your book is on my 'to buy' list!

  3. Thank you so much sir! You should be praised for your knowledge

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