Eating Well for a Good Nights Rest

Healthy Body.. Healthy Mind 

Being a food stylist and cookery writer for the last 19 years, I have battled with the daily onslaught of delicoius delights.. and I’m not one to turn down food… I LOVE IT!  So going on a nutritional cleanse has been quite a challenge, but surprisingly successful.  I have been able to enjoy food at the same time as detoxing and dropping kilos…. RESULT! Being tempted daily on photo shoots by mounds of delicious, enticing goodies, that HAVE to be tasted and nibbled has resulted in a rather chaotic yo-yoing of blood sugar highs and lows, the side effects of that kind of chaotic diet is unbalanced nervous system, poor sleep, afternoon tiredness, irritability, hormonal chaos and weight gain.

A bit of food deprivation has done me the world of good, it wasn’t long before I began to experience restful sleep and then started noticing a heightened sense of taste and smell as well as energy and stamina. As my body was clearing out the toxins from my body,  my senses began to become sensitive, and flavours jumped out at me like never before. Apparently it takes 14 days for the taste buds to renew, so now I find anything vaguely sweet is just TOO sweet! In fact by being prescriptive with the amount of food I ate it  has refreshed my creative vibe around cooking and creating recipes.

Gradually I have been weaned off my daily 2-3 coffee addiction and now enjoy green tea when I like, which is full of antioxidants and seems to satisfy the urge for caffeine. However and this is a big However… I don’t agree in complete deprivation…. so a couple of times a week I treat myself, and how I DO appreciate that flat white and sliver of cake! I used to skip breakfast or finish off my sons porridge from the pan, then constantly nibble/test/lick the spoon of something at work throughout the day and then treat myself with cake or chocolate at 4 O’clock which relieved the tiredness slump for a short period before I headed for a full stop.

On this programme I’m allowed to enjoy a sensible and delicious lunch, and I appreciate every mouthful and I savour every single flavour and texture. I eat slower too… which I’m sure has something to do with the balancing and cleansing effect of the vitamins and minerals that I’m taking.

The side effects of this cleanse has been significant, as well as loosing weight, I’m sleeping better, I’m calmer and nicer to my family, I’m  clearer thinking, less rushed and more productive at work! I’m generally a whole lot happier with being me!

My friend Nicola Sinclair who is also a food stylist and fellow mum at my son’s school, introduced me first to the programme when she was doing it with her 14 year old daughter, who has teenage skin. They both have had incredible results, Nicola gained her pre wedding weight and her daughters skin cleared. With our shared passion for all things foodie, healthy bodies and minds, we were urged by friends to combine our knowledge and create Healthy Food Lovers Forum where we meet every couple of weeks and share our mind and body food recipes in our new facebook page…Healthy Recipes for Food Lovers

In the meantime here is a recipe that is perfect for the a cleansing lunch and good nights sleep.



There are numerous foods that contain specific substances that enhance sleep. This salad contains quite a few of them! This is a perfectly balanced lunch that is easy and quick to put together, little cooking, just a bit of chopping and under 600 calories, which includes a slice of Rye bread toast.

Serves 2

532 Calories per serving

185g canned tuna in olive oil

squeeze of 1/2 lemon or lime

handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, mint, coriander dill or chives

salt and ground black pepper

200g can of kidney beans, salt and sugar free

10 spears cooked asparagus or broccoli

1/2 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped

2 cups baby spinach

1 tbsp sesame seeds

serve with 2 slices of Rye Bread Toast

Bring all your ingredients together.

Slice or flake the tuna into a bowl and cover with the oil, lemon or lime juice and chopped herbs, leave to marinate for 10 minutes.

Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, rinse the kidney beans under running water and drain them well and tip into a mixing bowl, lightly crush with a fork.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the asparagus or broccoli for 5 minutes, then drain and add to the kidney beans.

Add the remaining ingredients; chopped tomatoes, avocado, spinach and toss through the marinated tuna flakes along with the dressing.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with toast. Enjoy in the sun if you can with a glass of chilled water with a squeeze of lemon.

What’s in a Salad?

Here is the reason why this salad is so good for you… 


Tuna is one of the most nutritious foods full of omega-3 and EFA’s to support the nervous system. A great source of protein, benefiting insomniacs by helping to balance blood-sugar levels and providing important B vitamins to support the nervous system and combat stress.

Avocado is another super food, bursting with B group vitamins, excellent source of good fat and helps control blood pressure and nervous system, but beware they can contain up to 400 calories, so go easy. Spread it like butter on warm toast for yum factor!

Asparagus – Rich in vitaminB  to relax the mind after a busy day and also contains inulin, which has insulin- like properties to encourage good blood-sugar management.

Kidney Beans – One of the most abundant sources of calcium from a vegetarian source, they have a low glycemic index (they release sugars slowly) and reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol, factors that often contribute to sleep problems.

Sesame seeds – are high in zinc, calcium, magnesium and are wonderful nutrients for coping with stress and encouraging restful sleep. Chew well to release the nutrients.

Spinach – Eaten raw, spinach is one of the few vegetables that contains enzyme Q10; it is also full of iron, folic acid, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium which all contribute to great sleep.

Broccoli – is another superfood for its potential role in cancer protection and its other antioxidant properties, it also contains iron and abundant Vitamin C which ensures good oxygen flow to the brain.

Rye Bread – Rye is rich in minerals particulary magnesium and absorption can be improved with eaten with Vitamin D rich foods such as Tuna or sardines.


Get a Good Nights Sleep

Having recognised that there seems to be a common complaint of sleep deprivation and tiredness from many of my  friends who are busy mothers and are constantly juggling, I have focused this week on foods that promote a good nights sleep.

Along with avoiding stress, hormonal disruption, toxicity and emotional issues. The first and easiest thing to deal with for a goods nights sleep is to eliminate coffee and alcohol from your diet. Harsh but true.. read on!

Sleep for Coffee Addicts

Anyone with sleep problems should avoid caffeine altogether, or at least limit their intake to one cup of tea or coffee in the early part of the day. Decaffeinated coffee is not always the answer, as coffee acts as a diuretic and, although you may drift off to sleep naturally, the urge to pee may wake you up repeatedly during the night. Gradually cut down if you are more than three a day. Supplement your coffee craving with Green Tea, and watch out for many carbonated drinks and over the counter medicines for colds which may contain caffeine.

Sleep for Sauv Blanc Lovers 

Alcohol is a simple sugar, which raises blood-sugar levels quickly, resulting in a sharper than usual blood-sugar drop during the night. When blood-sugar levels are low, stored glucose is released from the muscles and liver to maintain equilibrium, and more food is required to sustain the glucose production. We experience this as hunger which in turn interrupts our sleep pattern. The same effect is often noticed when a high-sugar food is eaten late in the evening.

Avoid alcohol on week nights, and limit yourself to one glass, instead of the bottle at weekends! If you are looking for a non fattening drink – try a small dash of vodka with soda water and fresh lime juice in a long glass with ice.  This is much less fattening than wine and eating a little protein such as cottage cheese or cube of hard cheese and half an apple with slow down the glucose release promoting a deeper sleep.


Birthdays and Pomegranates

Birthdays are funny things as you get older, do you celebrate them or shyly raise a glass and try to loose count. As the years are increasing rather rapidly in my case I had planned not to make a song and dance about another year with yet another birthday party … ‘hooray aren’t I lucky to be old…. kind of thing’. But I pulled myself out of the self-pitying doldrums of mid -life crisis and as the time drew nearer I could’nt help myself but get excited and use it as an excuse to organise a quiet little lunch party with some  lovely ladies I have befriended over the last year in Oz.

As we are in a rented beach house and its freezing outside. I moved the large garden table inside and went about creating a suitable lunch table.  I decided on a shell, white and silver approach with the splash of colour coming from the flowers. I covered the table in a white sheet then over that I threw an opaque piece of Ikea silver voile…(last used at Christmas time to create a snow scene). For a bit of spring cheer in this Aussie winter I found  some beautiful forget me knots, mini daffs and lavender and put them into a mixture of jam jars and mini glass jars.

I also found $1 bags of shells from the discount store and scattered them around the flowers on the table along with the  silver candles and tea lights. On each place mat I used a different large shell on a folded linen white napkin. As the legs of the table were pretty ugly I tied strips of voile around each leg which made it look fluffy and girly and hid the green mouldy legs!

I decided at the last moment what to cook, really based on what the weather was doing and what I could find  in my local Harris Farm shop. Cold and wet was the forecast and our house is chilly to say the least.. so I thought at first comfort food.. my lovely fish pie recipe.. and crumble?  Then I changed my mind as I stood in the butchers shop and  remembered a dish I made recently on a shoot using lamb backstraps. This time I thought I would cover it with Moroccan rub, chargrill it and slice thickly and then scatter over mint leaves and lemon wedges and serve with a minty yogurt sauce (see below Vanessa Levis photographer, Bhavani Konings Stylist).  To go with the lamb I threw together a quinoa and roasted veg salad with pistachio, roasted almonds and a lemon, mint and coriander dressing, I also made  a  roasted beetroot, butternut squash, feta, dill, spinach and pea shoots salad.

For pudding I found tamarillos, which taste a little like blackberries. I also found guava in the discount basket and rhubarb. Then I found the most luxurious creme fraiche from Tasmania from Meander Valley, worth the extra few dollars. I poached the fruit individually… the rhubarb with orange juice and zest. The guava in a sugar syrup with vanilla and the tamarillos in just a sugar syrup as they are fairly strong in flavour. It’s always best to do poaching of fruit a couple of days ahead, as I don’t like to over cook them so they keep their shape, but the longer they are in the syrup the softer and more delicious they become.   And to soak up the juices I made my old favourite, Annabel’s Honey and Cinnamon Cake with Pistachio, Petals and Pomegranate icing…there was definitely a pomegranate theme going on!



Another pretty find was a hibiscus flowers in each champagne glass as the friends arrived. We finished off the meal with mint tea and Maltesas in my new Jubilee tea cups!


Every time I cook this it reminds me of my friend Annabels wedding, it was a pagan wedding and very beautiful, I decorated her cake with hawthorn which symbolises virility! The recipe started off as the Lavender and Honey cake from the fabulous Ottelenghi cookbook and I have adapted it over the years. It’s best to make it and serve it on the same day and I either ice it with my cream cheese cupcake icing or in this case I’ve continued the pomegranate theme of my lunch party and iced it with a crunchy lemon icing topped with pistachio, edible flower petals such as carnations or rose petals and pomegranate seeds. You get the best results when baking if all the ingredients are at room temperature. If the butter is chilled, just microwave for about 15 seconds to get it to the right temperature.

225g butter, at room temperature

115g caster sugar

115g honey

3 free range or organic eggs

245g self raising flour

1 1/2 tsp teaspoons baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1  1/2 tsp cinnamon

110ml sour cream, creme fraiche, pouring cream or milk

Pistachio, Petals and Pomegranate Icing

juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp honey

100 icing sugar or caster sugar

chopped pistachio nuts, carnation petals, pomegranate seeds to decorate

1 Preheat the oven to 170C/mark 3. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

2 In a food processor with whisk or beater attachment, beat the butter, sugar and honey together until pale and fluffy. Break the eggs in a cup, and beat them lightly with a fork and gradually add them to the creamed mixture, beating well, and scraping down the sides between each addition.

3 Sift in the flour with the baking powder, salt and cinnamon and add to the creamed mixture in three additions , gently alternating with the sour cream. The mixture needs to be fairly loose so add a little milk if it feels too stiff.

4 Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and make an indentation along the centre of the cake. Which ensures the cake rises evenly.

5 Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sponge starts to crinkle away from the edges and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

6 Turn out onto a cooling rack, so the top is face upwards. To make the topping, mix the lemon juice with the honey together in a bowl and whisk in the icing or caster sugar to make a thick pourable coating. Whilst the cake is still warm, spoon the icing over the top and sprinkle the chopped pistachio nuts, carnation petals and pomegranates. Dust with a little cinnamon.

Are your hormones happy…?

Whether you are a women in their child baring years or beyond…. hormones basically are the key to how well we feel in our lives. They affect how our bodies react and how we behave at that crucial time of the month.


Like many health issues.. What you feed your body will directly affect how your bodies function and without knowing it we are fuelling unease and distress in our bodies.

A diet high in unhealthy fats, sugar and salt can lead to an unstable hormonal imbalance and being overweight, which as well as being detrimental to health, can result in decreased self esteem, poor mental performance, mood swings and depression.

It is not made easy for us to fathom how to look after ourselves best with the constant bombardment of confusing information we are presented with, including the low fat myth which led to an increased consumption of trans-fats, which we now know increased our risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Using artificial sweeteners have been found to be worse than sugar for diabetics.

Yo-yo dieting unstabalises our delicate hormonal balance and every time we head into yet another deprivation diet all we loose is bone density.

Confused? Here are my top food types, which are your hormones worst enemy in food terms.

  • Avoid Soy, even if you are not drinking soymilk or eating tofu, it is in almost everything. The problem with soy is that it block’s the iodine uptake in the body. With women, iodine is stored in the thyroid gland, the breasts and the ovaries. Iodine deficiency causes thyroid disorders, cysts in the breasts and ovaries, and breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Avoid the fast track to happiness.. Carbohydrates.. they give you an instant lift because they trigger the release of serotonin. Carbs are a quick fix, but they do nothing to stimulate ongoing production of serotonin, they interfere with your metabolism and brain health. So avoid white flour,  cut out sugar and sweetened chocolate all together.


  • Cut out the coffee and tea .. Drink Green Tea or Rosehip tea instead. Many of us get trapped in the stimulant cycle, caffeine temporarily gives you a lift, but actually blunts valuable hormones in the long run. It elevates the stress hormone like adrenaline which can cause increased heart rate, blood pressure and suppression of the immune system. It also hinders the absorption of minerals in the kidneys including calcium and magnesium. Lower density bones are also related to caffeine.
  • Avoid soft fizzy drinks. Drink lots of water at least 8 glasses a day. Fizzy drinks are high-acid and low or zero calcium or nutritional content. Causing tooth decay and enamel erosion, osteoporosis and malnutrition. They contain empty calories and high caffeine content. Pregnant women can pass the stimulant onto their babies. Avoid at all costs! Make your own fruit water!
  • Avoid processed foods, anything that is canned and preserved..  meats such as ham, hot dogs, deli meats, pepperoni and bacon are a no-no. Ideally purchase sausages and organic meats from a local farmer who can tell you exactly what’s in their products. Avoid non-organic meats that might contain, bovine growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics. They wreak havoc with a women’s system. Look for organic where possible.
  • Cut back on alcohol..  Trends suggest that women are drinking greater amounts of alcohol with greater frequency. Changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle may also affect how a woman metabolises alcohol. Also women’s bodies process alcohol more slowly and can become addicted to alcohol more easily than men, drinking even moderately can be a slippery slope. This is especially true for older women. In fact about half of all cases of alcoholism in women begin after the age of 59. One drink for women has about twice the effect of one for a man.


For happy hormones and for body balance make these food choices.. SEARED TUNA SALAD copy

  • Eat protein.. turkey, fish, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs, and beans all contain generous levels tryptophan which is a large amino that converts to serotonin in the brain. But eating soley protein can cause problems in the brain, so consume with a bit of carbohydrate such as a scoop of brown rice, a handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of legumes. These complex carbs are essential to helping the brain process tryptophan in protein. Vegetables are also great and my preference.
  • Get plenty of eggs and dairy in your diet, and eat fish a few times a week. Good sources are wild salmon, mackerel and tuna. Vegheads can also nosh on avocadoes, nuts, flaxseed, vegetable oils (walnut, avocado, almond, flax and olive) and seeds.
  • Bin the biscuit tin, snack on raw nuts, add almonds and seeds. Soaking Almonds in water will make them more nutritious and brings out the natural sweet flavor. They become live foods as 30% of the oil content is removed, making them easier on the liver and digestion, with less calories.
  • Eat plenty of good fats. Low fat diets are probably the number one reason young and old women are having problems with their hormones. Hormones are made out of cholesterol. Good fats are butter, cream, egg yolks, fish, avocadoes, whole milk, coconut milk, coconut oil, avocado, palm oil and olive oil.
  • Take a good vitamin, mineral and fish oil supplement. I use Isagenix Essential Vitamin for Women and Product B which support telomeres which promote youthful ageing. Plus I take a their shakes for added nutrition and fast for a day once in a while which is a supportive way of cleansing impurities and toxins from my body. There are plenty of options on the market, but as with most things, you get what you pay for have a look at
  • Lean to cook from scratch..  and ditch the ready meals and fast food junk. Get a out a good basic cook book and learn the basics, so you can rustle up a nutritious stew, soup, omelette, stir fry (My No Fuss Suppers cook book s a good place to start ) 🙂


Change your lifestyle.. Make good habits.. They are as addictive as bad habits.. but much more rewarding!

  • To beat any moody blues…. EXCERCISE it keeps your spirited lifted and your mind healthy and active. Get yourself moving and motivated at the gym or invest in a personal trainer a couple of times to get you going… Swim in the sea, run through the woods, join a dance class, take up marital arts, walk and play with the dog, do Pilates or yoga.  But do something you love! 15-20 minuts of exercise every day will naturaly release feel-good hormones are that are so vital for staying calm and happy.
  • AVOID STRESS.. A high stress lifestyle coupled with erratic eating habits can wreak havoc on a women’s delicate hormonal balance. So keep stress levels low.. smile, laugh often and create a mood board for your dreams and wishes. Set goals and do things you love to do, painting, pot holing, seeing your friends, watching a funny or feel good movie. Even a daily meditation or yoga can release tension and stress and send the the hormone serotonin to the brain.
  • GET ENOUGH SLEEP.. lack of sleep swings the hormones into over-drive. Try to get at least 8 hours sleep every night. Women’s sleep loss has been linked to increased appetite, impaired memory, feelings of anger and hostility. Women who toss and turn have higher levels than men of C-reactive protein and other signs linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • ….. and finally.. LET THE SUNSHINE IN.. giving a women’s body a healthy dose of full spectrum sunlight can help stabilize hormones. A walk in the sunshine will lift your mood too!  Or if you are in a colder climate invest in a Light Box..the bright light on the retina sends nerve signals to parts of the brain, affecting the levels of mood-enhancing chemicals and hormones.

Moonshine and Cow Horns

Ever wondered what biodynamic gardening was all about? I was given an enlightening day away from the city with my friend Penny at her beautiful farm in the southern highlands, where she and her friend Marie demystified the biodynamic process first developed by Rudolph Steiner. In fact Biodynamics helped set the wheels in motion for the development of the organic movement. Most soil today has been stripped of all minerals from over intensified farming methods and the use of chemical pest controls which has drastically starved food of it’s true nutritional value. Introduce biodynamics techniques and the ‘preparation 500’ on your vegetable plot and you get food full of natures goodness.  But biodynamics also incorporates the mystical belief of soil and a farm as a living system. Rudolf even believed that eating plants that had become dependent on chemical fertilizers would cause people to ‘lose their will.’

Penny’s Vegetable Plot

Vegetable patch

Creating ‘Preparation 500’  is a little unusual and requires lactating cow horns, fresh manure, a full moon, and hand stirring of the mixture for 1 hour. We had the lot including a full moon and Penny’s friendly Jersey cow Daisy, who had provided the manure. As well as the milk for our morning coffee!

Burying cow horns

Removing the cow dung

Known as cow horn manure, ‘preparation 500’ is basically fermented cow dung. It is the basis for soil fertility, and the renewal of degraded soils. It is usually the first preparation used during the change over to the organic/biodynamic system.

Preparation 500 is made by filling a cow’s horn with cow dung, and burying it in the soil during the cooler months.

Ideally the manure should be from a lactating cow which will bring in the calcium processes to the preparation.

It is stirred for one hour making a vortex or crater in one direction and then reversing the direction and making a vortex in the other direction.

The stirred preparation can then be sprinkled with a whisk brush over the land at the descending phase of the moon.

While this may sound unconventional, it might surprise you to know that the glass of wine you drank last night at dinner could have been created with these methods, which are part of the rapidly growing biodynamic movement.

The whole process felt very satisfying, especially the vortex stirring, which apart from anything else provided us with a good hour of great conversations.I whizzed back to my newly planted Sydney vegetable patch, with atrocious sandy soil, clutching the jar of precious vortexed ‘preparation 500’, which to the untrained eye looked like muddy water, and  grabbing the kitchen whisk, gaily sprinkled my vegetable patch with the nutritious nectar. All in the light of the full moon, of course. Biodynamics are me!

The Vortex in full swirl..

Starting from the outside in to create the perfect storm

Old friends talking ….

Old Friends and Secret Places

My secret place  – La Locanda, Bronte

One of my cooking partners from way back at the Cordon Bleu found her way to Sydney some 28 years ago for a holiday adventure and never came home. So when I unexpectedly changed my life and arrived on these shores almost a year and half ago, rekindling our long lost friendship made settling into Sydney easier and like many of these kinds of friendships we slipped back into the usual routine like we had only seen each other yesterday.

Meribel Chalet Girls.. circa 1983… pissed

29 years on.. slightly less pissed

Luckily for Sydney my friend comes from a talented culinary and green fingered family, she quickly started working in various Sydney kitchens and then set up in the eastern suburbs as ‘The Friendly Flower Fairy” notching up clients such as Jane Campion and Baz Lurhmanne who was drawn to her name in the yellow pages!  Her specialty was creating typical English country gardens!

Like many ex-pats arriving here, it doesn’t take long before their own English family follow in their intrepid footsteps. First her retired sun-loving parents make the leap and then luckily for the restaurant world… her gifted sister, another lovely friendly soul, Fiona Bloomer and her partner Milan born Andrea Vagge arrive fresh and super experienced from years of working front of house and in kitchens of top London restaurants, such as Nobu, Marco Pierre Whites, Nicoles, Harvey Nichols and The Pharmacy.

Fiona Bloomer and Andrea Vagge

Since arriving here 12 years ago Andrea, a self-taught chef, has worked with the finest including interludes in award winning restaurants such as Nove and Otto and with Fiona’s beaming smile and front of house skills she quickly made her name also at Simon Johnson and XO.

So starting their own cosy bistro restaurant La Laconda 8 years ago was a natural progression, serving authentic northern Italian fare that has proved a stonking hit with local residents. I get totally over excited when I enter into the dark contemporary bistro with twinkling tea lights, black and white tiled floor and a wall of wonderful renaissance-patterned cloth. There is an intimate mood and wherever you sit you feel well looked after as the atmosphere bubbles.

The simple menu blackboard dominates one wall and changes frequently and pouring over it trying to decide between dishes is made so much more pleasurable when handed a glass of Prosecco Spritz. If you can’t decide then Fiona or one of her knowledgable waiting staff will order for you and you won’t be disappointed.

Split into five courses, Primi, Pasta, Secondi, Contorni and Dolci the menu is priced reasonably considering the quality of produce, cooking and service. My favourite dish is the Stuffed Calamri ($17) an Italian classic, its filling a mix of ricotta, herbs, breadcrumbs, pine nuts and anchovies. To ensure the flesh remains tender, Andrea briefly pan-fries it then finishes it off in the oven. The accompanying tomato sauce is tangy and the fried tentacles on top are salty and crisp. I would call it a perfect dish!

To celebrate eight successful years at La Laconda, Andrea and Fiona have kindly agreed to let me into the secret of Andrea’s  Stuffed Calamari recipe.. So here it is for you…

10-12 baby squid, prepared or about 1 kilo

2 x bunch parsley, chopped

1 x bunch mint, basil, sage, and chives, chopped

200g Ricotta

olive oil

4 anchovies

150g pine nuts

4 handfuls breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 220oC. Mix all filling together, season and stuff the baby squid, reshape and hold together using a toothpick. In a hot oven proof pan add a little olive oil, seal both sides of the squid. Put the frying pan in the very hot oven for 5 minutes, pull out, and leave to rest. Serve the calamari on bed of tomato sauce. To finish, flour and deep fry the tentacles and place on the top. Andrea says, ‘as an option, once the squid is sealed you can deglaze the pan with a little white wine and add the tomato sauce. Put the squid back and cook in the oven for 5 minutes.


Andrea Vagge’s – Stuffed Calamari. Styled by me, photographed by Sahlan Hayes for Sydney Morning Hereld


Now you can enjoy this fabulous little find at a great price in the month of July. 2 Courses $39 with glass of wine, 3 Courses $49 with glass of wine. Mention Appetite For Sydney when making a booking. It’s all part of  Sydney Morning Heralds Appetite For Sydney campaign. The initiative aims to encourage diners to eat out more often and support struggling Sydney restaurants.

● La Locanda, 65B Macpherson Street, Bronte, 9389 3666

kitchen memories …

The kitchen has played a crucial, constant and central role in my life for as long as I can remember….

From the early years of standing on a chair so I could help my grandma make her famous orange and lemon sponge cakes for Sunday afternoon tea, to the teenage years of making cheese on toast and burning the porridge, then onto the terrifying formal training of Le Cordon Bleu in London, where it seemed I  could only do wrong as I bungled the french terms and flustered over my aspic glaze.

After that daunting Cordon Bleu stint I was unleashed into the poor unsuspecting world as a ‘private chef’ cooking in stately homes, ski chalets and on Mediterranean yachts. This was a huge learning curve which cajoled me into some sort of cook. Armed with these  few years of  traveling and worldly experiences I was back in London cooking in dining rooms and catering for fashionable London parties. I turned an enormous career corner when I got a proper office job (as my mother in law would say) as a rising apprentice at Good Housekeeping Magazine. I was thrust into a magical world of photography studios, copy deadlines, departmental meetings, scary editors and the cut throat world of ‘womens’ magazines’. I know I was only in the cookery department but I was completely in my element, at last.. the drama.. the tension…! I had found my place… I stayed at Good Housekeeping for seven years until I rose up the ranks to Cookery Editor. I was hugely grateful for those years as I gained so much experience, unfortunately food magazines do not have the same head count today, so there is less space for apprentices. Which has left a huge gap in the world of magazine recipe writing.

After a whole heap of washing up, my cooking career turned mildly domestic as I concentrated on bringing up baby (who is now a big baby of 12.) Whilst this took up most of my mummy brain cells, I couldn’t be content with just being a stay at home mum, oh no, whilst breast feeding I remember discussing my next freelance job with the phone stuck under my chin, I was hugely driven to keeping my career as a food stylist and working in TV, commercials and food magazines going. I think I have been so lucky to have combined the two fairly successfully (see below for child rearing proof) and have worked pretty constantly as a freelancer whilst still being very much a hands on mum.

Well, I’ve been versatile to say the least. I’ve written my own cook books No Fuss Suppers, Children’s Parties and Party Food, I’ve had work published in many food publications and newspapers, as well as worked as a Commercials Food Stylist on Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Sainsbury’s, Aldi to name a few. I’ve been the kitchen slave for the high and mighty as their ‘on set’ right hand girl such as Gordon Ramsay, Raymond Blanc, Manu Feidel, John Burton Race and a whole host of other ‘celebrity chefs’  (who have all been charming.. I would like to add!)  I also spent 4 years working as part of a team as the Food Advisor for the LOVE FOOD HATE WASTE developing strategies to help people to waste less food and giving them enticing recipes and food photography for the website.

(above copyright Katie Quinn Davies, fish pie and pudding table)

Now fate has taken me and my family to the other side of the world to Australia, where I am now carving out a fantastic new life and career as my son turns into a teenager and I turn to the popular pastime of FOOD BLOGGING for the first time!

I feel breathless thinking about the countless meals I have cooked, the horrendous kitchen catastrophes at the beginning of my career to the gob smacking, huge triumphant successes which seem to override the bad memories, like childbirth!

CAROLINE’S SECRET KITCHEN will be a record of the all the wonderful HOME MADE recipes I have cooked, the secrets I have learnt from the many masters I’ve worked alongside and the fond food memories of places, enticing smells and the amazing people that I have come across over the years. I would love to hear about your FOOD MEMORIES and recipes that have been passed down through your families. I can’t wait to share with you the recipes that have been important in my life.

I will  take you behind the scenes in STYLING STORIES as I show you what it’s like to be a food stylist.. often a lot of standing around on one foot….see below.. (copyright Katie Quinn Davies)


I also have a penchant for anything old, so pardon me if I use this blog to share my FAVOURITE THINGS ..  vintage and retro kitchenware and any cool gadgets I come accross that put a smile on my face, make my life easier, are eco freindly and look great in kitchen. Such as these retro tea towels and this vinyl record cake stand from And not forgetting I will be reporting from the cafes, restaurants and pop up restaurants that take my eye on my travels in SECRET PLACES.

With all the cooking experiences I have had over the years I think for me now the most important issue is ensuring that we have enough good food for the future and that what we eat is safe and not wasted. I feel strongly about animal welfare in particular and amongst the joy of indulging ourselves with delicious food we have to shop responsibly, store our food so it lasts and manage our kitchens so we minimise food waste. A big part of my blog will be talking about the FOOD FIGHTS  I would like you to join me in! Such as these three FOOD FIGHTS for starters..

The End of The Line.. is a film that shows first hand how the effects of our global love affair with fish as food. It looks at the imminent extinctions of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain starvation.

Millions of paper cups are thrown away every day as we feed our every increasing coffee takeaway addiction, get the same experience but use the eco friendly ‘I am not a paper cup..’ from it looks like the paper ones you get from take-away cafes. However, this one is reusable being a double-walled thermal porcelain cup with silicone top. Smarter and Sassier..!

The Australian Egg Corp (AECL) are trying to exploit consumer compassion at the expense of hens, by allowing more than 10 times the number of hens on ‘free range’ farms than current guidelines recommend. This would turn ‘free range’ into just another term for factory farming. Having rescued four ex battery hens, I know how important it is for them to have plenty of space to scratch the earth and clean their feathers in dust baths.

I’m looking forward to meeting you here and sharing with you my photographs, FOOD MEMORIES, STYLING STORIES, FOOD FIGHTS, my HOME MADE recipes, FAVOURITE THINGS and SECRET PLACES. Plus I’m happy to share with you some friendly food advice on ways I cut my bills, rescue food from the bin and general kitchen management for the modern household whilst not costing our precious earth it’s life.

Like me also on my new face book page caroline’s secret kitchen as my new Aussie blogging adventure begins here..

Caroline x

Image Credits and details for this post 

  1. Vintage inspired regency tea cup £13.41 from   Caroline’s portrait photographed by Kelvin Cantlon, Poached Peach,Pomegranate and Sweet Peas – Caroline Marson stylist shot by Simon Brown for Marie Clare Magazine and Rare Tuna Salad by Caroline Marson stylist shot by Stuart West
  2. Lamb Shanks with Cinnamon Sweet Potato Mash, Caroline Marson Stylist shot by Vanessa Levis for Sunday Life, Red Velvet Whoppie Pies Caroline Marson recipe and stylist for Delicious Magazine shot by Karen Thomas, Caroline Marson and Good Housekeeping team on location in Turkey shot by Laurie Evans for Good Housekeeping Magazine
  3. Freddie by Dad
  4. Easter Cakes and Biscuits by Caroline Marson, prop styled by Hannah Simmons for John Lewis, Rose and Hazelnut Giant Meringue Cake by Caroline Marson recipe and stylist for Boden Calalogue, Caroline Marson food stylist for Taste Festival Flyer, Caroline Marson food prep for Sunday Life Magazine shot by Katie Quinn-Davies and Styled by Bhavani Konings. Find the recipes at
  5. Behind the scenes of Caroline Marson on Sunday Life Shoot by Katie Quinn-Davies
  6. Retro style cotton tea towels $10.12 AUD, Vinyl Record Cake Stand $43.86 AUD, Puttenham Garden Gate and Jubilee Trifle shot by Joss Ashton, Regency Tea Set from Alice in Wonderland inspired Milk Jellies and Sweet things recipes and styling by Caroline Marson for Boden Catalogue.
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