Friday, May 04, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Kate Bracks

Last Saturday it was my privilege to share an afternoon with Kate Bracks. Over tea and lemon tarts, we chatted about her experiences as a MasterChef contestant, how winning this competition has changed her life, and the road ahead for this humble wife and mum, chef and cook book author from Orange, NSW.

Kate generously answered all my questions in preparation for our interview the next day at Edge Church, and then sat back to share even more of her experiences these last 12 months, because as we say in Australia, she's a good sort, and I'm a sticky beak.

Turns out, for a sticky beak, I'm pretty good at filling my sheet with questions. Far too many for a 15 minute interview. So for those who heard the bare bones, here are a few extras we didn't get to on Sunday morning, including Kate's recipe for Mandarin Oil.

1. What are your best tips for not getting into a cooking rut?
Plan to be inspired. Read cooking magazines, watch shows about food, and let something new whet your appetite. Then plan your menus. Weekly meals don't need to be boring or repetitive. Know your family's schedule and work with it. Sausages and mash are ok when it's a busy night. Save the new delights for when you can enjoy creating and savouring them.

2. What's in your fridge you're excited to cook with when you get home? A lovely bunch of fresh coriander.

3. What might we find if we took a peek into your kids' lunch boxes? Their lunch boxes look like anyone else's kids' lunches, but we have been doing one new thing lately to increase their veggie servings. Each night, the kids get to choose one vegetable they want to add to their lunch for the following day. They can choose from celery, carrot, cherry tomatoes or cucumbers. They really love doing this.

4. What plans do you and your husband Luke have for beyond the MasterChef experience? Our dream is to open a B&B. A place where we can welcome people with food and share ourselves with them as they pass through our lives. We believe the Bible talks about welcoming the stranger, and hospitality is very much related to how we share our table with others.

With her new cook book A Sweet Life fresh on the shelves, her Masterchef responsibilities and the B&B dream, I think Kate's going to be one busy cook for some time. But she's a girl with her priorities in the right order. Family is her most important project, and understandably, she was eager to get home to her three kids and husband.

But she didn't leave without sharing one of her favourite and probably easiest recipes. Mandarin Oil, best saved for sweet treats, but also delicious in salads and on fish, can be made using any citrus.

Mandarin Oil

Grate the peel from one mandarin.
Infuse in oil for an hour.
Drain and pour over any chocolate and hazelnut sweet delight of your choice, or substitute the mandarin with lime and drizzle over fish.

Bon Appetit.
 May your weekend be full of 
good food and fine company. 

And congratulations to Amanda Deed. You're the winner of Monday's e-book offer - 
To Dance Once More by Sherri Wilson Johnson.