By Christine Salins.
This week’s column is the 600th Dining column in PS News, which is pretty remarkable in the context of Australia’s fast-changing and never-easy media landscape. When the Wine & Dine section was introduced on 20 November 2007, PS News promised to bring you “the best of the grapes and the best of the grub”.
“Before you plan that party or after-work meal, take a look at what PS News has to offer in drinks and easy-to-cook meals.” So went the pitch, and 600 columns later that’s still our mission, always bearing in mind that our readers mostly want quick and easy, with the occasional indulgence for when you really want to get loose in the kitchen.
The first recipe in 2007 came from Country Guesthouse Schőnegg at Murrumbateman, on the outskirts of Canberra. It had an emphasis on local and seasonal, two things that still resonate strongly – perhaps more so than ever, as in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, supporting local producers takes on a whole new importance.
The lovely Country Guesthouse Schőnegg sadly no longer operates, its owners having moved on with other ventures, but their legacy to PS News was this delicious Panna Cotta recipe using locally produced Bindaree honey and Art of Espresso coffee.
I’ve had a lot of fun over the years bringing you recipes from my travels throughout Australia and overseas, including Italy (arancini balls), France (zucchini and blue cheese quiche), Austria (apple strudel), Tahiti (marinated fish), Ireland (the best warm oysters ever), Thailand (red duck curry), the United States (pumpkin bisque), Canada (lobster boil) and South Africa (chicken curry), among many other wonderful destinations.
The 500th column – which seems like yesterday – had an intriguing health-giving Watermelon Curry recipe from Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland. With overseas travel likely to be if not impossible then certainly undesirable for quite some time, we’re all being encouraged to holiday at home. Beautiful Australian destinations will no doubt feature in upcoming columns with recipes from talented local chefs and hospitality folk.
Most of our recipes over the years have come from the vast plethora of cookbooks that come across my desk, written by everyone from celebrity chefs to wellness bloggers, pastry chefs extraordinaire, four-ingredients and slow-cooker experts. One of the most interesting things gleaned from them is how recipes have changed over the past decade, with a very definite trend towards specific dietary choices, such as paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free … you name it, there’s a cookbook for it.
Plant-based recipes feature strongly today, with climate change throwing the spotlight on the need for a more sustainable way of eating and the pandemic further highlighting how eating fresh, locally produced food is better for us and for the planet. Eating consciously is now even more important than it was in 2007.
Honey Panna Cotta with Espresso Syrup
Serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons caster sugar
half an orange
3 level teaspoons powdered gelatine or 2 sheets of leaf gelatine
Place cream in a saucepan; add honey, sugar and orange rind. Heat gently and simmer for 10 minutes to allow flavours to infuse. Remove rind. Prepare gelatine per packet instructions, add to cream mixture. Spray ramekins lightly with cooking oil. Divide cream mixture into ramekins and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
4 teaspoons ground coffee
Prepare 3 cups of strong coffee. Place in a saucepan, add sugar and reduce to one-third. Allow to cool, then chill. Syrup should be thick when cool, if not, reduce further.