Where do most people start with their culinary journey? With their mother of course, and I am no different. My mother Jeanette was born to a Dutch/German father and Indonesian mother in Kutoarjo, Indonesia in 1932. She was married to my father Antonie at the tender age of 17, but together they decided to leave Indonesia to make a better start for themselves in Australia.
That journey took them 8 years living in different countries before they finally made their way to our great Land. With such diverse cultures as part of my heritage, I grew up eating lots of different dishes from different regions.
When I go back in time when we lived in Wangaratta, Victoria, there is one memory that I distinctly remember, my mom cooking Indonesian food. Nasi Goreng is the dish that sticks out. As you can imagine finding ingredients to cook these exotic dishes were hard to come by in the late 50s, 60s & 70s, especially in country Victoria! But my mother would improvise and create meals that left us in awe of her culinary excellence. Even to this day I can still see my mother cooking it in our kitchen.
You can never go hungry even with what seems like a bare pantry or fridge. Sadly it’s too easy these days to pick up some takeaway. When really homemade is so much easier, cheaper and tastier to prepare.
I don’t have one particular cooking style, however, I love to cook anything and I’m open to learning new dishes which is very exciting to me! I was introduced to Mauritian food, when I first got married. Lentils, salted fish, chicken curries, achard (pickled vegetables) and the dholl puri! An amazing flatbread filled with yellow split peas that you use to wrap up said curries with delicious chutneys. We grew up eating of ‘Lemper’, a dish made with coconut glutinous rice filled with a sweet chicken curry, similar in shape and size to a sushi roll.
My mum prepared all kinds of comfort foods such as Hutspot (boiled potatoes, cabbage, carrots and onions topped with slow cooked pork shoulder and a delicious gravy). Pea & ham soup with rookworst sausage, and because of the Indo background we always eat it served on a bed of fluffy jasmine rice and a good spoonful of sambal oelek!
When it comes to cooking tips I always recommend using the freshest ingredients and to get everything prepared, chopped and diced. And if it’s a new recipe you have come across, make sure you read it through a couple of times. But most importantly enjoy what you are doing. If you don’t it will show through with the finished product.
My mother always taught me to put that little bit of love into each dish.
I was pretty certain that I had won the weekly prize, but that didn’t make the wait to officially find out the result any better. I was really quiet and maybe a little sick in the tummy all morning. I was at the local shopping Centre with my husband Clint and I was checking my phone every second minute to see if I had indeed taken out the weekly prize. I was beginning to think that maybe I hadn’t won at all! When I opened my Facebook page and I saw my face and recipe on the screen with the words “Congratulations Lisa-Jane Fudge” I cried with joy! Silly I know, but it was from sheer relief and complete JOY!! My husband kept telling me to keep it on the low, as he didn’t want people in the food court to think we were having an argument because I was crying! Haha….This is one of my mum’s recipes, and it meant so much to me. I only wish she was here to see her recipe was a winner.
When the voucher arrived in the mail and we discovered that would be enjoying a meal at Toko Japanese Bar & Grill in Greville Street, Prahran, we immediately went online to study the menu in readiness for our evening out. It was absolutely amazing!
I shared the evening with my husband Clint, my cousin Maurice and his wife Ingrid. The venue is outstanding! Everything from the decor, atmosphere, staff, cocktails, whisky and the food were first class all the way. Maurice, Ingrid and I had the tasting menu with a selection of 12 chef’s signature dishes in all! Every mouthful was an ambrosial delight. When it comes to my winning recipe, there is no best-kept secret. Well, maybe there is. You have to leave the skin on the pork belly, you must use ABC Kecap manis. And of course the Chicken Seasoning Powder. Follow these tips and you should get delicious sticky sweet melt in the mouth pork every time!
My pantry is full of ingredients, brimming with different flavours. If I had to choose one ingredient that I can’t live without, it would have to be my Chicken Seasoning Powder. I use it in so many dishes apart from the Asian cuisine. It adds so much flavouring to every dish and is a definite staple in my kitchen. I used it in my winning recipe ‘Babi Kecap’ and it is one of my most requested dishes when it comes to family feast nights.
Among all the recipes in the CNY contest I liked Chuttara Boag’s Pork Hock Five Spice which looked and sounded amazing. The recipe Queen Melinda Savage’s Malay Butter Prawns had me at first sight in week 6. And of course the Grand Prize winner Glenda McDonnell who came in at week 8 with her Pork & Mushroom Banquet will definitely be getting prepared in my kitchen soon!
Picking up tips and seeing delicious recipes on the Asian Inspirations website has given me many ideas. It’s a great tool for anyone who needs that little bit of encouragement. Sometimes thinking of what you are going to prepare for your family can be overwhelming. Just by taking a look at the many dishes on the site, you could be having something different and amazing every night of the week! Being part of the Asian Inspiration CNY competition has only cemented my love for cooking that my mum instilled in me.
I have started to write a cookbook which I am self-publishing. It will be full of recipes from me, my brother, sisters and mother-in-law, but mainly from my mother. She died three years ago and during the last few days before she left us, I really got to embrace Indonesian cooking. Having her nearby to critique every meal, only helped me to be the cook I am today.
My mum always wanted to be remembered for her cooking and food! I prepared a small Rijsttafel to be on display at her funeral to represent her love for cooking, and always having a meal ready to go if anyone should pop in for a visit. That is why I am writing this cookbook in her memory, to keep our family’s traditions alive. You can probably tell by now that my mother is my biggest Inspiration! I love and miss her everyday.
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