For the love of it

February 1, 2016

For the love of it

I’ll admit it; it was cheeky. A wink across a crowded prep bench in a busy kitchen … and I didn’t even know her name. But that’s the thing about love, it gets you and pulls you in without giving you the details first.

Kind of like that time I fell in love with cooking when I was 16 years young, not quite old enough to go for my Ls, but plenty of time to watch an afternoon cooking show or two. That’s where I spotted it. Some fancy-pants chef in white, unwrapping the fattest, freshest prawns I’d seen and tossing them on a blisteringly hot barbecue plate – I could smell it. I was on it.  And that’s where it began.

Of course I set the barbecue on fire, but I never looked back. The prawns may actually have been pretty average by the time they hit my family’s plates that Saturday night – but you wouldn’t have guessed it. I still remember how much my mum raved, how proud she was.

That’s love too; accepting, nurturing and encouraging. All of these emotions have been part of my food journey, from the flame grilled prawns, to the air borne pans (yep, most of the stories you hear about passionate chefs are true), to the winks across benches, the late nights, the early mornings; they all make up the rich tapestry of my food story.

And through it all there’s new flavours, always, new flavours. You think you’ve tried it all, then something hits you and you’re blown away – because that’s what really good food does.

Mango and coconut; peaches and cream; dill and cucumber; tomato and basil; honey and cinnamon; pork and apple; beef and mustard – it’s like they were made for each other. The very best of mates, the fiercest of lovers.

So give them a go. Try it without a recipe and you might surprise yourself. Pick up a packet of white sticky (glutinous) rice next time you’re at the supermarket, soak it, then steam it sprinkled with a bit of palm or coconut sugar.

Serve it with fresh mango, mint and coconut cream, topped with some extra coconut sugar if you love it like me. It’s dessert, breakfast or lunch. Or dinner – I dare you. Life’s way too short.

It’s the end of the mangoes for another year so make the most of it. In fact, you should really pick up a box or two to freeze in chunks, they make the best daiquiris, my wife loves them.  Yep, 10 years later, she’s still here, winking back at me when the going gets tough (and when it’s good) – we’ve got this. That’s what love is.



  • 500g diced onion
  • 30g crushed garlic
  • 25g crushed ginger
  • 40ml sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp chilli paste
  • 1/4 cup tamarind pulp
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 500g mango cubes
  • 250g palm sugar
  • 125ml white vinegar  125ml water

Cook onions, garlic, ginger and the sesame oil over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes (until soft and slightly browned).
Add spices and cook for another minute, stirring continuously.
Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
Cool and store in sterilised glass jar. This will last for a few months in the fridge.

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