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It’s an oft-used chiché
On every reality television cooking show there’s a moment—perhaps even several—where contestants will tear up as they recount childhood memories in the kitchen with a loved one, and how those early days shaped their “food journey”.
It’s hard to resist an eye roll when the accompanying violin soundtrack reaches its quavering crescendo, but there’s no denying that the home environment can have a powerful influence on our relationship with food.
For our HerCanberra Magazine: Home, we go into the kitchens (and one garden) of three Canberra chefs to discover the influence of family and home on the food they love to cook.
Travis Cutler, Woodbrook
WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST FOOD MEMORY?
My grandparents had an old, unused wooden butter churn on the farm. We have had the family farm for generations but I never saw it in action, but I was amazed how such a simple instrument could take a liquid from the fridge door and turn it to a solid on the shelf. It might have well been a story of transubstantiation—all the more magical than simply turning water into wine.
IS COOKING IN YOUR BLOOD?
I come from a family of cooks. My Nan would cook all day. I remember it wasn’t so much the aroma from the stove, but the evidence in the cupboard. Jams, cakes, biscuits, chutneys—all things that preserved the seasons and were shared amongst the family. I could see the joy it provided people. Farmers and neighbours would stop for morning or afternoon tea just to share in Nan’s cooking. I was attracted to that.
WHAT WAS FOOD LIKE IN YOUR HOUSE GROWING UP?
Our food was simple, frugal and budgeted. We enjoyed dinners together but it often felt like a study in the uses of beef mince. My career choice came as a surprise to my family only because I was in the middle of my PhD in History. Yet on reflection, they could see that it was the right choice and were very supportive. Perhaps it had something to do with when I was living in Melbourne, dragging them across town to small and obscure restaurants in search of great meals.
ANY FAVOURITE HOME-COOKED MEALS?
Leftover roast lamb fritters with green tomato pickle.
WHEN YOU PREPARE MEALS FOR FRIENDS AT HOME, HOW DO YOU LIKE TO EAT?
I like food that encourages conversation. Not in a television kind of way, but in a way that enables friends to share stories. It is something that informs my cooking for Woodbrook. A few plates of simple food between friends, not something that takes until midnight to get to the table unless you’ve had a few too many sneaky gins.
ANY TIPS FOR HOME CHEFS?
Do your preparation and be realistic. I’m not sure if watching someone cook all night is how I’d enjoy spending my evening. If you keep things simple and work out what you can have ready in the fridge then you should be able to take the stress out of cooking.
SIMPLICITY OR SHOWMANSHIP?
I’d take a thoughtfully cooked vegetable over some kitchen trickery any day. I challenge anyone to derive more pleasure from charring a freshly picked zucchini from the garden than transforming it into pearls through spherification. The first takes skill, timing, and a feel for the heat in the pan; the latter is a repetition, the enacting of a codified formula.
Travis’ Pecorino + Mint Ravioli, Chicory, Zucchini, Salsa Verde
- 10 eggs
- 500gm ‘00’ flour
- 110gm water
- Dijon mustard
- Red wine vinegar
- Olive oil
- Salt pepper
PECORINO + MINT FILLING
- 200gm buffalo ricotta
- 50gm pecorino
- Chopped mint
- Lemon zest
- Heirloom zucchini
Serves 4 to 6
Make the pasta dough and let it rest in the fridge overnight. Mix together the filling and place in a piping bag.
Chop the ingredients for the salsa verde together. Add vinegar, oil, mustard. Season.
Roll out the pasta and make the ravioli. Store them in semolina in the fridge while you get everything together.
Bring a pot of seasoned water to the boil.
Cook the chicory and zucchini in a pan.
Add the ravioli to the water.
Plate up the zucchini and chicory as suits your style. Add the ravioli.
Dress with some salsa verde. Finish with some small bitter herbs.
PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Bean Photography
This article originally appeared as part of our CHEFS AT HOME article in Magazine: Home for Autumn 2018, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here.