Fresh - December Edition

I've been having way too much fun to sit at a computer tapping little silver keys - I've been off around the country on a book tour promoting Never-ending Summer, and having a ball.

We started in Wellington and moved on to Christchurch, then Blenheim ( see pic of my interesting room at Hotel d'Urville) and finally Nelson (see the details of my itinerary), and arrived back in Auckland after 5 days on the road laden with strawberries, cherries, bottles of wine, books and other assorted goodies, as you do! It's not been exactly quiet since then, with heaps of book events (see pic of my new friends taken in Ponsonby on Market Day after appearing at Milly's) with still more to come. This Saturday I will be at the Village Book Store in Matakana Village and on Sunday at the newly opened NOSH store in Mt Eden. If you are in the area, come and say hi!

My BIG news is that Never-ending Summer has just been nominated for a Gourmand award. It's so exciting!!! It's been nominated for the Best Barbecue Book in NZ and now goes on to compete with other barbecue cookbooks from around the world. The world awards are to be held in Paris in February, so here's hoping (fingers and toes crossed...). Meanwhile, we're going to celebrate getting this far. If you haven't had a look at Never-ending Summer, you can do so here...

The most common initial feedback I have been getting about the book is that the cover and colours have struck a chord. They were chosen to capture an outdoor beachy sort of feel and were used throughout all the photography. I think it gives the book a cohesive feel - it all seems to belong together, to the one theme. If you've bought a copy, I hope you get lots of use out of it and enjoy the food.

Talking of food, Christmas is fast approaching and I haven't finalized my Xmas day menu yet. How about you? It's a bit daunting isn't it, deciding whether to go traditional or to offer something new. Because I have my dad over every Xmas (he's 98 going on 99!!!) I have to offer traditional food because he would be lost without his peas, carrots, beans and ham. So that kind of dictates the menu! I was in exactly the same predicament last year, and the year before, and the year before that....Ham again.

But for something different, try this stunning Fillet of beef studded with mortadella and pistachio nuts, and finish with the most impressive dessert I've ever created, Choux pastry tree with white chocolate and raspberries.

There are heaps more Xmas recipes on my site, including Pavarotti's ham - the ham I cooked for Signor Luciano Pavarotti when he came to NZ in 1999 - turkey breast in verjuice with green grapes and almonds,quick mince pies, chocolate mince pies and my stunning meringue mountain with strawberries.

Don't forget to tell your friends about this website - I've now put the barbecue 'know-how' information from my previous book SIZZLE Sensational Barbecue Food on the site, and have an extended glossary with lots of information about herbs. And, then there are the 9 cooking videos from Never-ending Summer - the most popular one is proving to be the pork balls which is romping away with 220 hits, but it's got a long way to go to catch my Decadent Chocolate Cake at 109,006 hits!

Now for some Christmas wishes. Wherever you spend this Christmas, I hope it is enjoyable, filled with fun, good food and good wine. Christmas is time to bring out your best, whether it be your best linen, crockery, candles or good cheer. Be kind to those who are less fortunate than yourself. Appreciate what you do have, and share it with others.

And make this a truly Merry Christmas.

Roast fillet stuffed with mortadella and pistachio nut
A fillet of beef is expensive, but Christmas is the one time of the year when you might splash out. The meat is easy to prepare, it's quick to cook and there’s no wastage. Perfect festive food!

Choux pastry tree with white chocolate and raspberries
Aluminum croquembouche cones can be hired to make this dessert, otherwise improvise and make a cone out of stiff card and line it with foil. Make 2 batches of choux pastry to get the required number of buns - you'll need around 100 buns.