Thank you to everyone for your patience - I finally have my Internet connection back after 6 days so I can talk to you all again and come visit.
In some now old news, last Saturday, I went to see Anna Gare (of the Australian version of The Best and Junior Masterchef) and Nigella Lawson at the Melbourne Food and Wine Show. I was very excited to be seeing Nigella, the woman I want to be when I grow up, in the flesh.
Having attended similar events before, and knowing that this session was general admission (except for those lucky people with red smiley faces on their tickets), I lined up an hour and a half before the session began to get the best seat I possibly could. This tactic was not altogether successful, as a very tall woman with a big head was sitting right in my line of sight, so I spent a lot of the time twisting and turning to see (and invoking complaints from the girl behind me, who had the domino problem with my head). However, I was only four rows back, so I was pretty pleased with that.
First up in the three hour afternoon session was Anna Gare, wearing a stunning Leona Edmiston dress:
Anna was great value - very saucy and cheeky, unlike her more subdued screen persona. It felt like spending an hour or so with your best friend from school, telling irreverent and slightly naughty jokes during a sleep over. Lorraine has posted about Anna Gare - we went on different days but exactly the same jokes were told, so you can read about them here. One thing Lorraine didn't mention was the PITA acronym. Initially, I thought that Anna was talking about "Peter", but actually, she was talking about a Pain in the Ass - that is, the one person in every family who has to be different. In my family, that would be my brother, but don't tell him.
Anna's session was MCed by Alistair McLeod, head chef at Brett's Wharf in Brisbane.
The three dishes made by Anna were Latino scallops (a sort of cerviche using scallops instead of tuna), Peruvian spiced fillet of beef (spiced beef fillet encrusted with pistachio nuts), an "upside down" potato salad (where the salad is arranged in a bowl with roasted capsicum and spinach arranged decoratively on the inner surface of the bowl so that when tipped upside down it looks pretty - for potato salad anyway), and three fruit tarts all made with the same almond sponge, but topped with peach halves, morello cherries and pear halves respectively. Unfortunately, we didn't get to eat any of it, but it was fun to watch the dishes assembled.
After Anna's session, the star attraction, Nigella Lawson, joined us for a brief hour to talk about dishes by the women she loves - namely her mother, Anna del Conte and her grandmother. She is as captivating in real life as on television:
Nigella's session was MCed by restaurant critic and Masterchef judge Matt Preston:
Nigella's three dishes, were "praised" chicken (being her mother's popular chicken and veges in a pot), vegemite spaghetti (which Lorraine made here), and a coffee and walnut cake.
Afterwards, Nigella stayed for a book signing, which was only supposed to last for half an hour, but ended up being almost twice as long because Nigella graciously stayed to sign the books of everyone in the line. I was grateful, as I was towards the back of the line. Here is Nigella's autograph on my conference program (as I hadn't brought my book with me):
I was thrilled to actually meet Nigella and say hello. Her skin is as milky and beautiful close up as I had imagined it to be. After signing my program, I thanked her, and she flashed her marvellous smile and said, "Pleasure". Nigella is a gracious, eloquent, beautiful woman, and I am an even bigger fan now than I was before.
Having seen Nigella make a coffee and walnut cake, I knew that was the recipe for me. I wanted to make it that afternoon and post about it while it was still fresh in mind, but my ongoing Internet connection battles scotched that. However, last night, I went ahead and made the cake anyway. You can find the recipe online here.
The cake is a double decker, coffee-flavoured spectacular, sandwiched together with coffee-flavoured buttercream. There are ground walnuts in the cake as well as walnuts on top. Here are my layers:
and the finished cake is pictured at the top of this post and below:
The cake was truly delicious - light and spongy, but still with some oomph about it, making it very satisfying. It disappeared very quickly at work today, so I am guessing that everyone else liked it as well.
Have a great evening.