Tasty Tuesday - Home Cook Of The Year 2011 Winner

 You may remember me mentioning a few months ago that I entered the Australian Good Taste “Home Cook of the Year” competition sponsored by San Remo Pasta.  I managed to get into the top 20 but failed to move towards the finals. I was happy with where I got – especially out of 4000 or so entrants. I am please to mention today I have a very special guest who not only managed to make it into the top 20 and move forward into the finals but she also took the title of “Home Cook Of The Year” for 2011. Her name is Kirrily Cornwell and she is our special guest here today. She is featured in this month’s Australian Good Taste, which showcases her winning dish. Let’s talk too Kirrily and find out what her winning dish was and what inspired her to cook it.

Photographer:  Sam McAdam/Australian Good Taste.

 Congratulations on your win in the Good Taste Home Cook of the Year Competition. How do you feel about being announced the winner?

Thanks Melissa, I was genuinely shocked when they called out my name as the winner.  There were obviously so many good cooks in the competition and my fellow finalists all put up beautiful dishes in the cook-off.  The best thing was hearing the judge’s lovely comments on my dish – when those were read out I was satisfied that no matter what the outcome I had done a good job.  Since then it’s been great just enjoying the win and doing the odd interview here and there (if not a little challenging keeping the result under my hat!).

   What was the dish that you cooked to impress the judges?
I cooked a pan-seared salmon with white wine and parsley risoni and a fennel orange salad.

 Photographer: Jeremy Simons/ Australian Good Taste
     Styling by: Saskia Hay/ Australian Good Taste

For the recipe make sure you pick a copy up of the November issue of Australian Good Taste. 
Out now.

   What was your inspiration behind this winning dish?
I wanted to do something different with pasta as this was the ingredient we had to use.   Pasta is so beautifully simple and you really don’t need a lot to make a great pasta dish, but I knew that I needed to do something which stood out.  I aimed to use some seasonal ingredients and fennel was appearing back on the shelves, the oranges were lovely, and the beautiful spring weather we were having inspired the fresh flavours of the dish.

   Do you have any future ambition in doing anything in the culinary world? (Egg. Writing a cookbook, starting a food blog?)
To me there is a fundamental difference between being someone who wants a career in the food industry and someone who just loves cooking.  The food I cook is made to be shared with family and friends, prepared and shared around a big table of food and drink and laughter and fun.  I am also determined that my kids have an appreciation for different types of food and where their food comes from so that is one of my main motivations behind cooking. I can't really see myself as someone working in a professional kitchen, working under pressure and doing it for a living.

So I guess the answer to that is no.  Unless later on in life we end up retiring to the French countryside and decide to run our own bed and breakfast! :-)

   What do you do to keep week-night meals interesting and on a budget for your family?
As far as a budget goes, I’m not very good at that!  But I do apply a few basic principles to ensuring I get the best value for money:  I very rarely buy meat unless it’s reduced for quick sale, I have a chest freezer so can stock up where I see a good bargain and I just make sure I’ve got the staples like mince, chicken, steak etc.  I buy fresh produce that is in-season and adjust my cooking style accordingly.  It makes so much sense to cook with what’s good (and cheap!) at the time, and the produce usually lends itself to what you want to cook as well i.e. In winter root veggies are great for hearty soups and stews, and in summer all the beautiful fruits and salad ingredients abound!  I also make the most of leftovers.  I use leftovers for lunches or freeze meals for when we are extremely busy and need to have meals on the table in a hurry.

I spend a lot of time with my head in recipe books to try and make things interesting but usually just end up making things up (except when I'm baking that is a new challenge I'm trying to master).  I'm inspired by people like Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander - real salt of the earth cooks.

As I’m a busy working mum with two girls (aged 3 and 11) I also need to think ahead and do as much planning as I can.

 What is your all time favourite weeknight meal?
Given that most weeknight cooking involves speed, I would have to say stir fry’s and bbq’s are my saviour!  Having said that my husband always jokes that we never have anything as simple as a BBQ because I’ll always try to do something different from the standard steak and salad, so I’ll grill some vegetables and have it with goats cheese and maybe some rocket from my garden, or last night for example we had Satay veal cutlets with rice and peas and an Asian style coleslaw.

   What tips would you give to make home cooking a fun and delicious experience?
I like cooking best when I have time on my hands - the home cooking I do on a nightly basis is more about just getting dinner on the table but I still enjoy it particularly when it's something which gets eaten (I have a variety of tastes to cater for including a 3 year old so it is sometimes a challenge putting together something they will all like).  When I'm cooking on the weekend I try and get my little girl involved and since I have learned to relax about any mess that gets made we have a ball in the kitchen together!

If I've got any tips it would be to relax, get the kids involved, educate yourself about what is in season and try and cook with fresh ingredients wherever possible.  I am a novice veggie gardener but I have found that having things in my garden ready to pull out and eat makes me so happy and is hopefully going some way to ensuring my girls know where their food comes from. 

To find out more on Kirrily, and the other wonderful Home Cook of the Year finalists, readers can pick up the November issue (on sale: October 19). To connect with the Australian Good Taste team and join the conversation, readers can visit: http://www.facebook.com/australiangoodtaste.

Kirrily has kindly shared with us one of her wonderful recipes that she submitted as part of the Australian Good Taste cook-the-issue competition for you to whip up for a quick weeknight dinner.

Roast Pumpkin & Garlic Fettucine with Ricotta & Baby Spinach and a Pine-nut Crumb

Serves 4

350g Butternut Pumpkin , cubed
8 Cloves Garlic (unpeeled)
Olive Oil Spray
500g Packet San Remo Egg Fettucini
100ml White Wine
¾ Cup Day Old Breadcrumbs
¼ Cup Pine Nuts
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Bag Baby Spinach
150g Low Fat Ricotta
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Tsp Lemon zest
½ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Extra Parmesan to serve
Cracked black pepper and sea salt


1.       Pre-heat oven to 180°.  Place pumpkin and garlic on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Spray with olive oil and bake, turning occasionally, until tender and golden.  Remove garlic from skins and chop roughly.
2.       Meanwhile, lightly toast pine nuts in a non-stick fry pan.  Add breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil.  Cook until crumbs are golden.  Set aside.
3.       Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid and keep warm. 
4.       Place the pan back on the heat and add white wine until boiling.  Return pasta to pan and add pumpkin, garlic, spinach, ricotta, parmesan, and reserved cooking liquid as required.  Toss and add lemon zest, basil and season to taste.
5.       Divide between plates and top with pine nut crumbs, extra parmesan, and drizzle with olive oil.

Thanks kirrily for sharing with us today and all the best for the future!

Don't Forget the "Cut Out The Crap Giveaway" .......

Collette has also kindly given me three 'Cut Out The Crap' cookbooks to giveaway to my dear Whimsical Wife readers.
To enter simply do one of the three options - (The more you do the more you can enter)

1. Visit Collette on Facebook, like her page and pop back here and leave a comment.
2. Visit The Whimsical Wife on Facebook, like my page and pop back here and leave a comment.
3. Become a follower of The Whimsical Wife (on the right) and leave a comment.

It is important that you leave a comment as that is how you enter yourself into the competition!
Australian Resident Only - Sorry!
Entries Close 10th November 2011
Winner Announced: 11th November 2011

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