Where does the time go? On one hand, 15 years ago seems like just yesterday, on the other it was a different lifetime. Back then I had no children, time was all mine - glorious mine - and I was free to spend it enjoying the best of inner city living. Every spare moment was consumed with checking out the newest and coolest cafes, discovering new flavours, where the best coffee was and sitting for hours with friends, poring over food and fashion magazines.
It was 15 years ago that I answered a newspaper advertisement to cook at an intimate restaurant within walking distance of home. I was intrigued. Stella on Ponsonby Rd had a great reputation for its excellent food and atmosphere, big personalities, a notorious private room upstairs and the odd brilliant party. Who wouldn't want to work there. I was fortunate to prove worthy and for over three years work with two different chefs who were both ahead of the game. Neither were interested in trends or fashionable ingredients, just delicious food, interesting ingredients and a simple unadulterated style.
Drawing on plenty of travel experience, new flavours were always being searched out and combined - pork with rock sugar, soy and lime leaf; cumin seeds roasted and ground to coat bluenose and served with baba ganoush; brisket slowly cooked; fresh sardines, filleted, crumbed and pan-fried; escabeche; twice baked souffles; delicate wobbly panna cotta; baked chocolate pots ... I could go on and on.
I remember the pleasure of turning on the ovens in the cold, early mornings and starting the prep or finishing a hectic shift late at night compiling prep and order lists over a glass of red wine. The environment and staff were enormously stimulating and I look back on that period of my life very fondly.
As I walked home after my very last shift, eight months pregnant, I felt completely satisfied. The experience was incomparable and I knew big changes were going to come. The recipes today draw on that era of my life: favourites that have stood the test of time.
Any type of smoked fish roe can be used for the taramasalata. The crepes are called crepes because of the consistency, the potato makes them very soft but they are small, approximately 5cm in diameter. Use a thin spatula to flip them over successfully.
Here are three recipes that will hit the right spot