Jane de Graaff,Â I Ate It All
If you were an avid MasterChef devotee like I was- you\’ll know the story by heart: Mum of three boys from the Central Coast puts her heart and soul on the line every week to cook for (and sometimes against) some of Australia\’s top chefs and palettes. Yes, it\’s the story of Australia\’s first MasterChef- Julie Goodwin.
We watched with baited breath as hopefuls from all over the country plated up and served mouth-watering renditions of sometimes well known and sometimes more obscure dishes. Every recipe was a challenge and a surprise, but Julie was a contender from the start. Willing to try new things and go out on a limb, yet returning time and again to the hearty home-style cuisine that her family of boys loves and that we have come to know her for.
We looked on as she presented her now famous Lemon Diva Cupcakes, carved up perfect roasts and steamed it out in Hong Kong.
As challengers dwindled and the competition hotted up, Julie proved her homey style in the kitchen was a winner week after week. By the last episode it almost didn\’t matter who won- Julie was without a doubt a household name and a new Australian darling, waving the flag for everyone who has ever laboured long over a pan of crackling or a BBQ of sizzling snags. She was every mother who has ever fed the family, and we loved her.
So when she took out the title of Australia\’s first MasterChef we cheered with her and waited a-quiver with anticipation to see how her dream of a family cookbook would look.
And on the eve of MasterChef Series 2, here it is: arriving in gorgeous homey, pastel style. Our family table is satisfyingly full of all the dishes that made Julie such a contender- from Nanny Gina\’s meatballs to burnt sugar cake.
It\’s the personal touches, along with its warming classic food images that really set this book apart. There are anecdotes from every cooking aspect of the family, some moving and heartfelt, others light, silly and certainly very funny. By the time you\’ve read the stories attached to some of the recipes you feel like you\’ve become part of the family. It\’s an intimate gift to share with her fans, but one that makes Julie ever more accessible and proves to everyone that one of the truly key ingredients in any dish is love.
But to make things better again, we got the chance to ask Julie herself about the whole experience and how the book has turned out.
So here\’s what Australia\’s first MasterChef had to say:
JdG: Was the book hard work? Or did you have it all sorted out in your head long before it happened?
Julie: I\’m very lucky; I\’ve been allowed to create exactly what I was dreaming of.
I knew what it would look like- so it wasn\’t really hard work. The biggest challenge was that I cook out of my head, so I had to get those recipes out. I don\’t usually measure or weigh, and all of a sudden I had to test, measure and time things, rather than just cook by look, feel and taste. That was the hardest work out of all of it, but gee what great work it was!
[You can just feel her beaming smile on the other end of the phone line.]
I find the best way to make sure no steps are missing in each recipe is to give it to the kids to try and cook- you learn pretty quickly how to tell if you\’ve left a step out.
JdG: How did you select the recipes that went into Our Family Table? Was it hard to decide what would go into the book and what wouldn\’t make the cut?
Julie: Yes. That was very hard. We have far too many recipes in our family for one book and some did have to be dropped. It was terribly difficult, so you know I\’ve got plenty of material and plenty of new stuff for the next project.
JdG: Now that you are Australia\’s first MasterChef, do people try and scam dinner at your place more often?
Julie: Yes, [she chuckles down the phone line] the boys come home and bring new people with them all the time. One of the boys is keeping list. But we love to have our friends over and it\’s just always been that way.
Suddenly Julie bursts out with some exciting news- the book has gone to number one on the best sellers chart. It\’s a brilliant result for the book that has only been out for a matter of days. She sounds genuinely amazed and surprised.
Julie: People are generally really excited about Our Family Table, and I can\’t wait to see what they add to the book themselves. I would just love people to share with me what they put in. I can\’t wait to see.
JdG: And now the big question- what\’s your one favourite recipe from the new cookbook?
Julie: Oh dear. That\’s a hard one! It\’s like trying to choose your favourite child! I guess grandma\’s shortbread. People always rave about that one.
There\’s a pause on the line and then-
Julie: Oh wait! It\’s got to be the lasagne, that\’s how I won my husband! That\’s got to be it!
And could there be a better recommendation? Considering how important her boys are to her? We think not.
So what did we try out- just to make sure Julie was passing all her secrets on? (Will be posted separately).
Well, it started with pikelets& moved on to lamb cutlets& and finished with Dutch Appelbeignets (deep fired apple rings). When the recipes are this accessible, it\’s easy to want to give everything a try.
And with all the time Julie spent making sure none of the steps were missing as she translated from the knowledge in her head to the recipe on paper- these recipes are pretty foolproof. Even for a fool like me.
Available now: Random House RRP$49.95