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Haalo is a food writer who blogs at Cook (almost) Anything and Eat (almost) Anything, farmers’ markets and Australian Cheese enthusiast, photographer and fan of all things Italian.
April Smallwood

17 Aug 2010 - 10:34 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Haalo is a food writer who blogs at Cook (almost) Anything and Eat (almost) Anything, farmers’ markets and Australian Cheese enthusiast, photographer and fan of all things Italian.

Why do you keep a food blog?

After spending three months in Europe, I returned motivated to keep experiencing new things but once your home it’s easy to fall back into those old habits and routines. Starting the food blog gave me a way of keeping myself motivated and focused - it’s also had quite an unexpected side effect of connecting with people around the world who all share this same passion for food. In my professional life as a photographer, it's had a positive effect, expanding my range from fine art to food photography.

What is the most challenging thing you have cooked?

Danish pastry dough. It’s a bit like puff pastry but with the added difficulty of being a yeasted dough. Not only do you have to worry about getting a rise in the dough, you have that same process of regimented folding to create buttered layers within the dough.

Once you’ve spent most of the day taking it in and out of the fridge for folding, you then have to leave it overnight before you can use it. The other frustrating part of the experience is that once I make the completed danish pastries, our friends polish them off in one sitting!

Heston’s Feasts is returning to SBS shortly and Heston is renowned for his crazy concoctions. What do you think of Heston Blumenthal’s approach to food?

Heston Blumenthal is a food person that I do admire - I love his attitude and his investigative nature. His guests sum it up quite well, saying he challenges your preconceptions of what things are and what they should taste like. While we may not be sewing duck skins to cake racks, some of his techniques are new classics - such as his method for clarifying stock.

How has your family had an influence on your passion for food?

If you watched Italian Food Safari you’d probably have a good idea of what growing up in an Italian household was like. Even though we lived in the inner city, we had fruit trees and grapevines and grew our own vegetables and herbs, we even had chickens. My relatives who lived in the outer suburbs, and had more land, made their own wine as well as sausages, salamis, preserves and pickles. You grow up very 'hands on" in relation to food. You know where it comes from, you appreciate the seasons and you know that it doesn’t need to be complicated for it to be good.

What family recipe do you most like to cook?

Torta meringata con mele

This is one of my mother’s recipes and was very much a special occasion cake. I’ve never had like this anywhere else but at home.

What do you think is unique about Australia’s food culture?

I think the way Australia developed is quite unique - virtually everything we harvest here has come from outside of this country. We aren’t constrained by tradition - we’re open to new ingredients and new techniques.

What’s your secret food shame?

When I was seven I absolutely loved honey and mortadella sandwiches - I’m sure if my mother saw what I was eating she would have disowned me. I don’t know what possessed me to put those two ingredients together but I did and they were delicious. Perhaps I was trying to do an Italian version of honeyed ham. Unfortunately, I don’t eat honey and mortadella sandwiches anymore, maybe I should try them again.

What ingredient can you not live without?

I have to say truffles because when you have truffles, things are automatically just that little bit better.

What is your favourite recipe:

To impress?

Tomato and basil cleanser

There’s a slight twist to this classic combination - it consists of a cold-pressed tomato broth topped with basil ice-cream. Perhaps a bit 'Heston" but tastes every bit as good as it looks.

To comfort?

Bread and butter pudding in all its forms. What’s not to love? It's quick and easy. It uses everyday ingredients. And it's infinitely variable - I’ve used croissants, brioche, added marmalade, mixed in chocolate and banana and even made one using chocolate and parsnip bread!

For an easy weeknight dinner?

Orzo Paella

It gives you the flavours and look of paella but made using orzo pasta it only takes about 15 minutes to cook.

Tell us about your favourite food event in Australia.

I’m sticking to a theme here and it would have be the Annual Truffle Degustation Luncheon at Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley. This year was extra special as all the truffles were sourced locally, from either Tibooburra in the Yarra Valley or the Otways.

What is your favourite cook book?

Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy. I’ve never experienced a cookbook as authentic as this one. Besides having tremendous recipes, the stories behind them really resonated with me. It’s the kind of book that’s a pleasure just to read.

What is your favourite food show?

Great British Menu.

What is your favourite cooking utensil?

A truffle slicer!

What is your favourite restaurant in your area?

Has to be Vue de Monde - it is always evolving. It makes you think, so it also nourishes your brain.