In the middle of the dining room in a warehouse in NSW’s Southern Highlands sits a massive table that, pre-COVID, loyally bore the weight of feasts for 30.
“It’s a giant old baker’s table that came out of a Scottish kitchen,” Jane Barnes tells SBS Food.
It’s a fitting nod to her family. Her husband, rocker Jimmy Barnes, hails originally from Glasgow, and Jane, with her Thai roots, found a love for food at a young age, living across the globe with her diplomat father. Around the table is where they feel at home.
“We live next door to my sisters and before COVID we’d all gather on Sundays and there would be at least 28 people, and that’s just the family!” she says.
Accustomed to the rock’n’roll lifestyle, time at home used to be a luxury for the couple, given the perpetual popularity of Jimmy’s music and the intense touring schedule. Lockdown changed that.
“When we’re out on the road, we’re just so busy,” she explains. “So we were suddenly just at home, and we were like ‘what do we do with our time?’”
Unsurprisingly, they turned to music to pull through and stay connected. Jane took up the guitar and their social media posts of family singing sessions brought waves of positive reception from fans.
“Social media was a way to keep connected,” says Jane. “Not only with our family and friends, but Jimmy’s so used to having connection with his fans on his tours, so it was just our way of cheering everyone on. The only agenda is to cheer people up and be positive.”
“I always thought it’d be great thing to have; a family cookbook, but I never really had the time.”
But it didn’t stop at collabs with Deisel or renditions of classic Aussie pub rock anthems. Another project to share the Barnes’ love of life and family was in the making; a new cookbook, Where the River Bends. The title pays homage to their rural property, where they grow their own produce and welcome loved ones.
“I always thought it’d be great thing to have; a family cookbook, but I never really had the time,” Jane explains. “Lockdown was the perfect opportunity and time to not be interrupted and to get it manifested. I don’t think it could’ve happened if we were constantly packing a bag to go on tour for weeks.”
With one being a seasoned master of words and the other a passionate home cook, it’s perhaps no wonder that the two talents merged. The book is written for the home cook, the pages filled with their favourite family recipes.
Thai meals are in plentiful supply (think Thai chicken rice, herb-laden fresh salads, and fried fish), as well as their favourites for brekkie, sides and dessert.
“It’s the recipes that we love and the recipes that bonded all our family together,” Jimmy tells Adam Liaw on The Cook Up. “To share music, food, art with your family is just one of the great things you do.”
“We’re not chefs,” she clarifies. “The recipes are for anyone who wants to cook and feed the family. They’re just very simple, doable recipes. But delicious!”
“[My curry] is one you can do in a hurry when you’ve been at work all day and you want to come home and cook something nice,” Jimmy says. “It’s a real crowd favourite.”
Whatever the dish, it’s all about bringing people around the table. And when it’s as big as their one, they’d best prepare for a crowd.
From concerts to curry, Jimmy Barnes does it all. His duck curry is done in 20 minutes, featuring lychees and Thai basil for a fragrant meals.
Jane Barnes shares how to make a spicy Thai green curry from scratch, with lobster, bush chillies and decadent coconut cream.
Jimmy Barnes shares his recipe for whole fried snapper dressed with fresh coriander and served with a spicy Thai sauce.