• Narelda Jacobs learned a lot about others around the family dinner table. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
In the family of Whadjuk-Noongar journalist Narelda Jacobs, dinner time has been a chance to invite people in and show love.
Melissa Woodley

1 Jul 2022 - 11:01 AM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2022 - 1:19 PM

--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw S2 airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.30pm, or stream it free on SBS On Demand. Catch Costa in the 'simple but sensational', 'blast from the past' and warrigal greens episodes. ---


Dinner has always been a sacred time for Whadjuk-Noongar television journalist, Narelda Jacobs. She has over 20 years of experience in the Channel 10 newsroom, but the dinner table is where it all began. 

The daughter of an Irish-Christian mother and an Aboriginal Uniting Church-reverend, Jacobs had a religious upbringing. Every night the family sat down for a meal that started with grace and ended with a bible reading. 

Both her parents were involved in the ministry, so it was common to have multiple guests, particularly after church on Sunday. 

"Sunday was an extension of that sanctity of the dinner table because it would be Sunday roast time," she explains.

These gatherings were a time for the family to put their "best foot forward and show guests how much they were respected and loved".

Narelda Jacobs loves eating with family.

Whether they were hosting an Aboriginal affairs minister or celebrating a sibling's birthday, respect was extended to everyone. Jacobs applies this principle in her career as a journalist and treats everyone that "comes to the table" as equal. 

The art of conversation is another skill Jacobs picked up from the dinner table. Religious formalities were followed by lots of chatter.

"Sitting around a table is something that I associate with the love of family," she reflects. "It was time for the family to come together and spend innocent pure time together with no external factors or distractions."

Cook like Narelda
Warrigal salad

"This recipe has become a Jacobs family favourite. One of our favourite activities is foraging for native ingredients, in fact, we'd love to become commercial growers for produce native to Noongar Country."

Quandong chicken with creamy mash

"This is a reimagining of one of my favourite family dinners – Apricot chicken! Quandongs are also known as native peach and quandong jam or chutney makes an incredible substitute for apricot nectar."

She wants to encourage families to use dinner as a time to "really ask questions and to share".

"Whether you've lived with someone for five years, 20 years or 40 years, there are never enough questions to ask someone," she says. "Either about their day or about their life or about their thoughts…being around the dinner table is the time to do it because you have their wholehearted attention."

"Sitting around a table is something that I associate with the love of family." 

Jacobs and her relatives live on opposite sides of the country so she doesn't see them often. This makes the time they spend together even more special. When they do, they cook a nostalgic childhood meal, such as her favourite apricot chicken. 

Quandong chicken with creamy mash

It was an honour for Jacobs to cook an adaption of this dish on SBS Food's The Cook Up with Adam Liaw, where she replaced apricots with quandongs

"We were brought up but fiercely knowing our Aboriginality and [my dad], wherever possible, would teach us about traditional foods," she says. 

Narelda Jacobs and her family enjoying a barbecue outside.

She now often tries to cook with native ingredients. "To be sustainable more than anything and to embrace part of who this country is and part of who I am and to reflect that on the plate."

Love the story? Follow the author Melissa Woodley here: Instagram @sporkdiaries.

Roast beef with rich port gravy

Upgrade your roast by making the most indulgent gravy with Adam Liaw's port recipe; with butter, beef stock, port and Vegemite.

Ten-minute cheeseburgers

A good burger need not be arduous, nor bought. Adam Liaw shares his 10-minute version with a homemade burger sauce and easy patties.

Adam Liaw's onion vinaigrette

I don’t think you really get to choose your signature dish. It gets chosen for you by the people who eat your food. I never set out to make a salad dressing as a defining dish but the fact of the matter is, everyone who tries this asks for the recipe. 


Curried sweet potato mash

Up your mash game with Adam Liaw's version: Slow-roasted sweet potato mashed with butter, yoghurt and spices for a creamy and warming side.

Grandma's soy-sauce braised pork belly

Adam Liaw shares his grandmother's recipe for pork belly marinated in a sweet and salty soy blend, served with hard-boiled eggs.

Beef and broccolini with oyster sauce

Drawing on the 'holy trinity' of Chinese cooking, Adam Liaw shares his simple steak stir-fry with ginger, onions and garlic.

Pork belly and spring onion

Adam Liaw shares his wok-fried pork belly recipe, featuring a few simple ingredients for a quick week night throw-together.

Dear tofu, you deserve to be a doughnut
Adam Liaw's tofu doughnuts are so easy and delicious that you'll never make doughnuts any other way. #bigcall
Lemon chicken

A Chinese takeaway classic, Adam Liaw shares his version of lemon chicken, which includes a rice wine and ginger sauce and does away with the gluey marinade associated with the dish.

Spinach and dill fried rice

Adam Liaw's fried version of Greek spanakorizo is absolutely delicious, and very simple to make.