• Samuel Shelley and Catherine Miller set up a food portrait
This week in Blog Appétit – our round up of food blogs worth bookmarking – we bring you a treasure that sprouted from Tassie soil, Island Menu.
By
4 Jan 2014 - 10:38 AM  UPDATED 2 Sep 2014 - 2:22 PM

Set in picturesque Tasmania, where the two friends and collaborators Catherine Miller and Samuel Shelley reside, this regional Australian blog captures the soul of the Apple Isle in striking images (Sam’s a professional photographer), concise anecdotes and seasonal, produce-driven recipes. The duo also has a way with design, from the clean, crisp look to the simple but stunningly styled fare. It’s a visually evocative blog that will make you want to pack up, move to Tassie and live life as they do. We caught up with the talented duo and here’s what they had to dish up.

“For us, there is no better place to be in the world than Tasmania during summer. The people adopt a festival vibe for the warmer months and the island becomes a larder of perfectly fresh seafood, stone fruit and berries. The longer days also let us get out the camera and shoot a bit more than we normally would.

“We are lucky enough to have a shack on Bruny Island where we spend a lot of time over summer. The mornings are usually spent fishing and the afternoons eating the spoils. There is something unmatched about eating seafood that was swimming around only hours ago. We are also fortunate to have friends that own a berry farm, which we make the most of – our strawberry flan is evidence! 

“These simple recipes highlight just some of Tasmania's great summer produce.”

 

We started our blog…

“For a bit of fun, really. We both like to cook and take photos, so it seemed like a pretty natural thing to do. We also wanted to publish photos that weren’t just of food, from picking berries to catching fish.”

 

The must-cook recipe on our website is…

“The strawberry flan.”

 

I can’t wait to go back to…

“Mamasita in Melbourne. We had such a great meal there, trying a bit of everything (the ceviche in particular was so good). A trip to Melbourne also isn’t complete without visiting Hu Tong for dumplings.” Catherine

“Scandinavia. I love their food, particularly their inlagd sil [pickled herring] and gravlax.” Sam

 

Our current food obsession is…

“Cold smoking.”

 

Nugget of cooking wisdom…

“Keeping it simple is always best.”

 

I learnt to cook from…

“Jamie Oliver. The Naked Chef came out on TV when I was about 16 and it just seemed so exciting and different – it had good music on it and was modern and fresh. That was the first time I really thought about cooking things other than cakes from my mum’s high school cookery book.” Catherine

“My sister and I used to bake a bit with Nan. Other than that, it was a bit like Catherine – watching cooking shows on TV and experimenting a lot.” Sam

 

Friends always ask me to cook my

“Easy seeded overnight bread. The recipe is so simple and it has a lovely flavour from the honey and beer.” Catherine

“Shallow-fried calamari or flathead.” Sam

 

The one thing I can’t cook is…

“Rice using the absorption method. For some reason, it never, ever works for me!” Catherine

“Healthy food.” Sam

 

If I ever met…

“Donna Hay, I would ask her for all her styling tips. Her food always looks incredible.” Catherine

“Rick Stein, I would ask him for some his favourite seafood tips.” Sam

 

I always have…

“Good vanilla bean paste in the pantry (essential for baking sweets), homemade ginger beer that my partner makes in the fridge, and puff pastry in the freezer (good for last-minute dinners like egg and bacon pie).” Catherine

“Panko breadcrumbs in the pantry, butter in the fridge, and bait and burley (much to my wife’s disgust!) in the freezer.” Samuel

 

My favourite biscuit to dunk in a cup of tea is…

“Kiss biscuits. I’m partial to them, but they’re probably better to eat with tea rather than dunk.” Catherine

“Kingston biscuits.” Sam

 

My most sauce-splattered cookbook is…

“There are quite a few as I’m not the tidiest of cooks. I use Jamie’s Dinners by Jamie Oliver quite a lot, as well as The Primrose Bakery Book.” Catherine

“Any of my smoking and curing books.” Sam

 

The most difficult food to shoot, style and make look tasty is

“Meat. I don’t think I’ve ever done it for Island Menu, but then I also don’t eat a lot of meat.” Catherine

“Yeah I'd agree with that.” Sam

 

Beyond your own blog, what are some of your favourites reads

101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen and The Bite House. We also love design blogs, such as The Design Files, Designlovefest and A Merry Mishap.”

 

Island Menu is produced by Catherine Miller and Samuel Shelley. Photographs by Samuel Shelley and Catherine Miller. Interview by Yasmin Newman.