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Home Cook: Pip Forrester, local food champion

Eat | Drink | Explore

Fleurieu Peninsula foodie Pip Forrester, a champion of the region’s produce, sheds light on her own culinary background and shares a favourite duck recipe.

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Currently chair of the Willunga Farmers’ Market and the Fleurieu Peninsula Food group, Forrester was for many years the owner and manager of the award-winning Salopian Inn at McLaren Vale. She was also the first general manager of The Retreat, the residential cooking school at Chapel Hill Winery.

Her preoccupation with food comes from growing up in a culinary-focused family and ongoing education through Cordon Bleu, books, and restaurant work experience in Australia and overseas. For Forrester, food is a vital ingredient in her connection with family, friends and the community.

In this week’s Home Cook, she has taken time out from preparations for Sea & Vines, the winemaking and culinary festival held in McLaren Vale from June 10 to 13, to share some insight into her personal food culture and share a favourite duck recipe.

In the kitchen I am …
In my favourite place. Having trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris, undertaken a couple of stages in Paris restaurants and been around some very talented chefs over the years, I am a confident cook. Most importantly, I enjoy everything about food – reading, planning, shopping and cooking. As is the case with most foodies, I’m panning my next meal while eating the current one. Cooking for family and friends is a real pleasure.

The fridge is nearly empty – what do you cook for dinner?
This is a rare occurrence, being the food-obsessed person that I am, and there’s always the pantry. I’ve always got the essentials for a salad, a quick braise or a simple pasta dish. I have never understood the concept of takeaways. There is always something simple and delicious you can quickly rustle up from few ingredients.

Most useful cooking tool?
A knife. I have a large selection, including a couple of favourites, that thanks to my partner are always sharp. There is very little you can’t do with a knife and a bit of energy. I rarely use electric appliances, preferring a knife to get the size and texture I want.

Three essential grocery items?
1. Extra virgin olive oil – good-quality extra virgin olive oil is abundant in McLaren Vale at a reasonable price. It is versatile and also good for you.
2. Tomatoes – I am almost obsessive about tomatoes in all forms: fresh, tinned and passata. I always have a bowl gently ripening (never in the fridge) on my kitchen bench, good-quality tinned tomatoes in my pantry and, when tomatoes are at their best, make passata to last the year.
3. Garlic – or any of the Allium family. Our family salad dressing, which is loved by all, contains a lot of garlic. Onions and garlic seem to form the base of most of my dishes. When in doubt about what to cook, start with an onion and proceed from there. Over the years I’ve met several people who are allergic to members of the Allium family. My sympathies always go out to them.

How did you learn to cook?
Both my parents were excellent cooks who loved entertain. We grew up in France, which of course served to reinforce our family’s love of all things culinary. My background, together with the Cordon Bleu course in cookery and patisserie, and tips from the chefs I have worked with and constant reading, have given me the basics of a happy cooking life.

Favourite restaurant?
Peel St, Adelaide. I love chef Jordan Theodoros’s approach to food. It comes from an authentic place, is deceptively simple, and packed with flavour and texture. The atmosphere in the restaurant is always wonderfully buzzy and the staff are friendly, informed and efficient. At Peel St, there is good food, good service and good atmosphere always. These are the essentials for a good restaurant and they have nailed it.

Favourite recipe?
I love food with sauces, especially casseroles, curries and tagines, but my all-time favourite is roast duck with pomegranate and walnuts, a recipe I learnt from chef Katrina Ryan (ex-Spirit House and Rockpool) at Sticky Rice Cooking School in Stirling.

Roast Duck with Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce

Ingredients

10 duck marylands (duck legs with thigh attached and skin on)
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or ¼ cup fresh pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
500ml water or chicken stock
¼ cup honey
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
125g chopped walnuts
Lemon juice to taste
2 tablespoons parsley, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds, if available

Method

Trim the duck legs of excess fat and place in a large baking dish, skin side up. Mix together the salt, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, stock and honey and pour over the duck legs. Cover and bake at 150°C for 1½ hours, basting frequently. Remove from the oven and cool the duck a little in the stock. Pour off the stock and skim off most of the fat.

In a frypan, heat the butter and olive oil and sweat the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, but not browned. Add the walnuts and cook for another five minutes. Add the stock to the pan, taste for seasoning and lemon, and pour the contents over the duck legs. Return to the oven to heat through then sprinkle with parsley and pomegranate seeds to serve.

Serves 10

On Saturday, June 11, at the Sea & Vines Festival, Pip Forrester will run a special ticketed event in conjunction with The Producers of McLaren Vale. Participants in the Market Kitchen Table event will be taken on a personal tour of the Willunga Farmers’ Market to meet the farmers and select fresh produce before being transported back to The Producers Farm Kitchen to be part of a cooking class of cheesemaking, sourdough pizzas and wine blending. They will also enjoy a shared table with vineyard views of the Willunga Hills. Tickets are $165 per person. Bookings and more information here. The full program for Sea & Vines events can be found here.

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