It's not every day an interview starts with the offer of a three-way. But it's Wednesday and so hump day takes on a whole new meaning when you're talking to Lucy Tweed.
Food and event stylist, cook, wife, mother, social media genie, Tweed's Instagram account Every Night of the Week has taken the food world by storm.
She recognises there are days where you want to cook and others where the only goal is to get food in mouths, and that no two days will ever be the same.
But back to the three-way. She promises to take it slow. This Wednesday it could be cauliflower. Option one could be a soup, silky and white, with leek and parsnips and zucchini. Two might be tacos. Yes, tacos. Tossed in cumin, coriander seeds, smoked paprika and chilli, roasted til charred and served with whatever it is you usually love in a taco. Three is a take on mac n cheese, with corn and three types of cheese, and a bechamel you'll come back to time and again.
She had me at macaroni.
It's kind of hard not to get a little awkward with Tweed. She's the kind of woman you'd want as a friend. A little sassy, a little sweary, the kind of friend who, if you turned up on a Thursday with the kids in tow, would work her magic and feed everyone and pour you a gin and tonic, and whatever was bothering you all would be soon forgotten. And then she'd serve seconds.
"The daily struggle and juggle is real," she says.
"And we are far better enjoying it all together than alone. I feel very fortunate to have found this community of like-minded people."
She says she's always had a good relationship with food. She grew up on a hobby farm in the Hunter Valley, where her mother would feed her children from the garden. Her grandmother was a food writer and former editor of Australian Gourmet magazine. Her approach to food has always been a marriage of the two women, she says.
"There's a side that's all about family meals, but there's a side too that likes to entertain, to have friends at my table," she says.
When she left school she started an apprenticeship in a restaurant, thinking she might like to be a chef.
"That lasted four months," she says. "It was the late 90s, it was quite intense but the thing that struck me most was the chef I was working for didn't seem connected to food. There was this idea of just sending out dish after dish.
"We were working in a closed kitchen and you'd see creations go out across the pass and that endorphin-inducing moment of watching someone put something into their mouth and closing their eyes and savouring it was lost, and I realised that was what I was in it for."
She then worked as a shop assistant at her uncle's store, the Chef's Warehouse, which was the go-to store for some of Sydney's top restaurants and she'd swap ideas with chefs as they came in. After a stint in New York, she came back to Chef's Warehouse which is where she met Donna Hay.
"I was persistent. I ended up getting an assistant stylist job with her," she says.
"I'd just turn up and be available for shoots. Nine years later I was a stylist. I look back at that time with such fondness, aside from all the invaluable lessons I learned, it was almost like being taught how to draw a perfect circle by a master and then being allowed to turn it into an abstract creation."
Tweed is full of respect for the way Hay changed the food scene in Australia, not only how we cooked, but the way food looked on the plate.
"Her approach to simple ingredients, that was always something that I loved about her, the beauty she could find in three simple ingredients," she says.
"It was like the much tidier and prettier for photography version of almost how I grew up. I refer to it as non-f**kery cookery, know what you're eating, know how you're cooking it, and don't f**k with it too much."
She finished up with Hay in 2010 after the "Welcome to Sydney" party for Oprah Winfrey and 300-odd audience guests who travelled with her. Sydney Harbour was transformed into stylish beach and country locations, the menu reflected the best produce in the country, there was live entertainment and fireworks. The night wrapped up with the lighting of an "O" on Sydney Harbour Bridge.
"It was insane," Tweed says.
She went freelance and spent the next few years styling events such as Fashion Week and other corporate "glossy and glamorous" events. "But I realised I was getting pulled back to food."
She had an Instagram account, Lucy Tweed Stylist, and every now and again would post a shot and a recipe of what she was throwing in the oven when she got home after a 14-hour day, just to keep the family fed.
"And they were getting the most interest," she says. "People were asking all these questions about what was in it, how long it was in the oven for, what they could use if they didn't have a certain ingredient.
"I realised there was a community there, even before I started a community, I knew it needed its own little space. Now there's a wonderful interactive element to it, people sharing their thoughts and ideas, it became this growing, sharing space."
We agree that's what food is supposed to do, bring people together.
"I don't think it's done that for a while though," she says. "With the increase of competitive reality television there's been this angst attached to food, this success or fail attitude towards it.
"Throw in all the information about whether you should eat sugar, or meat, or dairy, or go vegan, there's this barrage of the idea of a perfect lifestyle that's crept into this space.
"There's this sense of pressure that's been applied to eating and it's just ruined that sense of joy that food can give you."
- Every Night of the Week: Sanity solutions for the daily dinner grind, by Lucy Tweed. Murdoch Books. $35.
A chocolate thing
All my desserts are dream chasers, perhaps because I don't crave them much myself so I rely heavily on that one time ...
I went camping at a friend's farm 15 years ago and this one imprinted so heavily that when I texted the group this picture they sent me back an image of a spliff.
Little did we know then that "stoner's delight" would one day feature regularly on swank restaurant menus.
The blueprint for a dessert of this category is essentially chocolate, then words like warm, gooey, melty, sugary, crisp and chewy, and finally a random "ooooh yeah let's put this in there!" element. In this case, marshmallows. Enjoy dudes.
130g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
75g plain flour
55g hazelnut meal
150g roughly chopped dark chocolate
10 pink marshmallows
1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths
3 tbsp orange juice
110g frozen raspberries (or fresh if in season)
vanilla ice cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. For the stewed rhubarb, combine the rhubarb, orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes until the fruit has softened.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the raspberries, then allow the mix to cool.
4. Whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and cocoa powder until light and creamy.
5. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
6. Gently fold in the flour, hazelnut meal and chocolate until just combined.
7. Put the rhubarb in the base of a greased ovenproof frying pan (the one I used is 25cm) or baking dish and spread evenly. Dot with the marshmallows, and spoon the chocolate batter over the top.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and slightly crispy on the edge.
9. This can be served a bit underdone, like a self-saucing pudding.
Cauli corn mac'n'cheese
Some foods I seem only able to make in trough-loads. This usually applies to pasta because I love it so much.
The standard pasta pack size of 500g is just so perfectly designed to make you use it all. It's a lovely generous amount to deal with; you always think to yourself, "the kids can eat what we don't use tonight with sausages tomorrow". And it absolutely does not matter if you have used EXACTLY half a packet one day - when you need a half packet from the pantry on another day you are adamant that it's under and won't be enough. Genius mind mastery to the person who did this!
1 litre beshy (see below)
200g Red Leicester cheese, grated
200g cheddar, grated
100g mozzarella, grated
1 small cauliflower, cut into 1cm thick slices, big bits snapped into chunks
2 corn cobs, kernels removed, cobs reserved
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced into 5mm thick rounds
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
a Stable Table - you can simultaneously insult and impress people if you buy them one.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Stir the milk into the bechamel in a saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the grated cheeses, a handful at a time, making sure the last lot has melted before you add the next. Keep warm once it's all melted in.
3. Place the cauli in a colander, and sit the colander in a big stainless steel bowl.
4. Put the corn cobs in a big saucepan filled with five litres of water and a heaped tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil. Cook the pasta in this corny water for one minute less than the packet instructions suggest for al dente.
5. Drain the pasta over the cauliflower. Discard the corn cobs and allow the cauliflower and pasta to steam for a minute before releasing the water.
6. Use one tablespoon of oil to grease the base of a large baking dish and fill with the pasta, cauliflower, corn kernels and leek. Toss it all to combine and season well.
7. Pour the cheese beshy over the pasta mix, gradually allowing it to sink in and settle as you go.
8. Drizzle with the remaining oil and finish with paprika.
9. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
10. The beauty of this is that you can add bigger chunks of cauli and put it over to one side, with more mac on the other if you have a fussy bunch. Just scoop your favourite section. It's win-win. If you really want to add a third win though, cut the cauli superfine and they won't be able to pick it out.
11. Inactivewear, TV remote, a Stable Table, do not disturb sign ... you know the drill here.
This deserves its own recipe because once you make it well once, you'll start doing weird and exciting crap to it.
Some mildly invigorating crap I've done to beshy includes adding tonnes of cheese, or cayenne pepper, or creamed corn even. (I did all of these things when I catered a friend's bucks party and layered it into a strange hot bean dip. They either absolutely loved it or were so stoned they would have eaten a pan-fried cow pat if I seasoned it well enough. Who knows?)
75g plain flour
1 litre milk, plus extra if needed
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
black pepper (I bought white pepper for this ONE instance and have never located the jar since; I have also not missed it) and a desire to make lasagne, nachos or just bathe in it
1. OK, in a big saucepan* over medium-low heat, melt the butter and allow it to just start foaming.
2. Add the flour and stir it into a paste with a wooden spoon.
3. It should be smooth and golden. Imagine you want every particle of flour to have its own meticulously applied layer of body oil.
4. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk, 250ml at a time.
5. The first cup will instantly plug everything up. Keep stirring and try and get it back to a smooth state before adding more.
6. I switch to a whisk about now, or after the next cup - once it's loose enough to accept a whisk. It will help you keep the mixture smooth.
7. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking between each addition.
8. Stop once you have a lovely thick, smooth texture. It may continue to thicken as it cooks and the flour swells more, but you can just add more milk to your liking.
9. It's easier to loosen than it is to re-thicken so go slow.
10. Bechamel is traditionally seasoned with nutmeg, bay leaves, salt and white pepper. But you do you.
11. I also read (skimmed over) an article online (and didn't investigate) that claimed this 'sauce' originated in Italy, yet it is known as one of the "mother sauces" of French cuisine. I just put this in so you can start a pompous conversation next time you are eating macaroni and cheese.
12. That's it. You've done a beshy! Now start imagining all the wonderful things you can dip into it, drown in it, bake under it or layer it with.
*Aim for a 4 litre pan because even though the yield is only 1 litre, you will be stirring hot thick liquid, sometimes quickly, so it pays to have much higher sides!
Makes 1 litre - just halve the quantities if this is too much.
Sticky ribs and foil spuds
I am a bone cruncher, licker, chewer. I got that from Mum. To my horror, Mum once absent-mindedly collected the discarded chicken wings off my boyfriend's plate to finalise the tendon and cartilage chewing that he had so casually abandoned.
Just now, recalling her character, I realise she would have delighted in telling this to her friends in the same way I recount my own mothering. You can thank her for that; I'll thank her for the bone management.
However, these sticks are slippable (yes, that's a word) from their positions, the meat surrounding them rendered beautifully tender and relaxed.
2 racks pork ribs
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
125ml Worcestershire sauce
250ml barbecue sauce
100g brown sugar
125ml apple cider vinegar
4 large potatoes, poked once with a fork and wrapped in foil
125g sour cream
baby fist of chopped chives
butter for the spuds, and a slaw would work
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a large baking dish with foil and baking paper.
2. A tricky little step here. Flip the ribs and carefully cut away the fine membrane layer that holds the ribs together on the inside. Removing it allows the marinade flavours to get into the meat and also speeds up the tenderisation of the ribs. The butcher will know how to do this if you don't.
3. If it doesn't happen, don't worry. Nothing will suffer too badly!
4. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and thoroughly coat the ribs. Place the ribs in the prepared dish and cover with paper and another layer of foil. Fold and crimp the edges well to seal.
5. Place in the oven and bake for two hours.
6. In the final 30 minutes of cooking pop the foil potatoes directly on the oven racks.
7. After two hours, remove the top layer of paper and foil from the ribs, and increase the oven temperature to 200C. Bake for a further 15 minutes until the edges and tops begin to crisp and char. The spuds should be slightly squishable.
8. Open the top of the foil parcels and cut deep slits into the spuds (I keep the foil around to catch the sour cream). Top with sour cream and chives and lots of salt.
9. Eat with the ribs. It's going to get messy.
Super greens pie
An aggressive level of greens at the start of the week is a good way to dictate how the rest will play out.
This is an absolute beauty. It occasionally flares up virally... in a good way... on my Insta feed, because once you learn it you'll make it often. You'll adapt it and make it your own. It will become a staple.
1 bunch rainbow chard, leaves removed and torn, stalks chopped into 1cm pieces
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp ghee (olive oil is fine)
1 bunch kale, chopped into 4cm pieces
250g frozen spinach, thawed, drained
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g fresh ricotta
2 eggs, lightly beaten (reserve 1 tsp for the egg wash)
handful of dill, chopped
handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
handful of mint leaves, chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
250g haloumi, grated
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 rectangular sheet (or 2 squares) good-quality shortcrust pastry
1 rectangular sheet (or 2 squares) good-quality puff pastry
1 tbsp black and white sesame seeds
lemon wedges and, while it defies tradition, this pie coexists very well with sriracha and kewpie mayonnaise
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, fry the chard stalks, garlic and onion in the ghee for 10 minutes.
3. Turn the heat to high, add the chard and kale leaves and fry for a further five minutes.
4. Add the spinach and season, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
5. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, beaten egg (except the teaspoon you've remembered to keep back), dill, parsley, mint, lemon zest and juice, haloumi and dried oregano. Stir in the chard mixture.
6. On a large (50x30cm) baking tray lined with baking paper, place one rectangular sheet of shortcrust pastry, or overlap two square sheets and seal at the centre.
7. Spoon the ricotta and chard mixture on top.
8. Top with the sheet of puff pastry, crimp the edges to seal completely and score using long diagonal slashes.
9. Whisk together the reserved egg and one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush over the pastry and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
10. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and puffed.