Today, I have the great honour of presenting my interview with Kirrily Cornwell, a fellow Canberran who was recently crowned the Australian Good Taste Home Cook of the Year 2011. Not only did Kirrily beat out nearly 5000 other competitors with her sheer cooking awesomeness, but she’s also a wonderful mother, world-traveller, and talented singer (she’s even performed in a Canberran production of Fiddler on the Roof, which you know is dear to my heart). Enjoy getting to know Kirrily; I certainly did!
Hannah: Congratulations Kirrily! Your winning dish of Salmon with White Wine Risoni and Fennel Orange Salad looks phenomenal, and I love that a fellow Canberran won Australian Good Taste Home Cook of the Year. How did it feel to be announced the winner?
Kirrily: Thanks so much Hannah. I can honestly say irrevocably and without a shadow of a doubt I was shocked beyond belief when they called my name out as the winner. It sounds like a cliché but I didn’t expect to get as far as the semi-finals, let alone the finals, let alone win!
Hannah: You were selected as one of six finalists from almost 5000 entries. What led you to enter, and what inspired your winning dish?
Kirrily: I buy the magazine on a regular basis and when I got the issue which started the competition, the Reader’s Issue in June, I thought there were so many great recipes. I really enjoyed bringing my own touch to the recipes and it was a real learning process taking photos and composing shots of food (I had a couple of rejects that never made the cut because they just didn’t look good in photos!) (Hannah: I hear you there, sister!)
When I was selected as a semi-finalist and asked to submit my own recipe I was really happy. I wanted to do something a little bit different with pasta, and it seemed to come to me fairly easily with the ingredients just reflecting the flavours of spring. I did trial the dish with my family, and the salmon got the big thumbs up!
Hannah: Travel plays a key role in your love of cooking. What are your favourite food-related travel experiences?
Kirrily: It’s so hard to narrow down! The fresh produce at markets in France and Italy blew me away. My sister is a great cook and we stayed in a villa in Tuscany with her and her husband and I’ll never forget cooking over a barbecue with candles, cooking risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms, and eating the best gelato in the world in San Gimignano. (Hannah: Ooh, if only I’d tried the gelato in Sin Gimignano! I definitely loved the gelato in Florence…)
I also love the memory of cooking in the tiny, tiny kitchen of a medieval cottage in the south of France. I love duck and it was so great to get my hands on the best duck and all the other fresh produce I needed to make yummy food.
Wow the list goes on, awesome pizza in Venice, pepper crab in Singapore, French onion soup in Paris, fresh waffles in Belgium (not to mention the chocolate, beer, and fried goodness!), tapas in Spain, kebab ‘sandwich’ and mint tea in Morocco… I probably should stop or this article will go on forever! (Hannah: Don’t stop! I’m lost in dreams…)
Hannah: Now, let’s talk Canberra! Do you have any favourite restaurants here?
Kirrily: I’m a bit sad to say this but we hardly ever eat out! I’d have to ask my mum who eats out much more than I do lol! (Hannah: My mum eats out more than I do too!) They go to The Ridge at Farrer Shops all the time, apparently it’s got great food. Jehangir at Swinger Hill has really, really good Indian food. I love Thai Spice for a good Laksa, and just along from there the Chinese Kitchen has the best bbq’d duck and pork.
Hannah: How did your family react to the news that you’d gained the coveted title of Home Cook of the Year 2011?
Kirrily: My husband was so funny he swore a LOT! (he won’t be happy I told you that). All the plans of me getting a taxi home from the airport changed and he and the girls came out to pick me up, flowers and Moet in hand (Hannah: Aw! That’s so lovely!) Everyone has been so excited and proud, I had to tell my mum she had to stop telling people because we weren’t supposed to let on until after the November issue was released (that was hard!)
Kirrily: To me there is a fundamental difference between being someone who wants a career in the food industry and someone who just loves cooking. The food I cook is made to be shared with family and friends, prepared and shared around a big table of food and drink and laughter and fun. I am also determined that my kids have an appreciation for different types of food and where their food comes from so that is one of my main motivations behind cooking. I can’t really see myself as someone working in a professional kitchen. Unless later on in life we end up retiring to the French countryside and decide to run our own bed and breakfast!
Hannah: Before I let you go, I must ask the most important question of all. Peanut butter: smooth or crunchy?
Kirrily: Most definitely definitely definitely crunchy! My name is Kirrily and I’m a peanut butter addict… (Hannah: Welcome to the club! I knew I liked you for a reason.)
Hannah: Thank you so much for your time, Kirrily! And thank you for the fantastic recipe below, too. It’s been a blast getting to know you, and I look forward to meeting up to sing some Fiddler on the Roof together soon…
Smoked Tuna & Risoni Croquettes with Baby Rocket & Cherry Tomato Salad and a Garlic Aioli
Recipe by Kirrily Cornwell, Australian Good Taste Home Cook of the Year
(makes around 12-14)
- Punnet of cherry tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves – unpeeled
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup San Remo risoni
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 2 tins smoked tuna slices – flaked
- 1 cup plain flour
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- Canola oil for deep frying
- 3/4 cup whole-egg mayonnaise
- Olive oil to serve
- Preheat oven to 140°C. Line oven tray with baking paper, place cherry tomatoes and garlic on tray, spray with olive oil and season with salt. Drizzle balsamic over tomatoes and bake for 40mins or until garlic is tender, ensuring tomatoes stay intact.
- Meanwhile, cook risoni in salted boiling water until al dente, transfer to a large bowl, add parmesan and set aside to cool slightly.
- Add two eggs, lightly beaten, tuna, dill and lemon zest to risoni mixture. Stir to combine. Season to taste and refrigerate until cooled completely (add some plain flour is mixture is too moist).
- Line tray with baking paper. Place flour, two eggs (lightly beaten) and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Roll 2-3 tablespoons of risoni mixture into a croquette shape, dust lightly with flour shaking off excess, dip into egg then roll in breadcrumbs until coated. Refrigerate for 30 mins.
- Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat (to a depth of around 10cms). Heat to around 180 degrees. Cook croquettes in batches until golden, turning if necessary. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and keep warm.
- To make aioli, peel slightly cooled garlic & blend in a food processor with mayonnaise until smooth. Season to taste.
- Place baby rocket & tomatoes on a serving plate & drizzle with a little olive oil. Place 3-4 croquettes on plate & serve with aioli.