Mered­ith Bas­tian

The Weekend Australian - Life - - STYLE -

Chef and co-owner. Swal­low Bar, May­lands, Perth

BEST RE­CENT DIN­ING EX­PE­RI­ENCE: At Franklin in Hobart. Diced cala­mari with net­tles, crumbs and grains. It was bright green & tex­tu­ral, zesty and creamy with a great bal­ance of flavours. Very com­fort­ing on a freez­ing win­ter night! Or is that just Tas­ma­nia most of the year?

MUST-BUY IN­GRE­DI­ENT: We use Fo­rum vine­gars at so many stages in our cook­ing. We had a visit from Al­berto, one of the mak­ers. It was great to hear the sto­ries and his­tory of th­ese beau­ti­ful Span­ish vine­gars.

MOST EM­BAR­RASS­ING PANTRY ITEM: I have a lit­tle box of Mac’n’Cheese hid­den way in the back for when I need a lit­tle nos­tal­gic com­fort food.

CAN’T LIVE WITH­OUT: Aus­tralian gar­lic, Ex­tra Vir­gin Olive Oil, salted but­ter … and good cham­pagne!

WHAT I’M COOK­ING AT HOME: If I have time, I love read­ing cook­books when I’m re­ally hun­gry and then choos­ing some­thing that re­ally makes my mouth wa­ter. It’s added sat­is­fac­tion. Oth­er­wise it’s some­thing I’m crav­ing like orzo with peas, chicken stock and but­ter.

THE NEXT BIG THING: You never know … maybe it’ll be pre-Soviet Era cui­sine, all aspic and caviar with bli­nis and vodka.

I HATE: In­sin­cer­ity and ap­a­thetic ser­vice. You can tell from the mo­ment you en­ter a place; some­times I feel like turn­ing around and walk­ing out. A warm smile and good old-fash­ioned hos­pi­tal­ity go a long way.

FAVOURITE CUI­SINE: Ital­ian is my com­fort food, Ja­panese ex­cites me and French is the back­bone to our cook­ing at Swal­low, which I’ve ob­vi­ously got a soft spot for.

WORST MEAL: I had a house­mate who cooked what he called “fridge spe­cials”. I’ve blanked most of them out but es­sen­tially he’d take any­thing he could find in the fridge: left­overs, sauces, veg­eta­bles, uniden­ti­fi­able things and turn it into a gi­ant pan­cake. Truly hor­ri­ble.

BIG­GEST CULI­NARY IN­FLU­ENCE: There isn’t a sin­gle in­flu­ence but a pro­ces­sion of in­flu­en­tial women. My mum and grand­moth­ers awak­ened my de­sire to cook when I was 10; Stephanie Alexan­der in my for­ma­tive years and then work­ing at Rich­mond Hill Café and Larder. And Zoe Roy, my part­ner and co-owner at Swal­low is al­ways an in­spi­ra­tion. I’ll have an idea and she im­me­di­ately helps it hap­pen; she never fal­ters or hes­i­tates. In the kitchen she’s for­mi­da­ble, with a big heart and a nat­u­ral tal­ent for what she does.

FAVOURITE COOK­BOOK: Oh hon­estly, so many. I love Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Di­aries and Clau­dia Ro­den’s

Arabesque, to name a cou­ple. And back to Stephanie Alexan­der, the first edi­tion of The Cook’s Com­pan­ion was like a bi­ble. It opened my eyes and re­ally broad­ened my un­der­stand­ing of in­gre­di­ents.

LAST SUP­PER: There would be Aperol spritz and Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Cham­pagne on the beach at sun­set with my fam­ily and friends sit­ting around a long ta­ble, shar­ing a huge bowl of lob­ster, tomato and gar­lic spaghetti … and then camem­bert, beau­fort & ro­que­fort cheese with a bot­tom­less bot­tle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

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