Mak­ing sun while Hay shines

PART 1 For bright ideas with a light touch, look to Aus­tralian guru Donna Hay

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Food&drink - By Xan­the Clay

Aus­tralian cook­ery writer Donna Hay bucks the celebrity-chef trend. Un­like Nigella, Gor­don and Jamie, she doesn’t do television. She doesn’t have a restau­rant and her pho­to­graph is hardly ever seen, even in her Donna Hay mag­a­zine. Her writ­ing style is min­i­mal­ist in the ex­treme, en­tirely de­void of rem­i­nis­cence or de­scrip­tion.

Yet Hay is the best­selling non-fiction writer in Aus­tralia and has a grow­ing fol­low­ing world­wide. She has pub­lished more than a dozen books and her mag­a­zine is ex­ported around the world, with a cir­cu­la­tion of al­most 100,000. What’s re­mark­able is that it’s her cook­ing rather than her per­son­al­ity that has made her an in­ter­na­tional phe­nom­e­non.

Hay’s style is vis­ual and in­stantly recog­nis­able. Light floods over white plates on a white back­ground. There’s noth­ing to dis­tract from the food, which is al­ways exquisitely and ap­par­ently art­lessly ar­ranged.

So dis­tinc­tive is the brand, it’s easy to for­get that there is a real wo­man be­hind it, so on a bright Mon­day af­ter­noon I drive through Syd­ney to meet the real Donna. She lives in a leafy Vic­to­rian ter­race and her house is small, mod­est even. There are chil­dren’s bi­cy­cles piled up by the front door.

The in­te­rior is pure Donna Hay, all bleached wood and white walls. There’s no clut­ter, bar a few chil­dren’s toys. Here’s a wo­man who prac­tises what she preaches.

Hay is a youth­ful-look­ing 36. Her face is mo­bile and ex­pres­sive, her man­ner di­rect and easy-go­ing. While she makes us a cup of Earl Grey tea, she re­lates how she started out: “My mother didn’t like cook­ing, so she would en­cour­age me to do it in­stead. I’ve been cook­ing since I was six, maybe younger. I re­mem­ber mak­ing my fa­ther’s birth­day din­ner when I was eight. It was steak Diane. I was so con­ven­tional.”

Hay planned to be a phys­io­ther­a­pist, but nar­rowly failed to make it to univer­sity. In­stead she stud­ied home eco­nomics. A pe­riod free­lanc­ing as a food stylist for the likes of The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly fol­lowed. The big break came in 1995 when a chance en­counter with the fash­ion di­rec­tor of the about-to-be-launched Aus­tralian Marie Claire landed her the job of food ed­i­tor. She stayed for seven years: “I had this amaz­ing clean slate. My boss wasn’t re­ally in­ter­ested in food, she was a fash­ion girl, and that’s when I started the white-on­white thing.”

Those trade­mark pho­to­graphs are key to her phi­los­o­phy of fresh, sim­ple food that’s quick and easy to make. “I want peo­ple to look at the pic­tures, fall in love with them, then go to the recipes and say: ‘Wow, I’ve got all that or I can get that in my reg­u­lar shop.’”

She also pro­vides in­stant tips on pre­sen­ta­tion. Th­ese are sim­ple tricks with a big im­pact such as bak­ing long stems of pink rhubarb on puff pas­try for an el­e­gant tarte fine, lay­er­ing yo­gurt, pis­ta­chios and honey in a glass tum­bler, or just swirling strands of spaghetti into a sleek nest rather than a messy tan­gle.

The fact that the recipes are achiev­able and ap­proach­able is at the heart of Hay’s suc­cess. In­struc­tions are short and sweet — “If you keep them suc­cinct, peo­ple seem to be more able to fol­low them,” she says — and in­gre­di­ents are kept to a min­i­mum. “It’s easy to write a recipe with 25 in­gre­di­ents in it. The skill is writ­ing fan­tas­tic, re­ally tasty recipes with few in­gre­di­ents, be­cause the ones that you choose re­ally have to work.”

Few of the big names in the food world would deny own­ing at least one of Hay’s cook­books, yet she also has her crit­ics. They say that her food is all style, noth­ing more than as­sem­blages, that it’s not re­ally cook­ing and that she isn’t re­ally a cook. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Even af­ter a long, hard day at work, you are se­duced back into the kitchen by her recipes. They seem scarcely more trou­ble than heat­ing a ready meal and are many times more sat­is­fy­ing and de­li­cious. That’s real cook­ing for real peo­ple.

Xan­the Clay trav­elled to Syd­ney with Aus­tralia spe­cial­ists Trav­el­bag (0800 082 5000; www.trav­el­

The recipes here are ex­tracts from Donna Hay’s latest book, In­stant En­ter­tain­ing, which is avail­able for £18 plus £1.25 p & p from Tele­graph Books on 0870 428 4112. PEACHES IN PRO­SCIUTTO Serves 4 as a starter 2 peaches 6 slices of pro­sciutto, halved 3oz/80g rocket or mixed salad leaves 4floz/110ml bal­samic vine­gar 4 tbsp brown sugar Cracked black pep­per­corns

Cut each peach into six wedges and wrap in the pro­sciutto. Place on serv­ing dishes with the rocket. Put the vine­gar and sugar in a non­stick fry­ing pan over a high heat and boil un­til thick­ened. Cool slightly, spoon over the peaches and sprin­kle with the pep­per. SALMON CARPAC­CIO WITH CAM­PARI DRESS­ING Serves 4-6 as a starter 2 tbsp olive oil A hand­ful of salted ca­pers, rinsed and dried 12oz/340g very fresh salmon 2oz/60g rocket leaves

Heat the fry­ing pan over a medi­umhigh heat. Add the oil and ca­pers and cook for 2 min­utes or un­til crisp. Set aside.

With a sharp knife, slice the salmon very thinly and ar­range it on plates.

Top with the ca­pers and rocket, and driz­zle the dress­ing over it all. For the dress­ing: 2 tbsp Cam­pari 2 tbsp lemon juice 2 tbsp olive oil ¾ tsp sugar

Mix the in­gre­di­ents and add sea salt. LEMON, RI­COTTA AND PEAPASTA Serves 4 as a main course 14oz/400g pap­pardelle or other wide rib­bon pasta 2floz/60ml lemon juice 3 tbsp olive oil 1 cup­ful of cooked green peas (fresh or frozen) ½ cup­ful of sliced mint leaves 1lb/450g ri­cotta Grated Parme­san to serve

Cook the pasta in boil­ing salted wa­ter for 10 min­utes or un­til just done. Drain and re­turn to the pan.

Toss the pasta with the lemon juice, oil, peas and mint. Sea­son. Add the ri­cotta and mix gen­tly. Spoon on to serv­ing plates and top with Parme­san. VANILLA POD PANNA COTTA CUPS Makes 4 to 6 1¾ tsp pow­dered gela­tine 13floz/375ml sin­gle cream 6 level tbsp ic­ing sugar Half a vanilla pod, split A scrap of lemon rind 3oz/80g rasp­ber­ries

Put 2 tbsp wa­ter in a cup and sprin­kle the gela­tine in it. Set aside for 5 min­utes.

Place the cream, sugar, vanilla pod and lemon rind in a saucepan over a medi­um­low heat and sim­mer for 5 min­utes.

Add the gela­tine mix­ture and stir for 2 min­utes. Re­move the vanilla and lemon rind.

Pour into 4-6 small glasses or cups and re­frig­er­ate for 4 hours or un­til set.

To serve, toss the rasp­ber­ries in a tea­spoon of ic­ing sugar and ar­range them on top of the panna cotta.

Next week: af­ter­noon tea with Donna Hay


Pasta tossed with roasted cherry toma­toes, olive oil, rocket and pro­sciutto.

Pea, pancetta, leek and onion frit­tata, with a green salad.

Creamy pump­kin and mas­car­pone risotto with Parme­san and black pep­per.

Chilli cashew chicken with thick rice noo­dles and fresh co­rian­der.

Salmon and baby beans with lime and pep­per but­ter.

Sim­ple style, fam­ily

fare: Donna Hay with hus­band Bill and sons An­gus

(top) andTom

The Hay diet (clock­wise from main pic­ture): salmon carpac­cio; vanilla pod panna cotta; lemon, ri­cotta and pea pasta; and peaches wrapped in pro­sciutto

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