DSO: You have a diverse background in fashion, food, design & styling - tell us a bit about how you came to do what you do?
SR: I have always been a creative soul, even as a very small child I was always drawn to visual and creative endeavours. After school I ended up studying at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, pursuing set and costume design. This was such an immersing course, full of artistic wonder, which led me into fashion. I then spent a few years in the fashion industry before applying and winning The Great Australian Bake off in 2015. Cooking had always been a great love of mine and being on the show just revealed to me that I could do it as a career. Now i combine my love for all things artistic into my food and styling, as I feel these things are all so closely related.
DSO: We’re so excited about this delicious holiday recipe you have created for us… Can you tell us a little bit about it and what inspired it?
SR: Recipes that have spinach and ricotta in them are an absolute favourite of mine. I remember my mother making me Spanakopita and Cannelloni with spinach and ricotta a lot as a child, so this is a nostalgic dish for me when I’m after something comforting to eat. Torta pasqualina is an Italian dish with rich history and is always made for Easter, so it’s the perfect excuse to get my fix!
DSO: Are there any sources of inspiration you look towards when approaching a new recipe?
SR: Fresh produce is always my greatest source of inspiration. Going to local markets and buying organic, in-season ingredients always fills me with delight and allows me to create new recipes which let the beautiful produce shine. I also love reading food history books, especially Italian and middle-eastern, learning about old recipes and how they have survived and been passed down over the years. I wasn’t able to know my grandparents well, as they all passed away when I was young but I am now lucky enough to know some of my close friends parents and learn from them and their cooking, which is also a most nourishing source of inspiration.
DSO: What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when putting on an amazing table spread?
SR: When putting on a special table spread I think organisation is key. Make sure you have planned your menu well and have some eclectic and beautiful serving and decorative pieces that frame the table. If you love cooking and entertaining it’s so worthwhile to collect tableware that you love when you see it, taking the stress away from serving. Fresh flowers go a long way, I personally love using citrus and olive for table settings. Set the table the night before or hours before and make sure you cook dishes you love and the process was enjoyable. I truly believe you can taste the intention that went into the preparation of food...stress can be tasted!
DSO: We’re big fans of your eclectic mix of glass and tableware - what are the homewares brands currently on your radar? How would you style their pieces?
SR: I definitely have an eclectic mix, I really love to pick up pieces when I travel and from independent artists. I have many pieces from Franco Fasano, an Italian ceramicist with a company called CNF Ceramics. Aeyre Home is a favourite for fun, quirky pieces. I especially love their coloured tumblers and mis-match candlestick holders which instantly add some vibrancy to any setting. I think the key to styling pieces is to combine textures and opacity of dishes to create complexity and depth. I always think some see through objects, some roughly textured and some smooth. This soft and hard contrast can also come through adding beautiful fresh fruit or found objects, let your imagination run wild!
Torta Pasqualina (Italian Easter Pie) Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 barge bunch of silverbeet
400g Fresh ricotta, drained well
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 medium eggs
Freshly ground pepper and salt
1 large handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 x 375g Careme Butter Puff Pastry (this is personally the only brand of store bought pastry I use, its excellent and made with butter, not vegetable oil), thawed in the refrigerator
1. Place a large pot of water on to boil. Prepare the silverbeet by washing well and then removing the white stalks and veins with a small pairing knife. Roll up each leaf tightly and then cut into small strips. Once the water is boiling, blanch the silverbeet in two batches for around 1 minute or until softened and still vibrant. Transfer to a colander and run immediately under cold water. Then, using your hands, squeeze as much excess water as possible from the silverbeet. Roughly chop again with a large knife and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
2. Preheat your oven to 180C. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan and then add the leek. Sautee gently for 5 minutes until soft and add the garlic, cooking for another minute. Add the ricotta to the bowl with the spinach, mix well using a wooden spoon until smooth. Add in 2 of the eggs, salt and pepper, parmesan, parsley and the leek and garlic mixture. Stir until combined.
3. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Unroll the pastry and cut down the centre, dividing into two (you can do this length ways like I have or width ways). Place one half onto the baking tray. Spoon over the filling, leaving a 3cm border around the edges. With the back of a tablespoon, make five wells in the ricotta and silverbeet mix. Break 1 egg into each hole, being careful to keep the yolk intact. Season each egg with a little extra salt and pepper. Whisk the last egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash around the edge onto the border of exposed pastry.Very gently lay over the second sheet of pastry, using a fork to seal the edges. Poke a couple of wholes into the top of the pie with a fork, for steam to escape and then brush the whole pie with a little egg wash. Bake for around 1 hour until the pastry is beautiful and golden. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the tray before transferring to a dish and serving.