- Snapper Ceviche, photographed by Chris Chen
- Fish, oyster, mushroom and cabbage vermicelli soup, photographed by Chris Chen
We talk to model Danielle Peita Graham about her new cookbook, On the Table at Home and the dual East-West influences at the heart of it, courtesy of her Chinese mother and Irish father. Plus, Peita Graham gives us a peek into how she spent the holidays. (Hint: There’s a lot of delicious food involved.)
There is nothing I love more than cooking a Christmas feast for my family and friends. It’s the best way to spoil people! I will usually spend a few days to prepare all the food!!! There is always a good mix of Asian and Western shared dishes on the table at home. We have Christmas music playing, a Christmas piñata filled with candy for the kids and plenty of champagne for the adults!!
My holiday lunch menu…
Pork and prawn wontons, roast lamb shoulder with Asian-style mint sauce, corn fritters with avocado salsa, roasted daikon and pumpkin with soy and honey, prawns with miso butter, deep-fried fish with chili and tomato dipping sauce, Brussels sprout and lentil salad, chicken karaage, vegetable fried rice, mashed potato and a simple green salad.
And for dessert…
I make fruit trifle and Christmas cookies with the children.
Our holiday traditions…
Each year my children and I wrap and decorate shoe boxes for charity. Then we fill it with toys and books for children less fortunate. It is a great way to teach them to give back and appreciate the things they have.
Essential ingredients I always have in the kitchen…
Rice, noodles, salt, sugar, fresh produce every day from my local farmers’ market — I have my guys’ numbers on speed dial and place my orders early in the morning!
My kitchen motto…
The best ingredient of all good home cooking is love.
My very first food memory…
I have wonderful childhood memories with food. When I was about five years old my mother came to school and cooked fried rice for my friends and me. I was fascinated and proud. I think I fell in love with food from day that. I wanted to be just like my mum, a fantastic cook! Growing up I loved being in the kitchen with her. We would always get our hands dirty when making wantons together. It became a family tradition we would make every Chinese New Year. It has become a family tradition. Just like I helped my mother make wontons, my daughter Sophia now loves to help me. My father cultivated my love of comfort food from a young age. I have fond memories of him cooking Sunday roast lunches for our family. I remember there were always greens on our plate. We were never allowed to leave the table until our plates were empty. He taught me how to make mashed potatoes when I was eight years old and today it is my son’s favorite thing to eat. He requests it once a week.
Eating well is so important and it shapes the way I live today. I believe the best way to show love is through a delicious home-cooked meal. I wanted to share my love of simple, nutritious and tasty food that I cook for my family and friends all the time. My focus is on fresh and wholesome produce — food without too many preservatives or pesticides. I would never deprive myself of anything, but I believe in eating in moderation and having a balanced diet. Creating this book is something very close to my heart and has been a dream of mine to make since I was a teenager. It has brought me closer to my Eurasian heritage, beliefs and traditions.
And about that heritage…
I grew up with my Chinese mother and Irish father instilling the love of eating well and sharing a meal together: On the Table at Home. I got the best of both worlds — East and West. My parents were always in the kitchen making something amazing and I inherited this love of cooking from them. They placed an importance on making time to gather around the table and enjoy a wonderful meal together. The book has a good mix of Asian- and Western-flavored dishes that have been inspired by a family recipe passed down to me, or from a travel destination, or a memory of that place. I am lucky to have had amazing people cook for and with me, and who teach and inspire me.
Aside from my parents, my other culinary influences include…
My stepfather, grandmother, cousin and close friends. I learned a lot from cooking lessons that I had with inspirational chef friends and kept recipes from magazines and watching cooking shows — which expanded my knowledge. I learnt what flavors worked well together, how to use particular ingredients and that texture and fragrance were as important as taste. Over a year ago I choose to work with an Australian team to make my dream a reality. I feel so lucky to have been able to work with such a talented and passionate group of people. They saw my vision and executed it perfectly. The book is beautifully styled and photographed.
My favorite recipe in the book…
We have meatless Mondays after indulging over the weekends and load up on goodness. I love to cook vegetable soup for my family at least once a week. It’s a one-pot meal and it can be made with any fresh vegetables. It is important to have a good natural stock to give it the best possible flavor and there are no preservatives. The addition of fresh herbs like coriander and spring onions make it delicious. I find it so soothing to eat and it has become one of my favorite comfort foods.
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