Q&A With Chef Karen Martini

In the lead-up to spring, we have enlisted celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer Karen Martini to chat about just some of her favourite dishes of the season. Lighter meals such as soups, salads and beans are a must since they won’t weigh you down but still keep you feeling full and satisfied. Keep reading for our exclusive interview with Karen Martini, and to find out her number one ingredient for most meals.

What are some of your favourite meals to prepare in the lead-up to spring?

A soup a week at the moment! Usually one with a chicken base broth-style. My latest soup recipe is a lima bean, ham hock and leek, which is quite nice for winter. I accentuate the flavours using smoked paprika. Traditional Minestrone never goes astray too!

Everyone wants a quick and healthy dinner recipe. What meal would you recommend if someone doesn’t have much time?

Apart from the obvious stir-fry; which is not a go to for me, I think quick grilled lamb cutlets and a salad are my favourite.  Spaghetti with chilli, garlic, lemon and spinach is always speedy (available in my new cookbook KM Home).

Could you describe some of your favourite lunch and dinner recipes?

Truthfully… my next book is all my favourite dishes; it was shot off my kitchen bench! I am big on salad and vegetables, mixing it up with new herbs, grains and spices. A whole baked fish with bay and lemon is a favourite, and grilled whole fish if you can get your head around it.

What is one essential ingredient that people can use in every single meal?

Let’s just say my kitchen bench is never without a good salt, a good olive oil, lemons and garlic.

With spring just around the corner, what are some light and healthy meals we should be eating?

With spring around the corner, a substantial breakfast is a must. Start the day off right with super foods and supplements. Special K Nourish is perfect for this – full of nutritious ingredients such as quinoa, pepitas, almonds and cranberries. Another favourite is mine is poached eggs, avocado and feta on toast. Throw nuts and pepitas in there for texture and flavour.

August 22, 2014

Free-Form Apple, Pear and Cinnamon Pie Recipe

Celebrity chef Karen Martini shares a delicious apple pie recipe – serve warm out of the oven with a dollop of cream or ice cream!

Serves 6 – 8


400g Ardmona Pie Apple
400g Goulburn Valley Sliced Pear
100ml juice reserved from the 400g Goulburn Valley Sliced Pear
120g raw sugar, plus 2tbsp extra
2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ nutmeg, finely grated
Zest of half a lemon fine zested

Sweet pastry
300g butter at room temperature
150g icing sugar
2 whole eggs
600g plain flour

1. In a medium saucepan bring the pear juice and sugar to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Add the lemon zest and half the cinnamon and nutmeg and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the apples, simmer for 3 mins until thick, then set aside to cool.

2. For the pastry, in a food processor add the butter, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add the flour and pulse until the pastry comes together. Tip the mixture out onto a large square of baking paper, place another sheet on top and roll to about 3cm thick. Place in the fridge, lying flat, for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and roll to 2cm thick on the baking paper. Lift the paper and pastry onto a baking tray, trim to a rough circle (or whatever shape suits the tray you will bake on) and pile the apple mix in the middle and top with pieces of sliced pear. Using the paper as support, pull the sides of the pastry up around the edges of the filling and twist the edges of the pastry together to secure, leaving the top open.

4. Glaze the pastry with egg wash and then dust heavily with cinnamon.

5. Sprinkle with the extra sugar and bake at 200°C fan-forced (or 220°C conventional) for 40 minutes or until golden – there will be juices running from the tart when cooked. Once you remove the tart from the oven brush the juices over the pastry and serve warm with ice cream or cream.

What’s your favourite baked dessert?

February 26, 2014

Turkish Chicken With Apricots and Pistachio Recipe

Karen Martini’s Turkish-inspired chicken with apricots, ginger, saffron and pistachio nuts is one of our favourite easy dinner ideas that’s packed with incredible flavour.

Serves 6 – 8

1.4-1.6kg free-range chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Salt flakes
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
100g fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, bruised with the back of a knife
2 green chillies, split
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp chilli flakes
2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground coriander seeds
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tsp ground turmeric
2 pinches of saffron threads
5 sprigs of thyme
200mls white wine
400g Goulburn Valley Apricot Halves, drained
50g dried apricots
1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
2tbsp honey
2 chicken stock cubes
400g Ardmona Rich & Thick Classic
2 handfuls of shelled pistachio nuts, plus extra to serve
Couscous to serve
Handful of mint leaves to serve
Plain yoghurt to serve

1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, season and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and all the spices to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add the tomato paste, saffron threads, and thyme and cook for another minute. Add the wine and the drained and dried apricots and bring up to a simmer. Add the lemon juice and zest, honey, and stock cubes, stir and add back the browned chicken pieces. Tip the tomatoes over the chicken and add enough water to just cover.

3. Cover with a lid and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10–15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, and the sauce is slightly reduced, check the seasoning and then stir through the pistachio nuts. Garnish liberally with mint and pistachio nuts and serve with cous cous and plain yoghurt.

What’s your favourite easy chicken dinner recipe?

February 20, 2014

Smoky Baked Beans, Prawns and Chorizo Recipe

Celebrity chef Karen Martini’s Spanish-inspired baked beans with prawns and chorizo is the perfect easy dinner idea that’s ready in under 30 minutes. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the delicious flavours.

Serves 6 – 8

2 x 400g SPC 100% Aussie made baked beans
400g Ardmona Rich & Thick Classic
120ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely diced
2 red chillies, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
3 tsp sweet smoked paprika, plus extra to serve
2 tsp ground coriander
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
250g hot chorizo sausage, sliced
10 green prawns, deveined, tail on
¾ small (approx. 150g) jar of jalapeños
3 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 large bunch of coriander, leaves picked (reserve some for garnishing)
3 limes, 1 juiced, 2 to serve

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, chilli and half the garlic and stir through. Add the bay leaf, paprika and ground coriander, season and cook for around 4 minutes. Add the baked beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed. Crush some of the beans with your spoon, mix through and set aside.

2. Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add the sliced chorizo and fry until crisp. Season and toss the prawns through some oil to coat, add to the pan with the remaining garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the jalapeños, stir through and take off the heat. Transfer the prawn mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the spring onion, parsley, coriander, remaining olive oil and lime juice.

3. Spread the smoky beans on a platter and top with the prawns and chorizo, pour the juices from the bowl over and finish the plate with a little extra paprika, coriander leaves and lime pieces.

What’s your favourite way of eating baked beans?

February 18, 2014

Karen Martini’s Twice-Cooked Duck with Prunes and Barley

We’ll be making Karen Martini’s roasted duck recipe from her new cookbook Everyday at dinner parties this summer. This might not be a quick dinner idea but if you’ve ever wanted to tackle duck this is the recipe to try. This show-stopping dish would be beautiful served family style.

Duck meat is rich and intense, and the perfect foil is the contrasting flavour of fruit. In this dish, slow-roasted prunes do the job beautifully. Cooking the duck twice gives you crisp skin while the flesh stays moist – Karen Martini.

Everyday by Karen Martini, published by Pan Macmillan, RRP $39.95

Serves: 4


2 x size 22 ducks (about 2.2 kg each)
3 tablespoons salt flakes
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup pearl barley
1 fresh bay leaf
40 g salted butter

Star anice-spiced prunes

400 g large prunes
500 ml verjuice or apple juice
300 ml water
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
2 fresh bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced (220°C conventional).

2. Grind the salt, pepper and allspice in a mortar and pestle. Add the olive oil and mix well.

3. Trim the neck and any excess fat from the cavity, then rub the salt mixture all over the ducks, inside and out. Prick all over with a small knife and place on a wire rack in a roasting tin. Roast on the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 230°C fan-forced (250°C conventional).

5. To make the spiced prunes, place the prunes in a baking dish that holds them snugly. Pour over the verjuice or apple juice and water, season generously and scatter over the bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon stick and star anise. Add the vinegar and cover the dish with baking paper then foil. Bake at the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes until the prunes are swollen. Remove from the oven.

6. Pour the juices into a small saucepan and cook over medium–high heat until reduced by one-third and the sauce is slightly thicker.

7. Score the skin in two lines down the back of each duck. Turn over and fillet one side of the duck from the breast to the thigh and drumstick to the back of the duck so that you have a complete side. Twist and remove the thigh bone and transfer to a sheet of baking paper. Repeat with the other side of this duck and with the remaining duck.

8.Place the duck halves, skin side up, on a baking tray and roast for 15–20 minutes until crispy and hot. You may like to turn on your grill to crisp the duck even more.

9. Serve the prunes alongside the crispy duck, with the juices spooned over.

After cooking once, the ducks will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. The second roasting can be done just before you serve.

When you purchase the ducks, ask the butcher to pop the thigh bones out of the hip sockets and to remove the wishbones. This will make it easier to bone the ducks after cooking them.

The day before roasting, take the ducks out of their wrapping and sit them, uncovered, on a tray in the fridge to drain their juices and dry out the skin. Although this is optional, it will help you achieve a crispier skin. Before cooking, allow the ducks to come to room temperature.

What are your favourite duck recipes?


November 5, 2013

Karen Martini’s Baked Oysters with Bacon and Horseradish Cream

These sexy baked oysters with bacon and horseradish cream from Karen Martini’s gorgeous new cookbook Everyday would make an impressive first course for a dinner party or a canapé for summer parties.

These oysters are a refined nod to the Kilpatrick. The oysters gently warm through but stay bright and plump and keep their vibrant sea flavour – Karen Martini.

Everyday by Karen Martini, published by Pan Macmillan, RRP $39.95

Makes: 24


2 dozen oysters (plump Pacific oysters are great)
1.5 kg rock salt
120 ml cream
100 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
15-cm piece of fresh horseradish, peeled and finely grated, or 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
freshly ground black pepper
80 g unsalted butter, cut into dice, chilled
60 g fresh breadcrumbs
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 slices of streaky bacon, fried until crisp
2 lemons, quartered, to serve


1. Set up the oysters on a baking tray, stabilising each oyster on a small pile of rock salt so they can be served straight from oven to table.

2. Preheat the oven grill to high.

3. Mix the cream, parmesan and horseradish in a bowl and season with pepper.

4. Top each oyster with half a tablespoon of the cream mixture, a tiny knob of butter and a grind of pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs and parsley and sprinkle over each oyster. Place under the grill for 3 minutes until golden (the oysters should not be fully cooked).

5. Before serving, break over the bacon and serve with the wedges of lemon.

November 3, 2013

Q&A with Karen Martini

You know the drill. Rushing through the door, late home from work, kids follow two steps behind you into the kitchen. You open the fridge and sigh as the ‘what’s for dinner mum?’ chorus begins. A quick survey of the fridge’s contents and it’s not looking good. Sounds like a job for Karen Martini.

Chef, restaurateur, TV presenter, recipe columnist and busy mum of two, Karen Martini knows your pain. She understands. She has penned five cookbooks, is the resident chef on Channel 7’s Better Homes and Gardens, judges others culinary skills on My Kitchen Rules and has rattled pans in various iconic restaurants including Melbourne’s Tansy’s, Melbourne Wine Room, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar in Sydney and her St Kilda pizzeria mr. wolf.

Taking a twist on the classics, Karen’s new cookbook Everyday will inspire you to come up with mealtime inspiration with more than 120 no-fuss recipe ideas for salads, pastas, pizzas, curries, roasts, one-pot dinners, puddings, cakes and even biscuits. It’s all about keeping it simple and delicious, of course.

Karen Martini tells SHE’SAID’ how she gets inspired in the kitchen and reveals how to get the ‘wow’ factor into an everyday, impromptu dinner party…even on a budget!

Tell me why every Australian kitchen needs a copy of your book Everyday?
My aim was to give super-quick ideas for stress-free cooking. I’ve tried to simplify the recipes but keeping them interesting. Sometimes things can get too tricky and it turns people off but they still want a good result, something exciting and delicious on the plate, with a bit of a twist they haven’t had before. It was also important to me to use accessible, every day ingredients that are familiar and easy to purchase. There are a few dishes in the book that can ‘challenge’ but the majority of the recipes are tried and true and the essence of what has kept me interested over the last few years when I’ve been busy and flat out!

The book is an insight into my head, I sometimes stand in my kitchen staring blankly into the fridge and pantry wondering what I can cook – just like everyone else! All of sudden I get inspiration and I go from a blank stare into cooking and making a dish. This book documents those moments.

What’s the best tip for getting yourself out of a cooking ‘rut’?
Spending time reading and refreshing your mind about food – with books like this! There are many great Australian cooks out there who are expressing their views and opinions which will get you starting to think about the way you look at a chicken thigh and how you don’t always just pan or stir fry it.

I think shopping in a different environment can also inspire. Take yourself out of the supermarket and go to a small green grocer or local farmer’s market. Even changing the supermarket you shop at – just breaking your routine can inspire! It’s a good place to start.

What’s the best way to deal with a family of fussy eaters – each with their own different ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’?
I’ve actually talked to a lot of people about this. A few have had good results by actually handing over my book and saying ‘OK…what looks good to you guys?’ And they (the kids) might pick something you wouldn’t even begin to think they’d like! Once you get them involved in the selection process, you’re on the road to having something else interesting for dinner!

If your children are young – it’s a hard thing. One of my daughters who is 5 is going through a ‘I’m not eating fish’ phase at the moment. And I’m like ‘Well, darling, this household eats fish twice a week so it’s going to be a long road for you!’ I just keep presenting it and I make sure there are a variety of salads, rice, pasta, cous cous or whatever it is, going as well, and I do always insist she at least tries it, because I don’t always buy the same fish. It’s persistence! Sometimes I think parents give up too quickly. You need to present something 20 times (sometimes) for them to get a grasp of it.

Family members always have their ‘favourite’ dishes – what’s the best way to persuade folk to try something ‘new’?
Sometimes something as simple as altering the environment like dining outside can switch things up. I’ve done that with my children – Amber is 5 and Estella is 7 – we did a BBQ outside recently and we don’t have an outdoor table yet so we had a picnic on the tiles outside because the grass is still growing too! We all sat cross-legged and they tried everything! It sounds kooky but it works in my household!

What are your family’s favourites?
My girls love the Slow-Baked Lamb shoulder with Horta-style salad (p.199), or I serve it with yoghurt, feta, Greek-style salad or a boiled barley side instead of potatoes or the pita bread. They love to assemble their own souvlaki style dishes. That is something that’s on the agenda at least once a week at the moment.

Spaghetti Bolognese was one that was requested to the point where I cooked it so much and I had as a ‘back up’ all the time, they don’t actually want it anymore! If you present what they love often they can make the decision to ‘move on’.

Roast chicken is another favourite. I am trying to get them onto light-style curries or dhal – they will have a little taste (I don’t make it hot, I take the chilli out but keep the spices in) they might not particularly like it but I always put a little taste of whatever the base sauce, gravy or dressing is on their plate. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t but at least you’re trying to develop their palate. It’s a real headache when you have to cook different meals. I don’t do that anymore because my girls are old enough. You have to start thinking like that from 3 onwards but always making sure you’ve got the simple, staples on offer so they don’t go hungry!

You decide to host an impromptu weekday dinner party. What are your ‘go-to’ dishes that always impress?
A Thai-style fish curry like the Coconut Curry with Blue-Eye Trevalla (p.132), it’s quick because you put everything in the one pot, the flavours are amazing because of the Asian ingredients you add to the sauce. You can always substitute chicken too. I might do something a little ‘extra, extra’ if I come across an ingredient that’s special – like perhaps, Spicy Fried Quail with Sichuan Pepper (p.143). If clams are in season, I can’t go past Linguine alle Vongole (p.63). I will make a really big pot of pasta, pop it in the middle of the table with a salad, that could easily work for mid-week dinner party. The idea of not serving individually but putting a platter on the table keeps everything convivial and casual!

What are the biggest mistakes you can make planning an impromptu dinner party?
Picking too many dishes you’ve never attempted before! You need a staple dish in your repertoire that you know you can nail every time. Think about dishes you can prepare a little ahead of time so you’re not working away in the kitchen the whole time.

Can you get the ‘wow’ factor into a dinner party on a budget?

There are simple jelly recipes in the book like Berry Jelly (p.213) and Blueberry and Orange Jelly (p.213), anything turned out of a mould always gets a bit of a ‘wow’ when you present it! Always hone in on ingredients that are in season to keep costs down. Old favourites – like Sweet and Sour Chicken (p.147) – I have revamped in the book – I use chicken thighs which are inexpensive and you can feed a lot of people with that! I’ve also done a mince chapter – with a lot of different dishes. The Lebanese Lamb and Peas (p.179) is something I pull out occasionally and if you serve this up with steamed or Dirty Rice with Lentils (p.72), yoghurt and a shredded carrot salad, it can be a little exotic and fancy but you haven’t spent a fortune. I also love the Beef Kofta (p.176). Sometimes you need to apply a little more ‘skill’ when you’re cooking on a budget – in other words, making things from scratch like the kofta, pressing them onto the skewer yourself. I also love to deliver a fancy way to present dishes. You’re still using simple ingredients but you’re thinking about how you put it on the plate.

What food items should you always have in your pantry and fridge?
On my kitchen bench, there is never a lack of salt flakes rather than iodised table salt. I use flakes to finish dishes and whilst they’re cooking sometimes too. I find iodised table salt can be ‘too salty’ and it ‘burns’ the palate, in a way. The Australian Murray River salt – I use all the time – a little goes a long way.

Good olive oil is essential. Australia is making some fantastic olive oils and it makes everything taste better at the last minute! I always have a bowl of lemons kicking around and a selection of cheeses on the go – a chunk of parmesan, fresh ricotta or fresh goats cheese – you can apply them to so many dishes and change the dish entirely. Base spices like cumin, cinnamon or coriander are essential in your kitchen. I always have a zip lock bag of bay leaves, parsley and other herbs  in the fridge. If you can’t grow your own herbs – which are pretty easy to do in pots – keep a few in the fridge. Mint can transform a lot of dishes. In my freezer, I always have a bit of an ‘Asian section’. People sometimes find cooking Thai or Asian a little daunting because they have to go out and buy 27 ingredients but if you come to my house, you’ll always find in the freezer in little zip-lock bags, a little tub of shrimp paste, lemongrass, chillies, lime leaves, dried shrimp, curry leaves, galangal (Asian ginger).

Get Karen Martini’s easy panna cotta recipe here!

 Everyday by Karen Martini, RRP $39.99, is available now.

November 3, 2013

Karen Martini’s Vanilla and Rosemary Panna Cotta Recipe

This easy panna cotta recipe from Karen Martini’s latest cookbook Everyday is the perfect summer dessert to serve at holiday parties or relaxed get-togethers. The crunchy biscotti crumbled over the top provides great texture to the luscious custard-like dessert.

I am head over heels in love with this flavour combination. The scorched lemon syrup brings a bitter hint that is a perfect accent to the sweet richness of the panna cotta – Karen Martini.

Everyday by Karen Martini, published by Pan Macmillan, RRP $39.95.

Serves: 10


3 1/2 gold-strength gelatine sheets
750 ml cream
370 ml milk
120 g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 rosemary sprigs
biscotti, to serve

Scorched Lemon Syrup

250 g caster sugar
zest and juice of 5 lemons (approximately 350 ml of juice) with the zest added to the juice


1. Soak the gelatine in very cold water for 1 minute.

2. Combine the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds and rosemary in a saucepan and warm over medium heat until just starting to simmer. Remove from the heat.

3. Drain the gelatine and squeeze out any water. Drop the gelatine into the cream mixture and stir well. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Pour into ten 120-ml plastic panna cotta moulds, fill to 1 cm below the top, cool, cover and chill in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

4. To make the lemon syrup, put the sugar into a heavy-based, scrupulously clean medium–large saucepan and heat over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to help dissolve the sugar, for 8 minutes until a dark caramel.

5. Remove from the heat and carefully add the lemon juice and zest (the very hot caramel will splatter). Let the sizzle subside a little. Stir and return to the heat and

bring to a simmer, continuously stirring until the syrup residue on the bottom of the pan has been incorporated into the sauce. Take off the heat, pour into a clean jar and chill.

6. To turn out the panna cotta, tip each mould to one side to create an air pocket, rotate the mould and invert onto a plate. You should not need to dip in hot water. However, if you have trouble with getting them out with this method, dip the mould in boiling water for 30 seconds and they should slip out easily.

7. Spoon the cooled lemon syrup over and around the plate and serve sprinkled with crushed biscotti.



October 30, 2013