Callum's cooking up a storm

Callum Hann became a household name after coming runner up on the hit television series MasterChef in 2010. He again proved himself a master in the kitchen this year when he beat sentimental favourite Julie Goodwin to win the show’s All Stars challenge.

Callum, 24, was raised in the Barossa Valley in South Australi, a region famous for its premium wines and fabulous food. Like his neighbour Maggie Beer, Callum has a passion for food and loves creating meals using seasonal produce.

This week, Callum joins ConnectPink, Fairfax Regional Media’ s online website for women, as a foodie blogger and is keen to share his passion – and his recipes – with the ConnectPink community. 

Journalist Michelle O’Rielly spoke with Callum and learned more about his cooking style and tricks of the trade.

What types of recipes and words of wisdom do you hope to share with ConnectPink members?

I love to cook simple, seasonal food which still has a wow factor. I would love ConnectPink users to try something new and maybe learn a few more techniques. There is no place in my life for hiding recipes or having kitchen secrets; for me food is there to be shared.

What’s your favourite dish and why?

My favourite dish is constantly changing; I get a bit bored if I cook the same things too often. My girlfriend Chloe and I have just expanded our vegie garden, so I am getting stuck into lots of fresh salads at the moment.

What are your tips to creating healthy meals on a budget?

I think the key is organisation. Try to plan a week’s worth of meals and do one big shop, which saves you so much time and money in the long run. It also allows you to take advantage of leftovers and freezing future meals.

How do you suggest new cooks or non-cooks ease their way into the kitchen?

I think the best thing to do is just get stuck into it. If the worst thing that happens to you in your day is you burn a couple of steaks, I think that’s still a pretty good day.

What are your favourite kitchen utensils and why?

A good quality sharp chef’s knife and a large, sturdy chopping board. The most used items in the kitchen. If you are going to spend money, spend it here.

Who influences your cooking?

Jamie Oliver has been my biggest cooking inspiration since I was a child. I’m lucky enough to now be the Australian ambassador for Jamie’s Home Cooking Skills.

What ingredients can’t you live without?

Garlic, spices, herbs, condiments, good quality olive oil and lemons. The little heroes that make all the difference in a plate of food.

Where is your favourite place to eat out?

It sounds a bit corny, but Chloe’s mum cooks a mighty fine roast dinner. She is one of those people where you don’t ask for second helpings, she makes you have second helpings. Not that I’m complaining.

How do you describe your kitchen when cooking?

My kitchen isn’t ideal, it’s rather small and poky, so I have to be organised to function in it properly. 

What’s growing in your vegetable garden?

At the moment there are leeks, garlic, beetroot, chard, chillies, capsicum, tomatoes, peas, snow peas, strawberries, lemons and a whole array of herbs.

Is fresh always best?

I would be reluctant to say fresh is always best. It usually is, but for example I would rather use frozen raspberries in winter than buying out of season berries for $15 a punnet. Sometimes the convenience of frozen or canned food is a suitable substitute for fresh.

Why is it important to taste food during the cooking process?

If you follow a recipe exactly you will end up with it tasting exactly how the author of that recipe wants it to taste. We all have different tastes, so constantly tasting and adjusting is vital. If I say “juice of a lemon” in a recipe, all lemons are different sizes right?

Has travelling overseas influenced your recipe choices?

Definitely, I have expanded my horizons by seeing not only what other countries eat, but how they eat it. I love tasting a new dish, and thinking about how I can recreate it in my own kitchen.

Is there one dish you just cannot master?

No matter how many times I try to make my mum’s chocolate torte, it never seems to taste quite as good as hers.

What rule or saying do you live by in your kitchen?

Anyone can cook!

* Sample Callum's culinary style at www.connectpink.com.au, where he's kicking off with a delicious recipe for Vietnamese Chicken with Green Mango Salad.

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