Earlier this year, Caterina called me while holidaying in New Zealand:
Effi: “Good morning Cat, how’s the holiday?”
Caterina: “It’s excellent. I’m just hanging out in the dining area near the kitchen”
Effi: “Having breakfast?”
Caterina: “No, no, I am just waiting to find the chef”
Effi: “Why, do you want to thank him for your breakfast?”
Caterina: “No, don’t be stupid. I have been asking him for his kiwi fruit and elder flower jam recipe for the last three mornings. He keeps telling me that he is going to give it to me, but I think he is intentionally avoiding me so he doesn’t have to share it with me. So I am waiting here until I see him”
Effi: “So you are sitting there with pad and pen in hand, aren’t you?
Caterina: “Yes, of course I am”
Effi: “While the rest of the family goes skiing?”
Effi: “How long have you been waiting there?”
Caterina: “I am not leaving here until he gives me the recipe”.
This is not an uncommon scene. Caterina is one of the most recipe-determined human beings I have ever come across. If she eats something amazing at a restaurant in another country, she MUST have the recipe. And she will go to great lengths to get it. If the chef won’t give her the recipe, she will experiment in her Sydney kitchen until she has not only worked it out, but bettered it. The girl is determined, and because of that, she also has one of the best recipe collections I have ever encountered. If you are invited to Caterina’s house for dinner, you never say no. You would be stupid to. The research and meticulous experimentation that has gone into each dish before it hits the dinner table should not be underestimated. Unbeknownst to her guests, there have been years of research, tweaks and amendments to the beautiful dishes that grace themselves with their presence on the dinner table.
I did not completely appreciate this concept until we started the process of documenting some of our favourite recipes, as well as creating a collection of new recipes. I have to hand it to her, the woman is a mastermind when it comes to flavour, and ensuring the balance of flavour is perfect with every forkful of food that hits the palette. Caterina does not test a recipe twice before she decides it’s good to go. She will test the overall recipe, then tests different brands of product in the recipe to determine which one provides the best flavour. She will organise a panel of tasters (husband, brother, sister, mum, dad, son, daughter) with a varietal of palettes and slight variations to the recipe, to assess everyone’s feedback. The process is long. Veeeeerrrrrryyyyyyy loooooooong.
The recipe testing does drive me insane sometimes, and it can be painful when I am confident she had it right back at attempt number two. However, the end product (when there finally is one), is a bloody good one. As Caterina says “We are not putting our name on something that isn’t amazing”. I applaud Cat for that, she takes great pride in her recipes, much the same way she does with other important aspects of her life. It’s one of the many reasons I wouldn’t jump on this food journey with anyone else. If we share a recipe with you, you can guarantee it’s a good one, and one worth making over and over again. Take it from me, I have tasted 17 versions of it, and can personally vouch for it!
Oh, and in case you are wondering, of course Caterina got the kiwi fruit and elder flower jam recipe that cold morning in New Zealand. It’s only taken three months of tweaking, testing and tasting for her to create her own version of it! It has a beautiful acidity and sweetness to it, perfect on toast, pancakes or as an accompaniment to cheese. Thank you to Relishes Café in Wanaka New Zealand for the inspiration.
400gm ripe kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped into small pieces
300gm caster sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 sterilised 150ml glass jars
1. Place 5 clean metal spoons in the freezer.
2. Place all of the ingredients into a saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
3. Simmer on low heat until fruit is jammy and thick (approximately 45 minutes), stirring occasionally.
4. To check if the jam is set, dribble some of the jam onto one of the frozen spoons. Wait a few seconds, and then run your finger through the jam. If it leaves a distinct track in the jam, the jam is ready. If it runs back in on itself, keep cooking the jam and test again a few minutes later with a clean frozen spoon.
5. Turn off the heat and carefully transfer the jam into the sterilised glass jars. Cool to room temperature. Seal.
Food photography, story and recipe creation by Effi Tsoukatos & Caterina Sterrantino for the Sydney Food Sisters