Attending the Sunshine Coast’s biggest outdoor picnic at Happy Valley recently are MasterChef stars George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan with Krystal Reynolds, left, and Debbie O’Keefe.
Attending the Sunshine Coast’s biggest outdoor picnic at Happy Valley recently are MasterChef stars George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan with Krystal Reynolds, left, and Debbie O’Keefe. Cade Mooney

Get the basics right

BOOM boom, shake the room. It's not something you want in your kitchen, unless it's coming from George Calombaris.

But let's face it, disasters happen more often than not when you're experimenting with some fabulous recipe you just picked up in trying to impress guests.

MasterChef frontman Gary Mehigan and sidekick George are now promoting their new book Cook With Us.

"The book is all about techniques. It seemed like an obvious thing to do - a nice follow-up to our first book together, Your Place or Mine, where the focus was ingredients," Gary said.

"It was a response to master- classes which we do every week on MasterChef.

"The simplest things are the stuff people come up always in the street and say, 'Thank you so much'."

Gary said kitchen basics were the platform from which cooking grew, and he shared a few handy hints for home cooks wanting to push their culinary boundaries.

"If you don't know them (basics), it gets very difficult," he said.

"You get little roadblocks because you can't make a pastry or can't whip an egg white properly, can't make a meringue, you don't know how to boil sugar.

"But once you've mastered it and learnt the identification points, you go, 'Wow, that's easy'.

"It takes your cooking up a little notch ... What we've learnt from the Junior MasterChefs, if you have no fear, it's amazing what you can achieve."

Once you've nailed the basics, Gary suggests keeping your menu simple, as many home cooks get flustered when taking on too many dishes at once.

"If you're trying something new, don't feel like you've got to make 20 things. Keep it simple," he said.

"You don't have to be a legend in the kitchen to feed your family well or put a smile on people's faces."

While Gary has made a flourishing career out of his passion for cooking, he still enjoys whipping up dinner for his family.

"Coming into summer now, I'm a big fan of fish on the barbecue," he said.

"I smash fennel, some cumin seeds, a bit of chilli, some salt in the mortar and pestle, sprinkle it over a snapper and chuck it on the grill with some olive oil and it always just tastes brilliant.

"There's little things you can do that will spark something up. If you put a chicken breast on the barbecue, chop some parsley, grate some lemon juice, half a clove of garlic, little bit of olive oil.

"You spread that over the top as it comes off the barbecue and it just goes 'wow'. It took you from boring old chicken breast into something that's zesty and herby and tastes beautiful."


Crisp-skinned barramundi

Serves 4 as a main


  • 4 x 200g barramundi fillets (about 1.5cm thick), skin-on
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 quantity warm chorizo, caper and anchovy vinaigrette (optional)
  • Thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley and oregano sprigs, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 180C (200C conventional)
  2. Remove the fish from the fridge 10 minutes before cooking. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Season the skin with salt.
  3. Place the oil in an overproof, heavy-based, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the fish in the pan, skin-side down. Gently press on each fillet with a spatula for 20-30 seconds to crisp the skin evenly.
  4. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook the fish for 5-6 minutes or until almost cooked through. Remove the pan from the oven and place over medium-high heat. Working quickly, carefully turn the fish over and add the butter to the pan. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the lemon thyme (if using), then gently swirl the pan until the butter turns nut-brown and the fish is just cooked. Remove from heat. Spoon the butter over the fish to baste several times.
  5. Serve skin-side up on warmed plates, with the pan juices spooned over each fillet. Spoon chorizo vinaigrette around plates (if using). Scatter with parsley/oregano sprigs.

Recipes courtesy of Cook With Us

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