Bondi Beach locals & friends Joanna Cooper & Vanessa Rowe pair up to publish Our Tamarama Kitchen, a new cookbook brimming with easy, healthy, delicious recipes, offering a unique insight into the coveted Australian lifestyle.
In my experience, many Australians foster a healthy tendency to down play their friends’ achievements and strengths. I’d go as far as saying that it’s a social norm entrenched in the Australian psyche. For example, I learnt from a young age that It’s “un-Australian” to talk about your achievements or to “toot your own horn”. This norm applies, in particular, to women and is sometimes referred to as The Tall Poppy Syndrome and, according to Dr Helen Troncoso, in the United States it’s known as Crab in a Bucket.
After chatting with Jo and Ness recently about what motivated and enabled them to design, create, write, photograph and self-publish Our Tamarama Kitchen, I realised that what their particular group of friends has created is an informal accelerator start-up program: supporting each others’ business plans, commercial ideas, creative passions, fledgling and established businesses. In this case, it was Alison Chow (I wrote about here), a mutual friend of Jo and Ness, who suggested we meet. And it was Jo’s family and friends, whose love of her cooking & classes, who spurred her on to publish the cookbook. The network came full circle as both ladies spoke to me enthusiastically of their other friends’ businesses and brands and showcased a few in the gorgeous photos below, including jewellery from Siobhan Way, a Kirrily Johnston cape and a Coco Ribbon gilet.
As I witnessed the championing of, not only each others’ strengths but also their own, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. With recipes and words by Jo and photography and design by Ness, Our Tamarama Kitchen is a celebration of food, happiness and health as well as friendship, collegiality and community. Perhaps poppies are set to make a comeback?
An ex-banking commercial lawyer with a Masters in International Politics and Human Rights and mother of three, Jo was born in Hong Kong before moving to Australia for school.
Her modern Australian recipes draw inspiration from the traditional eastern diet. With flavour and freshness paramount, Jo sources local & organic produce from the Bondi Farmers Markets. She explained that the dish most evocative of her childhood is the traditional Cantonese recipe of steamed whole snapper (page 133). She used to follow her mother through the wet markets in Hong Kong, helping her to select the fish with the clearest eyes (an indication of freshness) before watching her cook the meat in sizzling peanut oil and dress it with ginger, shallots and chilli – creating a simple, clean, delicious flavour. Yum!
A fellow West Australian with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and mother of two, Ness moved to Sydney with a successful web-development company during the .com boom. Although photography formed part of her degree, it was the diagnosis of her coeliac condition, and the realisation that toast & Vegemite would be forever contraband, which ignited her interest in food photography and her blog – The Low Flying Duck. Photography commissions soon started rolling in.
Ness’ evocative food images decorate the pages of Our Tamarama Kitchen alongside incredible photos of Bondi Beach and other local beaches. The Lunar Eclipse over Bondi on page 105 and the breaching whales on page 141 are two particularly stunning examples. Our Tamarama Kitchen would be quite at home on a teak coffee table, as well as a kitchen counter.
Quick and easy recipes from Our Tamarama Kitchen
“But I have no time to cook!!” Yup, I hear you! For those of us who have little time to spend in the kitchen, Jo and Ness have it covered with the Monday to Thursday dinner section of the cookbook. Most recipes can be quickly prepared and enjoyed over a few nights and are perfect to take to work the next day. Jo explained that her recipes aim to inspire rather than prescribe, encouraging you to be creative with whatever you have (or don’t have) in the pantry. And Ness happily reported that all the recipes are either gluten free, or can be made gluten free.
Here are a few recipes that caught my eye:
- Red chilli con carne (page 86)
- Brown rice with tuna (page 68)
- Lamb shank and pearly barley soup (page 98)
Kick those clean eating goals out of the park by whipping up some “Addictive chocolate raw bars” (page 197) on a Sunday and enjoy them at your desk during the week instead of a Snickers from the vending machine.
As part of the launch of the cookbook, Jo and Ness are taking the opportunity to draw readers’ attention to Hagar, an international a charity both ladies are passionate about. Hagar works to “restore to wholeness the lives of women and children in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Vietnam that have been torn apart by human rights abuse.”
Ness & Jo’s chic, laid back Sydney style
Living on the same street in Tamarama, Jo and Ness share a large portion of their wardrobes (the dream!). Their blended style is laid back, yet effortlessly chic with their staples being classic pieces from French designers Isabel Marant and Vanessa Bruno, and local labels Jac & Jack, Bassike and Scanlan Theodore. The ladies’ hero piece for Autumn/Winter is a pair of leather trousers. I second that.
Hot tip! According to Ness, the Scanlan Theodore crepe jacket is key to maintaining a polished look whilst travelling because the material doesn’t crease. Win! Ness also has a penchant for kicks including Y3, Spring Court and her new pink Reeboks – she wouldn’t tell me how many pairs she owns!
If you would like to receive a copy of the Our Tamarama Kitchen Addictive Chocolate Raw Bars recipe straight to your inbox, just sign up to the irislillian.com mailing list and follow @irislillian and @ourtamaramakitchen on Instagram. Easy as!
Elissa was generously gifted a copy of Our Tamarama Kitchen.