BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG : Roy Higgins: Australia’s Favourite Jockey by Patrick Bartley

roy-higginsThe Melbourne Spring Carnival throws up uncertainty as quickly as the odds change in the Melbourne Cup all-in market. The favourite one day, can find himself the despised outsider. Every year we play the guessing game that is the Spring Carnival.

It’s never an exact science, and in my thirty-eight years as a racing writer, I’ve seen Caulfield Cup winners and likely Melbourne Cup victors pull out an indifferent track gallop, draw a bad barrier or rain affected track as the punters watch their hard-earned go down the drain, figuratively speaking.

In the spring of 1965, the Caulfield Cup favourite was scratched the morning of, and only one man thought she’d ever make it to the first Tuesday in November. That man of course, was arguably Australia’s greatest ever jockey – Roy Higgins. I had the pleasure of working with and relying on Higgins for information during my time as a daily paper journalist, and his account of the three incredibly crucial weeks between the two Cups was pivotal to the bond between horse and jockey that would transcend Australian racing and connect with the hearts of the general public.

After nearly falling in her final lead up to the Caulfield Cup, Light Fingers’ trainer Bart Cummings had no choice but to withdraw her from Australia’s second most important handicap. Unlike humans, you can only treat horses to a certain degree. You can’t over-medicate them because they can go off their feed. Light Fingers was a small, lightly framed mare as it was and she needed all the strength she could muster to get to the Melbourne Cup. It was a balance of easing the pain with medication, but at the same time being able to work her into fitness so that she was ready for arguably the toughest race in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ironically, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t have a jockey on her back, and instead Cummings and his team had to swim her in the Maribyrnong River, hoping that those miles of swimming would translate to miles in her legs.

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Patrick Bartley

Higgins told me that during this uncertain time, where his favourite horse, who he called ‘Mother’ because of her calming nature for the other horses in the stable, that he wasn’t sure she would make it to the Cup, but he was willing to forego rides on other fancied runners in the hope that she would make it.

“There was no shortage of outside offers once Light Fingers came out of the Caulfield Cup. Other stables had written her off, but I stood my ground. She had so much to offer, I was prepared to stay with her. I knew, unlike other trainers and owners, that Bart was working around the clock. My filly’s so good that if she gets to the post she just might win and if she does it would break my heart not to be her rider.”

As history tells us, this tiny chestnut mare, who had a heart as big as Phar Lap, not only made it to the barriers, but she wore down another of Cummings’ runners who was a big, strong colt and had had a faultless preparation, called Ziema. Higgins said that because Light Fingers had been used to calm Ziema down when he was being unruly around the stable, that when the colt felt her presence, he started to slow down and wait for her, which was when she stuck her neck out and did the unthinkable.

I remember visiting Higgs’ house many times over the years, and of all the winners he had ridden, and the great races he had won, the only framed photo was of Light Fingers.

Even though that was almost forty years ago, every spring carnival tells similar tales. From Big Philou in 1969 to the Caulfield Cup’s shortest-priced favourite in forty-one years, when Maldivian played up at the start and was withdrawn thirty seconds before the gates opened, the Spring throws up things that no trainer, punter or racing journalist can prepare for, but must quickly adapt to.

Grab a copy of Roy Higgins here


roy-higginsRoy Higgins

by Patrick Bartley

Everyone loved Roy Higgins. A warm and genuine character with a great sense of humour, the boy from the bush was known as ‘The Professor’ for his freakish ability to read the track and his easy eloquence. He became a household name not just for his work in the saddle but as one of the first jockeys to embrace the media.

Higgins’ racing record was extraordinary. He rode Bart Cummings’ first Melbourne Cup winner, Light Fingers, in 1965, and was one of a handful of jockeys to win the grand slam of racing: the Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup. Over his 30-year career, Higgins clocked up 2312 wins, including 108 Group 1 races. All this, despite a never-ending battle with his weight.

Roy Higgins died in March 2014, aged 75. His televised funeral took place in the mounting yard at Flemington, a fitting tribute to the humble man who had a profound effect on horseracing for more than five decades as jockey, commentator and teacher.

This is a celebration of a great Australian, with racing royalty, friends and family sharing their stories and memories of Roy Higgins, the gentle trailblazer who touched their lives.

About the Author

Patrick Bartley is the chief racing writer at The Age. In 2013 he won his second Bert Wolfe Award, the Victoria Racing Media Association (VRMA) award for Media Excellence in Victoria. Leading up to that award, Patrick had won three consecutive VRMA awards for Best News Story. Patrick’s investigative reports with John Silvester, into Tony Mokbel’s racing interests in 2007, were recognised by many as highly influential pieces. Penguin published On the Punt, a collection of Patrick’s columns, in 2010.

Grab a copy of Roy Higgins here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Writing Season…. by Karen Hall, co-author of Wychwood

karennhallWhen I first sat down to chronicle the past two decades of our lives creating our garden at Wychwood, it never occurred to me that the actual routine of writing would weigh more heavily on my mind than the words themselves. I’ve never been short of words. More often than not I am the person who fills awkward silences with an excess of them for fear of losing the company of the person next to me. I overemphasize and use way too many adjectives, I embroider a story in the hope that it will prove much more interesting than it actually is. Words weren’t the issue.

It was the routine. My head was exploding. I’d never had to write this much before.

Do I write in the mornings or the afternoons? On the weekends when the kids are home or during the week when the house is relatively silent? If I get up to turn the coffee machine on will I be inviting Writer’s Block to rear its head? Perhaps I should squeeze in a yoga session before I start so I don’t get stiff from sitting for too long, or would it be better to wait until after I’ve done 2000 words so that I’d earned the right to free my mind? If the phone rings, do I answer it or leave it and worry I’ve offended someone by ignoring it?

In the end, I settled on mornings, after a yoga session and walking the dog. Three hours would disappear in no time, sometimes at frightening speed. There were some mornings when most of the three hours disappeared in infuriating frustration – the words wouldn’t come or those that did just weren’t right – but by and large they proved satisfyingly productive and I could close the lid on my laptop with a self-righteous snap.

In the end I did it. Way too many words of course, but once it was over I missed my newfound writing routine and was glad that finishing the first draft coincided with the days beginning to lengthen and the soil starting to warm. Before long, my laptop was forgotten as my garden beckoned.


Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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9781743360651Wychwood

by Karen Hall, Peter Cooper

The garden at Wychwood, at the foot of the Great Western Tiers in northern Tasmania, is one of the world’s most magical places. Wychwood combines Scandinavian design sensibilities with temperate-climate country-garden charm. And to top it off, the idyllic Mole Creek, which is home to brown trout and a platypus, runs through the back of the property. Wychwood commemorates a garden over 22 years in the making, brought to life by a very special family who dreamt of the simple life in Tasmania.

The book details the evolution of the garden from bare paddock to world-class attraction, with its iconic labyrinth, espaliered fruit trees, naturalistic planted beds and curved, clipped lawns. It gives the reader insight into the techniques and secrets that make the design of this garden so successful, offering inspiration and encouragement at every turn, and for every level of gardener. Peter Cooper’s beautiful and haunting photography captures how the garden has transformed with the changing seasons and settled into its surroundings.

About the Authors

Karen Hall is the co-owner of Wychwood, blogger at GardenDrum, chair of the Tasmanian Open Garden Scheme and runs the rare-plant nursery at Wychwood. Peter Cooper is the co-owner of Wychwood, freelance garden designer, photographer and truffle consultant.

Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook’s Companion, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Stephanie Alexander

author of The Cook’s Companion

Six Sharp Questions
___________

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Not a new book at all but a thorough revision of my classic and very successful The Cook’s Companion.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

I have moved house which went from being the worst possible experience to go through to the best decision I have made. I also embraced digital technology and worked with a great team to convert the full text of The Cook’s Companion to a marvellous app.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

My dad said to me! ‘ nothing or nobody is as good or as bad as they first appear’. Interesting observation but not very profound but for some reason it has stuck in my head.

Stephanie-Alexander

Author: Stephanie Alexander

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Live alone so only have to cope with myself although that is not always easy. I write best early in morning and for long stretches in the weekends.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I have been writing about food and produce and the power of the shared table for more than 35 years. Seem to have influenced the marketplace actually as the food media has just gone on expanding as have cookbooks.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only a few books with you. What do you take and why?

The cook’s Companion volume, and also the Cook’s Companion App and get them all cooking.

Stephanie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here


9781920989002The Cook’s Companion

by Stephanie Alexander

The Cook’s Companion has established itself as the kitchen ‘bible’ in over 500,000 homes since it was first published in 1996.

This 2014 revision includes two major new chapters, two expanded chapters, 70 new recipes and a complete revision of the text to reflect changes in the marketplace and new regulations. Stephanie believes that good food is essential to living well: her book is for everyone, every day. She has invaluable information about ingredients, cooking techniques and kitchen equipment, along with inspiration, advice and encouragement and close to 1000 failsafe recipes.

About the Author

For 21 years from 1976, Stephanie Alexander was the force behind Stephanie’s restaurant in Hawthorn, a landmark establishment credited with having revolutionised fine dining in Melbourne. From 1997 to 2005 Stephanie, along with several friends, ran the Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood restaurant renowned for its specialist cheese retailing. In her recently published memoir, A Cook’s Life, she recounts how her uncompromising dedication to good food has shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation.

One of Australia’s most highly acclaimed food authors, Stephanie has written fourteen books, including Stephanie’s Menus for Food Lovers, Stephanie’s Seasons and Stephanie Alexander & Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook (co-author). Her signature publication, The Cook’s Companion, has established itself as the kitchen bible in over 400 000 homes. With characteristic determination, Stephanie initiated the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in order to allow young children to experience the very things that made her own childhood so rich: the growing, harvesting, cooking and sharing of good food.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here

 

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Books… by Dee Nolan, author of A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to France

dee-nolanThere wasn’t a time when I didn’t hanker after books. I grew up seeing the deep pleasure my mother got from reading and wanted it for myself. Pocket money funded my little girl obsession with pony stories as I fell utterly under the spell of the Pullein-Thompson sisters and Pat Smythe. The English horsey world they wrote about was so far removed from my Australian farm life but I was living it in my head every time I tried to make my grumpy pony jump hay bales like the heroines did in books with stirring titles like For Want Of A Saddle. I bombarded the children’s page of the Adelaide Advertiser with my little stories and poems. Submissions deemed worthy received certificates, and a sufficient stash of certificates qualified for a book. A sort-of early Fly Buys for kids. The first book I chose was The Three Musketeers. I still have it.

Books ignited my childhood imagination, bringing the world to my bedroom, laying the foundations for a lifetime’s curiosity about faraway places and awakening a passion for the written word. I can’t be the only one to want for today’s children the best things of my own childhood so, when babies arrive, my present is a book. Of course, a very special boy born in London and named George Banjo by his homesick Australian mother, received the collected verse of his namesake along with an adorable children’s edition of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, a personal favourite since forever. It’s now four years on, and an email arrived last month with a heart-melting photo of a kindergarten class dressed as their favourite characters for Book Week. There, in between Bob The Builder and Buzz Lightyear, was George in loud striped socks, trousers rolled up and a flamboyant spotted cravat – a dead ringer, as A.B. would have said, for the Mulga Bill of the delicious Niland illustrations in what has become George’s favourite bed-time book. It was an emotional moment. I think he has caught the craze.


Dee Nolan’s A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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a-food-lover-s-pilgrimage-to-france

A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France

by Dee Nolan

Dee Nolan laces up her walking boots for more adventures of the cultural and culinary kind, this time retracing the footsteps of the early French pilgrims, who travelled to Santiago de Compostela in vast numbers. In this book, as in her previous book A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage Along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, she seamlessly weaves together her two great passions: the history and religious relics of the medieval pilgrimage and her keen appreciation of food and wine.

As Dee winds her way through the vineyards of Burgundy to the gastronomic capital of Lyon, across the vast Aubrac plateau of the Massif Central and through the fertile valleys of Quercy and Gascony, she discovers that ‘what is old is new again’ – not only are the ancient pilgrim paths enjoying a resurgence in popularity, but early farming methods are making a comeback and there’s a renewed interest in regional produce and food traditions. Travelling at ‘human pace’ reminds her of the importance of connection – to our past and present, to the land we live on and the people we meet.

This captivating book unearths numerous treasures in the French countryside, from exquisite Romanesque churches to world-renowned wine and cheese caves, colourful local customs and food experiences of both the Michelin-starred and home kitchen variety.

Dee Nolan’s A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Why I chose the chef life… by Mr Dan Hong, author of Mr Hong

danhongWriting Mr Hong gave me the opportunity to reminisce about the early stages of my career and think about exactly why I chose a life in food. Putting it all down on paper was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to think about the significant moments in my food journey that changed everything for me.

Mr Hong is full of recipes, of course, and stories about my life to date – from growing up in my mum’s Vietnamese restaurant in Cabramatta, to experimenting with supermarket staples while left to my own devices at home during high school, and later my culinary training at some of Australia’s most prestigious restaurants.

My first job was at Longrain, a wonderful place to start my journey in food, and included packing away all the fresh produce every morning, making six different curry pastes and deep-frying shallots – a great learning curve for me at that stage – and I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors throughout my career ever since Longrain.

Thinking about it, David Chang is one of my greatest food heroes because he was one of the first chefs to dare to throw out all the rules focus on one thing: deliciousness. For me, the best food is delicious, easy and fun. Couldn’t live without fish sauce! I love bold, strong flavours, freshness and balance – and most of all, I see food as something that connects people, makes them happy and can be shared with the people I love.


Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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mr-hong

Mr Hong

by Dan Hong

Eat like you never have before, with Dan Hong at the reins it will be an enjoyable ride. Dan’s appetite for rare sneakers, hip-hop and collecting cookbooks is only surpassed by his passion for food: everything from fast food to fine dining. Growing up in the suburbs of Sydney with a food-obsessed family and a mother who fell into owning a Vietnamese restaurant by chance, Dan has gone on to become a critically acclaimed chef, working at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Sydney’s Mr Wong, Ms G’s and El Loco.

Dan’s potent mix of proud heritage, technical skill and boundless enthusiasm for experimenting with big, bold, fresh flavours makes his approach to food truly unique. Mr Hong is as much an exploration of Dan’s colourful path through life as it is a beautifully illustrated book of one hundred scintillating recipes – Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, as well as fusions of the three – re-imagined and re-invigorated for a new generation of food obsessives. Feast your eyes and dig in.

About the Author

Dan Hong has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Tetsuya’s, Marque and Bentley, and his mentors include Mark Best, Brent Savage and Thomas Johns. He has opened some of Sydney’s most exciting dining destinations, including Ms G’s, El Loco and Mr Wong (honoured with a hat in its first year of business at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards) and most recently Papi Chulo, a smokehouse and grill at Manly Wharf, Sydney.

Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Why I chose the chef’s life… by Alistair Wise, co-author of Sweet Envy

alistairwiseWhy did I choose the chef’s life?

This is the question that curious onlookers ask me with gusto when they hear about the long, hard hours and miniscule pay. Some chefs say that cooking seethes through their veins, a passion passed on in childhood and set to dominate their life. For me, it was not quite like this … my early years were spent diligently packing preserving jars with apricots, squeezing muslin bags full of blackcurrants, ready to be made into this year’s batch of cordial or fizz. We’d scour the neighbours’ yards for fruit that we could trade or barter, feeding our insatiable bottling addiction.

But this early fruit-bottling obsession is not why I became a chef. As I got older, I found more foods to obsess over. Fortunately for me, cooking is a broad trade, so there is plenty to get obsessed about.

I love the drama of a commercial kitchen, full of buccaneers and pirates doing battle with waiters and waitresses whilst plating beautiful, delicious morsels, prizing gold coins from the patrons’ pockets. It’s a place where anyone can fit in if you learn to do your job well. Do the job and you will be embraced, no matter what your creed.

I love the pace – whether it be a long, unraveling mise en place list, or a board full of checks. There is electricity in the air and the energy is truly palpable.

I love the smell of food – my life would be so much less vivid without it. Pastries gently feuilletting in the oven and meat wafting in the pan; the summer smell of a fridge full of tomatoes or the delightful musty scent of a quince that tells you autumn is here.

I love the feel of food – cooking is tactile, a sensory overload. Whisking whites, standing ready to pour in the steaming hot sugar to pull together the meringue into a homogeneous mass. For some chefs, cooking is an exact science and whilst I agree there’s chemistry involved, I prefer to cook organically, embrace an inexact approach and rely upon instinct and practice to guide me.

I love the kit – last but not least, I must confess, it’s the toys. It starts small with fancy knives and water stones and moves on to thermal circulators and Paco jets and lately liquid nitrogen, followed by vintage ice cream trucks and delivery vehicles. It’s pretty awesome.

It’s true to say that in the beginning I started to cook because it was a job and it was familiar. But now it’s so much more. I am not just a chef but also a mad man who gets to live food fantasies every day.


Sweet Envy is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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sweet-envySweet Envy

by Alistair Wise & Teena Kearney-Wise

Tumble down the rabbit hole and into the wild and whimsical world of Fleur Wood, one of Australia’s leading fashion designers and an enthusiastic home cook.

Discover what inspires, motivates and sustains her, from flower-scented baths and tisanes to old-fashioned portraits, love-heart lockets and food with soul. Fleur shares her knowledge and passion for all things vintage and offers a window into the creative processes that drive her covetable collections.

Indulge your senses with fabulous fashion, cutting-edge style and plenty of mouth-watering recipes in this visual feast from the immensely creative and talented Fleur Wood.

Sweet Envy is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Move over Breaking Bad, welcome to Baking Bad!

This week’s Booktopia Book Trailer of the Week goes to Walter Wheat’s methmerising new cookbook book Baking Bad. Cupcakes like you’ve never seen them before.

Grab a copy of Baking Bad here

baking-badBaking Bad

by Walter Wheat

You’re hooked on Breaking Bad.

You’ve got high on the escapades of Walt and Jessie.

Now it’s come to an end and you’re missing your latest fix.

We have just the drug for you: Baking Bad. 98% pure but 100% edible and delicious, Baking Bad is a spoof recipe book created in homage to the TV series that we STILL can’t stop talking about. A cookbook for fans of the greatest cult show ever produced (and no gasmask is required).

From ‘Ricin Crispie Treats’ to Walt’s patented ‘Meth Muffins’ (complete with blue sugar crystals), ‘Apple and Banana Hank-cakes’ to ‘Chocolate Gustavo Fingers’ and ‘Heisen-batten-Burg Cake’ (topped with a licorice hat), this book comes with so many in-jokes that you’ll need a fake carwash just to process them. So, get your protective gear on and your tool kit ready. Because, as Jessie would say, ‘Let’s Cook. B*tch’.

Grab a copy of Baking Bad here

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