The Atrium event space at The Grounds of Alexandria was the setting of my latest lunch, where I enjoyed caterer Simmone Logue's new country-inspired dishes that warmed the soul on a winter's day.
Simmone, a country girl at heart, grew up in the NSW town of Muswellbrook where a passion for cooking grew. Spending her time as a child picking fruit, fossicking for mushrooms and fishing for crayfish, she gained valuable skills from her grannies who had their own recipes and tips to share.
From humble beginnings, she moved to the city, baked a cake and sold it to her local cafe. In 1990, she turned her skills into a cake business of her own before branching out with a shop in Balmain. In this inner-west suburb of Sydney, she went on to create ready-to-eat meals, followed by further diversification into airline catering and the gourmet grocery sector. A best-selling book also followed and although she has come a long way, it hasn't changed her commitment to using fresh seasonal produce to make beautiful wholesome tasty and nourishing feel-good food that brings joy.
It was with joy too that I received the invite to the lunch in celebration of the launch of a new range of products from Simmone and what better place to do that than at the always beautiful Grounds of Alexandria. The Atrium is a lovely space in itself with a country vibe of hanging plants, exposed brick walls and wooden furniture setting the tone. The mood was further set with table adornments of flower pots and candles. All going hand in hand with a country-inspired lunch.
We were greeted with champagne and, after some mingling, sat down to a menu of entrees, mains and sides with a selection of sparklings, red and white wines, and beer. Large share plates of food arrived at tables, starting with the likes of carrot and coriander falafel, caramelised pumpkin with pine nuts, vegetarian kibbeh with eggplant and oven-roasted cauliflower, all accompanied with dips, sauces and spices. A healthy and delicious assortment of entrees that was just the beginning of our fulfilment.
The mains consisted of roast organic chicken with roasted roots and potato gratin, caramelised butternut pumpkin risotto with pine nuts and buffalo yoghurt, and Greek-style slow cooked lamb shoulder with peperonata, tzatziki, lemon and oregano. In addition to these, there were large sides of chunky potato wedges covered in parmesan and parsley with truffle aioli, seasonal tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, and butter lettuce with grilled zucchini and avocado dressed in sherry vinaigrette. Mouth-watering to say the least. It was a wonderful lunch, showcasing Simmone's country flavours.
Our bellies were full and, lucky for us, dessert came in a box as a takeaway. The strawberry sponge cake and iced cupcake became dinner for me with one chocolate cup left for morning tea the next day. All delicious, but that's not all.
We also took home a goodie bag that included an apron and some of Simmone's new product range of soups, pastries and slow cooked meals. From roasted pumpkin and leek soup to chicken and leek pies, leek and Gruyere cocktail quiches, and a roast chicken meal with herbs de Provence and roasted potatoes with glazed carrots, they all look good (awaiting my indulgence over the next few days).
This new range of heart-warming meals is an expansion of her collection across the Eastern seaboard of Australia and Simmone has partnered with Woolworths to bring them to you. Look out for her products on the shelves of your local store. Her food is amazing and all of it is tested to ensure it stays true to original recipes. If you can't find Simmone's products in your local store, head to her website and order online.
Simmone, a country girl with city style, is an inspiration to others on what one can achieve through passion and commitment. She continues to evolve too, no more so a key to success than in today's economic climate. Her future plans lie in creating a cooking school at her farm wedding venue Essington Park, that she shares with her twin Joanna, in Oberon. Keep an eye out for this on her website as it will make for a great country escape where you can learn new skills and cooking tips with onsite accommodation provided. In the meantime, give her products a try. In addition to her new range, you'll find everything from muffins to gorgeous wedding cakes, cocktail rolls and arancini with various ingredients and flavours.