Southern comforts: Skye Gyngell shows how to add Australian flavour to any British table

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Feeling downcast after a cold, wet winter at Petersham Nurseries, I was looking forward to my two weeks at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. As soon as we stepped off of the plane and into the warm and balmy night, the scent of gardenia in the air and the Southern Cross above us, I immediately relaxed and felt excited to be back in my native land.

Our journey continued inland to The Lake House Hotel, a beautiful country retreat perched on the edge of a lake in Daylesford. It wasn't until the following morning that I was able to see quite how beautiful our location was; Daylesford was right in the middle of its autumn. There were quince and apple trees heavy with fruit, huge old walnut trees heaving with the first crop of creamy flavoured nuts and hedgerows full of damsons. Perfect plump tomatoes were just coming to the end of their season and, unusually, peach trees were still bearing fruit.

We were set to work immediately, starting with two banquets for 120 people. It was a collaboration between myself and the well-regarded restaurant at The Lake House, which is headed by owner and chef Alla Wolf-Tasker. Then it was off to Melbourne to give two master classes to 200 people, each consisting of two tasting dishes. The first was a complete disaster as I was excruciatingly nervous and it ended before I finished the hazelnut tart dessert. I had to mutter an apology to the audience. Luckily, the next day I pulled myself together and got the hang of the hugely expensive stove and audio equipment, finishing the dishes with time to spare and, I hope, redeeming myself.

The fortnight went by in a haze of far too much eating, seeing old friends and making new ones. Melbourne is a lovely city – a more compact, intimate version of New York, I thought. If I hadn't been missing my children I think I might have not made the plane home. The night we left I took a taxi to St Kilda beach to walk on the sand and dip my toes in the warm Pacific Ocean. As darkness fell I took one last look at that beautiful, vast southern sky.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627

Carpaccio of hiramasa king fish

Hiramasa is a much-prized fish not available to us here; it has a wonderful delicate texture that is similar to tuna, once cooked. In its purest, freshest form you can't beat it served raw. There is no direct substitute available in the United Kingdom – but sushi-grade tuna or the very freshest wild halibut will work too.

Serves 4

80g raw fish per person
40ml best quality extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of half a lemon
1 red chilli, finely sliced, with seeds
A selection of micro herbs – we used celery and rocket, and micro-herb production is growing in popularity. Ask your greengrocer
A pinch of sea salt

Slice the fish as finely as possible, using a sharp knife and working with the grain of the flesh. Then divide the sliced fish among four flat, white plates and add enough of the olive oil to cover each portion.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish and then scatter the sliced chilli and herbs. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Rump of lamb with roasted beetroot and swiss chard

This dish would be just as good eaten here in Britain at this time of the year as it was in Melbourne's autumn. Small, sweet beetroots have the earthy taste of the land they come from and work beautifully with the meat. The lamb is salted 24 hours before cooking to give it extraordinary tenderness and flavour.

Serves 4

4 rumps of lamb
4tbsp salt
12 small beetroots
The juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 bunch of swiss chard
A drizzle of olive oil to dress the chard

Trim the lamb of most of its fat on the top side, season with a tablespoon of salt each, cover and place in the fridge. Leave for 24 hours. Just before cooking, remove from fridge, brush off excess salt and set aside to return the meat to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Scrub the beetroots but do not peel or top and tail as the skin is delicious. Place the beetroots in a roasting tray, squeeze the lemon juice over and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast on the middle shelf for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and spoon the balsamic vinegar over while the beetroots are still warm.

Trim the chard and remove the fibrous green leaves from the central stalk. Slice the white stalk into one-inch pieces and place in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Cook for two minutes then add the leaves and cook for a further one and a half minutes. Drain and dress with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Season the lamb with pepper but not salt and cook on a hot grill without turning for four minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for a further three to four minutes for lamb that is pink but not rare, a little longer if you prefer your meat medium. Remove and rest in a warm place for 10 minutes before cutting each rump into three slices.

Warm the beetroots and chard through in the oven and put on to a plate with the lamb. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and serve.

Alla's crumbed poached eggs with warm red peppers

A perfect starter or light meal.

Serves 4

For the red-pepper salad

1 red pepper
1tbsp small black olives, roughly chopped
1tbsp sherry vinegar
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the poached eggs

1.5l water
1tsp white-wine vinegar
4 very fresh organic free-range eggs

For the crumb

Plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Soft white breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

To serve

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

Scorch the red pepper over a flame to char, then place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm. As it cools the skin will steam off. Scrape out seeds and chop into long strips. Place in a bowl with the olives, parsley, vinegar and olive oil. Season and set aside to marinate.

Bring the water to the boil and reduce to a simmer, add the vinegar and poach the eggs for two to three minutes, until whites are set. Remove the eggs, drain, then gently roll in flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set. Heat vegetable oil and deep fry eggs for one to two minutes so yolk is still runny and the breadcrumbs golden. To serve, put peppers on four plates, lay the eggs on top, dust with sweet paprika.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer on the best food festivals...

The Real Food Festival, 24-27 April, www.realfoodfestival.co.uk

Over 500 small producers from the UK and Europe converge on Olympia

Mid Wales Mouthful Food Festival, 26-27 April, www.wonderwoolwales.co.uk

Local producers, demonstrations and children's activities

A Taste of the Dales, 3-5 May, Leyburn, England, www.dalesfestivaloffood.org

More than 80 local producers; as well as farming displays and demonstrations

Wholly Herbs, 17-18 May; and The Totally Tomato Show, 6-7 September, Chichester, www.westdean.org.uk

Celebrating the history and variety of herbs and tomatoes

EatBute08, 23-24 May, Isle of Bute

For more information, contact Mairi McVey on 01700 503 877

Salone del Gusto, 18-23 October, Turin, Italy, www.slowfood.com

The biennial event of the international Slow Food movement

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