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Cooking with Justine Schofield this summer – what’s on the menu?

by Yvette Maurice

Justine Schofield starred in the inaugural episode of MasterChef and won everyone’s hearts with her accessible yet unique cuisine. With a French mother and Australian father, Justine was introduced to classic cooking at an early age.

With Christmas just around the corner, we thought we’d have a chat with Justine about what she’s cooking up this season and how she and her partner Ten News anchor Matt Doran are planning on celebrating.

What are you going to be doing to take a break this summer?  Are you going away?

Take a break? I’ve actually just had a break.  I went recently to China and Thailand for a month. My partner was working over there so I was lucky enough to eat my way around China and Thailand, which was awesome.

So I did have a few weeks off then and it’s just been busy ever since.  It’s nonstop. When I get an opportunity, I’ll definitely go overseas. I went to Byron too for a little bit and I’ve got this beautiful life where it’s been absolutely hectic for two months nonstop.


Justine on the set of her TV show Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield

In your downtime, when you finally get a day or even half a day to relax, what do you like to do?

It sounds so boring and so cliché, but I do actually just love to just cook at home! I just cook really simple, basic food, good spaghetti bolognaise or schnitzel and parmigiana, all the comfort food that I love that sometimes I don’t get to do when I’m doing catering or food demonstrations.

If I get a Saturday off, going to the market is just the ultimate pastime for me, just go and see fresh tomatoes and all sorts of things. I love having friends over and doing a dinner party to relax.  And of course, the beach – You can’t forget the beach!

What’s the best thing about summer in Australia?

Fresh, fresh seafood.  We’ve got awesome seafood in Australia.  I love lighting the barbecue and cooking it simply with fresh lemon and vinaigrettes on the side.  I think with summer, it’s always entertaining.

So it’s cooking on the barbecue, keeping it simple, having friends around. I also like to get in the car and go an hour or two away and find I’m on a beautiful beachside location that’s out of the city. We might rent a little house, and just have an absolute ball for the weekend.  I think that’s just the ultimate for me.


Fresh Barbecued Seafood

So do you have any particular holiday traditions in your family?

It’s always at mum’s house and we’re quite a small family as her family is in Europe.  It’s usually around five or eight of us and we always, always, always start very French style.  So even it’s still hot, it always foie gras and champagne to start with.

If you go to France, you would always have foie gras as a starter at Christmas or on Christmas Eve. As well as that, we always have copious amounts of oysters and we never had a traditional Aussie barbecue.

The Aussie style is usually with ham, turkey and all the sides in the middle of the table.  At Mum’s house, it’s very course by course.

We start with the foie gras, then the seafood, and then a meat dish will come out, and then salads then the cheese board will come out. After that it’s dessert and it never ends basically! We’ll be eating all day until the night.  Then we start again at night!


Justine’s cooking is influenced by her French heritage

Does you family have any unique ways to celebrate?

Gosh!  Not really.  We’re pretty simple when it comes that, but I tell you what, when my partner comes over, he always gets shocked.  Because the idea of having goose liver as an entree, as a delicacy, he just can’t get his head around that!

What are you going be cooking this Christmas?

Because Dad is as Aussie as it comes, he always asks me to do a sneaky ham on the side.

My mum would always say, “Ham!  Why would you have ham on Christmas?”  Having a French background, ham is just an everyday thing – that you put in your sandwich.  She just can’t get her head around it, but I always bring a ham and I always get in trouble, but dad loves it because he can eat it for a month afterwards.

If someone is completely clueless about cooking, what would you suggest is a good dish for them to get started with?

Festivities can be a little bit daunting when cooking for a lot of people.  I always say you never fail with seafood.  We’ve got great seafood in Australia.  Get some fresh seafood and show it off.  And you can show it off by just putting it with a few vinaigrettes.

Know how to make a cocktail of sorts.  Know how to make a mignonette sauce which is a really – It sounds fancy, but it’s actually just vinegar, red wine vinegar and French shallots, which you can get everywhere these days, to go with the oysters.  Little things like that always work or even a little Asian dressing.

There’s so many great recipes out there that you can just whip up and that you can do ahead of time.  When it comes to meat, there’s nothing there’s the good old ham.  Putting a ham in the oven is actually not as complicated as people think.  Because it is so large, it looks scary.  But two hours in the oven and it’s done, a really simple sweet marinade to go on top on it, brown sugar and orange and cloves, all those Christmas-y flavours that we always associate with.


Justine uses fresh ingredients to recreate her version of a classic Christmas ham

Whacking them in a pot and letting that bubble away, basting a ham and putting it in the oven is really easy.  And if you’re not having 20 people over, the butchers are so good.  They’ve got smaller cuts and half cuts.  You can still have that really nice whole feel and that taste with that glaze by getting a smaller cut and it’s really, really easy to do.  It’s just monitoring it in the oven, making sure it doesn’t burn because of the sugar.

Taking yourself back to when you were a little child, what’s the very first thing you ever remember cooking properly?

I’ll never forget this – My teacher in Year Four or Year Five wouldn’t believe what I told her in class, that, “I made lasagne last night.”

She said, “Oh. You mean you helped Mum.”

“No,” I said, “I made it from scratch.”

From the bolognaise sauce, to the béchamel sauce and the layers – I did the lot. She didn’t believe me, so I had to prove her wrong.  I mastered the lasagne and I remember cooking it from the scratch with no one helping me just to prove to my teacher at the time that it can be done alone without Mum’s help.


Justine’s Lasagne. Mastered to perfection.

I was just obsessed.  I remember sitting on a kitchen bench watching mum and my grandma like a hawk when she’d come to Australia from France. The smells would really get me every single time. I wanted to know how they got that perfect result at the end.

There are always little tricks that mums and grandmas do that you need to watch from the beginning- you won’t ever get that through a recipe.  Another thing that I loved to cook as a child was a béarnaise sauce.

It seems hard, but once you get the gist of it, it’s actually really easy.  As a 12 year old I wanted to nail the béarnaise – it’s not the easiest sauce to do at the beginning.  But once you get it, it’s really amazing.

What are some of your plans for 2015?

Look, we’ve just got the go ahead.  We’re doing Everyday Gourmet again – we’re now up to season five.  Would you believe?

I’m also considering a book – it’s now time.  But because I write all my own recipes it’s a lot of work.  I’ve just done a job with New Caledonia which I’m so excited about.  I love the island so I just couldn’t say no!

I just went over there to film, and enjoyed the beautiful seafood. The food over there is just incredible. It has a fusion of island food with French influence.  I have the best life in the world, because it’s always revolving around food and that’s the only place I want to be.  I’ve always got food on my mind.  If I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about what to feed others.

Want more Justine Schofield recipes? 

Justine’s awesome website Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield can teach almost anyone to be a great chef! It has links to all the great recipes she cooks on her show and information as to where you can find her books and videos. Go to Justine’s website here.

 (All images from Justine’s website)

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