Stephanie Clifford-Smith

Monica Trapaga in her Sydney kitchen. Click for more photos

Kitchen spy: Monica Trapaga

Monica Trapaga in her Sydney kitchen. Photo: Marco Del Grande

She's a jazz singer, former Play School presenter, vintage homewares retailer and the author of two cookbooks. Her first book, She's Leaving Home, is a collection of family recipes compiled when her daughter Lil Tulloch moved out of home. In her second book, A Bite of the Big Apple, which she wrote with Tulloch, Trapaga writes of her love of New York, where she has an apartment, and spends as much time as work and family will allow. She divides her time between Manhattan and her very New York-style warehouse conversion home in Sydney's inner west.

The staples

In my pantry

There are always lots of nuts, rosemary salted almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and interesting grains, oats, polenta and semolina. Cans of chickpeas, diced tomatoes and beans of all descriptions, brown rice, Arborio rice [for risotto] and Calasparra rice [for paella], olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and peanut oil, Vita-Weats, cereal and water crackers or lavoche bread and a jar of vanilla bean paste.

My fridge

Fresh vegies, shelled peas, corn on the cob, spinach, rhubarb, asparagus, figs, lemons, oranges and peppers (capsicums and chillies), fresh herbs - basil, parsley, rosemary, sage and marjoram. There's also lots of butter for baking, barbecue sauce, pickles, gourmet jams, chilli jam, S & W mayonnaise, ginger beer, milk, cream, cream cheese, parmesan and manchego cheese for eating with quince paste and a spare bottle of French bubbly.

Favourite utensil

I have an enamel pot that my grandmother grabbed when her house was set on fire in the Philippines in World War II and my T.G. Green crockery.

My tool kit

A good chopping board, a seasoned cast-iron frying pan, sharp knife, mortar and pestle, a heavy-based Le Creuset casserole dish with lid, a good vintage egg beater [her large collection hangs from the kitchen ceiling], salt and pepper grinder, zester, grater, wooden spoons, a double boiler, great big pasta pot, pasta machine, colander and my coffee machine. In New York, I have an industrial KitchenAid that I am in love with. One of my most treasured pieces is a Victorian dinner set by John Maddock. It's bone china at its best and I keep adding to it so I have a very extensive dinner service. I love to use it as it makes any food look fabulous.

I'm drinking

For my morning coffee I warm half a cup of milk in the microwave and add a shot of espresso from the Nespresso machine. I always use low-fat milk, which is not my choice but my husband's.

Saturday night tipple

Tanqueray gin and Indian tonic water garnished with lemon.

Most memorable meal

It was at Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan. The chef, Danny Meyer, is a genius. They bring you a menu which just has four columns of ingredients, which can be sweet, savoury, whatever. You pick four things and they're served to you some time during the evening. I think we had about 30 tiny courses. One I recall was something that looked like hot-pink lollipops; they were actually goat's cheese rolled in beetroot dust. Fantastic. They even give you a jar of their home-made granola to take home for breakfast the next morning.

Inspiration

My inspiration has always come from my travels. I have met extraordinary people and eaten amazing food that I have then tried to recreate, not always successfully. Outdoor farmers' markets always inspire me. I am always influenced by what's in season.

Last dinner at home

I made my pulled-pork sliders and an amazing coleslaw. It has fennel bulb, carrot, red cabbage, apple, mint and shallots, dressed in a citrusy mayonnaise. We ate it on the rooftop with the sun going down. It transported me back to New York.

Secret vice

Dark chocolate in many forms for baking and nibbling. In my wine fridge there is a two-kilogram box of crystalised oranges in dark chocolate.