Kitchen spy: Maeve O'Meara

Journalist Maeve O'Meara has co-authored 12 books and takes food lovers on culinary adventures here and overseas. When she returns, she enjoys cooking with exotic ingredients picked up on her travels. O'Meara lives on Sydney's north shore with her three teenage children. The fourth Food Safari series is screening on SBS.

My toolkit

Korean super-long washing up gloves, Laguiole steak knives, tajine, mandolin, mortar and pestle, rotary parmesan grater.


My pantry Olive oil - I've got a range, from the classic 4-litre cold-pressed Cretan oil, which I decant to smaller bottles, to a bottle of Sicilian unfiltered olive oil, which is green and full of flavour and perfect for salads and finishing dishes. Balsamic, red wine and white balsamic vinegars. Bagoong shrimp paste, there's a lovely Filipino pork adobo by Ricky Ocampo that my daughter Scarlett adores and it's featured in the new series. Chickpeas - I've learnt the 9mm from the Ord River in the Kimberley are the Rolls-Royce of chickpeas - creamy and nutty. We seem to always be making hummus. Roasted eggplant in a jar - great for quick babaghanoush.

My spice cupboard Iranian saffron, zaatar, sumac, Spanish paprika, nigella seeds, Peruvian chilli pastes.

My fridge Pepe Saya butter, goat's milk and cow's milk, feta cheeses and haloumi - so easy to slice and cook on a pan when people pop in.

Food discovery

There are so many being collected all the time as I go exploring. Turkish black mulberry jam, great with plain yoghurt; delicate rose-petal jam; and a thick chunky Syrian fig jam, which is fabulous on toasted pide. Vietnamese rice paper with black sesame seeds, perfect with green papaya salad, which features in the Lao episode of the new series. Pishmaniye, Turkish fairy floss, is great to add to a dessert platter and fun, too.

I'm drinking

Irish and French breakfast teas, Mariage Freres Marco Polo tea, green gunpowder with fresh mint (Moroccan tea). The best coffee beans were discovered years ago and never wavered - Di Lorenzo coffee, which is full bodied and freshly roasted. I love wines from north-east Victoria, the Italian-style wines that go so well with food.

Saturday night tipple Mumm champagne.

My garden

I love picking fresh herbs for cooking. We have sage, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil and mint as well as a curry leaf tree, pomegranate and a kaffir lime.


Most memorable meal

It was with a wonderful woman called Roma Puertolano, who lives at Chilli Creek, north of Broome. She used Asian sauces, ginger and tomato to make the best chilli mud crab, so sweet and delicious, all cooked over the wood fire at her camp.


Many many cookbooks. I treasure my signed copy of Charmaine Solomon's Encyclopedia of Asian Food and my falling-apart Maureen Simpson books with family staples that always work. My favourites tell a story and echo a culture, not just recipes.

Last dinner at home

Sheftalia, which is pork mince with fresh herbs cooked on the barbecue with bastourma sausages; haloumi with lemon and served with ajvar - a capsicum relish from Macedonia; a salad inspired by the talented Ismail Tosun - cauliflower chopped finely and dry toasted on a pan; I add ras el hanout spices to this, then mix with pomegranate seeds (my favourite new ingredient), handfuls of chopped mint and parsley, toasted pine nuts and soaked currants.