Kitchen spy: Philippa Sibley

These days Australia's ''dessert queen'', Philippa Sibley, rolls her eyes at the mention of her hugely successful Snickers dessert, which featured on MasterChef. As a chef with nearly 30 years' service at lauded kitchens in London, France and Melbourne (est est est, Luxe, Ondine and Albert Street Food & Wine), the pastry pigeonholing tends to wear thin.

In between dreaming up monthly menu concepts for her latest venture, Prix Fixe in Melbourne's CBD, Sibley shares her home kitchen with 15-year-old son Donovan, three cats and her ''crazy'' poodle, Molly.

The staples

My pantry There's always lots of tea, heaps of nuts, seasonal fruit, baked beans in ''halfie'' tins (for the perfect portion) and lots of Sirena tuna for couscous salads. One of my absolute bêˆte noirs is rice, so I love this pre-cooked microwaveable Tilda basmati. It just tumbles out and doesn't get gluggy. Other staples include Cobram Estate olive oil (the classic flavour extra virgin is really good for cooking because it doesn't burn), Campbell's chicken stock, spices, risotto rice and Jazz apples - the perfect size and always really crunchy. And I like Murray River salt because it's Australian, relatively inexpensive and tastes great.

My fridge We always have zucchini, spinach, cheese and tomatoes in the fridge for Donovan to make olive oily-garlicky kind of Mediterranean ''spoon food''. I love Burgen rye bread for breakfast (it has a lovely, dark molasses flavour), which I have with avocado, lemon and maybe some ricotta, and I like Lurpak spreadable butter - I can't stand rancid, yellow butters. You'll always find Vegemite, loads of vegies (most of which get chucked, unfortunately), and I keep plenty of bolognese, soups and spanakopita handy in the freezer.

I'm cooking

Last night's dinner was a big chunky soup from my own cookbook: barley, pumpkin, leek and pancetta with parmesan. But I replaced the barley with buckwheat, which I have a bit of a thing for at the moment. Generally, when I cook at home, I make one-bowl-wonders.

My inspiration

It's incredibly hard to put your finger on. Last night I woke up because I couldn't sleep and wrote down a whole bunch of ideas for revisiting some of my signature dishes. And sometimes it's discovering new ingredients, as I did recently with amazing Japanese pressed four-leaf-clovers and edible wrappers from a company called the Good Grub Hub.

Most unforgettable meal

When Anthony Bourdain came to Melbourne to shoot his A Cook's Tour series [in 2001], we had a big crab feast at the Flower Drum, dinner at Ondine and a crayfish and steak barbecue here. He's a hilarious, Simpsons-quoting, pop culture dude. I'll never forget him telling us that eating the still-beating heart of a cobra was ''like eating an angry oyster''.

Secret vice

Smoked or tamari-roasted almonds with really good chocolate. I don't have a sweet tooth but if it's there, chocolate only lasts a couple of days in the house.

My toolkit

I'm a real stickler for super-sharp knives so I've got a combination of Wusthof Trident, Sabatier and Global; there's my chintzy Iittala Marimekko serving bowls (I collect them) and I don't know where we'd be without Microplanes (just be sure to put them back in their plastic sleeves so they don't get blunt). And I use a DeLonghi Nespresso machine for my morning coffee. The trick is to double up and do two shots.


Recipe stalwart

Clafoutis. It's the best dessert ever: a batter of eggs, cream, nut meal and fruits (traditionally cherries). Bung it together in 10 minutes, bake it and serve warm with ice-cream. It's tender and delicious and one of those things you can pull out of your hat.


My late father's pepper grinders. I designed them and he made them for est est est and Luxe. He was an amazing wood turner and he used authentic Peugeot mechanisms. Arranged all together, they look like a little family.


Madame Flavour tea, blended by a woman from Mount Best in Gippsland, Victoria. It's delicious and one of those teas you can keep topping up with hot water.

I'm drinking

Rosé´ at the moment. I'm not a big red drinker because of the histamines and I get bored of drinking white after a couple of glasses. On a Saturday night our bartender at work will make a special Negroni for me - I love bitter. Otherwise, I drink one strong latte a day and tea: a very strong Twinings English Breakfast, always two bags, with milk.