Inside Darren Purchese's kitchen

Luck brought British-born pastry chef Darren Purchese to Australia when he filled in for a chef at a Brisbane Masterclass Weekend, in 2004. There he met chef Cath Claringbold, his future wife. Since then Purchese has worked at several restaurants as a pastry chef, including Melbourne's Vue de Monde and Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House. These days he and Claringbold live in Toorak and devote their time to running Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, a cake and dessert store in Melbourne's South Yarra.  

The staples 

My pantry:

I like Ortiz anchovies for salads and pastas, Mr Wilkinson's Brown Sauce (a must with a bacon sandwich), Cobram Estate EVO Hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil for salads, pastas and roast potatoes and Rustichella D'Abruzzo penne or pennine rigate for quick pastas. I always have oranges (for juicing), limes (for squeezing on avocado and Vegemite on toast) and lemons (for making homemade lemonade and lifting salads and vegies).

My fridge

There's always Meredith goat's cheese, Vegemite, cornichons, which I have with cheese and in salads, fresh herbs and McClure's Pickles from Brooklyn, New York (great in baguettes with smoked wagyu, rocket and Swiss cheese). I use unsalted butter from the Butter Factory in Myrtlefod  and five:am thick Greek yoghurt, which I mix with dill, mint, cucumber, cornichon vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper for a great sauce. It goes beautifully with Moroccan lamb kebabs, salads, quinoa or anything, really.

Secret vice

Cheese on toast. And usually later than I should be eating it. I grill different layers of cheese –perhaps Pyengana cheddar and Heidi Farm gruyere – and finish with some Worcestershire sauce, chilli and coriander.

Last night's dinner

I barbecued a Cape Grim rib-eye and served it with grilled tomatoes, rocket, red onion and parmesan salad with horseradish and anchovy dressing. I also made broccoli in the same tray I used for the meat and then finished it on the stovetop.

I'm drinking

I have an espresso every morning from my Nespresso machine and then switch to tea (my favourite is Madame Flavour Green Jasmine and Pear). Otherwise, I enjoy Australian sparkling mineral water, such as Capi, but I'm not a beer drinker. I prefer to start with bubbles, usually Laurent-Perrier, and then maybe a nice pinot noir like Attwoods Old Hog 2012 from Geelong. Cath and I also enjoy chardonnay – Dexter Mornington Peninsula2012 is great.

My toolkit

Tea towels are important. They act as oven gloves, glass polishers and bench wipers. We use 100 per cent cotton absorbent towels from Williams- & Sonoma, which are excellent quality (we've been known to travel overseas with them). I also use my multi-use tatin pan a lot, too to seal meats and bake desserts.

My inspiration

Music, art and fresh flowers inspire and ground me. For music I like Beta Band, Ian Brown Allah-Lahs,Paul Weller, The Stone Roses and The Charlatans; I buy oriental lilies a few days before my day-off so they're open when I'm cooking and my current favourite contemporary artist is JJ Adams. Audrey is a beautiful piece that will look great – once I have time to get it up.


This crab-serving platter is so much fun. It comes out every year around Christmas and New Year and is a great talking point. It's been bashed over the years and I have glued broken parts back on to it several times. It was a wedding present to Cath's parents and has been passed on to us.

Most unforgettable meal

We got married in New York. We chose our wedding bands in the morning at Tiffany's, then went to Brooklyn town hall for a quick ceremony with Cath's uncle [author Peter Carey] as witness, and then finished with lunch at Per Se. It was amazing food and a perfect day for the two of us.

Recipe stalwart

Tomato and penne. Cut tomatoes in half and place into a dish with a big splash of olive oil, basil stalks and salt and pepper. Microwave for 20 minutes and remove the skins with tongs, then mix with al dente penne, fresh basil and anchovies. It's Cath's recipe, it's delicious and it's quick. We use it at least once a week.


Asian flavours. I used to hate coriander and now I can't get enough. But the balance of flavours in Thai or Vietnamese cooking is a real skill and much harder to master than European classic cooking. I've been attempting to cook from Ben Cooper's Chin Chin book and loving the results.