Treat yourself nicely: the Good Food team's self-care tips and habits

A seasonal vegetable box subscription is something to look forward to, and will push you out of your cauliflower comfort ...
A seasonal vegetable box subscription is something to look forward to, and will push you out of your cauliflower comfort zone. Photo: iStock

We get it. It's tough. You need to know that somebody has your back, somebody who knows you well enough to figure out exactly what you want, what you need, and what you should hear, to get yourself through these interesting times. That person, by the way, is YOU.

Ultimately, only you can look after you, because only you know what you need, and not just what you want. (And if you're caring for others as well, please make sure there's some me-time in there, because the happier and less-stressed you are, the better off they will be as well.)

That's why we asked the Good Food team to spill their own secrets to surviving and thriving, revealing their secret pleasures, daily rituals, and the little things they are doing to look after themselves.

***EMBARGOED FOR GOOD WEEKEND, MAY 5/18 ISSUE*** Neil Perry Recipe :?Braised Lamb Shoulder with Thyme roast mushrooms/Thyme roasted Mushrooms Photograph by William Meppem (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Braised lamb shoulder with lots of carrots and bonus thyme-roasted mushrooms (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem

Slow cooking

Slow-cooking does the world of good, for both food and cook. A slow-cooking project keeps me occupied, slows me down, and focuses my attention on something that will ultimately reward me at the dinner table. So I'm making my own duck confit for the cassoulets of the future. I get pleasure from soaking beans overnight, and hovering over steaming stock-pots. I've never chopped so many carrots, because what is a long-simmering stew of lamb or beef without an equal weight of carrots? I'm making my own pasta, and hanging it to dry on a broom handle perched between two chairs. Everything is slow and steady, instead of rushed and impatient, with the added bonus of dinner waiting, ready to go when you are. Terry Durack

Revisit old cookbooks

Stop looking at the internet for answers. Look at old cookbooks for the classic recipes you're probably craving – that's where the true knowledge and experience lies. And I'm not talking about stuffy old Larousse, either. Look to Claudia Roden, Elizabeth David, Edna Lewis and Jane Grigson for recipe inspiration over the lure of peanut butter brownie clickbait. Myffy Rigby

Jill Dupleix's Buttermilk scones.
For Good Food Magazine April cover story on Jill Dupleix's golden rules of cooking.
Photography by William Meppem (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Jill Dupleix's buttermilk scones. Photo: William Meppem

Scones, stout and sausages

Making sourdough? Bah. Too involved. For the past few months our apartment has been home to the Great Scone Bake Off, a mission to perfect the union of flour, buttermilk, salt, bicarb and butter. They might be lower invertebrates in the baking world, but scones drenched in onion gravy and served with snags are unbeatable. A splash of stout in the dough is also a fine idea, especially when the scones are destined to be covered in butter and eaten with oysters at their briniest. I suppose you could top them with jam and cream, too. Here's Jill Dupleix's buttermilk scones recipe. Callan Boys


Gin o'clock

Alcohol is not the answer, yes, yes, we know. But there is still great pleasure to be had by elevating its application to the status of ritual. At 6.30pm, I set out the tray, the glass, the ice and the tonic water. My hand hovers over the Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz, the Tasmanian McHenry, the Wildbrumby, and the Melbourne Gin Company's Single Shot Limited Edition. Depending on the choice, there may be lime, blood orange or pink grapefruit involved, or nothing at all. There may be a snack – a few pistachios, a handful of olives, a little smoked salmon, or that salty, sweet, fishy, Scandinavian caviar spread, squirted from its tube onto a cracker. It's my me-time, and I swear it's not just the gin that makes it such a solace, but the choreographed repetition of the ritual, imposing order and structure, and marking the end of the day and the beginning of the evening. Terry Durack

Something regular to look forward to

I've unwittingly given my week some sort of rhythm by weaving in a small but satisfying ritual that gives me something to look forward to. I've finally subscribed to a weekly veg box and it's changed my life. I eagerly await the bounty each Friday, loaded with hyper seasonal produce like rainbow chard, beetroot and pine mushrooms that has kicked me out of my cauli-based cooking rut. I still haven't found a way to make turnips tasty, but you've gotta have dreams, right? Andrea McGinniss

Money for jam

Making marmalade is deeply comforting, if you ignore the knife edge of terror involved in making that judgment call on when to halt the cooking. I've made that call too early (still a bit runny) and too late (a firm set), but mostly it's been juuuuuuust right, a set that only just moves in the jar when tilted, and spreads easily on toast.

Part of the satisfaction comes from using what you have – like, way too many pink grapefruits, or a glut of blood oranges – and from giving yourself permission to spend your morning cutting off orange and lemon rinds and slicing them finely. Making marmalade is really as simple as simmering the rinds until soft, weighing them, adding their weight in sugar, then boiling the mixture until you reach the bittersweet angst of the setting point. It's so, so delicious, it's worth going through that momentary anguish. Jill Dupleix

Experimental as anything

There's only so much binge-watching I can handle before self-care starts to turn to self-loathing, so for a more productive kind of boredom prevention I head to the kitchen and get experimental. I've started with the age-old cooking experiment: fermentation. Thanks to the pandemic, I'm 10 jars into a cabbage kimchi taste test where I've altered sugar levels (1 teaspoon to ½ cup) and fermenting days (five days to two weeks) in different batches to see which recipe I prefer. The two-week-old is sharp and funky, perfect for bringing all five tastes to a simple pan of fried rice, while the younger batch – mellow and sweet – can be eaten straight from the jar.

My latest food experiment is trying to make yoghurt with chilli stems as per Sharon Flynn's recipe in her book Ferment for Good: Ancient Foods for the Modern Gut – the bacteria on the chilli stems inoculates heated milk and causes it to ferment and coagulate into yoghurt. So far, it's less yoghurt, more milk with a weird subtle chilli flavour, but it has spiced up my breakfast cereal if nothing else. Eloise Basuki

Willie Smith's Whisky-Aged Cider.

Willie Smith's whisky-aged cider is a Tasmanian trifecta. Photo: Supplied

A holy communion: cheese, whisky, cider

My girlfriend and I have been trying to better our cinema knowledge through the pandemic by slogging through the American Film Institute's top 100 films of all time. Snacks, specifically cheese, are vital for the mission, especially when dealing with a Lawrence of Arabia or Ben-Hur. There must be booze too, of course. Pre-COVID, I didn't think there was a better pairing for cheese than champagne, but then Willie Smith went and released a cider aged in Sullivans Cove whisky barrels. Brightly acidic and barnyard-y in a good way, matching the heritage apple cider with Bruny Island washed rind is a top Tassie trifecta, but the drop is also great mates with clothbound cheddar, stilton and aged comte. $50, 750ml, Callan Boys

Incentive schemes

I've made a point of turning my small pleasures into large ones, making them rewards for good behaviour, like doggy biscuits for humans. If I make freshly grated apple muesli for breakfast, I can have an egg and bacon roll for lunch. If I do a fast walk in the morning, my morning coffee lies at the end of it, to keep me going. If I scrub the mould from the shower recess, I can buy myself another potted plant. It's a constant series of trade-offs and negotiations with the Human Resources Department (me) on behalf of their key employee (me). So far, I think I'm ahead. Jill Dupleix

Various fermented, pickled, salted, canned vegetables in glass jars on a wooden table. Preparations for the winter of cauliflower, cucumbers and purple cabbage. View from above. Fermenting vegetables, pickles generic

Pickling is not as hard as you might think. Photo: iStock

Pickle 'til the world is set to rights

Pickling is ultra soothing, highly achievable, and certainly not as hard as the blow-hard enthusiasts would have you believe. You don't even need to do any special heat treatment beyond pouring boiling water over clean jars if the pickles are going straight in the fridge. (Cupboard pickles are an entirely different story, and do involve medical-grade sterilisation tools.) For the brine, I like a mix of 1 cup hot water, 6 tablespoons sugar, half cup rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt and then I'll add in anything I'm vibing – celery seeds, fennel seeds, garlic cloves, peppercorns. The trick, and this is important, is to get as much of your chosen ingredient into the jar as you can. Turn the jar on its side as you're packing it with your lovely, clean sterilised hands. My most successful pickling jobs to date? Cucumber, ginger, beetroot and thinly sliced red onion, which is magic on a taco. Myffy Rigby

A completely unsubstantiated morning cure-all

On winter mornings when I wake up with a tickle in my throat, I make a "tonic", a warm drinking vinegar that I swear stops any sore throat in its tracks. I pour boiling water over a slice of ginger, ¼ teaspoon turmeric and 1 tablespoon honey in a tea cup and let it steep. When it's cool enough to drink, I stir in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and, depending on how crazy I'm feeling, a tiny pinch of chilli powder. It's sweet and spicy, with a big smack of sour from the vinegar that feels like it's stripping away any scratchiness of a potential sore throat. Viral cure? No. But it makes me feel warm, cosy and a little bit better, and isn't that what self-care is all about? Eloise Basuki

Take a nostalgia trip

Missing my almost annual trip to my spiritual homeland Ireland this year has me baking Irish soda bread, closing my eyes and pretending I'm there. Slathered in butter, jam and washed down with strong tea it takes me back to long chats about nothing around the kitchen table with friends. But why stop at Ireland when there's the rest of Europe in summer to explore? Minimal cooking is required to peel back the lid on a tin of Portugese sardines (pictured) and be transported to a buzzy little bar in Lisbon. Or you could char-grill some octopus and crack open a cold beer to teleport to a beachside taverna in Crete. And don't start me on the fluffy fish finger butty that gives me flashbacks to my favourite London pub. OK, it takes imagination, a well-curated Spotify playlist and the heater cranked up to help complete the picture, but it's something. Andrea McGinniss

Banish the guilt

An effective self-care regime should eradicate anything that makes you feel guilty. If there is a small task left undone that is nagging at you, just do it. This strategy is making me extremely productive in terms of cleaning the oven, working my way through that list of recipes I have always wanted to make when I had the time, and sorting all my spices. Don't feel too guilty about the small pleasures you allow yourself, either. For me, it's beeswax candles from Queen B, because they give me joy, they elevate tea at the table to dinner, they ionise and purify the air, and by buying them I am supporting bee-keepers (and bees). Jill Dupleix

Try something new

Locked down with a vegetarian son and unable to travel, I've instead embarked on a globetrotting voyage of vegetable discovery. I've visited Japan for veg-only okonomiyaki, Korea for kimchi jjigae, Lebanon (fatayer bi jibneh), Turkey (spinach gozleme), India (aloo paratha), Sri Lanka (eggplant curry), Spain (paella), Italy (ricotta gnocchi, pictured) and England (Cornish pasties). Working from home and with a commute taking mere seconds, I've had more free time to explore cookbooks I've barely opened before, dabbled with new techniques and even taken an online cooking class or two, all while expanding my repertoire of meat-free dishes. Roslyn Grundy

Share the love

Caring for others can sometimes be the best self-care of all. Whether it's sharing a bounty of lemons with the neighbours, baking a cake for a friend, supporting a local business by buying a care package for someone doing it tough or donating to a charity helping people through the pandemic, there's nothing quite like the buzz you get from doing someone a good turn. Win-win. Roslyn Grundy

Finding the little loves

I am all about the cheap luxuries right now. A handmade dip bowl in oyster grey, mustard yellow linen napkins, little objects I have been buying that in a world stripped of bigger pleasures (like, you know, travel and hugging friends) bring extra joy.

I have become obsessed with Melbourne-based store Made and More for its Portuguese ceramics (not available for posting currently) and linen napkins, placemats, and wooden platters and lazy susans (which can be posted) and have found that setting a dinner table with any or as many of these things as I can makes everything OK again. Ardyn Bernoth


Vegepod garden beds. Photo: Supplied

Greenhouse targets

I have always longed for a greenhouse to propagate tomatoes, zucchini and other summer seeds well before the weather in Melbourne would otherwise allow. There has never been room, until I spotted Vegepod on my Instagram feed. These mobile, raised and covered garden beds caught my attention as a way to easily build out my fledgling vegie garden. Then I realised you could replace the standard permeable cover (which deters possums and most other pests and is permeable to rain) with a plastic hood making it into a bona fide greenhouse. I have lettuce and kale growing in their warm cocoon like it's Queensland now; the minute spring hits, I'm planting every summer crop vegetable I can think of. Hands-in-the dirt, back-to-nature bliss. Ardyn Bernoth

Outsmarting the kids

Seven years into the parenting game I've cracked the secret to drinking tea while it's still hot. A tough-as-nails camping mug – double-walled, vacuum-insulated and made from stainless steel – that keeps your tea toasty for hours and won't smash on the tiles no matter how hard your four-year-old uppercuts you mid-sip. Best buy one with a handle and proper suction lid, for true no-spill enjoyment. Use it for porridge, coffee, hot chocolate or whatever else you need to keep hot for hours. Megan Johnston

Purposeful walks

Add purpose to those weekend walks by downloading weed guru Diego Bonetto's foraging guide. The booklet – available in PDF or hard-copy form – is a pocket guide to 16 of the most common wild edibles of Sydney and Melbourne. With big full-colour images of each plant, and a short description on how to use them, the handbook is one way to enrich your wanderings and find a new appreciation for the bounty that's literally underfoot. Megan Johnston

Ploughman's platter (october 8)
26th September 2013.
Styled by Jill Dupleix 
Photo: Steven Siewert

Pick at a ploughman's platter. Photo: Steven Siewert

Lunchtime ritual

Pre-lockdown I had been known to enjoy ploughman's platters al desko, and I've continued leaning into my Brit-ish tendencies while working from home. I take the time to make mini themed platters for one for lunch. Perhaps pork pie, cheddar, piccalilli and sparkling apple juice; Frenchy chicken pâté, sliced baguette and cornichons; or mezze of oven-warmed zaatar-sprinkled pita with olives and labne. These little rituals keep things interesting. Like a pick 'n' mix, without the sugar rush. Annabel Smith

Reinvent the fondue

My partner and I decided if we were going to be locked inside our house in the depths of winter, with no visitors, we might as well take some tips from Scandinavia, land of eternal nights, and work a little hygge (cosy) magic. We got a bean bag the size of a car, dragged every soft rug and pillow into the living room, put on a batch of spiced, mulled wine and pulled out the fondue set everyone inexplicably has. Traditional cheese fondues (gruyere, emmental, garlic, wine) can be heavy going if you're watching the COVID-kilos, but you can always switch to a stock-based hotpot version, and replace the bread cubes with extra fresh veg. Either version is a great way to use up the rogue items from your vegetable box. Gemima Cody