It's now 25 years since we opened Sean's, our beachside restaurant and home away from home. Before we opened on the beach, we spent many weekends planting fruit trees, heirloom vegetables and herbs on just a few acres surrounding our cubbyhouse in the Blue Mountains – a nest that made us feel plain good by connecting us to each season – and held a dream that we could one day serve something we had grown at our restaurant table.
We've since upsized to a larger farm, and just as my van filled with compost buckets makes its twice-weekly trip from the restaurant to the farm, more and more harvests make a return trip back, to become the foundation to our simple, soulful cooking.
Like any small business, there have been incredible highs, and terrifying lows; I'll never forget the feeling of shucking Sydney Rock oysters and frying school prawns for the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse for her first meal in Sydney, sandwiching comfrey leaves with shavings of goat's feta as fritters for the late AA Gill, or the joy of roasting a chook for everyone's food hero, Maggie Beer, for the launch of her Maggie's Harvest cookbook. Highlights that are as unique as the time our grease trap burst and oozed greasy sludge through the entire kitchen as we were serving the main course to a private dinner.
Drama aside, it's the day-to-day vibrancy of restaurant life that keeps me buoyant, the connections and relationships formed with regulars, the incredible team I have supporting me, and ultimately how our collective experience can (most of the time) make diners happy.
I still top up with weekly shops from Flemington markets, scour Sydney Fish Market for our seafood, and buy directly from other local producers and cheesemakers as much as I physically can, because I'm a visual cook; I need to see produce to be inspired to make a menu.
The recipes I'd like to share with you are more a taste of coastal summer cooking. The ingredients are not so specialised that you need a vegie patch of your own to cook them and, because many of the dishes can be prepared the day ahead, they hopefully will take a little pressure off – the cold poached Murray cod, for example, a show-stopper that couldn't be simpler.
Cooking is as much about feel as it is taste, and as I would tell any cook following a recipe, if some other vegetable or piece of fruit seems just too good to resist, then follow your instinct.
Sean's, 270 Campbell Pde, Bondi Beach, NSW, (02) 9365 4924, seanspanaroma.co
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