TV Cook & Presenter, Author, Public Speaker, Food Stylist & Recipe Writer
My two sisters and I were raised in the most loving and food filled environment of anyone I know, which I guess is one of the reasons I chose food as my career.
My mum not only cooked every night of the week-including dessert, she or my adorable late Hungarian grandmother baked treats for our school lunch boxes daily, spoilt right!.
The kitchen was the hub of the home and my most valued childhood memories are of us all in the kitchen together learning and sharing the art of baking (licking the beaters and tasting the raw batter). The little Queen bottle of vanilla with the red lid was always out on the bench. It was treated with the utmost respect, with my Nan saying ‘vanilla is to sweet cookery like salt and pepper is to savoury, just the right amount creates perfection. It was added to custard tarts, cream cheese cherry strudel, pound cakes, shortbread, butterfly cakes, custard filled cinnamon sugar crepes just to name a few of the treats we grew up on.
I now carry on the family tradition with my love of baking, but the little bottle with the red lid has been replaced with Queen vanilla bean paste and extract.
Cookbook Author and Cooking Teacher
“I so well remember my mum using Queen vanilla…whenever I see the bottle I am reminded of her.”
Master Chef 2015 Runner Up, Home Cooking Advocate, Nutritionist, Food Columnist
As a little girl, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen making, baking and creating. Whether I was helping my grandma or my parents, watching my sister master her pancake-flipping skills or creating my own colourful mess, I absolutely loved cooking!
My favourite part was making the big decisions for the final touches – what flavour and what colour?! I can still see the yellow label of the Queen vanilla essence bottle in my grandma’s pantry, right next to the other flavoured essences, the little box of food colours, with the patty pans and sprinkles close by. However, it was always about balance and showing self-control. Carefully adding the correct amount of food colouring to the buttercream icing to ensure it complemented the flavour was a big deal! Too many drops of green and the peppermint icing would go from looking perfectly pastel to a unappetising shade of Kermit the Frog.
I can also remember thinking more was always better prior to completely ruining a bowl of my grandmas’s flawless Chantilly cream by adding half a bottle of vanilla essence while her back was turned. Then there were the times of getting carried away trying to achieve the boldest and brightest homemade play dough – the quest for rainbow almost always resulted in a brown ball of mess!
It’s safe to say this was probably the beginning of my love affair with styling and plating food. I’ve come a long way, but these memories of experimenting and embracing my creativity have definitely helped me become the cook I am today. Thank you Queen and Happy 120th Anniversary.
Owner and founder of BakeClub
Growing up with Queen
I often reached high and to the right in the pantry when gathering ingredients for baking when I was little (often while assisted by a kitchen chair). This is where a selection of Queen vanilla essence, Parisian essence (which mum used to darken the gravy), aromatic flavourings, such as almond and mint, and vibrant food colourings, in their distinct small bottles, lived. They shared a basket and always could be found in this one spot.
Mum and I would often make almond biscuits – as we lived in country New South Wales and almonds we a little hard to come by then, we flavoured them with just a dash of the distinct, and pleasantly pungent Queen almond flavouring. We would press the cookie dough through a cookie press with a stencil fitted at the end (with holes cut from it). The stencils with varying hole patterns created different shaped biscuits and we had a wonderful time planning and choosing which shape were going to make.
Later in life I realised they were very traditional European (and more specifically German) biscuits known as Spritz cookies or Spritzgebäck that were traditionally made at Christmas time. It was the aroma of the almond essence as it was added to the dough and the toasty notes of the baked biscuits filling the kitchen that have stuck with me all these years…