Caroline Khoo is known around the world for her beautiful & colourful dessert creations and turned her passion into a career in 2013 when she established the boutique dessert & styling brand, nectar & stone.
Like Saltbush Kitchen, Caroline is all about keeping it simple in the kitchen whilst dishing up incredible, mouth-watering flavours. We caught up with her recently to chat about all things cooking, bushfoods & community.
You’ve been sharing your incredible desserts and pushing creative boundaries since 2013. What are your biggest tips for people who want to get creative in the kitchen but might be nervous about using new ingredients?
What I love most about being in the kitchen is the ability to experiment and experience new flavours and building layers to taste. My most important tip to any person in the kitchen is to build on your repertoire of foundation cooking. I believe it is essential to have some key basics and fundamental learnings under your belt so that you can achieve success therefore your confidence too. In saying this, some of the simplest recipes are the best when executed perfectly. An example of this might be poaching an egg – ensuring you have the water temperature right, removing the egg at the right time etc and then adding a beautiful unique salt and pepper to elevate and enhance the flavour. In addition, and continuing to use eggs as an example, understanding the different uses and purposes of eggs is valuable in understanding the science behind cooking too.
Secondly, when using new ingredients, it is important to get an idea of what flavours work well together, a few minutes research is worthwhile to give you insight before using it. And where possible, taste the ingredient on its own and take notes about what you notice on your palette.
Lastly, always use ingredients with what is in season, keep it simple and start with small achievable recipes before launching into something bigger.
What do you love about Australian native ingredients? Have you got a favourite yet?
The history of Australia goes far beyond the British settlement, we have over 60,000 years of Australian history in which our First Australian People used and lived from and yet it still so undiscovered by many Australians. I love the uniqueness of the flavours and I love that it is from our land. My most adored Australian native flavours would be macadamias and lemon myrtle. I am probably obsessed with lemon myrtle because the aroma is so strong and it is so beautiful as a layered flavour in dessert, it marries well with macadamias too.
Below: Caroline's Lemon Myrtle, Turmeric & Gin Ice Cream
‘Connection’ is something we value at Saltbush Kitchen. What does ‘connection’ mean to you and how does it influence your cooking?
The word connection is deeply rooted in my essence. From a young age I realised three very important lessons. The first is the connection between people. Coming together around a table, sharing conversations, relating to one another and celebrating a meal together. The second is the connection to physically making a meal and the cathartic experience it invites and brings when using your hands. My mother allowed me to experience this from very young and I understood the connection as soon as my hands webbed into the process. Lastly, connection to the land. I remember being six years old and having five apple seeds in my hand from the fruit I just finished devouring. I dug a small hole under a large tree in my front yard and in my mind, I felt a sense of wonder, belief and connection to the food and the land. It is this experience that inspired me to design a ring recently as a reminder that we are all connected and to value the earth that nourishes our bodies. We are all linked together, bound by land and that is very special.
We love seeing beautiful flowers in your creations. Does nature inspire you?
Nature plays such a powerful and integral role in my life. I feel very grounded when I am outside and experiencing all that the earth has to offer. I love natural beauty, in seeing how different lighting plays upon objects and flowers have always been an obsession of mine – since the beginning really. And on reflection, I think flowers inspire me greatly because of the variety, the process of seed to bloom and then the cycle of it repeating. I adore the layers in the petals, the different colours and the delicateness, yet they can be so striking and robust too. It is always a reference point for me when I am creating.
What’s your favourite Australian landscape? What makes it so special?
Ohhh, that is such a difficult question to answer because Australia is embellished with so many wonderful and diverse landscapes each welcoming a unique experience. I love the Heart Reef because of its vibrant colour and shape, water for me is very soothing. I have to include Venus Bay beach with its pristine ocean, endless sand and mountainous shrubs with tiny flower buds, it is my home away from home and still very unknown by many – ssshhhhh don’t tell anyone.
Caroline Khoo is the creative director and owner of nectar & stone and author of "I'm Just Here For Dessert". You can follow her beautiful creations on her instagram and check out her Lemon Myrtle, Turmeric & Gin Ice Cream recipe here.