Food Stories

Lessons from the Kitchen with Audra Morrice

Lessons from the Kitchen with Audra Morrice

We had the utmost pleasure of spending time recently with Audra Morrice and her good friends, Shin and Yeen, where we not only gleaned knowledge of Audra’s kitchen wisdom, but also got to enjoy one delicious Saturday lunch cooked by Audra herself.

For those not already familiar with Audra, she first made her mark in the culinary world when she emerged as a third-place finalist in Masterchef Australia 2012. Since then, she’s hosted Tasty Conversations, a cooking series that gets up close and personal with growers; written two cookbooks, and judged four seasons of Masterchef Singapore and Masterchef Asia. But her list of accolades doesn’t end there! In addition to running her own catering business based in Sydney, Audra also works as an Ambassador with the Singapore Tourism Board, and currently serves as Ambassador for Sustainable, Gastronomic Tourism for the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).  

Needless to say, we were a bit starstruck when we first met! But our time with her was also a testament to the power of food and generosity of cooks everywhere. By the end of the meal, we were already making plans for the next makan fest!

Below, Audra tells us more about her food journey and how it’s always been informed by love, patience, and curiosity.

Audra with her mother, whom she stays with whenever she visits Singapore. (Image credits: @audramorrice)

Growing up in Singapore, Audra first acquired invaluable culinary knowledge from her mother. Seated on a tiny red stool in the kitchen, she would pay rapt attention to her mum cooking in the kitchen. Together, they explored local markets and farms, purchasing only the freshest of produce. 

 Freshly handpicked tiger prawns from the market by Audra. In Singapore, many of us get our food from the supermarket and may therefore feel disconnected from understanding where our food comes from. Audra grew up differently. “My mother used to buy young chooks, let them run freely in a fenced off area in our backyard so they could peck on the earth and chicken feed. When they were of size, she would slaughter them and cook, so I, for one, know exactly where that roast chicken came from.”

My mother often said to me, ‘you cook with your eyes, ears, nose, and hands even before you taste. Wait for the sizzle before you flip, be able to smell when something has caramelised, watch as the colour changes for doneness, feel with your hand to know how much water you need to add to a dough.’

All these senses play a big part throughout every cooking process. A recipe is a guide. She taught me to cook with instinct, gut feel, and to use a good amount of common sense. Patience is something you need in the kitchen to master any dish. Without it, your food will always be mediocre. She also taught me about not wasting anything and being frugal. Cheap cuts aren’t more inferior. They are just different and, in fact, they often need a lot more technique and thought in both flavouring and cooking. It has always been the way I cook.

Till today, I watch and absorb everything she does. She is the reason I love cooking. 

Audra whipping up her favourite Nonya lemak curry, a recipe from her mother. 
(Reel credits: @audramorrice)

Both Singapore and Australia have had a great impact on how I cook today, and it was great to start my journey in Singapore followed by Australia. Singapore gave me my heritage, deeply rooted in multicultural cuisines. We were so spoilt, exposed to so many cuisines growing up. Despite being Chinese of Hock Chiu descent, my mother was able to recreate and grasp all sorts of flavours from different cuisines. Her Indian curries are phenomenal. She makes the most incredible Nonya lemak curry, which I still cook frequently.

Fig season is one of Audra’s favourite fruit seasons in Australia. She makes jams, bakes them in tarts and cakes, or eats them simply as they are.  (Reel credits: @audramorrice)

Australia, on the other hand, has allowed me to explore and be adventurous in combining flavours, modernising dishes, appreciating the beautiful unadulterated flavours of seasonal ingredients. When ingredients are at their peak season, they naturally taste good, and not much needs to be done to them. The flavour is second to none. The intense sweetness and crunchiness of an apple ripe for the picking is a million times better than one that has been sitting in a cold store room for 6 months. I thrive on cooking with seasonal produce. It's exciting. I have brought up my kids telling them not to ask me to buy apples in summer, but to relish in the abundance of mangoes, peaches, and nectarines. 

"We don't normally think this but there is so much meaning in the food we eat. It creates emotions and often takes us on a journey of some form."

Travelling [also] inspires my cooking in a huge way — it opens my mind to new ways. I struggle with not being able to cook for long periods of time. So, when I travel for pleasure, I often book an apartment with a kitchen so I can frequent markets, pick up produce, and cook. Paris was a perfect example. Eating out all the time at restaurants — apart from French pastries, breads, and cheeses — can be challenging. It’s also a real tease to see an abundance of beautiful seasonal produce and not be able to cook with them. So, on my last trip there, we did exactly that. We ate out, bought ingredients to cook in, and had the best of both worlds. It was bliss.

Audra shares a valuable plating tip: Avoid the urge to fill the entire plate. Instead, embrace empty spaces. These spaces can be deliberately positioned towards the corners and other parts of the plate, without the necessity for perfect centring. You can also follow the rule of thirds as a guide. 

Inspiration can often come to me by the different ceramic dishes, whether it’s the texture, colour or shape. Spend time with me sifting through ceramics and you will often hear me mumbling to myself as to what I can cook and serve with them. 

Most people tend to have white plates. I do too. However, food on plain white plates can sometimes appear dull and uninspiring. Selecting the right plate is of utmost importance in making the dish inviting. [It] is as important as the dish itself. I am a big fan of handmade organic rustic ceramics with earthy blends that are uneven, as each piece has its own character.

Our lunch table set and ready, showcasing Sii Faa Free-Form 15cm Plates (extended collection) and Ayutthaya Cutlery in Matte Black.

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