Chef Confesses: I Was So Nervous Cooking For Margaret Fulton I Crashed Into The Local MP's Car

Rebecca Sullivan from Dirty Girl Kitchen

Rebecca Sullivan, runs Dirty Girl Kitchen, an Adelaide-based organisation dedicated to instilling what she calls ‘granny skills’ in the next generation of home cooks.

But she shows that even the best can occasionally come awry, in this exclusive story of her encounter with the queen of Australian cooking, Margaret Fulton.

She also shares her shortbread recipe with Business Insider readers. Best don’t drive before cooking it.

Margaret Fulton is coming for lunch and I am cooking her recipes. I am a nervous wreck, but take it to another level when I jump in my car to pick up supplies just minutes before she’s due to arrive. That’s when I reverse my giant tank of a Land Rover into a car. Not just any car. It belongs to the local member of parliament.

“It’s my shit car anyway,” he says, laughing a little and throwing his hands up in the air.

The incident confirms how lovely the people who live on Kangaroo Island are.

I finished crying by the time Margaret arrived. Cooking for a women I have been both envious and admiring of for more years than I can remember brings on a few little insecurities. Fulton’s early recipes encouraged Australian housewives to alter the Australian staple of “meat and three vegetables” and to be creative with food.

She didn’t notice the giant dent in Michael’s car.

Now I am all about nostalgia, creating the Granny Skills Movement. It’s all about protecting food heritage, culture, knowledge and skills with the intent of passing them on before it is too late. My inner granny lives strongly inside me and pops up on a near daily basis with cravings for duck L’orange, quiche lorraine and rock buns. But when asked to cook for one of Australia’s most famous grannies (and a great-grandmother), my inner granny nearly died from severe stress related nostalgic overload.

One of my dishes is cheese and bacon balls (a piece of cheese wrapped in bacon and grilled), but it turns out Kangaroo Island’s locally produced artisan cheese isn’t as resilient as Coon of days of yore. Our cheese and bacon balls were an utter disaster.

I apologise Margaret. She has a laugh. She makes me jump a little as you don’t expect a laugh of such grandeur to come from a wee, 5-foot-tall Scots-born woman.

‘Lady’ Fulton, for she is royalty to me, introduced Australia to food from “exotic” places such Italy, Spain and France (yes, it seems funny now) . Fulton was also in part responsible for the popularity of Chinese cuisine in the 70s.

Her career is as epic as her carrot, bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. We made them too. At first glance, it’s all just unfashionable old stuff. But then you enter bravery, take a bite and realise it is every bit of comfort and nostalgia you had been craving and more. Who would have thought that combination would work? She did and she has made a career out of it. A very, very long one, as she’s still going at 86.

Does she ever got sick of eating? She respond in her quiet grandma-like voice, “Well if people keep cooking my quiche and those shortbread like you did, then never”.

Insert a very proud emojicon here.

Margaret Fulton loved our food. Well her food. I mean her food with the incredible introduction of modern day, local and seasonal ingredients.

‘Old food’ isn’t old, it’s timeless. Choose a Lady Fulton recipe and add your favorite produce to it. The lavender and lemon shortbread I made was my recipe, but it was inspired by Margaret Fulton and her love for food and cooking and the stories she tells. She’s a grandma young women still look up to. It’s both nerve-wracking and inspirational.

Lavender and lemon shortbread
Makes 12

Lavender and lemon shortbread

75 g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon culinary lavender
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus extra for sprinkling
125 g butter
150 g (1 cup) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put the sugar, lavender, lemon zest and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour and beat on low speed until well mixed. Put the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Remove and roll into a 10 cm log. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for a further 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
Cut the dough into thin rounds and return them to the lined tray, spacing them about 5 cm apart. Grate over a little more lemon zest. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until brown around the edges. Cool on the tray for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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