Australia's domestic goddess

Anna Gare is passionate about good home cooking, Karen Hardy writes.

Anna Gare grew up in the ''brown food days'', one of four children who ate really fast so they'd be the first in line for seconds. Her mother fed them to fill them up, with a big pot of stew plonked in the middle of the table.

''Mum never had a great urge to get into the kitchen and unleash her inner gourmet goddess,'' Gare says.

''She burnt toast on a regular basis and burnt her bra for women's liberation. Once we were all in school, she became a full-time working mum. We would often get home before her and as soon as she walked in the door she'd ask us how our day at school was, and we would reply, 'What's for dinner, Mum?' ''

But Gare, with four teenage children of her own, and a busy career hosting television shows and writing cookbooks, looks to unleash her inner gourmet goddess whenever she gets the chance.

''I'm a food maniac,'' she says, up early and talking to Relax from Fremantle where she lives with her husband, former pro-basketballer Luc Longley, and three of her children. One daughter, Clare, now lives in Melbourne.

''Cooking's not a chore for me. I can understand how some people feel that way but before I get out of bed in the morning I'm thinking about what's for dinner.''


Gare is only just out of bed. She forgot to recharge her phone overnight so is sitting on the kitchen floor doing the interview with the phone plugged into the wall. You can hear breakfast going on around her and I suspect Longley's not far away, as she's laughing in an I've-been-caught-out way, when she's discussing his contribution to their kitchen table.

''The kitchen's my domain, I'll admit that, but occasionally Luc jumps in there and makes his fabulous concoctions.''

One of his favourites is fish tacos.

''He'll go to the fish and chip shop and buy the deep-fried, battered fish and he chops up his lettuce and has the sour cream and bibs and bobs on the table and we're ready.

''Another is sausage sang choy bao, where you have all the lettuce leaves, salady bits chopped up, we'll have cucumber, tomatoes, our kids like different things, we'll have sour cream and we have sauerkraut, and then you put a sausage in and roll it up and eat it like regular sang choy bao.

''In fact we've got a whole lot of Luc's genius recipes.''

She jokes that her next cookbook might be something along the lines of Lazy Luc's Dinners because she realises that most families have those go to recipes that aren't really recipes, even admitting that her own mother would ''cook'' Welsh rarebit or chicken noodle soup for dinner when stretched.

Her current book, Eat In: The Best Food Is Made At Home, is why we're talking today and there's something of that - the quick, simple meal idea - already in this one.

But Gare does it with style. Her flavours are clean and fresh; nothing is complicated. For her a good meal is ''a beautiful balance of food that leaves you feeling good after you've eaten it''.

Gare says part of her mission in life is to ''enthuse people to cook''.

''I love it when people say, 'I don't really cook', and I say, 'Let me show you something simple,' '' she says.

''I love turning people on to cooking.

''The aim with this book was to make recipes that people would look at and say, 'I can do that and I want to eat that.' ''

Gare put this book together in the past couple of years, in between days shooting first Junior MasterChef, on which she was a judge, and then Great Australian Bake Off, which she co-hosted with Shane Jacobson.

She started off her cooking career working as a caterer to supplement her income while singing in a band called the Jam Tarts. She got her break in television working with Ian Parmenter on his ABC series Consuming Passions. Parmenter would encourage her to look for ways to put her passions for performing and cooking together.

She went on to host a cooking segment on television in Perth and then got picked up to do a few shows on for Foxtel. She appeared in The Best in Australia with chefs Ben O'Donoghue and Darren Simpson and Quickies in My Kitchen, in which she prepared easy recipes while chatting to celebrity guests such as Professor Fiona Wood, Raelene Boyle and the Clash guitarist Nick Sheppard.

With this one the message is all about feeding family and friends.

When I ask her what makes a good dinner, she's quick to answer.

''People, actually. I get into trouble because I'm always saying we should invite a few more people around. I'm a caterer, remember. I cook a lot and I do love a party. And food's all about the people you share it with.''

Eat In: The Best Food Is Made at Home, by Anna Gare. (Murdoch Books, $39.99)