New country school for live-in cooks in Victoria

By , Food editor of The Christian Science Monitor

Elise Pascoe is a traveling food consultant most of the time, conducting seminars in Germany, Italy, England, and North America, although her home base is Australia.

She has cooked all over the worl, and will probably continue to do so if her record remains consistent, for she seems always to be busy with food projects, many of them "first" in her field.

Her interest in food started years ago, and she remembers well the weekend trips she and her husband used to make to Paris when they were living in The Hague.

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"Instead of bringing back perfume and silk stockings, I'd be loaded up with artichokes and other exquisite vegetables," she said.

Now one of Australia's leading cooking teachers and food consultants, she recently opened the country's first live-in cooking school at her Victoria Residential School of Cooking, located in a beautiful country house on the shores of Lake Eildon outside Melbourne.

The emphasis there is on French country cooking, she told me, although there is multinational cooking taught in the classes, whch are limited to 10 to allow adequate concentration.

Elise says the groundwork for her career was set during a two-year period in Holland.

"I did a cooking course there of mixed Continental food through the British Women's Club," she said. "I probably had my first taste of really good Continental food there, and it was a good start," she said.

Later she took cooking lessons in Melbourne, in Paris at the Cordon Blue and La Varenne, and at the Gritti Palace in Venice.

"My first cooking opportunity came when I was asked to pinch-hit for a resident cook who had cooked for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

"It was the tallest kitchen in Melbourne, with butlers and so on, but all I had to do was cook and coordinate the luncheon. I really was scared since the special guest was the Duke of Edinburgh.But I was terribly lucky, and they kept me on for two months. Then I started out on my own."

Elise was a pioneer in the executive dining room and catering field in Australia.

For 10 years she ran a catering business, with 11 women assisting in the kitchen and three secretaries. Then she closed the business, in 1978, to concentrate on consulting, writing, television, and teaching.

The mother of two boys, Charles and Mark, she taught them to cook when they were young. Today Charles is at Melbourne University and Mark is a second-year apprentice at a restaurant in South Yarra.

"Mark makes the best crepes in Melbourne," she says proudly. "Good omelettes , souffles, scones, too. Anything that requires a bit of dexterity."

"My husband, Jeremy, started cooking about three or four years ago. "He makes good fresh pasta and has a style with sauces," she said.

Right now Elise is working on another Australian cookbook. She was responsible for the Australian adaptations of Michael Guerard's "Cuisine Minceur" and "Cuisine Gourmande."

She also wrote the Australian editorial for Roger Verge's "Cuisine of the Sun ," and she is the author of "The Incredible Australian Ice Cream Book."

Visiting the United States this year, Elise lectured at the International Wine and Food Expo in Washington, D.C., introducing Americans to the delights of Sydney rock oysters, gourmet lamb dishes, and, of course, Pavlova with passion fruit.

Her newest venture was a move from Melbourne to Sydney to open what she describes as an upmarket, fast-food restaurant in downtown Sydney.

Plans are to offer "superior home cooking for lunch and pre-theater meals at moderate prices in civilized surroundings."

Here is the recipe for her "foolproof" Pavlova. Elise's Foolproof Pavlova 5 egg whites Pinch of salt 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon white vinegar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 1/2 cups whipped cream 1 cup fresh or canned passion fruit pulp or fruit in season

Beat whites and salt to soft peaks. Beat in 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating to a very stiff mixture. Fold in vinegar, vanilla, and remaining sugar.

Place an 8-inch cake pan upside down on banking sheet. Cut a circle of brown paper to fit the pan, wet it and place it on the bottom of the pan. Scoop egg whites into center of circle. Spread smoothly on top of paper, using a spatula. Make a well about 7 inches in diameter and about 1 inch deep in the center of the meringue.

Bake in center of oven at 250 to 275 degrees F. or at 140 degrees C. for 1 1/ 2 Hours. Carefully peel off paper, place Pavlova on serving dish and cool.

Fill well in center with whipped cream and seasonal fresh passion fruit, or use such fresh fruit as kiwi fruit, strawberries, sliced bananas or peaches.

Passion fruit mixed with the cream is traditional in Australia, often with kiwi fruit or strawberries added.

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