The Ultimate Easter Lunch With Jess Nguyen
The Creator and Home Cook shares her tips for hosting at home, and the reason why she's "going the extra mile" for Easter this year.
In early 2020, like many of us, Jess took to the kitchen for comfort during lockdown. She shared her recipes and live cook-alongs on her personal Instagram to spread a bit of joy and good food in what was an uncertain time for all.
After a few of her initial recipes going viral, she took the opportunity to turn her passion for food into a career, something she had always wanted to do. Fast forward to 12 months later, and she's now shared over 100 recipes, and established herself in the Instagram cooking space, even launching her own line of Chilli Oil, aptly named, Chilli Oil on Everything.
Read on as Jess shares her tips for hosting at home this Easter, from the menu and tablescape to her recipe for Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara's love-child, Pasta Alla Gricia (need we say more?)
Easter is a wonderful time of year to gather your friends and family and celebrate the Autumn season. Last year, Easter was not a moment that most of the World could celebrate with others, so I think it makes this year’s extra special and worth going the extra mile for.
For this Easter Tablescape, I’ve decided to make it Italian themed and colourful, because it’s a crowd pleaser and also each dish is quite simple to whip up which should be your approach to entertaining. The key is to make dishes and drinks that can be prepared in advance, so you can spend more time enjoying the celebration with your guests, versus being held up in the kitchen. I normally like to have either a cocktail (pre-prepared) or a nice bottle of sparkling (Prosecco if you want to keep it Italian themed) for when guests arrive.
"Last year, Easter was not a moment that most of the World could celebrate with others, so I think it makes this year’s extra special and worth going the extra mile for."
ON YOUR COOKING STYLE...
I’m a home cook with no professional culinary training, so my recipes are for the ‘home cook’. My recipes are shared in a step-by-step format via Instagram stories making any recipe whether simple or complex easy to follow and recreate at home.
At the core, the dish has to be delicious, it firstly has to taste yum and then secondly it has to be worth making whether it’s a ten minute or ten hour recipe. Finally, I try to make it as visually enticing as possible because we ultimately eat with our eyes. The recipes I share are essentially a food diary of what I’m personally craving to make and eat at the time. Sometimes they’re asian or Vietnamese dishes that are nostalgic to my childhood, a lot of the other times they’re a pasta or another type of Italian dish, because I’m obsessed with Italian food (I truly believe I’m an Italian Nonna at heart) and other times, they’re new recipes I’ve never tried before that I’ll challenge myself to learn how to cook it and then share that process with others.
My recipe development process takes into account mainly what I personally feel like eating as well as what’s in season, the weather and also any other particulars that the client might want me to be mindful of or integrate. I’ll spend a few hours researching the history and origins of the recipe, then read/watch a whole lot of versions of that recipe online, before creating my own version based on what I think would be best for the home cook and produce that we have in Australia. I’ll do my first recipe test and tweak and repeat the dish until I’m happy with it and then will shoot, edit and publish the recipe for others to recreate. The process normally takes 10 hours in total.
"At the core, the dish has to be delicious, it firstly has to taste yum and then secondly it has to be worth making whether it’s a ten minute or ten hour recipe."
ON YOUR STYLE...
Fashion wise, I love colour and prints in feminine and flattering cuts. I generally default to a dress, because it’s the easiest to chuck on and style. However as the colder weather rolls in, I love wearing a cosy cardigan with a comfy pair of wide legged jeans at home or layering a knit over a summer dress and adding to boots to make it transseasonal.
YOUR ADVICE FOR NOVICE COOKS...
No one was born a great cook, it’s a skill that requires practice over time just like anything!
The kitchen should be a fun space for delicious experiments and tasty outcomes, so just get in there and have a bit of fun and don’t put too much pressure on yourself initially. Find an easy recipe to try first and once you’ve mastered it and gained more confidence, try your hand at more complex ones.
If you’re hosting a meal for the first time, take the pressure off yourself by finding some recipes that can be made the day before so most of the cooking is out of the way on the day. I also like to ask my guests to bring one of the courses, generally a dessert, that way you can focus on the savoury dishes and it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
"If Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara had a baby without the egg, you’d get Pasta Alla Gricia."
It’s a traditional Roman pasta and apparently is the oldest pasta recipe in Rome. Whilst Pasta Alla Gricia consists of only 4 ingredients, it’s the perfect balance of salty, peppery, funky and creamy. It's traditionally cooked with rigatoni or a long pasta like bucatini or spaghetti, however it will work with anything you’ve got at home for the perfect pantry pasta recipe."