Profile: Singer/Writer Sharon McConochie
Sharon McConochie is a very good cook. One recent Sunday afternoon, we drank vodka on the rocks in her cozy, eclectic West Hollywood loft. As her four-year-old Chihuahua—Mister Harvey Houdini Lipschultz—keenly observed from a fluffy, pink pillow nearby, we discussed food and Sharon’s memories of it from growing up in Australia.
“My mother, Trish, is a fantastic cook,” she said. “I learned all the basic stuff from her.” Trish cooked everything from scratch, using only whole foods—nothing processed. She loved making a set dish for each day of the week: Steak Diane on Mondays, Apricot Chicken on Tuesdays, roasts on Wednesdays and Sundays, Asian on Thursdays, and “whatever goes” on Fridays. Every Saturday, Sharon’s dad Gordon made a barbecue.
At age 17, Sharon’s burgeoning modeling and singing career took her to London (where she stayed for several years), Paris, Florence, and eventually to Los Angeles—her current home. This nomadic lifestyle broadened her horizons and contributed to her great kitchen talents. “I ate really well when I was traveling, and I took notes everywhere,” she remembers.
Age 39 — Hometown Gold Coast — Where do you live? Hollywood — Occupation Singer and writer — Signature dish Fresh and flavorful EVERYTHING! — Who taught you how to cook? Myself — Favorite kitchen tool Tea towel — Always in your pantry Vegemite — Go-to snack Crackers, sharp Cheddar cheese and sliced sweet pickle — Favorite cuisine Californian — Do you diet? Never — Food addictions Spicy — Food allergies Red wine — Food fad pet peeve Small plates. And I can't bare offal of any kind — Who’s your sous chef? Houdini, he keeps the floor clean — Drinking while cooking? A must—during and after — What’s for dinner tonight? I never know what I'll have or crave til closer to sunset. I have ADD and I love to eat, so I think of a bunch of different dishes throughout the day, and then finally I decide around 6-ish — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? All the time, but it must have a teaspoon of Ovaltine in it — Best meal you ever had My best friend in London is married to a Frenchman and when I come to visit, they always serve exceptional food: cheeses, pommes de terre, bellini with caviar, tarte tatin and the best French wines
There are as many variations on this classic Australian staple as there are of chocolate chip cookies. Measurements are pretty variable, and the ingredients are flexible—except for the chicken and apricots, of course. In this remarkably good version, Sharon uses sweet potatoes and crunchy Brussels sprouts. Bright and lively, with sweet and sour notes, this stew tastes best with steamed white rice.
- Serves 4–6
- 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Unbleached, all-purpose flour
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 15-ounce cans apricot halves with juice
- 3 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
- 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 packet French onion mix
- ½ cup apricot juice
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat the chicken with flour, place it in a Dutch oven or heavy, ovenproof dish, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the apricots with their juice, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, French onion soup mix, and the apricot juice. Mix well, cover, and cook in the oven for 2 hours.