Workplace of Carolyn Evans, the chief cook & bottle washer

Coogee coast walk 2
Hello from Coogee in Sydney, Australia, from someone fortunate to live in a beachside suburb where other people go for their holidays.

Though I’m ‘not from around here’, I’ve lived in Coogee for over 20 years in a townhouse unit that is a modern version of a traditional terrace house, a small footprint layout on three levels – ie. the whole place is the size of a pocket hanky (inner city real estate prices – eek!).  The good news is that the stairwell makes an excellent photo gallery – it accommodates plenty of shots of our two sons along with the gallery for my large family of brothers and sisters. The bad news for the resident cook is that the kitchen is not much more than a corridor to the laundry.

cropped-img_1110.jpgDespite the challenges to storage space and all, the fact is I enjoy cooking (a bit less so at the end of a long day at the office), and I have had fun in that wee kitchen creating things for family and friends to enjoy.  Ideas from all around the world have followed me home from the sometimes strange, sometimes dangerous, always interesting places I have travelled (mostly solo, for work). Those are mixed together with things learned from our mum and many other terrific women I have known – and a few blokes who also enjoyed cooking!

Since I am often asked to share those ideas with people who sample the results, here goes!  Basically, my plan is to post recipes (semi-) regularly from the collections I have been developing – I’ve been working on them as ‘light relief’ while researching for my PhD in international law.  With my thesis now well advanced, the collection is getting pretty substantial.  It doesn’t hurt that my research has also rendered a few trips, to the land of the long white cloud, to our former colonial masters, and to where the most important question I had to answer over lunch was whether I would like one basil leaf or two on my bruschetta.  (Yes, just a little bit of gloating there!)

I’d be interested in any feedback about how the recipes work for you, or any suggestions for recipes that you need and think I might have to share.  Enjoy!!

A bit more on the kitchen in our tiny palace: Our place at Coogee has been a great spot in the big city, and we were right to choose ‘small but no commute’ over ‘palatial but hours in the car every day’ – that has worked out for us well in the overall scheme of things.  But it was still a very happy day in 2014 when we started renovating because the first stop was the kitchen!

As you can see in the images below, there have been a few changes as we worked through that – more light, more storage, more convenient work spaces – even though it is still the same size.  The hidden win is ducting the extractor hood to the outside of the house, a boon in Sydney’s hot and sticky summer – despite doing that we still managed to raise the ceiling a few inches, which changed the feel of the space as well.

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The only actual gain to floor space was moving the fridge into the laundry, in place of a fairly useless bench with a cupboard underneath that we pulled out (and which had been less-than-convenient-and-not-well-designed storage space for cake tins and such anyway).  When the fridge coincidentally was breathing its last around that time, the inspiration was getting a ‘side-by-side’ fridge/freezer combo – it makes excellent use of the limited space, not least because the doors are narrow (i.e. half the width of a comparable single door) so they swing safely and easily in the small space – and now there is real freezer space not just the jumble of one or two shelves above the fridge.

Speaking of the floor – we left the (very hard, and hard on the legs, however practical) ceramic tiles in place but laid a cork tile floor over the top.  Can’t tell you how much easier it is to stand cooking on those!

So the kitchen now matches my basic style of cooking, which aims for delicious but still economical: economical with time, how much cleaning and washing up I generate, and – after growing up in a household of 6 kids on a tight budget – how well any leftovers can be ‘recycled’ to avoid the ultimate ‘sin’ of wasting food.


  1. aussiebella says:

    Love the look of the new kitchen. Now that it is done what are the thing you would do differently? Do the same?

    1. mumchefoz says:

      The main thing that was a bit nerve-wracking at the time was installing the new ceiling. When we first looked we couldn’t find machinery to help, mostly because the small space and narrow access limited the options. But later when we were more familiar with the trade suppliers around the place, we found a mini-scissor lift that would have been fine and a bit less stressful than the younger son and I holding the sheet of gyprock in place while my husband did the necessary fixing. Like my mother said, it was a character building experience, but I am kind of thinking I really don’t need that much more character!

      One thing that was definitely a positive lesson was not being in a hurry. With no kids still in school, we had the luxury of taking our time and solving each question as best suited us – unlike one colleague, for example, who was under the pump for time and ended up with a bad call on where to put the power outlets. And it didn’t matter to us that we spent weeks cooking dinner on a camp stove on top of one of the old benches plonked in the middle of the former lounge room.

      Thanks for the question – are you planning your own renovations?

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