Family fare: the best food is what you cook at home for loved ones

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2010 MasterChef winner and TV presenter

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It's easy to get carried away with fancy ingredients and complicated recipes, but the best food is cooked at home for loved ones and comes from the heart, says Adam Liaw.

Ice-cream with fruit salad dressing.

Ice-cream with fruit salad dressing. Photo: William Meppem

I was asked recently when I fell in love with food. It was a question that threw me a little because, to be honest, I'm not sure I ever did; food has always meant a lot to me.

I made desserts with my mother when I was six and cooked one-off dishes when I was eight. When I got older I held dinner parties for my friends, took partners out for fancy meals and travelled the world bouncing from one amazing food experience to the next.

But food never meant more to me than it does now, when I cook every single day to feed my family. Sometimes they love my dishes, sometimes my kids will refuse to eat them. And because they're kids, there is rarely much praise for my food, no matter how good my wife and I might think it is. But cooking for my family is a simple act I will never stop doing, because it means more to me than anything else.

Teriyaki chicken and tofu meatballs.

Teriyaki chicken and tofu meatballs. Photo: William Meppem

Teriyaki chicken and tofu meatballs

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Serves 4

Tofu makes a protein-rich addition to meatballs, giving them lightness without leaving them dry or crumbly, as can happen sometimes with breadcrumbs.Drain the tofu and wrap in a double layer of kitchen paper. Press between two plates with a light weight on top for about 15 minutes to remove excess moisture, then crumble the tofu into a large bowl. Mix through the chicken mince, onion, egg and salt. Form into oval-shaped meatballs about 5cm long and 2 1/2cm wide. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes to allow the meatballs to firm.

Adam Liaw at home with his wife, Asami, and children Christopher, 3, and Anna, 5 months.

Adam Liaw at home with his wife, Asami, and children Christopher, 3, and Anna, 5 months. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches, turning often for about 6 minutes until cooked through. After the last batch is cooked, return all the meatballs to the pan and add soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. Shake the meatballs in the pan regularly to turn them over through the glaze as it thickens and coats them; this will take about 5 minutes.

Arrange lettuce on a plate and put meatballs on top. Scatter with sesame seeds and serve with a dollop of mayonnaise.

• 300g firm tofu

• 500g chicken mince

• 1 onion, coarsely grated

• 1 egg

• 1/2 tsp salt

• 1 tbsp vegetable oil

• 3 tbsp soy sauce

• 2 tbsp mirin

• 1 tbsp sake

• 1/2 tsp sugar

• a few lettuce leaves,

to serve

• 1/2 tsp mixed black and golden sesame seeds, toasted, to serve

• 2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise, to serve

Vanilla ice-cream with fruit salad dressing

Serves 4

The secret to this simple dish is to use a few sour fruits to offset the sweeter ones and balance the sweetness of the ice-cream.

• 1 orange, skin and pith trimmed, seeds removed

• 1 small lemon, skin and pith trimmed, seeds removed

• 6 strawberries, stalks removed

• 1 royal gala apple, peeled and cored

• 1 green kiwifruit, skin removed

• 2 tbsp apple or orange juice

• 1 tbsp lemon juice

• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

• 750ml good-quality vanilla ice-cream

• pinch of good-quality sea salt

Finely cut all the fruit into 1/2cm cubes, reserving as much of the juice as possible, particularly from the citrus. Mix together with the juices and olive oil and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.

Place a couple of scoops of vanilla ice-cream in chilled bowls and top with lots of the fruit salad dressing. Season with a little sea salt and serve.