When friends gather at the Aldinga beach house of Jane and David Edwardson, city rules and regulations are left at the door as summer celebrations begin.
Guess who’s coming to lunch: Jane Edwardson
They call themselves “the summer friends”, a tight-knit group of neighbours in a small enclave of Aldinga Beach. The friendships grew as each of the Adelaide locals bought beach houses on the same block at the popular beachside destination.
“They’re all Adelaide friends but we call them summer friends,” says Jane Edwardson, who’s hosting lunch at her renovated 1970s beach house. “For years, we’d never even been to some of their homes in Adelaide because we always refer to each other as summer friends and we catch up down here. But it has grown over the years and we’re now ‘all year round friends’ and we see each other in town just as much.”
Jane and her lawyer husband David often play host at the beach house they bought and renovated in 2011. The property, called Southern Exposure, is rented out for holiday stays through Airbnb.
“We didn’t do a huge amount structurally,” Jane says. “It was a ’70s house with a purple bath and pink sink and swinging saloon doors. But the floor plan was great so we gutted it and updated the interiors and added the deck and some simple landscaping.
“We don’t have beach views, instead we face the conservation park so we can never be built out. It’s just so quiet and there’s lots of wildlife here. We’ve had echidnas in the garden, kangaroos, blue tongue lizards, tawny frogmouths and lots of laughing kookaburras. We can hear the ocean, the beach is only a 400-metre walk away, but we just love the area and especially the drive-on beach here where David can put the boat in.”
Guests at today’s long lunch are Steve and Kelly Williams, Amanda and Adrian Swale, Simon and Eli Ridley, Andris and Ally Lidums, Tony Bond, Fay Zaikos and James Stevens.
It’s a relaxed vibe as everyone gathers around the kitchen bench while Jane finishes off final preparations for the main course, Bendbrook Black Angus beef eye fillet with a fresh herb and a chilli crust, served with a horseradish cream.
“At the beach house we have a thing called ‘beach house rules’,” Jane says. “That just means we say yes to most ideas, and just go with the flow. It’s very easy going with beach house rules.”
Another beach house rule is that everyone pitches in when it comes to food. For today’s lunch, Ally has made her Middle Eastern roasted carrot salad, Eli has brought her signature spiced pumpkin salad with lentils, caramelised onions, blue cheese and candied walnuts, and Fay’s addition is her famous fruit platter served on a dried palm frond.
Amanda, who co-owns One Rundle Trading Co, has helped with styling the table, while the gorgeous table linen has been sourced from Jane’s good friend Alice MacGillivray from Bright Threads.
“I wanted to create a relaxed table using similar plants and flowers from our surroundings down here,” Jane says. “It wasn’t meant to be too formal looking, more to show the fun we have in putting it all together.”
Jane knows all about catering for special events. The 40-year-old has been working in kitchens since her first job as a kitchen hand at just 14 years of age. She then moved into a career that saw her work as a chef at a variety of pubs and restaurants across Adelaide. They included the Royal Hotel, Astor Hotel, Stanley Bridge Tavern and Schmitty’s Garage in Light Square.
“That was when I was the most nervous about working in a proper restaurant rather than a pub,” Jane says. “The head chef there was Jon Gaff who was amazing but also incredibly scary, so I really wanted to impress him and do the right thing. Plus, I wanted to learn as much as I could. Jon was so clever.”
While she’s had no formal training, Jane has always had a passion for food, fuelled by her love of creating and entertaining. She did undertake a Bachelor of Business after a gap year and eventually launched her own catering business, Dishorganised. Her first job under the new name was at Longview winery, then along came a stream of friends’ 21st birthday parties, then weddings, including the odd wedding cake, as well as bigger corporate and private events. Today, Jane has scaled the business back to a few small corporate clients and she also lends a hand making breakfasts with KickStart For Kids, a not-for-profit organisation founded by Ian Steel, who she greatly admires.
“People say it must be scary cooking for lots of people but it’s not really, I think I just get it,” Jane says. “Most people are nervous about whether or not they’ll have enough food. It took me ages to understand how to cater for specific numbers of people. I too was terrified of not having enough food and I therefore became renowned for having too much food.
“I particularly love shared plates or degustation-style sit down meals but my passion is cocktail food. I love little pieces of gorgeous deliciousness that are easy to eat.”
A life dominated by a love of food and wine was inevitable for Jane. Her parents John and Margaret Struik both love to cook and in 1997 planted vines on their Macclesfield property in the Adelaide Hills, creating Bendbrook Wines and Beef, now a James Halliday five-star winery, and meat wholesale business.
“When I was growing up Mum and Dad were both good cooks; quite adventurous,” says Jane, who is an only child. “We ate out every weekend because it was just the three of us and we’d end up at Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Farm or a similar destination restaurant, Dad loved a Sunday drive.
“Mum and Dad would often try to recreate at home whatever we’d had out and Dad would always put his own twist on the recipe.
“I also spent most Saturday mornings after sport roaming the Central Market with Dad. It’s a Struik thing, even my cousins, we’re all big foodies. My uncle was in town once and Dad took him spontaneously for lunch, having already had a huge breakfast, so he was not overly hungry. But when Chianti’s signature rabbit dish arrived he lamented ‘in cases like this you make yourself hungry’.
“Some people live to eat, and others eat to live. I think there are two very different people in the world, we love to eat!”
The jury is still out on whether eight-year-old daughter Ella has inherited her family’s culinary sensibilities.
“I was making brownies yesterday and I got her to melt the chocolate and butter together and as soon as it was finished she said, ‘right, am I done?’,” Jane says. “She’s just busy in her own little world. Too busy doing backflips and learning new cheer dance moves.”
Getting creative outside the kitchen also comes naturally to Jane, who decided to take a couple of years off in 2011 after having Ella. Inevitably she got itchy feet and so started helping a girlfriend with her accessory label, but that soon morphed into Jane launching her own business, Cinquante Jewellery.
“Someone said to me one day, ‘why don’t you just design your own jewellery?’, so I did,” she says. “I did a little silversmithing as a kid, and again after school, so I understood the fundamentals of how to put things together, so when I was drawing I had an understanding of how it would work beyond just looking pretty. I now have all my pieces made in Bali.”
Jane only makes 50 of each particular design in brass and silver, hence the Cinquante name, and the jewellery is regularly used by stylists Australia wide.
“We are worn on The Project, Studio 10 and the Today show regularly, Lisa Wilkinson has a number of our earrings,” Jane says. “We loan collections to stylists for all the major Fashion Weeks around Australia.”
Cinquante has been paired more recently with a number of designers, including Carla Zampatti, Mossman, Keepsake the Label, Magali Pascal, Suboo, Ginger & Smart, Scanlan Theodore and others, to complement their runways, lookbooks and create content.
Having the flexibility to work her own hours is a must for Jane, given that David, a criminal barrister, is often away for work. The duo met when Jane was working as a legal secretary in 2007 and in 2011 they ended up buying the eastern suburbs home of Jane’s grandparents.
It had been sold out of the family years prior and had been extensively renovated.
“We were living 400 metres away in Norwood and I said to David, ‘Oh my god it’s on the market, I have to go and see what they’ve done’,” says Jane. “We literally walked in the door and looked in the front two rooms and David said ‘I reckon we could live here’. I said, ‘I think we should see the kitchen first’.”
David has two adult children Chloe, 29 and Hannah, 27 who visit regularly with their fiancees for a meal and a catch-up.
“Midweek I’ll cook something like lamb shanks or crispy skin salmon with lots of veggies and scallop potatoes, and there is always a pot of bolognese sauce on the go,” Jane says. “Occasionally, we’ll do hamburgers or tacos because that’s what Ella likes, and it’s good because you sit around the table passing the components around and everyone is involved in the conversation. I love a family dinner where you can gather and talk about your day. I think it’s important.
“At least once a week we will also have dinner with our dear neighbours Johnny and Shan and, depending on who is in town, one or all of their three daughters Isabella, Madeleine and Isobel. Johnny and I will confer during the week if we are planning a big cook up to give each other a ‘night off’, and we’ll crack open a good red or two. Shan’s mum Sue is a fabulous traditional Asian cook and, bless her, she regularly makes a big spread and feeds us all and then sends us home with the leftovers. It’s the highlight of my week when Sue cooks!”
Back at the beach house, dessert is being devoured, pavlova with lemon curd cream, kiwi, mixed berries and passionfruit, along with a few glasses of the 2015 Bendbrook Peony Riesling and Goat Track Shiraz. Finally, Jane can sit down, take a breath and relax, as is the way of the beach house.
“I just love entertaining, here in particular,” she says. “I like having people in my house and I love having a home that people feel comfortable to call into anytime.
“This place is great with the deck and the fire pit and the kids run wild. It’s just perfect in summer. It’s the one time of the year you can really down tools and unwind. It’s just a good part of the world.”
Pan-fried pancetta-wrapped prawns with lemon and dill aioli
Serves approx 10-12 people as a canape
2 doz medium prawn cutlets
12 slices pancetta cut in half
1 clove garlic crushed
½ lemon, zested
cracked pepper to season
Combine prawns, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and cracked pepper in a bowl and toss to coat evenly. Wrap each slice of pancetta around the middle of the prawns like a blanket (you can either leave the tail tips on the prawns to use as handles or pinch them off so your guests aren’t left holding them and juggling their drink). Heat a large non-stick frypan with a tablespoon or two of oil and fry prawns on both sides until pancetta is turning crispy and golden. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving with dipping aioli
2 cups of your favourite store-bought mayonnaise
1 small clove fresh garlic, crushed
1 lemon, zest and juice
½ bunch of dill, picked and chopped
Dash of good olive oil
Pinch of white pepper to taste, optional
Mix everything together in a bowl with a whisk, adding lemon juice slowly to combine (and to taste as you may not need all of the juice). Aioli can keep for up to a week in the fridge.
This story first appeared in the Dec 2019/Jan 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine.