After a solid but unspectacular entrée kicked off their March 1 Instant Restaurant on My Kitchen Rules, Valerie and Courtney knew their main, based on a recipe from Valerie's dad Joe, had to be perfect.
"When I smelled the goat curry and it was getting there," says Brisbane mum and real estate agent Valerie, "I was just really happy. I put a lot of emphasis on that curry because if I didn't do it justice, I would have been so, so upset with myself."
She needn't have worried. "Your dad was looking down on you today," judge Colin Fassnidge said in his critique. "He was on your shoulder." Added Darren Robertson, "Well, this is exactly why I'm here. This is home cooking at its absolute best."
Valerie and her daughter Courtney, a radio sales executive, scored perfect 10s from the judges for their dish. "That goat curry is a speciality in many Indian households, especially ours," Valerie says.
What makes theirs different, though, is the blend of spices concocted by Valerie's dad Joe, recorded in a recipe book Valerie started compiling as a teenager and to which Courtney now contributes 45 years later.
"It was amazing when mum gave me the book and I started adding to it over the years," Courtney says, adding that her Poppi inspired her, too. "He helped raise us, really," Courtney adds. "He was like a second dad to me. He would come around and Mummy and Poppi would be cooking in the kitchen together."
While Valerie says her mum Florence can cook a little bit, it was her dad who served as the kitchen mainstay for the family until he died 18 years ago. "He was a very simple man," Valerie says. "All he was interested in was his family, and he looked after us so beautifully, he and my mum. We didn't have very much growing up but we had family, beautiful food and a roof over our heads. What more do you want, really?"
Going on My Kitchen Rules "is absolutely a tribute," says Valerie. "I've been talking to my brothers and sisters, calling them quite often and they said, 'Oh, I wish Dad were here. I wish Dad were here to see this because he would just be so proud."
For more about Valerie, Courtney, and Joe's journey to Australia, pick up the latest issue of WHO on newsstands today.
My Kitchen Rules airs Sundays at 7 PM and Mondays through Wednesdays at 7.30 PM on Channel 7.