Di Haddad to share her culinary skills – and secrets – at Moree on a Plate

LAUGHTER and chatter as shared platters pass up and down the table, and family and friends bonding over food made with love.

For talented Moree caterer Di Haddad, this is what cooking is all about.

“I love nothing more than seeing people enjoy a meal together; for me, food represents family, love and kinship,” Di says.

Di is another of Moree on a Plate’s exciting local talents to share her knowledge and passion at this year’s festival via interactive cooking demonstrations.

And Di, a local through and through, credits the women in her family for inspiring her love of cooking.

“My mother, Julia Haddad, nee Bates, taught me to bake scones and cakes when I was just six years old – when she left home she could barely boil water and she didn’t want the same fate for me,” Di laughs.

And with a long line of culinary-skilled aunts and a couple of grandmothers close by, Di learnt to cook – and genuinely enjoy it.

“My dad’s mother, my grandmother, Sitdy Yumna Haddad, taught mum to cook when she was first married,” Di said.

“The Haddad family came out from Lebanon when dad, Norman Haddad, was just six, so there was a huge Lebanese influence.

Di Haddad will be another of Moree on a Plate’s local guest chefs, demonstrating her talent for Lebanese cooking.

“Mum has an amazing sense of flavour and developed into a beautiful cook – I think she even makes Lebanese meals better than my Lebanese aunts,” Di smiled.

Her darling mother is still often by her side in the kitchen, and Di admits her knowledge never ceases to amaze her.

“Just recently she taught me how to make a warm pastry – it was such a fascinating process and goes to show there is so much I can still learn from mum,” Di said.

And there’s certainly no questioning that Di has inherited the family talent.

Retiring as the Moree TAFE campus operations manager in recent years afforded Di more time to dedicate to her beloved craft.

She soon found herself in demand cooking for friends’ functions, and her catering business ‘Food to Di For’, was born.

‘For me, cooking has always been a stress release; I find the process therapeutic and relaxing,” she said.

So much so, she laughs, that her husband Tex Wheaton could always tell if she’d had a bad day by the meal she prepared that evening.

“The better and more intricate the dish, the worse my day had been,” Di laughed.

Lebanese dishes are Di’s specialty, and admits she becomes quite emotional when preparing her favourite meals.

“For me, cooking is so meaningful . . . I associate it with family, love and togetherness,” Di said.

“There’s nothing better than a big long table of platters shared around a crowd, eaten with traditional Lebanese bread rather than a knife and fork – it’s such a wonderful leveller and creates such a relaxed, wonderful atmosphere.”

At Moree on a Plate Di will teach a number of her favourite staples – tabbouli, hummus and kofta.

“Tabbouli is so soothing to cook, and I always have some in the fridge. It’s such a fresh, healthy dish and so versatile,” Di says.

“These are dishes people know. The flavours and textures are not too foreign and I’m so excited to help share some of my recipes with the community.”

Words and Image: Georgina Poole