Viewing entries in
Food & Travel

Emu Bao

Comment

Emu Bao

Pau or Bao, is a staple food throughout Asia, and a particular favourite for Singaporeans. From hawkers markets, to well-known Dim Sum restaurants and small convenience stores, fresh bao can contain many different fillings for that quick snack or as the star of a lunch time platter.

Interestingly, when you see bao buns sitting in big bamboo steamers or lined up in small cabinets in Singapore, they have different coloured dots on the top of them. It is intriguing, this colour coding of doughy goodness, and extremely organised. For those of you trying to decode the numerous bao buns on offer throughout Singapore, this is what we have tasted: the Char Siew Pork meat bao (red dot); the Vegetable bao (green dot); the curried chicken bao (dark orange dot); the Yam bao (light yellow dot); and the bao filled with red bean paste which has no dot at all!

But probably one of our favourites is the larger round meat bao, gorgeously rich and tender, with a flavour that fills the mouth and makes you want more. So, we thought, why not try a fresh steamed bao bun with some delicious Australian game meat? Maybe Kangaroo or even Emu?

Here is a relatively easy recipe that brings together the light and springy Chinese bao dough with slowly braised Australian Emu shank, infused with native Australian spices. Give it a try to really impress people at your next Asian inspired dinner party.

EMU BAO

For the Emu filling:

5 Emu drums (or 1.5kg)

Handful of dry native lemongrass

Ten dried pepperberries, crushed

2 sprigs native thyme

5 riberries

3 tbsp chilli bean paste

1ltr game stock

200ml red wine

2tbsp dark soy

1tbsp hoisin

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

2 cloves garlic, whole

  1. Take emu drums, trip off excess sinew, rub with crushed pepper berries and chilli paste and place in a glass dish. Cover with wine, herbs and the cooled stock. Marinate overnight. Remove drums, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Retain the marinade liquid.

  2. Take a roasting pan and heat the oil. Saute the onion and celery, add the garlic cloves and colour the emu drums nicely. Pour over the retained marinade liquid (add more stock if necessary to completely cover the emu) and simmer slightly over heat.

  3. Cover roasting tin with foil and place in preheated oven at 160 degrees. Cook for 3 hours or until meat falls off the bone.

  4. Combine the honey, soy sauce, hoisin, rice wine vinegar in a pan, simmer and reduce slightly to a thickened sauce.

  5. Remove meat from the emu drums and chopped. Take remaining braising liquid, strain through fine muslin, then place in pan and reduce until thick. Add the soy sauce mixture to this sauce and check for flavour and seasoning.

  6. Combine the sauce with the emu meat, ready to fill the buns.

For the Bao Dough:

550g all-purpose flour or bao flour (this can be found at asian supermarkets)

100g cornstarch

5gr dry yeast

3 tbsp white sugar

300ml warm milk

1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp groundnut oil

1/2 tsp pepperberry, ground

  1. Mix together the flour, 2 tbsp sugar and cornstarch.

  2. Combine the milk, remaining sugar and yeast. Let sit for 15 minutes until the yeast activates and foams. Add this to the flour mixture slowly until combined.

  3. Add oil and vinegar to mix and bring together into a dough with hands.

  4. Put in stand mixer with dough hook and allow to knead for for 10 minutes until it is smooth and springy to the touch. If kneading by hand, this can take up to twelve minutes.

  5. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise, just like bread, in a warm place for up to an hour until it has doubled in size.

  6. Punch down dough to remove all the air bubbles and then shape into smooth balls (20-30 depending on the portion size desired). Indent and make a large hole in the middle of the dough and push out the sides to form a small, even-sided bowl shape. Fill with 1 tbsp of emu meat mix, then wrap the edges around the filling so that they meet at the top (like putting something in a bag and gathering it at the top with an elastic band). Take the gathers at the top in one hand and with the other at the base of the bun ball, twist slightly to create the signature bao puckering at the top.

  7. Place each bun on a square of parchment paper and into a bamboo steamer. Allow to proof again in a warm place until the dough springs back slightly when touched and place steamer basket on top of pain of boiling water. Steam for 12 minutes.

Tips:

  • Don’t overproof the dough as this will lead the buns to go wrinkly and to collapse.

  • When the buns are finished steaming, slight open the lid and allow them to sit in the steamer basket for 6 more minutes before taking lid off fully - this will stop them from collapsing also.

  • You can also make these by braising kangaroo tails in the same way.

  • Serve these buns with the traditional condiments of oyster or plum sauce or try with our Pickled Native Ginger and Quandong dipping sauce for that extra Australian flavour (coming up in our next blog post).

Interesting Fact:

Did you know that the female Emu makes a very cool, deep drumming sound? Since we are using Emu drums in this recipe we thought this was kinda neat! Check it out


Comment

Australian-style Popiah

Comment

Australian-style Popiah

You can find Hokkien Popiah in pretty much every hawker’s market throughout Singapore. Slow cooked vegetables, Yam bean sauce and garlic complimented by slices of meat and garlicky prawns are enveloped in a very thin almost crepe-like wrap called Popiah skin. It is then sliced and devoured!

This delicious and unique street food favourite would be perfect with some Australian twists. So after some careful research here in Singapore, we have tweaked a few traditional elements used in Popiah to include WA prawns, kangaroo sausage, native basil and bush tomato relish.

Popiah skins can be bought fresh or frozen at various Chinese food stores and Asian supermarkets. If you have trouble finding them, a recipe for the ambitious cook has been included, so you can make them from scratch!

AUSTRALIAN - STYLE POPIAH

Makes 10

Ingredients:

Base Filling

2 tbsp peanut oil

4 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp chopped native lemongrass

50g carrots, shredded

80g green beans, thinly sliced

50 grams cooked Japanese yam - or even better, cooked native Youlk

60g shredded white cabbage

150g fresh WA endeavour prawns

200g chopped kangaroo sausage (or kangaroo mince)

300ml chicken stock

1 tsp soy sauce

salt and pepper

Additions:

10 pieces Popiah skin (fresh or frozen) or alternatively spring roll wrappers

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned

2 eggs, boiled and chopped

50g, roasted and chopped macadamia nuts

100g beansprouts

2 large native basil leaves, blanched, chilled and chopped

4 iceberg lettuce leaves, chopped

10 Tbsp bush tomato relish

Directions

1. In a wok or frying pan, gently sauté 2 tsp garlic, ginger and lemongrass in oil. Add kangaroo sausage or mince and sauce until cooked though. Set aside on plate. Add stock to pan and bring to boil.

2. Add prawns to stock until just cooked through, remove with slotted spoon, allow to cool, then peel and chop. Strain and reserve stock. Clean pan.

3. Saute 2 tsp garlic in oil until softened, gradually add the shredded vegetables, native lemongrass and soy sauce. Once slightly soften, pour in reserved stock until vegetables are just covered. Let simmer for 20-30 mins until much of the liquid has disappear and vegetables are soft, but not mushy. Strain vegetables and squeeze slightly to remove excess liquid. Set aside.

4. Now it is time to make some native Australian flavoured Popiah! Separate a sheet of popiah skin and lay on a clean flat surface.

5. At one end, lay some lettuce leaves and top with a Tbsp each of the additional ingredients. Only add 1 tsp of the native basil as it is quite strong. Top with 1 tbsp bush tomato relish, kangaroo sausage, macadamias, cucumber strips, bean sprouts and finally chopped prawns.

6. Roll into a compact spring roll shape (though it will be larger than your usual spring roll), tuck both ends in midway through.

7. Eat as a whole roll or slice into pieces!! Yum!

*** Homemade Popiah skins*** Makes 10-20

WARNING: Getting the skins perfectly even and thin takes practice, so keep trying!

Ingredients:

500g plain high protein flour

1 tbsp tapioca or corn flour

salt and peper

2 c water

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients and mix into a lumpy batter. Lift the batter up out of the bowl and let it drop down. You are essentially working the batter, or kneading it, until it starts to pull together into a dough.

  2. Once you reach a soft dough-like consistency, lay out in clean pan, cover and put in fridge overnight to ‘set’

  3. Take dough out - you will notice it has become more doughy and less like a batter.

  4. Heat a cast iron griddle, and quickly take a handful of the dough. Smear it around the base of the pan in a big circle so that some of the dough sticks to the pan, lifting up quickly to remove excess dough. Any thick bits on the crepe=like circle can be picked off with a ball of dough to unstick them.

  5. When the edges start to curl and all the moisture has evaporated from the skin, remove from the pan. Repeat with another lump of dough until all are made.




Comment

The Elusive Blue Quandong - Adventures in Singapore

Comment

The Elusive Blue Quandong - Adventures in Singapore

Isn’t this fruit gorgeous? Exploring South East Asia sure brings with it some very special finds. Who would have thought we would find Blue Quandong in the middle of a garden city like Singapore.

Elaeocarpus Angustifolius, known in India and South East Asia as the Marble Tree, is also referred to as the Blue Quandong. Native also to the tropical rainforests of northern Queensland, the wood of this rainforest tree is highly valuable and utilised in furniture and boat building. These deep blue, almost perfectly round, fruits have a sour taste and work great in tarts and jams. Though, we think presenting these beauties simply halved on a plate with some vanilla ice cream is perfect enough! The seeds are commonly polished and used in jewellery such as Hindu prayer necklaces called Rudraksha. In Australia, they are often used in seed jewellery, like that made by one of our favourite social enterprises of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council , the Tjanpi Desert Weavers

As many of you may have noticed, RiverMint Dining is currently working between Perth and Singapore. Although our bookings have been limited in Perth, we are doing plenty of culinary research and workshops in Singapore. It is our hope that upon return to normal operations in 2019, we will be able to bring new skills and inspiration to our pop up events and catering options. 

Singapore is world-renowned for its food scene. Think of a cuisine and you are sure to find it in this small but vibrant island country. Food here is a national obsession and a uniting link between the various cultures that make up its population. Go to a local hawker's market and the main ethnic groups are represented - Malaysian, Peranakan, Chinese, Kristang, Indonesian and Indian. Eating at a local hawker's market or shopping mall food hall is generally the most popular pastime. Dishes like Haianese Chicken and rice, Chilli Crab, Roti Prata, carrot cake (made with eggs not carrot!) and Laksa are just the start of an enormous repertoire. It is our hope that we can glean new inspiration here whilst in the process learning how to meld food cultures and preserve the integrity and simplicity of an ingredient.

Keep watch for our next blog post where we present a new Asian influenced kangaroo recipe!

 

Comment

Gourmet Mallorca - Revisiting and Reinventing

Comment

Gourmet Mallorca - Revisiting and Reinventing

The mountainous terrain of the Sierra Tramuntana and the unique produce of Spain’s Balearic Islands make Mallorca an exciting destination for active food lovers. It was not long ago that I was based in Mallorca for my work as a private chef in the yachting industry and often I would fill my winter weekends and days off with treks exploring the mountains and villages and of course the restaurants and cafes.

Fond memories of Mallorcan cuisine start with the mild aroma of olive wood and wild rosemary and the bleating of mountain goats. Just north of the small town of Alaro in the centre of Mallorca, if one follows the signs through the winding olive groves towards El Castell, the entrance of a Moorish ruined fortress and cliff- top chapel can be found. Perched on the roof of El Castell d’Alaro with a $4 glass of Crianza, a breathtaking view of the Sierra Tramuntana and the town of Alaro below can be enjoyed. On descent, a hard-earned lunch break at Es Verger restaurant is highly recommended (Es Verger, Castel d’Alaro, Alaro, Mallorca). With long tables nestled next to wood burning ovens in an old family barn, hikers and locals munch on bread and olives. The shoulder of lamb here is pure comfort food. As are the caricoles, snails in garlic butter broth, picked out carefully with a toothpick. And to finish it all off, the famous electric coffee, a long black coffee with rum, set fire to at the table. My bill was always under $40.

Venturing further across the vast landscape of the Sierra Tramuntana is the village of Llosetta. Starting early in Placa de Lloseta hikers take the road followed by pilgrims centuries ago through olive and almond groves to the small hamlet of Biniamar and the traditionally farmed land of ancient Mancor de la Vall. Home of the Fira de Esclatasangs, a festival held every November, Mallorca’s own breed of reddish-brown wild mushrooms, called the esclatasang, can be found here in the autumn. I stop for a quick snack of Pa amb oli at Bar Can Bernat. The bread is warm, topped with crushed ramellet tomato and completed with a grilled esclatasang mushroom.

Those who are familiar with Palma de Mallorca's Latin Quarter will in turn be well-acquainted with  the lively area of Santa Catalina and its market. Here locals and visitors embrace a vibrant array of produce. In the south-west corner of the market a bubbly lady sells fresh boquerones, baby anchovies marinated in parsley, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. The fish stalls display scarlet Mallorcan prawns. From a small speciality shop one can try a cut of well-known Balearic pork sausage made with minced pork meat and spices such as paprika called Sobrassada. Pick up a packet of Mallorca’s much-loved salty biscuits called galletas d’inca, and slather it with the Sobrassada. And, of course, no market trip would be complete without cheese. Some wedges of aged Mallorcan cheese (a crumbly cow/goat’s milk cheese) and a semi-cured Menorcan variety, Mahon, go perfectly with native Mallorcan vine strung ramellet tomatoes. And don't forget the amazing juicy white peaches!

Having visited Mallorca on a number of occasions, a tour around Palma’s Old Town is a definite recommendation for any avid walker. The architecture alone reflects the islands constant changes in occupation, from La Seu, Mallorca’s stunning gothic cathedral, to the Arab baths located east of the city walls. These baths reveal one of the last surviving sites of Moorish architecture in Mallorca and offer a cool respite from its bustling streets (Banys Arab, Carrer Serra 7, Palma de Mallorca). Whilst meandering through the medieval quarters one can become distracted by boutiques with their wonderfully crafted leather goods and myriad of street performers. The work of Gaudi, as seen at the Gran Hotel and surrounding buildings in Plaza de Mercado adds another dimension to the architecture of the old town.

On a food trek, however, it is vital to take some time to visit Lo Di Vino (Carrer del Carmen 16, Palma old town). The owner, Pedro, will charismatically take you on a wine tour of Spanish and Mallorcan wines, as you munch on Iberico ham and local cheese. And don't forget to stop by the Panaderia de la Mision (C/Mision 36, Palma) to pick up a sweet caricola ensaimada for the following days breakfast. Made using a centuries old recipe including flour, eggs and pork lard, traditional unfilled ensaimadas are topped with icing sugar and are a staple of the Mallorquin diet.

Dinner rarely starts before 9pm at the earliest in Spain - a far cry from dinner time in Perth, with most restaurants cleaned up and closed by 10.30pm. Marc Fosh’s acclaimed restaurants, such as Simply Fosh (Hotel de la Misio, C/Missio 7A, Palma, +34 971 720 114) have withstood the test of time and the 2008 financial crisis that hit Spain. His paired down but elegant restaurant offers an affordable three-course lunch for $35, with main meals including cuttlefish with smoked rice. Fosh still manages to incorporate Mallorcan ingredients seamlessly and with simplicity.

My personal all-time favourite in Palma de Mallorca was El Chaflan de Patxi (Carrer Espartero 28, Plaza del Puente, +34971284486) otherwise known simply as Patxi. I cannot help but return to this Basque-inspired restaurant whenever we visit. Rarely frequented by tourists, Patxi has a fantastic choice of Basque-style pintxos – tender foie gras, brazuela de pato and fried brie with cranberry, all cooked to order. Lamb chops and steak can be ordered by the kilo here when seated in the restaurant. Topped off with a choice of wines from across Spain, Patxi is one place I should perhaps keep an affordable secret.

Experience with the food cultures and ingredients of Spain and the Balearic Islands influence many of the techniques and preparations used in the RiverMint kitchen. The honest rusticity of Mallorcan cuisine and its focus on fresh and light seafood dishes and spiced meat alternatives guides our approach to the wonderful native ingredients we find on our doorstep here in WA and beyond. Moving forward, we hope to continue to embrace our own Australian food culture and ingredients with integrity just as the ancient ethic groups of Spain, from the Catalans to the Mallorcans to the Andalucians, have for centuries.    

 

Comment

Bunya Nuts

Comment

Bunya Nuts

A recent visit home to Queensland would not have been complete without driving through the Bunya laden mountain areas of the Sunshine Coast via the iconic and beautiful areas of Eumundi and Yandina. Watch your head though, when it's a bumper season in the Bunya Mountains (Boobarran Ngummin), there are Bunya knobs falling from a great height all over the place! 

With a subtle flavour similar to chestnuts, the Bunya nut (or Gummingurra as it is traditionally known by the Gubi Gubi people of the SE Hinterlands) is in fact not really a nut at all, but a fantastic source of starchy carbohydrates. Aboriginal people of South east Queensland survived and thrived off Bunya nuts for many centuries and to this day still use them to prepare traditional nut cakes and breads. The Bunya mountain reserves are in fact managed by the Bunya Murri Ranger project, whose custodians continue to have a strong spiritual and cultural connection to the mountains. 

Nutritionally Bunya nuts are made up mostly of water and complex carbohydrates, with a touch of protein and magnesium. They are gluten free though, so perfect for making gluten free bread.

It is hard to get great fresh Bunya nuts in Western Australia and often the frozen product is utilised. However, keep your eyes open for the giant trees and knobs in local botanical parks and random areas throughout the City of Vincent and the City of Perth.

In the RiverMint kitchen we particularly like to roast and salt thinly sliced Bunya nuts as a garnish or ground up and used in a bunya vanilla cake, similar to using almond meal. Pureed it needs some decent roasting and seasoning to avoid losing its delicate flavour. 

Bunya nuts pair really well with mild seafood such as scallops as well as vegetarian dishes containing sweet corn or green leafy vegetables. And they are especially good in parmesan cheese biscuits!

If you are visiting Queensland's Sunshine Coast I would highly recommend learning more about these amazing trees and the historical, cultural and spiritual connections that they embody . The annual Bunya Dreaming festival, held every Australia Day, would be the perfect place to start! 

Comment

The Season of Makuru

Comment

The Season of Makuru

The cold and wet season is upon us, though the sun still loves to shine, mixing with sporadic showers to create beautiful rainbows across the winter sky.

Makuru is known by the Noongar people as the season of the first rains and fertility. Bird species such as Ravens (Wardong) and the Black Swan (Mali) increase in numbers and quieten down for the breeding season. This was also the time that Noongar people traditionally moved further inland to hunt and the diet was meat heavy as opposed to seafood, including emu (Weitj), bandicoots (Quenda)  and possum (Koomal).

Towards the end of Makuru, around late July, residents in the suburb of Peppermint Grove will no doubt notice the white flowers of the peppermint gums that line the verges, emitting a beautiful fragrance and appearance. Tea tree and fungus are also is great abundance in the southern regions.

Kangaroo (Yonga)  was an important source of food and materials during Makuru,  with its bones being used for tools and scrapers, tendons for bindings and ties and the famous skins used to make coats.

There is so much to learn about the Noongar seasons and culture and the best way to do this is to take part in one of the excellent tours and workshops held by respected Noongar elders in Perth and throughout Western Australia. The following businesses and tour operators are just a few of the suggestions we have here in the Perth Metro area and we highly recommend them to all those who want to learn more about culture, Australian history and the six seasons.

Bindi Bindi Dreaming: Marissa Verma does some great cultural workshops and will also introduce you to the Yonga Booka, a coat made from kangaroo skins turned inside out during this cold wet season. She makes some tasty native treats as well.

Indigenous Tours WAJoin respected elder Dr Noel Nannup and son Greg Nannup on a journey through Wadjuk country. Learn more about the their culture, traditions and spiritual links between land and sea, discover Fremantle's early indigenous history, or tour King's Park to learn more about bush food and medicine.

Wangi Mia, Yanchep National Park: One of our favourite places for reflection and learning, Yanchep National Park is the perfect place for a family day out. To discover more about Wadjuk culture, the tools and instruments such as the didgeridoo, visit the charismatic and very funny Derek Nannup at Wangi Mia.

Urban Indigenous:  An award winning private tour operator at both a corporate and educational level, Rebecca Casey and Ron Bradfield along with a truly fantastic team of guides and story tellers, share culture and challenge stereotypes with their workshops and tours with passion and a deep understanding of Aboriginal culture.

Go Cultural: Taking place at Elizabeth Quay, Perth, Go Cultural is the newest aboriginal experience available to those wanting to learn more from those with deeper connections to land and culture. Dreamtime stories, spiritual songs and an introduction to hunting and cooking implements are all part of the experience conducted by traditional owner of Nyungar Boodja, Walter McGuire.

Here's to enjoying these cold wet days and celebrating what the season of Makuru has to offer. We would love to hear more about your experiences and learning through tours like the above.

 

Comment

Memories of Mexico - Baja

Comment

Memories of Mexico - Baja

I land at midday at San Diego airport, welcomed by sunshine and a light breeze. Here I am in the second most desirable city to live in the United States. My husband greets me with a small Punto hire car, covered in dust, to take me on a weekend adventure.

We could, of course, stay in San Diego. Why not? It is a culturally diverse city, relaxed and creative. Here you can visit one of its many splendid beaches, like La Jolla or Mission Bay, or hop on and off the city’s tram service delving into diverse art galleries and stopping at places like award-winning Café Chloe for a light lunch and a glass of crisp white.

But, whilst there are so many activities and sights to see in San Diego I am in the mood for something off the beaten track. I need an adventure. And so, we leave the easygoing city of San Diego in search of fish tacos and unknown wines. To San Isidro border we head and continue south to the small cruise ship town of Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico.

Ensenada is a far cry from the sun loungers of Cancun. As you pass Tijuana and Rosarita you realize how much of an impact the recent war on drug cartels has made. Ensenada, however, is a welcome escape from the daily pressures of life and many people take a weekend break from San Diego to enjoy what is considered to be Mexico’s northernmost culinary mecca.

With both the Guadelupe and Calafia Valleys only a short and scenic drive away from Ensenada, Baja’s famed Ruta del Vino is a fantastic destination to visit with numerous wineries. Vinedoes L.A Cetto is considered a meeting place for local Ensenadenas and produces approximately 80% of wine that is exported from Baja. There are tours hourly of the wine-making facilities, including tours in English and a fantastic tasting experience with a charismatic and knowledgeable man whose family have been producing wine in the region for over 100 years.

Vinos de Dona Lupe, on the other hand, is a smaller producer and the only organic wine producer in Mexico. There is more to the experience of Dona Lupe than the wine. Here we were greeted by dancers and musicians who also sold their handmade jewellery and leather goods at small stalls. We enjoyed a lovely lunch here and visited the small shop attached which sells locally sourced organic snacks, dips and sweets. Sat beneath the fruitful vines overlooking the vineyard, we watched as families sipped on tastings and sangria and enjoyed the shade. 

Most importantly, however, were the many food stalls in central Ensenada. We were taken by friends Claudia and Jeremy to Mariachi Meno Meno, a renowned fish taco shack, close to the shipyard where they were dry docked. Here I am greeted with a small cup of spicy fish soup made with fish fresh from the local market across the street. The exotic clams and oyster gratin are two items not to be missed. And, of course, no Baja experience is complete without trying a fish taco– a battered fillet of fish, rolled in a warm soft tortilla. Before me on the table are a selection of condiments to add to my Baja fish taco experience. These included lime, cabbage, tomato salsa, red chilli hot sauce and a green habanero and tomatillo sauce that provides fresh zing and heat in equal quantities. My desire to experience a real fish taco was ticked off the list.

Next on the list is the Sabina Bandera Ensenada eatery La Guerrense. Included in Newsweek’s 101 Best Places to eat on Earth, one has to stop here and try one of her myriad of salsas and the selection of 15 ceviches, including the sea urchin ceviche tostada.

After wondering the main street of Ensenada, which really just contains numerous trinket shops for visiting cruise ship holiday makers, I returned to our villa on the beach in Baja Cove, about 40 minutes drive from Ensenada. Along the way we came across a man,  his dog and a donkey with spray-painted stripes ..... now known as a Zonkey....... the things people do. Close to La Bufadora, a local blowhole that draws in large crowds over the weekend, I relaxed overlooking the ocean, munching on cactus freshly barbecued.. 

It was very tasty...... thanks Mexico.

 

 

 

Comment

Crayfish and Two Up

Crayfish and Two Up

 

Lest We Forget……” A squeaky, out of tune bugle demands respectful silence as it struggles to lament the Last Post. Anzac Day in the middle of the Indian Ocean. How did I end up here?            

The Australian flag flaps quietly as waves crash on the beach below. Anzac biscuits are distributed, sausages start to sizzle and the fizz of beer bottles opening all mix with the hum of anticipation………. Let the Two-Up games begin.

I shuffle in close to join the circle of cray fishing families and privileged visitors, all waving 50 and 100 dollar notes. Fifty headsone woman cries…… “One hundred tailsyells a well-lubricated fisherman. And so it continues for three hours. A man everyone calls Docsteps into the circle, he looks vaguely familiar with his sandals and rather prominent ears ……. ‘Head em up Doc! Head em up!a true-blue Aussie fisherwoman squawks. He hastily flips the coin in the air; it lands on tales. There is a groan from the crowd. Money changes hands, beer flows. I take a closer look and realise that Docis in fact British actor Martin Clunes – Doc Martin. Well, I wonder, how did he end up here? I later find out that Martin Clunes was visiting the Abrolhos Islands whilst filming his series "Islands of Australia".    

 I had no idea when I accepted a freelance cooking position on a yacht, that I would end up anchored overlooking some of the most beautiful and remote islands in the world. The Abrohlos Islands are 122 islands located 60km north west of Geraldton on Western Australia’s Coral Coast.These islands are divided into three groups: the Wallabies Group, the Easter Group, and the Pelsaert Group, surrounded by 90 kilometres of Indian Ocean abundant with marine life. The reefs here have claimed many vessels, including in 1629 the Batavia. The seas are treacherous, the sharks curious, and the crayfish abundant.

As the skies begin to darken and the wind rises, the visiting boating community clamber back into their dinghies and allow the small seasonal population that resides in the island’s fishing shacks to return to their quiet existence.  It has indeed been a local experience like no other.

The next day I prepare the popular and highly-prized west coast crayfish, or rock lobster as some might refer to it for lunch on deck. Straight from the pot, poo trail removed and into boiling water. I whisper 'I'm so sorry little guy", to each not-so little crustacean that I lower into the water. 10 minutes later, out they come, sliced straight down the middle, then drizzled with melted garlic and native basil butter topped with crispy WA Samphire and lemon. The flesh is sweet, succulent and meaty.

I gaze out at the azure water and beyond on the horizon the almost blinding white sand of Turtle Bay. I reflect on this morning's swim break, below me exotic purple and blue corals inhabited by Dhufish and Coral Trout, above me circling white-bellied sea eagles. I think about the local cray fishermen who allowed us for half a day to become part of their closed circle. On Anzac Day, I ended up in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Discovering Kulfi

Discovering Kulfi

 

 

 

It was dusty, hot and the sights and smells so intense they were almost intoxicating…….. We had arrived in Varanasi. Being the first trip to India's Holy city, everyone had warned that being there during the Holy Week would be intense. After dropping our bags off at the hotel we gazed across the many ghats that lined the holy Ganga – a multitude of different coloured saris, walking, talking quickly, some men whacking clothing against concrete stones and washing, people doing daily prayers knee deep in water. A culture and landscape so far removed from Australia. We make our way out into the streets, dodging holy cows and their fresh dung which we later saw being shaped into patties and put in the sun to dry for fire material. Past the cute holes in the walls where fresh buffalo Chai was being served in small recyclable clay cups. Past the little tourist restaurants advertising ‘pizza’ made with chaat flour and Himalayan goat’s cheese. We emerged at a dusty square where fruit and vegetable stalls displayed papaya and mango and eggplants and spices. Children on their way to school. There was even the mandatory snake charmer! And then...... a man peddled past ringing his bell, a small icebox on the back of his bicycle – “Kulfi……Kulfi”….. Hot and craving something cold, we cautiously approach and with one lick discover a sweet cardamom and cinnamon- laced ice dessert never to be forgotten.  So refreshing and different. Some might call it ‘curry ice-cream’ – you either love it or hate it.

The following recipe has always been experimented with and changed to suit the occasion or desired flavour. The use of native spices like cinnamon myrtle, lilly pilly and pepper berry can be substituted for the traditional Indian spices of cardamom and cinnamon. Travel and discovery of other food cultures is an important part of every chef or cook's learning. With each trip, and the specialities discovered, we are able to return refreshed and inspired, ready to recreate and to fuse together international flavours to create ongoing reminders of the places we have been.

Classic Kulfi

Ingredients: Serves 4

         500ml of milk or buffalo milk

         100ml coconut cream

         1 tablespoon jaggery

         2 tablespoons demerera sugar

         6 cardamom pods, crushed

         1 cinnamon stick or piece of cassia bark

         handful of chopped pistachios or sandalwood nuts

         1 tablespoon desiccated coconut

         diced papaya half

         shaved fresh young coconut meat

         edible gold leaf and pistachios to garnish

Method

1 Combine spices with milk and bring to the boil

2 Lower to a simmer, add coconut cream and reduce by half.

3 Add sugars and desiccated coconut and simmer for ten minutes.

4 Set aside to cool and steep for 30 minutes

5 Strain mixture, add nuts and cool completely in fridge

6 Pour straight into container and put in freezer. Remove every twenty minutes to crush up and prevent ice crystals. On third mix, pour into 4-6 dariole or kulfi moulds (if available)

7 Alternatively, churn mixture in an icecream machine until at a soft serve consistency then pour into moulds.

8 Place in freezer until firm

9 Turn out onto plates and surround with diced papaya (may need to dip in hot water)

Garnish with nuts, gold leaf and shaved fresh young coconut or whatever you fancy.