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RiverMint Dining

The Elusive Blue Quandong - Adventures in Singapore

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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!

 

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Bunuru and Valentine's Day

Bunuru and Valentine's Day

As the weather heats up and the season of Bunuru approaches, we see the Jarrah and Marri trees blossom, bursting with fragrant white flowers. The heat of the hottest season of the year is tamed by the afternoon sea breeze and cooled by icy summer treats and nibbles for those with a sweet tooth.

It is the perfect time to treat a loved one to homemade desserts for Valentine's Day. Why not try a special three-course dinner? Or hire a private chef to design a 5-course degustation menu, complete with aphrodisiac seafood and delightful petit fours.

Here's a few recipes that are simple, yet exciting. They introduce unique native ingredients in a light and romantic way, and are bound to impress that special someone. For extra recipes and ideas on growing ingredients for this Valentine's Day, be sure to check out the recent blog post by Tuckerbush. 

Rivermint Chocolate Truffles

Makes 20 mini Chocolates
 
200g good quality dark chocolate
100g White chocolate or milk chocolate
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
80g thickened cream depending on thickness
10 sprigs River Mint, leaves removed and chopped
1 x small half dome chocolate mould required
 
CHOCOLATE MOULD/OUTER SHELL
1.   On low heat place dark chocolate in a small-medium bowl over a pot of water (make sure bowl does not touch the water). Melt the chocolate slowly, until liquid. If you want a truly smooth shiny truffle, it is best to temper the chocolate.
2.   Coat the chocolate moulds swirling it around (use pastry brush to fill in the empty spots) and then tip it over onto a cooling rack placed over baking paper to empty out the excess chocolate, 5-10 mins. Place mould in the freezer for approximately 10 minutes, remove and coat again with the melted chocolate. This time refrigerate while making the Chocolate River Mint Filling.
CHOCOLATE RIVERMINT FILLING
3.    Chop the white/milk chocolate into small pieces, mix together with powdered sugar and salt.
4.   In a small saucepan heat to hot but not boiling the cream, then add the chopped River Mint and blitz with a hand blender. Put aside for 20 minutes to infuse the cream.
5. Put cream mix back on heat and bring it back to hot again, then pour over the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth (you may have to place the bowl over a pot of boiling water if it doesn't completely melt). Let sit approximately 20 minutes until cooled and thickened. Remove mould from the fridge, place the chocolate filling in a pastry bag and fill moulds 3/4 full, tap mould down a few times on counter top to remove air bubbles. Top with remaining melted dark chocolate. Tap & remove excess chocolate with a spatula and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour until firm. Turn out and keep in fridge until ready to serve.

Choc Coated Candied Quandongs

200g Quandongs, halved and kernel removed

100g fine castor sugar

100ml water

100g dark or milk chocolate

  1. Bring water and sugar to boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer until it becomes a syrupy consistency. The quandong halves and coat lightly with the sugar syrup using a pastry or basting brush.

  2. Place quandong halves on a baking sheet and into an oven at 170 degrees to dry out slightly for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Toss in extra castor sugar.

  3. Melt the chocolate carefully over a bain marie. Using toothpicks, dip the quandongs halves in the chocolate to coat, then placem with hollow side down, on a cooling rack to allow excess chocolate to run off.

  4. These lovely choc coated quandong halves can be placed, when cooled and set, in little chocolate boxes alongside squares of honeycomb to impress that special someone.

Macadamia, White chocolate & 

Lemon Myrtle Parfait

 

Makes 8 servings or ‘slices’

Parfait

700ml thickened cream

5 egg yolks

3 whole eggs

150g white chocolate

100g castor sugar

2 tsp Lemon Myrtle powder

1 cup roasted macadamia nuts, chopped

Ginger Syrup

2 tbsp chopped red back ginger root

2 red back ginger leaves, washed

200g castor sugar

200ml water

½ tsp vanilla paste

 

  1. Combine white chocolate and 200ml of the thickened cream in a bain marie over boiling water in a saucepan. Slowly stir over low heat until chocolate is melted and the consistency is smooth.

  2. With a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the egg yolks and whole eggs and castor sugar until thickened and pale in colour. Slowly add the chocolate cream mixture.

  3. Add the lemon myrtle powder and allow mixture to cool, infuse and thicken in the fridge.

  4. Beat the remaining cream until medium peaks form. Slowly fold this through the chilled parfait mixture, taking care to leave the mixture light and airy (don’t over mix). Sprinkle in the macadamia nuts.

  5. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin, cover with piece of baking paper and cling film. Place in coldest part of freezer for 10 hours or until set.

  6. To make a creamier parfait, place in an ice cream churner set to frozen yoghurt, then transfer to loaf tin and freeze.

  7. To make syrup, place sugar and water in pan and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Add more water and sugar if you prefer a thinner syrup. Let syrup cool and sit for two hours to infuse the ginger flavour.

  8. Heat syrup once more once desired ginger flavour has been reached and strain syrup through mesh strainer to remove the ginger root and leaves.

  9. To serve, turn out parfat on to board and slice, like a loaf of bread, into 2 inch slices. Place on tray and back into freezer to set before serving on a plate. Top with ginger syrup and some mango slices to the side.

 

Exotic Pearl Meat

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Exotic Pearl Meat

It's big in Asia. In fact, about 70% of all Pearl meat currently leaves Australian shores, destined for high end restaurants in Singapore, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong. There it is quick blanched, chopped and stir-fried into delicate, elegant dishes.   

The remaining 30% makes its way to fine dining establishments on Australia's east coast and to a handful of restaurants here in Perth and in Broome. Chefs who can get their hands on it and whose food cost budget allows (Pearl meat fetches over $100/kilogram) jump at the chance to work with such a prized ingredient. It is hard to get, which is why we don't see it appearing on ice at the local fish monger. 

Pearl meat comes from the largest oyster in the world, the Pinctada Maxima. Pearls from the silver-lipped pearl oyster, found in the coastal waters off Broome in the Kimberley, are highly sought after. In fact, the pearling 'industry' first started with settlers in the Pilbara region in the 1860s eventually moving to the shell laden waters of Broome. To learn more about the history of the pearling industry in the Kimberley check out the following website.

Most importantly, long before the pearling industry, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people used pearl and shells for ceremonial purposes and the meat as a food source for centuries.

With recent approval by the State government for the construction of a multi species hatchery at the opposite end of Western Australia in Frenchman Bay, Albany, it seems the amount of pearl meat that may soon be available to West Australians will increase. Not only will this aid the economy and create jobs, it will boost export market potential and allow the meat to appear on more menus throughout the state. How exciting!

Generally pearl meat is lightly tenderised before cooking. But, texturally it is not as chewy as Abalone (unless you overcook it) nor is it as soft as say, scallops. It has a minerally,  fresh-from-the-sea taste to it which can take on light subtle flavours whilst still holding its own.

The best way to cook it? Don't overcook it first of all. Unless it is being braised, thinly sliced pearl meat can be quickly seared in the pan for no more than 10 seconds each side. We like to serve it raw on RiverMint menus seasoned with native flavours including finger lime, bloodroot, native lemongrass and a touch of Geraldton Wax oil. It also works beautifully just flash fried with sugar snaps, mirin, Tamari and ginger. Or try braising sliced pearl meat slowly for 2 hours in a basil tomato sauce. 

If you would like to get your hands on some pearl meat, have a look at respected pearl farmers such as Clipper Pearls or Great Southern Shellfish. Otherwise, if you are in Broome why not check out the awesome Willie Creek Pearl Meat Cook-off, held annually as part of the Shinju Masturi Festival in September each year. This year's winners from Matso's Brewery, served the pearl meat ceviche style marinated in lime and tequila and topped with champagne poached apple and spiced potato crisp. Delish!!

 

 

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The Season of Djilba

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The Season of Djilba

There's a change in the air. The windy, cold and rainy days are slowly giving way to warmer sunny days. We can see the Willy Wagtails emerging slowly and scattered plots of white and pastel flowers are starting to bloom. The pale pink Boronia flowers are also starting to shine. And don't forget to take cover - Djilba is also magpie (Koolbardi) season so they will be swooping if you get to close to their nests! 

The season of Djilba is well and truly here. To the Noongar people this is a transitional season, the season of conception.  People and animals alike are starting to venture further out of their homes to bask in the warm sunshine and prepare for the upcoming explosion of colour that is wildflower season, Kambarang. Traditionally this was also the season when the Noongar people inland started to move back towards the coast in preparation for the warmer months.

Djliba is a good time to start preparing garden beds for planting native edibles as the soil warms up during the day. Be aware though that the nights are still pretty clear and cold.

In the kitchen, ingredients are still somewhat limited and not in such abundant supply as they are in other seasons like Djeran and Kambarang. Emu and their eggs are still a great source of protein, as is Kangaroo meat. The Pearl meat harvest has also started in Broome and paired with ripe Blood limes (or Red centre limes), this delectable meat is the perfect interlude to the return of fresh, in-season seafood.

Other ingredients to experiment with during the season of Djilba include the eponymous Bush tomato (Kutjera). It's a fantastic ingredient that is in severely short supply at the moment. If you manage to get your hands on some, be frugal! Bush tomato can be used in dips, as a marinade or rub with kangaroo and also turned in fantastic sauces and condiments or added to scones and breads.

Then of course, if you are lucky enough to have access to some Emu Plum trees (Podocarpus Drouynianus), the fruit can be seen growing, especially throughout the Karri and Jarrah forests along the Bibbulmun Trail. Although reasonably tasteless, Emu Plum, which is the largest native fruit to be found in the South West, has a stunning colour that can compliment the plate up of any seasonal dessert.

The white and pale pink flowers of the West Australian native, Geraldton Wax, are in flower everywhere now.  Here's a simple recipe using Geraldton Wax. This is a RiverMint Dining favourite and is aways a hit with clients as the cuttings provide a subtle piney but nutty flavour to the cooked cream. After quickly blanching some sprigs of Geraldton Wax in boiling water, follow the recipe below to make your own native inspired dessert:

Geraldton Wax Set Creams          Serves 6
650ml whipping cream
2 tbsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp lime juice
10 sprigs Geraldton wax (with flowers if possible), blanched quickly in boiling water
130g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
A pinch of salt
4 x gold gelatin leaves, soaked in cold water for 2 mins and squeezed out.

1. Place the blanched sprigs into a saucepan with the cream. Bring to a gentle simmer, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add lime zest and juice, salt and vanilla. Simmer one minute longer. Then set aside for 1-2 hours to infuse.

2. Bring cream mixture back to the boil, stirring frequently until the cream bubbles up almost to the rim of the pan. Take off the heat and remove the Geraldton Wax sprigs. Add the softened gelatine leaf, stir until completely dissolved, then strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring jug. 

3. Let cool slightly before pouring into ramekins or small dessert glasses. Refrigerate for four hours or until set. Can be garnished with crystallised Geraldton Wax flowers and Geraldton wax syrup.

Let us know what you think if you try out this recipe and enjoy the sunny mild days of Djilba.

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

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Makuru Pop Up Dinner

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Makuru Pop Up Dinner

RiverMint Dining recently held its second pop-up dining experience at Riki Kaspi's The Cooking Professor, in Mt Hawthorn. Cosy, and vibrant and decorated with illustrative art by Jodie Davidson, the dining space provided an interactive environment for guests to taste and explore ingredients from the season of Makuru.  

On arrival, guests were treated to canapés and welcome drinks featuring Broome Pearl Meat, Bunya nut and truffled Emu egg. It was great to see some new faces in the mix and to connect with return guests who attended our first pop up, Celebrating Djeran. 

Following a beautiful Welcome to Country by Noongar elder and guest Aunty Neta Knapp we began the sit down meal for Moments of Makuru with a drinks list featuring Swan Valley wines from Garbin Estates and Upper Reach Wineries as well as Matilda Bay Dirty Granny cider and Feral Brewery beers. 

The interior of The Cooking Professor provided an intimate and beautifully curated space for Jodie Davidson of Nature Art to display her colourful and clever illustrations, water colours and sculptures of Australian animals, It was such a lovely collection of work and a privilege to be able to exhibit them alongside our menu.

We tried to reflect the transition from sea to land throughout the Moments of Makuru menu whilst offering comfort from the rainy, very wintery weather outside.

Moments of Makuru

    Shaved Smoked Crocodile, Confit Jerusalem artichoke, Pepperberry spiced rhubarb, cucumber, nasturtium

    Exmouth King Prawns, Native lemongrass and Gubinge glaze, Sea Rocket and Baby Pigface, Burnt Citrus, Prawn head emulsion, Blood root

    Davidson Plum Sorbet, Atherton Ginger syrup, Caraway crisp, Wild fennel

    Seared Kangaroo fillet, Kangaroo tail croquette, braised red cabbage & WA apple, Illwarra plum chutney, game jus

    Sauteed winter greens and fungi : Rapini, Ice Plant and wild mushrooms, Ruby Saltbush

    Heirloom Carrots and Braised Fennel, Creamed Omega walnuts

Wine-poached Southern Forest fruits with Native Berries (Pink berry, Munthari, Lilly Pilly, Illawarra Plum), Chestnut Cream, Chocolate Sable, Lemon Aspen

Sandalwood Nut Fudge & Davidson Plum Truffles

Lemon Myrtle Tea & Choc Wattleseed Espresso

It was a fantastic and boisterous night filled with laughter and discovery and the reward was some great feedback. Even better was the discovery of some food blogger diners whose fantastic photos and blog posts truly captured the essence of the night. Be sure to check out Sandy Lim's blog post and photography featuring Moments of Makuru  on her blog sanlive.com and let's not forget Perth food bloggers and fanatics @food_and_I who posted a neat video and photos. It was great to meet you and we hope to see you exploring native ingredients with us again in the future.

A special thank you to our indigenous and non-indigenous suppliers whose produce and guidance is invaluable. We hope in 2018 to start hosting pop ups not just in Perth but further afield in Fremantle and the Swan Valley. 

RiverMint Dining caters for corporate and private events and functions from a discovery canapés party at a private residence to native-inspired executive grazing tables. Our pop up dinners are a unique dining event featuring foraged, wild harvested and plot grown ingredients usually only available in limited amounts. They are very special to the Rivermint Dining team and we always look forward to holding the next one with a new season in mind

Photo credit: Sandy Lim sanlive.com

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Celebrating NAIDOC Week

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Celebrating NAIDOC Week

It has been a pretty busy week here in the Rivermint Dining kitchen with catering and tasting events taking place throughout Perth. Today marks the end of NAIDOC week, an exceptional celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, arts, dance, food and history.

For those who are unfamiliar with NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week, now is a great time to learn more. It is held during the first week of July and celebrated in aboriginal communities as well as government organisations, schools and numerous work places. The first Sunday in July, the beginning of NAIDOC week, is a day of remembrance for the hardship experienced by the aboriginal and islander people followed by a full week of cultural celebration and recognition of aboriginal achievements.

As part of their NAIDOC week celebrations, Westfield Whitford City invited RiverMint Dining to chat with customers about some lesser known native Australian ingredients and to introduce them to new flavours. Over the course of the week we prepared tastings for upwards of 600 people, focusing on various ingredients in keeping with the season of Makuru including Geraldton Wax, Fingerlime, Kangaroo, Illawarra Plum and Old Man Saltbush. Our mini tasters were appreciated by all and met with lots of questions. Tastings such as Davidson Plum meringues and seared tiger prawns with fingerlime proved popular and it was great to see members of the general public exploring and discovering the real food of Australia and learning more about the importance of NAIDOC week.

We were also especially honoured and privileged to work alongside the Mark and Kerri-Ann and their team at Binjareb Park in Pinjarra, as we shared in their NAIDOC day celebrations on Saturday 1st July. RiverMint Dining prepared a simple three-course family style dinner for 18 guests featuring truffled emu egg, quick seared crocodile and braised kangaroo. It was lovely to meet new people and to further develop relationships within the aboriginal community as well as to see some of the artwork that makes the artists of Pinjarra so well-known throughout Australia. 

Throughout the week we catered and delivered platters of native inspired nibbles, canapés parties and gourmet grazing tables to many businesses and corporate bodies celebrating NAIDOC week. It was a privilege to be able to share such special foods with new clients and we look forward to working with them all in the future. Thank you to all our suppliers and wild harvesting communities, without whom we wouldn't have such amazing ingredients to work with during busy and exciting weeks such as NAIDOC week.

 

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Winter Events with RiverMint Dining

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Winter Events with RiverMint Dining

The weather is getting chilly here in Western Australia and that means there is no better time to immerse ourselves in cooking, red wine, cosy dinners and winter fruits.

RiverMint Dining has a number of events coming up over the winter months. To kick off NAIDOC week we will be catering a 30-seat ticketed dinner called the Mungah Festival Dinner as part of the Binjareb Park NAIDOC celebrations on Saturday the 1st July. There will be tours, an outdoor cinema experience and some great live music throughout the day culminating in the dinner. Join the Pinjarra community in celebrating this special occasion. To find out more about Binjareb Park and the event visit the Binjareb Park Facebook page. Tickets can be purchased directly through trybooking.com here

We are excited to be collaborating with Westfield Whitford City in Hillarys as part their NAIDOC week celebrations. Customers will get the opportunity to try various tastings featuring native Australian ingredients and to chat with RiverMint Dining about using these ingredients in your own home. We will be located in the fresh food market section from 11am - 2pm on Monday 3rd July - Saturday 8th July. So pop on down when you are doing your shopping and try some delicious morsels.

We are also gearing up for the second of our pop up events to celebrate the season of Makuru. Local produce, north coast seafood and indigenous game will be featured on the menu and guests will be treated to a 5-course tasting menu with canapés and drink on arrival. Held at Riki Kaspi's The Cooking Professor, in Mt Hawthorn, the cosy location will provide an intimate and warm experience complete with drinks menu featuring some of the best Swan Valley beers, ciders and wines. We are very privileged to have Noongar Elder Auntie Neta from Urban Indigenous attending who will open the evening with a unique Welcome to Country. Local children's illustrator Jodie Davidson will also be showcasing some of her work highlighting the Australian landscape. Tickets available on eventbrite or click here.

Winter is looking busy for RiverMint Dining with some exciting collaborations, tastings and corporate catering functions in the works. Be sure to keep your eye on the Rivermint Dining Facebook page for updates on dinners and events or sign up to our newsletter to stay in the know.

We look forward to seeing you all and to enjoying a chilly but beautiful Makuru season.

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Memories of Mexico - Baja

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

Aussie sawdust - Smoked magic

Aussie sawdust - Smoked magic

It's time to say good bye to hickory. Yes, I know the American smoker chips are dense, stick well to the meat and give those ribs that 'authentic' smokey flavour. But, there are so many options here in Australia, and especially in Western Australia, why buy something not native to where you live and in such ready supply?

When it comes to choosing the right smoking chunks for the right meat, this largely depends on preference and the smoked-flavour intensity you desire. Select chunks if you intend to simply add them to your coals when placing meat on the BBQ. We use a Smoking gun in the RiverMint kitchen which requires fine sawdust. This is a great little gadget, as is a portable grill-top smoking box, and saves on clean up. Try to make sure the wood chips are seasoned (as in dry, not fresh cut) to help with a clean burn and avoid smouldering.

And what type of wood chunks you ask? Well, WA's Jarrah wood from the Southern forests produces a thick smoke with an intense flavour. Box woods are a favourite for some, but for us the smoke is too thick and powerful and takes over the flavour of the meat.  Two big favourites, Tasmanian Oak and WA Ironbark, are great for those wanting a deep smokey flavour and pair well with beef and lamb due to their longer burning times. Speaking of lamb, native rosemary when used for smoking wood imparts a medium herbaceous flavour to poultry and lamb and is easy to find, it can also be used half seasoned.

Apple and Cherry wood from Manjimup smells divine and imparts a sweet subtle flavour - excellent for chicken and fish or seafood. It burns quickly though, so have some heat ready to ensure the meat is cooked through. On a native foods note, Tea tree has a fantastic smell and is an all time favourite for Kiwis when preparing meats for a hangi. We also love using Sandalwood chips and lemon myrtle when preparing fish.

I try to steer away from Pine and many Eucalypts as the smoke can leave an acrid almost "ashtray in the mouth' aftertaste - rather unpleasant. One rule of thumb used by many smoking enthusiasts is if the smoke smells acrid and sticks to the back of your throat causing you to squint, then that is how the meat will taste. 

As you can see the list is endless! There are so many different flavour profiles that can be achieved through smoking and many different foods that can be smoked. Try smoking some of your favourite cheddar or sour cream with Marri wood chips, then serve with some local honey and a sweet Muscat.

Celebrating Djeran - An Urban Pop up

Celebrating Djeran - An Urban Pop up

It was with gusto that we all readied the beautiful space at Salt and Company Cooking school in West Perth for the very first RiverMint Dining pop up.  The menu and the evening were inspired by the Noongar season of Djeran, and the images presented by Salty Wings complimented the colours of the orange berries and banksias in season which were displayed around the room. The season of Djeran is also known as the Season of Adulthood and falls in what the western world regards as Autumn. A change in the wind can be felt, and hot nights are replaced with cool evenings and dewy mornings. Here we see the Marri blossom in full flower and Banksia flowers line areas such as the Roe highway and Herdsman Lake in abundance.

Djeran is also the time when the emus are fat, so an emu flat rump was featured on the menu. This cut was marinated for 48 hours, cooked sous vide and then seared for service and served with a warrigal greens dumpling, fresh charred corn, rosella flower, pink berries and a game jus. Djeran is also the season of the salmon run, so it seemed only fitting to serve herring, after which the salmon run, as part of the canapés service. Combined with a native spice mix and potato, the herring potato bites were served with black garlic and ruby salt bush. We also featured crocodile which was served at room temperature with a spiced rhubarb puree and gwarl berries from the Kimberley region (also known as White Berry Bush).

Many greens were foraged for this pop up and included succulent pig face leaves, WA Samphire, dune spinach (also known as Crystal Ice plant) and sea rocket. These paired well with the seafood dish of smoked Kingfish, seared bush grapes and pepper berry and the zing of a favourite ingredient from Marvick Native Farms, fingerlime, cut through the smokiness.

It was with pleasure that the River mint from our garden became a sorbet in between courses. The evening ended with a bavarois made using Pandanus nut, with Davidson Plum and Northcliffe Blood Plum. This was paired with Garbin Estate's Muscat. A tea made using Marri blossom flowers and Southern Forests Honey alongside WA Sandalwood nut bites completed the evening.

We received plenty of feedback with regards to our first pop up and will endeavour to take all comments onboard when preparing for our Makuru pop up. Most importantly we learned a ton about the ins and outs of running a pop up restaurant and had fun in the process. If anything I would have liked to have spent more time outside of the kitchen and inside the dining room chatting about the ingredients that we should be celebrating as Australians.

Thank you to all our suppliers for some great produce and to those that attended. We look forward to cooking for you all again soon and will announce our next pop up in the weeks ahead.

 

 

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.