February Newsletter

In the delightful little town of Gladstone, near Kempsey, after I spoke about regionalism and culinary tourism – it was hot and wet!

Hello – and apologies for my silence, but as advised I was an enrichment speaker on a cruise from Sydney to Bali and then in lovely Kempsey Shire helping them celebrate Seniors’ Week and also talking all things food, regionalism and culinary tourism.
A big WELCOME to the many new subscribers I met on the cruise, and also those I met at the dinner at the beautifully located The Garden Bar & Kitchen, The Old Cheese Factory in Macleay Valley Way, Frederickton. It is always wonderful to make new friends – especially food lovers – and become reacquainted with those from long ago. Thank you.
In line with the Holiday Here This Year campaign from Tourism Australia to assist with bushfire relief, I thought it worth highlighting some places I have been. In Cairns, I had my first trip on the old train on the Kuranda Scenic Railway up to the lovely village of Kuranda and then a sensational trip back over the rainforest on the Skyrail. The scenery, waterfalls and friendliness of the well-informed guides made it memorable

L: the view from the Skyrail over unspoiled rainforest and R: the Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kempsey shire has had some rain and it was a joy to feast my eyes on the green of nature after such a challenging summer. Like all rural communities, full of friendly people and, as always, I learned a lot too. The morning Seniors forum I hosted at The Slim Dusty Centre was outstanding, packed full of useful information about assistance, personal safety, the importance of keeping active and hydrated, eating right, breast screening, hearing and legal issues such as power of attorney and support services. I was especially pleased to hear one of the principle sponsors, Scott Marsh from Home Instead Senior Care open by saying “don’t ask what your community can do for you, but rather what you can do for your community”.
Interestingly this was the tack I took in a talk the next day on regionalism and culinary tourism and the importance of the individuals taking responsibility and working together to advance local produce and identity.
I spoke about the evolution of Australian food and my life in food at a dinner at The Garden Bar & Kitchen. The next day I loved the picturesque town of Gladstone where I met producers, interested locals and tourists and spoke on the importance and opportunities of culinary tourism before a sensational lunch featuring local produce by Steam and Cedar. then it was off to Bucket Brewery for a tour and tasting not only of beer, but food from other producers.
There is so much more to see in Australia, so do go exploring and take an empty esky to fill with local produce. However in just over a week my partner and I are going to Egypt. Ever since I studied Pre-christian Art as part of Level 1 Art for my Higher School Certificate I have wanted to visit. I am very excited to be able to cruise down the Nile (very Agatha Christie) and stay at The Old Cataract Hotel made famous by Sir Winston Churchill who stayed there. I would love any food recommendations?

L: the tables set for the long lunch in the Gladstone Hall (rather than the wet park) and R; the stunning entree of regional produce prepared by nearby Steam & Cedar cafe: Ricotta salsa stuffed longhorns – featuring homemade ricotta, homegrown herbs, Gladstone Primary School’s tomatoes, Nulla Nulla Blacksmiths Farm longhorns

Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.

New Youtube video

Fresh from my kitchen to you. The latest of my new youtube series – so simple but delicious, a cheat’s version of pho and all in 1 minute.
Click here If you like it and would like to see the video, please subscribe to my Youtube Channel. To get a printed version of the recipe click here.

Jump ahead to see:
What’s In Season in February
The best in fruit and veggies this week
Recipe of the week
In Season Recipes
Know Your Beans
Bean Recipes
Let’s Eat Chinese Food
Come Travelling with me in 2020?
Interesting Reading
What’s On
Techniques and Know How

What’s in Season in February

Enjoy the last of Summer

Fruit

  • Avocados
  • Berries: Blueberries
  • Berries: Raspberries
  • Berries: Strawberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Limes
  • Lychees
  • Mangoes
  • Mangosteens
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges: Valencia
  • Passionfruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears: Williams
  • Pineapples
  • Plums
  • Prickly Pears
  • Rambutans

Veggies

  • Beans: Butter
  • Beans: Flat
  • Beans: Green
  • Beans: Snake
  • Capsicum
  • Celery
  • Chillies
  • Chokos
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Peas: Sugar snap
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

The best in fruit and veggies this week in Australia

Limes, Valencia oranges and Royal Gala apples

FRUIT

New season Williams pears from Shepparton in Victoria are sweet, juicy and flavoursome. Add  pear slices to salads, team with rocket, parmesan and toasted walnuts or bake a batch of these moist and delicious pear and pecan muffins.

Australian limes are plentiful and affordable right now. Use the rind and the juice of a lime in the same way you use lemons. This lime syrup coconut cake is a real treat.

Late season peaches and nectarines are still good eating and top value. Try the pale coloured Golden Queen peaches for poaching and persevering. 

Bilpin, Batlow, and Stanhope apple harvests are underway and the new season Royal gala apples are sweet, juicy and crisp and available from February through to August. They are a medium in size and the skin has a yellow base with red flushes. To maintain an apples crunch, store them in the fridge.

Fresh figs are a luscious treat. In fact, figs are 55% natural sugar, the highest sugar content of any common fruit. Figs also share a trait with pineapple and papaya leaves: they contain an enzyme that digests proteins and can therefore be used to tenderize meats. 

Australia grown Valencia oranges are sweet and juicy. You will notice that the skin on the Valencia orange at this time of year has a green tinge; this simply means the fruit is sun ripened and extra sweet. 

Mangoes are still available. Select from Klietts, R2E2, Kensington Pride, Palmer, Calypso, Kent and Honey Gold. Team sliced mango with exotic tasting lychees which are plentiful this week.

Sweet eating seedless grapes such as Thompson, Sultana and Crimson are in season, or try the Red Globe and Black Beauty they have seeds but are delicious eating. 

Bananas are a top buy this week.

Checkout plums this week, select from red or yellow fleshed varieties. There are numerous varieties available. Try this delicious and easy to make pan-stewed plums with vanilla.

Colourful juicy melons flourish in the warmer weather – so late summer is Melon time – Fragrant and juicy rockmelon from the Riverland of NSW, Honeydew, Cassava and super sweet Piel de sapo melons are all in season.

L: snake beans, carrots and R: green onions

VEGETABLES

The recent heavy rain across the Sydney basin has impacted on the quality of locally grown leafy greens and fresh herbs. So buy small quantities frequently and use quickly to maximise quality.

Carrots are a thrifty and versatile vegie that is delicious enjoyed raw or cooked. This flavoursome healthy salad is a mid-week winner Carrot, tomato & chicken quinoa salad or if this week’s cooler weather has you graving something a bit heartier than this Mexican carrot, jalapeno and black bean soup.

Snakes beans continue to be a great buy. Ideal for Asian dishes and stir-fries, snake beans are complemented by flavours, such as garlic, ginger, tomatoes and fresh herbs. 

Crisp and crunchy celery is a great all-rounder that adds a delightful texture to salads, risotto, casseroles and stir-fries. Even a simple avocado, herb and chicken sandwich is embellished with the fresh crisp texture of a little celery. 

Grated zucchinis make an economical base for tomato pasta sauces and is also excellent in egg-based dishes such as quiche, omelette and frittata. 

If you are looking for an ingredient that is rich in flavour, super healthy and very easy to prepare then you can’t go past mushrooms. They cook in minutes and add loads of umami flavour to stir-fries, casseroles and pizza toppings. Mushrooms are the only ingredient in the fresh produce aisle to supply vitamin D. .

In abundance in summer, fragrant basil teams well with ripe tomatoes, soft cheese like feta or ricotta and pasta. Choose vibrant basil with firm leaves and a distinct fresh aroma. 

For value, quality and ease of preparation corn on the cob is a winner. 

Roasted, microwaved, boiled or steamed pumpkin is delicious. Add diced pumpkin to a spicy red curry or pasta dish. 

Vibrant eggplant comes in many shapes and sizes. So versatile, this mild tasting veggie is the perfect addition to a variety of hot and cold autumn dishes because it readily absorbs flavour and becomes very tender once cooked. Eggplant is delicious any way you try it – barbecued, roasted, steamed, grilled or fried. Eggplant is fabulous in this eggplant & cheese bake.

Recipe of the week

Caper, Olive and Basil Bruschetta

Capers are either preserved in brine or salt. This needs to be removed by rinsing or soaking before use. I created this recipe when filming Lyndey & Herbie’s Moveable Feast.

Servings: 6 as a canapé
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 4 minutes

200g teardrop or grape tomatoes, halved
¼ cup (60mls) extra virgin olive oil
½ large bunch basil, leaves picked
2 tablepooons capers, or to taste, rinsed to remove excess salt
2 tablespoons black olives, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon (5ml) red wine vinegar
1 ciabatta, sliced
1 large clove garlic, halved

  1. Heat a cast iron grill over medium heat. Gently toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon oil and cook on grill until wilted. Remove and cool.
  2. Rub the ciabatta slices with the halved garlic and brush with olive oil. Place on grill pan and cook until lightly charred on each side.
  3. Meanwhile tear basil leaves into a pestle and mortar and pound lightly. When broken down add vinegar and remaining tablespoon of oil. Mix well. Add black olives and pound to combine all ingredients. Finally add capers and pound a little, crushing some but leaving some whole. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
  4. To serve, spoon caper, olive and basil mixture over toasted ciabatta. Top with tomatoes and serve immediately.

*Note: Australian measurements 1 tablespoon = 20ml are used throughout

In Season Recipes

Eggplant Schnitzels

Prosciutto wrapped figs with goats cheese
Fried pumpkin balls
Eggplant schnitzels
Prawn slice with basil mayo
Mushroom filo tarts
Mushroom strudel
Mushroom egg nets
Rag Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage
Seared wagyu with mushroom ragu and zucchini salad
BBQ Rangers rump with garlic & parsley, served with zucchini, eggplant & grilled tomato salad
Poached pears with caramel sauce
Pear & gingerbread loaf with pear crisps
Banana bread
Gluten-free carrot & zucchini slab cake
Women’s Weekly have a collection of Healthy recipes with bananas and snack ideas.

Know Your Beans

Versatile fresh beans abound. Bright and brimming with flavour, beans are delicious serve them with a slight crunch. Add beans whole or sliced into stir-fries, blanched into a cold in salads, soups or serve as a side dish.

SNAKE BEANS
Also called Chinese long beans, snake beans are dark green, thin and long (up to 90cm), with a slightly sweet flavour and crunchy texture. They are sold by the bunch and are in peak season from late summer until early autumn. They’re quite flexible although they feel firm. Chop beans into bite-sized pieces and add to Asian-style stir-fries, soups, curries, side dishes and salads. To retain crispness and flavour, cook the beans quickly. When buying, look for firm beans with no yellowing. Use within two or three days, otherwise they will lose their texture. Look for snake beans at supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

BUTTER BEANS
Swap green beans for sweet and crisp yellow butter beans. To cook the beans, plunge into a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes until just crisp. Drain and refresh in cold water, pat dry, then add beans to your favourite salads. Alternatively, for a quick side dish, return the beans to the hot dry pan and toss with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, sea salt and black pepper.

GREEN BEANS
A favourite fresh bean, this stringless variety simply requires the stems to be trimmed before cooking. Like butter beans, they’re best cooked rapidly to retain their delicious crunch and vibrant colour. For a colourful summer combo, cook a mix of green and butter beans.

FLAT BEANS
Wide wavy flat beans are cooked in their pods. Drain and refresh in cold water then pat dry. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil then season and toss with crumbled feta to make a delicious side dish.

GOOD FOR YOU
Beans provide some iron, which is especially useful for those choosing a vegetarian diet. Iron is needed for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. The vitamin C in beans also helps the absorption of iron. Beans are also a good source of folate, one of the B vitamins that are important for growth and development in children and for normal blood formation at all ages.

SELECT
Firm, crisp beans with good colour.

STORE
Refrigerate beans in a plastic bag in the crisper section.

IN SEASON
Green beans: Available all year. Peak supply November to March.
Butter beans: Available December to May.
Snake beans: Available all year: Peak supply December to April.
Flat beans: Available all year. Peak supply June to August.

BEANS TEAM WELL WITH
Fresh herbs, bacon, prosciutto, onions, almonds, onion, garlic, potatoes, tomato, lemon, feta cheese, pine nuts, olive oil.

Bean Recipes

Salad Nicoise
Photography by Brett Stevens

Salad Nicoise
Coconut & chilli curry with salmon, corn & snake beans
Chilli, snake bean & pork stir-fry with eggs
Asian cabbage, bean & carrot salad with grilled chicken
Asian snake bean, herb & chilli salad
Avocado, tomato & bean salad with crisp tortillas
Fresh herb salsa with BBQ beef & bean salad
Green bean & cucumber salad with BBQ chicken tikka

Let’s Eat Chinese Food

Fabulous starters at XOPP, by Golden Century L to R: Hiramasa Kingfish Sashimi, Doubajiang, Finger Lime; Slightly Smoky Tomato, Onion; Slow Poached Chicken, Black Vinegar jelly, Sesame Sauce

Anxiety around coronavirus has seen Chinatowns across many countries empty out, causing a dramatic downturn in trade for even the most popular restaurants. Dan Hong, one of Australia’s most influential chefs, is saddened by it. He’s urging diners to get out there and support their local Chinese and Asian eateries. And you may even get some great-value lobster out of it. Broadsheet published Dan Hong: Stop Fearing the Coronavirus and Start Supporting Chinese Restaurants Again

In support of this, I am sharing a lovely meal I had recently at XOPP, the latest restaurant from stalwarts, Golden Century Group, named after and paying homage to the institution’s most celebrated and talked about signature dish, XO Pippies. run by the owners’ son, Billy Wong, it is a more modern and playful restaurant but does pay homage to the original Golden Century which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.  The cuisine is still Cantonese but utilising either new ingredients with a traditional technique or a new technique with traditional ingredients. There is also a bar with smaller sized dishes and experimental snacks  and a wine and drinks list curated by Jon Osbeiston, also wine director of Golden Century Wine Bank. Located on the mezzanine floor of the The Darling Exchange, the circular dining room overlooks the greenery and waters views of Darling Harbour.

The menu carefully blends Golden Century favourites (salt-and-pepper squid, roast duck, Singaporean chilli crab) demanded by regulars, with more contemporary dishes such as Kung Bao Glacier 51 toothfish, Hiramasa Kingfish Sashimi, Doubajiang, Finger Lime; Slightly Smoky Tomato, Onion and Slow Poached Chicken, Black Vinegar jelly, Sesame Sauce for a new, younger audience. Standout for me was the chicken. I loved the play on white cut chicken with vinegar dipping sauce. Here the chicken breast is slow-cooked for tenderness and juiciness with the chicken jelly mixed with the black vinegar and cut in a small dice. Light and fresh on a hot day The Hiramasa kingfish was excellent though I would have like a bit more of a citrus hit from more fingerlime. The tomato was a revelation and another great dish on a hot day.

Pipis were a must,  500 grams for $48 and 1 kilogram for $96 – and for another $10 they come out on a bed of fried vermicelli noodle which really completes the dish. Big fleshy, A-grade clams, lightly just-steamed open and tossed into a complex thick, garlicky, spicy sauce that soon seeps into the noodles below, making them even more moreish. There’s plenty more on offer as well as an excellent Australian-focussed winelist, but that will have to await a return visit.

L: Stir-fried pipis with XO sauce R: Wok-fried kung bao Glacier 51 toothfish with cashew nuts

XOPP, The Exchange, mezzanine level, 1 Little Pier St, Darling Square, Haymarket, (02) 8030 0000,
xopp.com.au
Licensed
Open Lunch Mon-Sun 11.30am-3pm; dinner Mon-Sun 5pm-10.30pm
Prices Entrées $8-$24, main courses $16-$88, desserts $10-$14
Read Gourmet Traveller’s listing of The best Chinese restaurants in Australia right now

Come Travelling with me in 2020?

Enjoy the sights, sounds and colours of the souks in Morocco

Two fabulous hosted trips:
The next tour I am escorting is with By Prior Arrangement to Morocco 16-27 April 2020This is an extraordinary destination, but one best visited with specialised knowledge and contacts to ensure a happy and seamless experience. Carol Prior of By Prior Arrangement focusses only on Morocco, a country she has known for 30 years and where she lived for over a decade.  I could think of no-one better to plan the tour with.

This trip will see us travel from Rabat the capital, to spiritual Meknes and Fes, and to Marrakech the red city. On the way you will explore the archaeological site of Volubilis, visit a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, and relax by the coast in tranquil Essaouira. You’ll discover the delicacies of Moroccan and French food, dine in local eateries through to upmarket restaurants, and experience the making and flavours of Moroccan dishes during cooking classes. Luxury accommodation is in charming, authentic riads. sometimes in exclusivity. Only 10 – 12 guests. $8850 pp shared, or $10,550 single.
Details here

In Puglia, you too can experience traditional bread making and sea urchins fresh from the sea

Culinary Adventures in Puglia 30 September – 6 October 2020.
Puglia is a relatively undiscovered part, in the boot of the heel of Italy, it’s where Italians go for holidays! 

“I loved every moment of the tour, Lyndey is an excellent host, great fun & very  knowledgeable in wine & food while our tour guide, Max, knows the history of Puglia so well, which was great as we visited lovely old towns with amazing old buildings.Our accommodation was 4 to 5 star & wonderful & we had some truly amazing meals & wines.” writes Julie Tulloch, a fellow traveller in May last year.
It was such a fabulous experience, we are repeating it from 30 September – 6 October 2020 to share an unforgettable week of culinary and cultural exploration. Think hands-on bread, cheese making and cooking class; visits to wineries, olive farm, tours of UNESCO sites Alberobello & Matera & other cultural centres with local guides. All sensational meals and wines included. You only need money for the very inexpensive shopping you will find there.

Group size: an intimate 8-16 places only
Price: $5499 per person for all ground arrangements (single supplement $799)
Lodging in authentic, family-run noble estates and palaces
Operated by: Local Puglia specialist Southern Visions Travel: the leading experiential travel company in Southern Italy
Full brochure 
here

Read more about my adventures in Puglia
Explore Puglia in House & Garden Magazine
Seven dishes you must try in Puglia, Italy in the Sydney Morning Herald
Puglia, the undiscovered heart in Selector Magazine

Trips are always fun. Here’s a happy group in Alberobello, Puglia

Interesting Reading 

A selection of the lentils Anjula Devi used in her dish for the Food Forever Experience London.
Photo: Michael Major for Crop Trust.

I missed World Lentil Day this week, but I didn’t miss this interesting piece about the love of lentils from Anjula Devi, Chef, Author and Indian cuisine specialist: A love for lentils: how World Pulses Day can change the way you eat

What’s On

Good Mourning is on in Sydney 3 – 6 March

In London

Carousel London has an open kitchen which is home to an ever-changing line-up of talented chefs from around the world who share the Carousel philosophy on what eating out should be all about: amazing cooking, friendly service, a relaxed environment and a shared experience from one table to the next. It’s always lots of fun.
One sitting – doors open at 7pm for a 7.45pm start.
Details here for this year’s line-up.

Carousel:
71 Blandford Street
Marylebone,  W1U 8AB. Now also at Seven Dials.

In Sydney
Very proud that the latest winners of The Blair Milan Touring Prize will be performing their winning piece Good Mourning 3 – 8 March at 6.30pm. $25
If you go on Saturday 7 March you will be supporting The Blair Milan Fund as profits go back to the fund from that performance.
Old 505 Theatre,
5 Eliza St,
Newtown.
Bookings here.

Techniques and Know How

Crème Caramel

Taste of France Magazine shares how to make the Perfect crème caramel
and also How to eat an oyster.

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What are you cooking, eating and drinking?
Lyndey

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