Weekly Update

Richard and Jane Austin from Hartley Truffles and Pam Seaborn, Chair of PlateUp Blue Mountains with all important truffle-hunting dogs Maggie, the workaholic and Koko. (Note the knee pads for kneeling down and smelling the ground.)

You may recall I wrote about Lollaproducer some weeks ago. When I was there I met some wonderful producers, including Richard Austen from Hartley Truffles. He is also Treasurer of EAT Truffles, a group of growers from the  Eastern Tablelands of Australia, from the rich soils of Central ranges to those in the southern highlands, with a climate that closely matches the truffle production areas of Europe.
Last Monday, I visited Richard and his wife Jane at their property, with my friend Pam Seaborn Chair of Plate Up Blue Mountains and radio broadcaster, Peter Walker from Radio Blue Mountains 89.1.
We had a wonderful morning learning about their truffles and working the dogs – well one dog really, Maggie. They usually don’t go out together and she is just a wonderful dog who is keen to please. Their reward, by the way, is home made sausage, made from the Austen’s own beef cattle – so they always make sausages for dinner the night before a hunt!
The effects of the drought were apparent with the soil very dry and the truffles relatively near the surface and somewhat smaller than in a wetter year. Some failed to mature at all. Like other produce, the drought has really affected growth. It is a massive investment to grow truffles and despite good husbandry and diligence is still something of a game of chance.  More on this  next week.

Jump ahead to see:

This Week’s Best Fruit and Veg
Recipe of the Week
Tip of the Week
Where I’ve Eaten
Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards
Interesting Reading
What’s On

The colour is red! Rhubarb, strawberries and blood oranges

Fresh, firm and ruby coloured rhubarb is quick and easy to prepare. Whilst always needing a good sprinkle of sugar it also is delightful stewed with strawberries, apples or pears.

Large, plump, highly coloured strawberries are a real treat. Be sure to pick up a punnet this week as they are loaded with flavour and perfect for making Quick Strawberry Tarts.

Select plump blood oranges with ruby-red blush on the skin. Rich skin colour indicates the fruit has full ‘blood’ coloured flesh. Fruit should feel heavy for its size. 

Early supplies of Kensington Pride mangoes from the Northern Territory are a bargain at the moment. These Mango muffins are a real treat.

There are still good supplies of avocadoes coming through. Did you know avocados contain 14 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and E and even though they have a creamy texture, avocadoes provide valuable fibre? These Green veggie, avocado & egg bowls are packed with goodness and great for breakfast, brunch or a light weeknight dinner.

Apples remain plentiful, with late season varieties like Sundowners and Braeburns, now available along with Pink Lady, Granny Smith and Royal Galas

Versatile pears are packed with flavour and make the perfect snack, easy dessert or make a perfect addition to a late winter salad. Team slices of juicy pear with a creamy blue cheese and toss through, shaved fennel and radicchio and toasted walnuts. It’s a classic salad that is quick and easy to make and works so well using Packham or Bueurre bosc pear 

The greens have it: asparagus, globe artichokes and fennel

The delicate aniseed flavour and crunchy texture of fennel complements fish, chicken, lamb, pears and citrus. For a quick entrée or salad, combine shredded fennel with shaved parmesan, crisp slices of pear and watercress. 

Crisp, snow peas for Gympie are super fresh and require minimal cooking. Steam, microwave or stir fry for a few minutes to retain a slight crunch. Enjoy them finely shredded in a salad or cook for a short time ensuring they are served with a little crunch. 

Celery adds crunch, colour and flavour to stir-fries and salads. Consider serving this versatile vegetable as a side dish simply toss chopped celery into a hot wok and stir-fry with in chilli, garlic and ginger. 

Mild tasting and versatile wombok (also known as Chinese cabbage) are ideal to serve finely shredding and added to a salad or toss through a stir-fry just before serving to just wilt the leaves. 

A unique and delicious tasting vegetable, the globe artichoke has always been regarded as a delicacy. Artichokes may look tricky and difficult to tackle when you first confront them, but they are really easy to prepare as featured in a previous update.

Toss a few bunches of Asian leafy greens into a steamer this week they are great value, quick to cook and nutritious. Think bok choy, pak choy, choy sum and gai lum.

Salad tomatoes from Bowen and Bundaberg are in store. If you are looking for a tomato with extra flavour than try the Marmande tomatoes, this classic beefsteak variety produces ribbed fruit with a full flavoured and is ideal for salads and cooking, with superb flavour.

Early supplies of Australian grown asparagus are now available at your local greengrocer. Buy these rather than asparagus imported from Peru. Prices are expected to drop over the next month, as the harvest is in full swing.

Cos lettuce is great for San Choy Bow or toss together a classic Caesar salad.
Look out for South Australian grown potatoes like Desiree or bags of wahed potatoes.

Recipe of the Week

Enjoy seasonal blood orange with this fabulous crisp pork belly. 

Crisp pork belly with Redbelly blood orange pickle
Serves 4
Preparation 20 minutes plus optional 2 hours – overnight refrigeration
Cooking 1 hour 20 mins

1k boneless pork belly, ideally of even thickness
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon five-spice
Juice of 1 Redbelly blood orange
60 ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
55 g (1/4 cup) brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cm piece ginger, grated
Stir-fried greens or green salad, to serve (optional)
Redbelly blood orange pickle
3 Redbelly blood oranges, peeled, sliced into rounds
½ cup (125ml) Redbelly blood orange juice
½ – 1 tablespoon caster sugar (optional depending on sweetness of Redbelly)
1 large red chilli, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, seeded and cut into long matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into long ribbons
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked, reserve some sprigs for serving

  1. Using a very sharp knife, score the pork belly rind by making diagonal cuts 1 cm apart across the whole surface. Place in a colander or on a rack in the sink and pour over a kettle full of boiling water to help the rind separate. If necessary, score more lines. Dry well with paper towel and place, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 2 hours or even overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Wipe the pork well with paper towel to remove any excess moisture, rub with salt and place, rind side up, in a baking dish (see note) not much bigger than the pork and roast for 25-30 minutes.
  3. For the sauce; combine all ingredients in a jug.
  4. Remove the pork from the oven and reduce the heat to 180°C. Lift the pork from the baking dish, pour out any fat, then pour the sauce into the baking dish and replace the pork on top, ensuring no sauce gets on the rind. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 50 – 60 minutes or until the rind is crisp and the meat juices run clear. If the juices are clear and the rind is not crisp enough, grill for 5 minutes or until the rind blisters. Remove to a wire rack to rest.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the Redbelly pickle by combining the Redbelly juice with the caster sugar (if using) and chilli in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, increase the heat, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour over the Redbelly blood oranges, cucumber and carrot and set aside. Stir through coriander leaves just before serving.
  6. To serve; cut the pork into thin slices, drizzle the flesh with some sauce and serve with the Redbelly blood orange pickle topped with the coriander sprigs. Serve with stir-fried greens or salad if desired.

Lyndey’s note: Small disposable aluminium trays are great for this. Use double and fold the inside one inwards to keep the sauce up around the pork flesh. Saves on washing up! Use a vegetable peeler to slice the vegetables for the pickle. The Redbelly juice replaces vinegar in the pickle so it needs to be tart, perfect at the beginning of its season.

Tip of the Week

Beautiful lemons – can be squeezed using a reamer (pictured)

If you only need  squeeze of juice (like I do on avocado), don’t let your lemon dry out by having to cut a whole one in half to squeeze. Instead, make a hole with a skewer and squeeze out as much as you need. Store lemon in fridge and it can be used over and over.

Where I’ve Eaten

Fremantle Octopus + Kohlrabi + Green Chilli Herb Salsa

Brent Savage is not only a delightful human being, he is a wonderful chef. He and his equally delightful business partner Nick Hildebrandt, also a highly regarded sommelier are the duo behind the Bentley Group, multi award-winner proprietors of three hot restaurants in The Bentley, Monopole and the all-vegetarian Yellow.
Recently I lunched at Cirrus, their most recent restaurant (though open since 2016), focussing on seafood right on the water’s edge at Barangaroo, where the Noma pop-up was. With stunning views, Cirrus has both indoor and outdoor seating and is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.

On a cold and windy winter’s day we chose inside. Barangaroo is often windy, so be warned.
The menu reflects the location, and features seasonal produce from local growers and sustainably-caught seafood. Nick’s wine list features more than 500 wines from around the world on the list from the cutting-edge to the classic.

Although there are other options, we chose seafood, trialling the three different types of oysters first up. Freshly shucked, full and briny, they were perfect as they were and didn’t need their accompanying sauce, nor lemon. 
Fremantle octopus ($28)  is tender and thoughfully paired with an under-utilised vegetable, kohlrabi. It is a winner. King Prawns ($24) are wood-roasted split in half and topped with a silky Koji butter and finished with wilted broad bean shoots. Koji is a highly-prized fungus which grows on rice used in Japanese cuisine to give a wondrous umami flavour.

L: Merimbula, and Clyde River Rock Oysters an Smoky Bay Pacific Oysters R: Roasted King Prawns + Koji butter + Broad Bean Shoots

While entrees are designed to share, we opted for our own mains. Rich, unctuous Ora King Salmon ($48)  was unusally paired with scrolls of pumpkin, cooked to tenderness but not breaking point. The spicing and hit from curry leaf cut through the richness of the dish.

Ora King Salmon + Spiced Pumpkin + Curry Leaf

Fish and chips ($38) will never be the same for me. Here it presents as a whole flathead, mostly boned, with crusted skin, served with charred lemon, aioli and more-ish chips.
Excellent coffee followed and then it was back to work.

10/23 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo
Ph: 9220 0111

Whhole Flathead + Chips

Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards

New edition of Gourmet Traveller Australian Restaurant Guide is in the September edition of Gourmet Traveller out today.

Gourmet Traveller has announced its annual Restaurant Awards. You can read all the details in the guide which comes with the new edition of the magazine. Here are the major awards:

Quay, Sydney

Josh Niland – Saint Peter, Sydney

Laura, Merricks, Vic

Ali Currey-Voumard – The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, New Norfolk, Tas

Brae, Birregurra, Vic

Liberté, Albany, WA

The team from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Melbourne

Franklin, Hobart

Rootstock wine festival: Linda Wiss, Matt Young, Giorgio De Maria, James Hird and Mike Bennie

Emma Farrelly – State Buildings, Perth

Interesting Reading

Sights on my early morning beach and bush walk from The Byron at Byron

I stayed at The Byron at Byron resort last weekend for a friend’s significant birthday. We had a magnificent birthday lunch for her there, and I was sorry not to stay longer.
Besha Rodell in her New York Times column, writes about a trio of restaurants around Byron Bay – Fleet, Shelter and Paper Daisy – and discovered for herself why so many young talented chefs and hospitality workers are making the sea/tree change. she lauds the use of local ingredients and culture of healthy eating. It’s Healthy Bones Action Week. While consuminig dairy is an obvious fix, Zoe Bingley Pullin explains How to get enough calcium on a dairy free diet. 
Good Food names Melbourne’s top 20 cheap eats and Sydney’s top 20 cheap eats.

What’s On

Perfect Father’s Day gift – or for anyone, Wine Sensory Evalutaion Boot Camp 22 September or 24 November

I recently  visited the Sensory Evaluation Centre at Ryde TAFE and was blown away with its facilities. The Course Director, Clive Hartley is an old friend of mine and I was fascinated at the equipment they had developed for experiencing aroma and flavour. The good news is, that it is available to the general public via a one day Sensory Evaluation Boot camp. this comprises a number of activities, to enable your cerebral senses to help you identify aromas and tastes found in wine. Participants will go around the room to identify grape varieties, wine regions and wine styles before being finally put to the test as a wine judge. An ideal present for the wine lover or for a group outing.
Saturday 22 September and 24 November
10.30 – 15.00 $148.00
More information here or ring 02 9448 6369

Ikea is famous for meatballs with phenomenal sales. Business Insider reveals that they will feature salmon meatballs in 2019 and at the Ikea Democratic Design Days 27 – 29 August at MCA offer a chance to try these and kangaroo balls at their pop-up Meatball Restaurant . Book here.

I am about to jet off to Singapore to spend time with my daughter and family, but hope next week’s newsletter will  be on track. We’re also going to Siem Reap for a couple of days, a first for all of us, so look out for my posts on social media.
Mentioning flying, I’m delighted that Aer Lingus is screening episode 3 of my Taste of Ireland TV series all this month – just in case you are flying with them.

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Enjoy what you cook, eat and drink.


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