Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SPICE magazine, Summer 2010

Photo: Jennifer Susanto-Lee

Little Fish, Big Pool
Neil Perry, that doyenne of chefdom, TV cooking show favourite and Iron Chef contender, is poorly. He blames his kids.
“They’re always sick,” he says with a wry smile.
“In the mornings I no longer give them a kiss. I put out my hand and they get to kiss that instead. I just can’t afford to be ill these days.”
Too right. With a string of eateries spreading along the Eastern seaboard, television appearances and a long list of books, Neil Perry needs all the strength he can muster.
And, of course, he’s coming to Perth. Ever since the June announcement that he would be opening a Rockpool Bar & Grill at the Burswood complex in early 2011, there has been a buzz that is only gaining in intensity as this year draws to a close.
“When you first land in Perth, you really notice that the light is very different over here,” says Neil.
“It’s really quite beautiful, and when you go down to the South-West it’s just an extraordinary place. And I haven’t been up North before so I look forward to traveling up there.”
Neil has visited Western Australia before, but never so much as he has over the past few months, when he’s been sourcing local staff and suppliers for the new eatery. Despite some of Neil’s mainstay menu items, such as his much-feted wagyu burger, being sourced from the Eastern states, much of what the Perth kitchen will be sending out will be local.
“Out of the entire menu we’ll bring over our 36 month grass-fed beef from Tasmania, and David Blackmore’s wagyu beef (in Victoria) because we buy whole bodies and they really are quite unique to the Rockpool Bar & Grill brand,” says Neil.
“But we will be sourcing our yearling out of the South-West here in Western Australia from Della Gola Farm, and we are really excited about that. We tasted some of it and we thought it was great. We’ll be dry-ageing that for about forty to fifty days and we’ll be doing ribs and T-bones and sirloin from them. And that will complete the three – we only ever carry three types of beef.”
When hunting down a good yearling producer, Neil’s top priorities were that the animals had to be grass-fed and that the taste of the meat when dry-aged met Neil’s exacting standards. Family-run, Della Gola Farm came highly recommended by Neil’s good buddy Vince Garreffa from Mondo Butchers, and when put to the test the meat did not disappoint, with Neil describing it as being sweet and tender with the long clean flavour of grass.
As for the restaurant’s lamb and pork, that continues to be a work-in-progress.
“We’re speaking to (Margaret River farmer) David Hohnen at the moment and looking at his lamb and his pork, and the difficulty there is just getting the volume because he’s such a small producer. So we’ve sort of talked him around and I think he’s going to do it with us, so we’ll buy his pigs and his lamb. And we’re really excited about both those products, they’re fantastic. All grass-fed and all free-range. The pork is just incredible.”
As with all of Perry’s produce, freshness and sustainability is paramount. And despite being better known as a steakhouse, the Rockpool chain has received a string of accolades for their seafood in recent months. The plan is that the fish on the Perth menu will be sourced locally, dry filleted daily and flat-packed, then stored in custom-made service fridges.
“We’re a big supporter of sustainability and line-catching,” says Neil.
“So we’ll have a chat to some small fishermen and Government bodies over here and see what fish are currently sustainable. There’s a few local fishermen, such as Jim Mendolia, who have shown interest in hand-lining some fish direct for us because we have our own fish filleting. And also with the complete understanding that we’re really quite keen to take whatever they catch, rather than ask them to target certain species. We need to utilise every kilo of fish that comes up over the side, not only that typical attractive white-fleshed, mild-tasting fish that we’re all kind of addicted to. And we love octopus and squid, so if that’s in abundance over here we’ll certainly be using it.”
Western Australian wine producers will naturally get a look-in, with many local wineries such as Leeuwin, Cullen, Moss Wood and Xanadu already featuring on the wine lists in the Sydney and Melbourne restaurants.
“We’ll focus really strongly on local Western Australian wines because we recognise that you guys are great producers of wine”, says Neil.
The restaurant itself is going to be big – a 200-plus seater that will incorporate a bar with private dining facilities that will live where the former food court in the Burswood complex used to be. Construction is currently underway.
“Regarding the design, we reflected on the beautiful light and the naturalness of Perth,” he said.
“So there’s a really raw kind of feel to the restaurant. Some of the curtains are made of raw hessian and there are beautiful timber floors and a wonderful nickel canopy that runs along the whole kitchen and bar side of the restaurant. And then when you look into the open kitchen it will be quite extraordinary. It’s the best kitchen that I’ve got actually because it’s all on one level. And at one end is the chef’s desk, and on top of that is our communication tool that we use for all of the Bar & Grills. So whether I’m here or in Melbourne or in Sydney I’ll be able to see the pass in Perth and all the food coming up and being run out. I actually get to see all the restaurants and how they run.”
But not everything will be locally produced.
“All our restaurants have the same chairs, because we’ve got the greatest chairs to sit on,” Neil says with a laugh.
“So why would we change that?
“I think what will be most significant about the Perth restaurant is the focus on Western Australian wines and produce. I also think people will recognise that we’ve done a bar and grill that very much belongs to Perth and isn’t a cookie-cutter of Melbourne or Sydney”.
Rockpool Bar & Grill will open at the Burswood Entertainment complex in January 2011.

The West Australian, Nov 2010

Upscale Restaurant Grows its Own

Fresh, seasonal produce is the latest catch-cry for many chefs these days, but only a handful would be able to proclaim they grow their own fruit and veg. The team at upscale restaurant and bar 1907 do just that, and have raised the sustainability stakes just that little bit higher by going the organic, heirloom route and buying a farm to do it all on.

“The property is up in Toodyay and it’s quite big,” says 1907’s executive chef Nick French.

“It’s around 550 acres, and the vegetable farm itself has six large beds which are about five metres by ten metres, which we’ll use on a rotational basis.”

The farm property, called ‘The Range’, is an historic homestead and ballroom built in 1897 that is currently being restored. Over the years, it has produced prize-winning cattle, sheep, wool and thoroughbred horses.

The farm was originally the brainchild of the owner of 1907, who bought the property after being inspired by the ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy used in so many restaurants around the world. The rest of the eatery’s staff quickly locked onto the idea and now it involves everybody, both in front and back of house. As Nick points out, however, it still has a ways to go.

“It’s still early days for us, with a lot of trial and error - trying to see what works with environmental conditions and soil and that kind of thing. Because obviously some things will do better than others. But we have quite a reasonable amount of success with pretty much everything we’ve tried.”

To date, there are over 200 different types of fruit and vegetables grown on the farm, with a particular focus on heirloom varieties. A dedicated father and son team, Brian and Todd Gilsenan, work on the farm to produce as many ingredients as possible.

“We’ve got all sorts – spinach, kale, tomatoes, chillies, all our herbs, broad beans, broccolini, potatoes and little courgettes, much of what features on our new menu” says Nick.

Olive groves, vineyards and orchards are currently being planted, and from all the produce grown 1907 will only use a small percentage. Future plans include selling more of the farm produce to farmers markets, food bank charities and other like-minded restaurants.

“In the future, we are basically looking to expand. We will be putting in some nice organic fruit trees, such as apples and citrus. And we’re also going to move towards chickens as well once we’ve got established so we’ll have eggs. It’s very exciting, and so much better than opening boxes of produce.”

In 2011, the restaurant intends to host a number of long-table field lunches and dinners in order to highlight the farm’s fresh, seasonal produce and are currently working on sourcing local suppliers so that all other produce comes from within a 50km range.

1907 Restaurant and Bar is at 26 Queen Street, Perth.
For on-line article, go to Fresh

Friday, September 3, 2010

SPICE magazine, Spring 2010

images: Jenny Susanto-Lee
Giving A Fig

Genesis in the Hills is a vegetarian hideaway hotspot doing brisk trade in Roleystone. It sits on the same road that leads into Araluen, and lots of pretty adjectives spring to mind while following its path: tranquil, natural, healthy, abundant. All the same words, really, that apply to the eatery. Genesis literally translates to mean ‘coming into being’ or, as Rivka Cohen - one half of Genesis - puts it, “the infinity of possibility”.

“We chose the name Genesis because it is from the Hebrew language, and ‘Genesis’ in Hebrew means ‘the beginning of creative potential’,” she says.

“It’s the beginning of things, where potential is brought to life. It is a very, very big word in Hebrew.”

Ably commandeered by Rivka, Genesis’s cook, and her musically gifted big sister Ita Goldberger-Amran, the restaurant has been running since September 2007 and proved to be a massive hit with locals. But the rest of Perth is quickly catching on.

“We have people coming from everywhere now, from Fremantle to Joondalup,” says Ita.

Formerly an artist’s dwelling, the gorgeous nine acre site caught the sisters’ eye in December 2003 and they decided to escape the city to embark on a tree-change journey. It took two years to plan and store the property. They renovated the house, which Ita had been living in, into a restaurant, and then built another house, being were ever-mindful to retain the peace and tranquility of the area.

“We decided to move to Roleystone because it is extremely pretty,” says Rivka.

“There’s lots of nature, lots of orchards and also a strong sense of community, which I really missed in City Beach, where I was living before. And I wanted to have contact with people. There is lots of variety – artists, creative people, just a beautiful mixture of people. Roleystone is the right place for us”.

The sisters moved from Israel to Perth ten years ago after the sisters were at a personal crossroads, and they emigrated to Australia in search of peace and a better quality of life. Rivka decided that it was more than just her address that needed a tweak.

“I was once an economist, and then I was a Maths teacher for a while,” she says.

“But I always had a great passion for cooking and baking, and then when we came to Australia I thought it was time for a change. So I opened a little vegetarian restaurant in Subiaco, which was called Bay Tree Café. I ran it for two and a half years, and it was actually quite successful. Then I sold it because I wanted to change my life again, to make it more peaceful. I bought my piece of land in Roleystone, where I could grow my own stuff. We’re basically really alive with nature now.”

Growing up in a semi-rural village in Israel, where their father ran a vineyard, the two women were privy to enormous cultural influences from their family. They had a Turkish grandfather, a Spanish grandmother, and their mother was born in Bulgaria. Their father was a baker from central Europe, with a Hungarian and Czechoslovakian background. The family table was a place for lively discussion, with languages jumping between Bulgarian, Jewish-Spanish-Latino, Hungarian, Russian and Yiddish.

“And outside in the street it was Hebrew,” recalls Ita.

“The neighbours were all Holocaust survivors who ended up in Israel after the war, so everybody spoke another language, and the children were all in and out of each other’s houses influencing each other.”

With such an eclectic history, it was only natural that the sisters would go on to be profoundly affected by their upbringing. But it is the food they were raised on as children that they seem to remember most fondly.

“Oh gosh, the food we ate as a child!” laughs Ita.

“My favourite dishes from my mother were her different aubergine dishes that she got from Bulgaria. People call it baba ganoush. And her cakes, of course. Her cakes were notorious. Everybody came to eat them. School was only two hundred metres from where we lived, so everybody would ask, ‘Oh, can we come to your house to see what cakes your mother has baked?’ So during the breaks we would all go to my mother’s kitchen, eat her cake and then go back to school. It was so wonderful.”

“My food influences definitely come from my family, and I do Mediterranean and lots of Arab cooking,” says Rivka.

“Lots of my influences come from the use of tahini and hommus, which are Arab ingredients, and broad beans and spices and herbs. And with Mediterranean cooking, it’s all about using a lot of fresh seasonal ingredients. You can’t compromise it, really.

“My Mum is a beautiful cook, she actually just celebrated her 80th birthday. She immigrated with our families here. Mum is from the Balkan area in Bulgaria, and there are lots of things I’ve learned from her. She is very much into what is called the philosophy of how you work, what you do, and how you cook. She showed me how to work locally, work with local produce, and work seasonally. Trying to make food as fresh and as healthy as you can”.

Food is abundant in this neck of the woods, with the property being home to a good-sized herb garden and an orchard of around sixty fruit trees. There is an impressive chicken pen containing forty laying hens, who are all very grateful for the restaurant’s leftovers. And what the property does not provide, the local community does.

“With the produce that we have access to, the possibilities and the flavours of vegetarian food are just as endless as non-vegetarian food,” says Rivka.

“For example, I’ve got a huge amount of figs in the area. So in the times of the figs I do millions of things with them. I stuff them with cheese. I make cakes. I make pies. I make jams. There is a local Italian lady who takes them, cuts them in the middle and dries them, and they are the most delicious figs ever. And then we have a beautiful orchard of chestnuts. So I make chestnut cakes and chestnut cream. It’s really important to explain the contribution of these things to the flavours of dishes. We work very much by what we actually find in the season, the seasons completely inspire me. Many people don’t know what to do with produce such as figs, quince and pomegranates. So they just bring it in. So we have a lot of cooperation with the local people. For me, Genesis is not just a business. It’s a way of life.”

The neighborhood is of paramount importance to the pair, who believe Genesis is less of a restaurant than a haven for the community. Rivka sources much of the restaurant’s produce from the surrounding area, such as oils, bread, milk, cheese and coffee. Local art exhibitions are held at the property once a month, as are jazz nights featuring local musicians.

“We buy locally, we share, we give the place to local people to sell their produce,” says Rivka.
“We sell honey, we sell flowers, and all kinds of food without taking any commission. In a way it’s symmetry. The community aspect of Genesis is very important to me.”

However, what you notice most about the remarkable duo is their passion, which seems to drive everything that they do. The beautiful aspect of their property, which they also live on with their families, the warm reception they have received from the residents of Roleystone and their deeply-held set of beliefs are what keep these two women motivated.

“I believe it’s a very natural way of growing up, with neighbors and community that are very, very close to each other,” says Ita.

“And that’s how we feel in Roleystone. We are very involved with the community, not only in food, but our place has become a meeting place for people to come and talk. It’s a way of living. That it’s not only about you and your family, but that there is a bigger picture. That’s how we grew up, so that’s who we are.”

“It’s all about living consciously,” emphasises Rivka.

“You try to make your life worth living, not only in the sense that you live but with what contribution you’ve made. I feel I’ve contributed by producing good food, which I’m happy with.” Genesis in the Hills is at 124 Croyden Road Roleystone. For bookings and more information, telephone 9397 7799 or go to

Scoop Magazine, Spring 2010

Moveable Feasts

It’s pretty tough to find anybody who has anything even remotely left-of-centre to say about Amelia Park supreme-o, Peter Walsh. Not that anyone would want to. The former farmer is at the top of his game these days and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Having just returned from one of many overseas trips, the spry fifty-something year old is the proud owner of one of the fastest-growing enterprises in the State.

Born in 2002, Amelia Park is a fairly recent arrival to the business scene, but the land on which it sits has been in the Walsh family since 1957. Back then, the farm was essentially a beef and lamb meat processing plant, but under the helmsmanship of Peter and brother Greg the company has re-packaged itself into Amelia Park. The business has invested heavily in another passion of the Walsh family – horse racing - and the property houses state-of-the-art horse facilities, including a lakeside training track, horse adjisting, syndicates, a breeding program and a horse swimming pool. It also provides top-notch beef and lamb to some of the best-known restaurants and hotels in the country and exports to a good part of the world as well.

Really, you think that would be enough for even the most manic among us. But Peter’s not exactly the kind of guy to sit back and put his feet up.

“We don’t just want to stick to producing meat any more,” he admits.

“We want to get into other products that will complement our meat. And we plan on bringing the best together.”

The best indeed. Enter multi-award winning chef Neal Jackson, head honcho of one of Perth’s most respected restaurants, Jackson’s. The pair met up twelve years ago when Neal established the now-famed eatery and Peter became a silent partner. And now Neal’s about to return the favour.

Neal will be joining the team as our flavour consultant,” says Peter.

“He’s a real perfectionist and is going to make up all the flavours that will match our lamb and beef, such as sauces and marinades. We’re sending him off to China this week, right out to the Mongolian border, where there are a lot of lambs with different tastes and flavours and cuts. And he will be studying all that to see if we can relate it back to what we’re doing here. Then we’ll start looking into olive oil with him. And, down the track, there will also be chocolate. Neal’s a multiple award winner, and we are keen to go to the next level with him.”

Meanwhile, Neal is packing his bags for Inner Mongolia. He’s been to China before, he says, but not exactly to study the cut and thrust of the Chinese lamb industry.

“It’s just like Peter to be thinking outside the square,” he chuckles.

“He’s definitely a visionary. He never sits still and is always looking forward. It’s quite exciting to be getting involved.”

Creative thinking, it seems, is what maketh the man. Peter has been wheeling and dealing with China for nearly twenty years, in lamb and beef as well as sheepskin for the fashion trade, way before anybody else was doing it. He already has an office in Beijing.

“There’s a lot of talk these days about business expanding into China, but Peter’s been doing business with them since he first visited China around 18 years ago,” says Daniela Gordon, part-owner of Amelia Park Wines.

“So he’s been doing that kind of thing before anyone really thought about doing business with China. He’s always looking at new ways of doing things. He’s really visionary in his approach.

There’s that word again. And oh yes, did we mention Peter has also started producing wine? Daniela just happens to be married to winemaker Jeremy Gordon, recent winner of the esteemed Jimmy Watson trophy and former co-owner and founder of Flametree in Margaret River. Amelia Park Wines has now launched, with their varieties including a cabernet merlot, a shiraz and a sauvignon blanc semillon. The label is now in the process of going global, with many Sydney hotels and restaurants stocking their wines and exports already underway to China, Mauritius and the UK. When Amelia Park launches in September, Jeremy and Daniella will be winging their way over to the UK to spruik their wines in London. According to Peter, people are buying it without even tasting because they know of Jeremy’s excellent reputation in the industry.

“I think one of the reasons we decided to go into business with Peter was because he is such a straight shooter,” says Daniela.

“He’s very down-to-earth. I think probably one of his biggest assets is that he communicates with all types of people, from a top-level businessperson to somebody working on his farm. He treats everyone with respect.”

Most recently, Peter has had his sights on Africa, and not just for the World Cup either. Wait for it - he wants to branch out into smallgoods.

“We’ve just recruited a top smallgoods manager from South Africa, who will be arriving here in around September,” he enthuses.

“South Africans are very big on meat and barbecues. They do a lot of aged meats, as well as sauces and marinades. They always serve up their meats with some kind of condiment. It’s absolutely beautiful.

“And then we’ll be going to the next stage. We’ll start out with making sausages and burgers, and then we want to advance to other smallgoods, such as cold meats. All our machines are ready to go, so it’s just a matter of time.”

At this stage however, it is the quality of Amelia Park’s lamb and beef products that is making the most noise. With strict quality assurance in place, a mere 30% of the meat received from breeders passes the tight selection criteria. And it’s all West Australian.

“They’ve got a very good product and regardless of the fact that I’m involved I would be using their lamb anyway,” says Neal.

“It’s just great lamb. We always have it on the menu in at least one or two dishes.”

Greg Ryan from Ryan’s Quality Meats is the exclusive distributor for Amelia Park beef, and is proud as punch to be working with such a high-end product.

“It’s beef from South-West Western Australia that is selected from probably four of the best farmers in that area,” he says.

“They’ve got their feeding regime correct, so it’s a very clean product. And the quality is second-to-none. There is a selection criteria that it has to fit into. We start at the top, and the criteria works back from there. So our beef carcass ranges from 220kg to 280kg bodies. There has to be a fat depth of no more than 8mm, which is very good. Then there’s the meat colour criteria and the fat colour critiera. And that’s only selected from the top 30% of the beef every day. So we’re getting the best of the best. And that’s the body that suits what we want to do. We want to produce the best beef in Australia.”

Greg also isn’t one to mince words when it comes to his new business partner.

“Amelia Park is an amazing place. It’s just fantastic what Peter’s done down there. It’s like heaven on Earth for horses and humans. He was a very hard worker when he was younger and he’s still working just as hard now. He’s a very entrepreneurial person.”

But at the end of the day, it is Peter’s love for the industry he was born into that has him looking to the horizon.

“We have been in this industry for a long time and want to continue being in it for a long time,” he reflects.

“And we just want to keep being motivated. Being surrounded by top people really helps keep up that motivation. We believe having multi-award winners around us who believe in perfection and have the passion that we do, that is our next step.”

And what could possibly be next, one might wonder. A day spa, perhaps? A private resort in Bali? No, really.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The West Australian, July 2010

image: Sydney Morning Herald

Go the Poh

Poh Ling Yeow is a woman on the run. She has just finished writing her as-yet untitled new book, which will be on the shelves in November and is based on her hugely successful television series, ‘Poh’s Kitchen”, which she is currently taping. The popular MasterChef runner-up will be winging her way over to Perth this week to take part in the Mundaring Truffle Festival.

“It’s just crazy these days,” she laughs down the phone line from her hometown of Adelaide.

“I barely know what day of the week it is any more.”

But despite all the accolades, the television show and the book, Poh says she still has a lot to learn about food and, at the moment, she is wanting to learn all about truffles.

“I know nothing about truffles whatsoever”, she admits.

“So it’s going to be a really interesting visit. I’m really excited about it, actually. I’m certainly not going to the festival as an expert. I’ll just be there as a novice to learn about and explore truffles. They have fascinated me for some time but they’re also very hard to get a-hold of. So I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing experience to be around so much of it. I’m just going to come over and learn and absorb and basically be a sponge”

Poh is not a newcomer to Perth, having visited once before when she was taping ‘Poh’s Kitchen’ with Perth-based French chef, author and Choux Café owner, Emmanuel Mollois.

“Perth looks like a beautiful city, so I can’t wait to see it. The last time I was here I didn’t really spend much time in it other than to visit Emmanuel’s café. When I’m taping a show there’s not any time to do sight-seeing and on that last visit we filmed two episodes. My schedule is jam-packed. Right from morning to night we are filming, so it’s really intense. You just have a break for lunch and dinner, then you’re exhausted at night. And we have really early starts too. So unfortunately during filming we don’t really get much of a chance to see anything.”

On this visit, however, there will only be one segment filmed for the show. So she is planning on taking a little more time to see the sights of Western Australia – as long as it revolves around truffles.

“On this visit I really just want to focus on the truffle thing, so I’m going to go truffle hunting down south in Manjimup,” she says.

“I’ll also be doing some cooking events with Emmanuel and Alain (Fabrègues)(ok) at the truffle festival, and I’ll be going to Alain’s restaurant, The Loose Box, for a truffle degustation meal, which will be unbelievable. It’s always fantastic to learn new things and, with all the French guys at the festival, I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot of new techniques just by hanging around them. So I’m really, really excited about that.”

Truffles aside, Poh is also excited to being reunited with Emmanuel. The pair became good friends while taping ‘Poh’s Kitchen’ and she is looking forward to working with the Frenchman again.

“I always learn so much from Emmanuel,” she enthuses.

“It’s interesting how we come from such different disciplines but we’re always cross-pollinating and are really excited about teaching each other.”

So, what does Emmanuel think of her then?

“He often gets really freaked out by me,” she chuckles.

“I’m a little bit naughty like that, I suppose. Like many other cultures, the French have a very strong sense of identity. Often their experience of food usually comes from within their culture. So it’s really fun to shock him with weird ingredients. I think the durian fruit was the worst. That was one of the funniest and slightly concerning moments on the show ever. Emmanuel ate it and I thought he was going to throw up. It was so funny.”

Poh will be hosting the signature event of the festival, the Truffle Masterclass, featuring Perth chefs Alain Fabregues, Emmanuel Mollois and Hadleigh Troy on Saturday 31 July, which is now sold out.

She will also be appearing with Emmanuel Mollois in a cooking demonstration at the festival on Saturday, 31 July at 4pm at the Cooking Zone.
Link to article in Fresh, The West Australian

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The West Australian, April 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

It all started with Play School. Presenters would bake gingerbread men and serve up plates of rubbery spaghetti for Big Ted and Jemima, and children from all over Australia would turn to their parents and say "Can we make that?"
Nowadays, there is a plethora of children's cooking courses, television shows and child-sized kitchen gadgetry.
(Follow link to article)

Fresh, The West Australian, April 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

The West Australian, April 2010

Restaurant Review: Il Cibo

A four-month-young cafe in the hub of Fremantle, Il Cibo seems to be enjoying brisk trade thanks largely, I'd imagine, to the nous of its matriarch Donatella Niedda.

No stranger to the industry, Donatella was formerly at the helm of Beaches Cafe, Toscanini's and Capodonna before hanging up her apron a few years back. Now she's come out of retirement to run the Market Street corner eatery with her daughter, Jessica Thomas. It's a big, warehouse-style space filled with an eclectic, very Freo mix of retro furniture. The outdoor dining area sprawls out onto the pavement while the interior of the cafe, made up of three different rooms, includes a play corner for the kids while Mum and Dad enjoy their lattes.

On the day we visited, the breakfast crowd was just trickling out as we made our way in for an early lunch. Rumour has it there are plans to segue into dinner down the track because of high demand.

Meaning 'the food' in Italian, Il Cibo has a surfeit of healthy, organic fare on offer from behind two massive display cabinets. All of the dishes (bar the bikkies) are made in-house and the lunch menu features cafe classics such as quiches, frittatas and salads, as well as a steak sandwich ($17.50) and chicken and continental paninis ($11.50) coming from the semi-closed kitchen.

We decided on three of the more interesting-looking dishes from behind the glass, which went into the middle of the table to be shared among the group.

A continental 'frizza' ($12.50), a hybrid of pizza and frittata, had a smooth omelette base of herbs, Parmesan, cream and egg with a topping of sliced sausage, olives and shredded spinach. It was a good, solid dish that would have gone down just as well for brekky.

A tasting platter for one ($25) arrived in a fabulous black paella pan. The offerings - which apparently change frequently according to the whims of the kitchen - comprised generous chunks of chorizo, grilled mushrooms, spinach quiche, marinated octopus and a more-ish tomato passata that was begging for some chunks of crusty bread. There was also a wild rice salad with an odd mix of coriander and red currants that didn't quite seem to work.

Spinach and ricotta crepes ($9.50 or $17.50 with salad) were big and hearty and ticked all the boxes, although, like all the dishes we shared, the serving side was on the small side.

Which of course meant more room for dessert. We stuck with the sharing theme and ordered two desserts for the table. Flourless chocolate cake ($6) came up trumps, with a wicked chocolate crust housing a moist, soft centre and served with light-as-cloud whipped cream. Rolled berry pavlova ($6) was good, though the presentation could have been better - it look more like Eton mess on a plate.

The wine list had gone astray so we went with the recommendation of a Flametree sauvignon blanc semillon 2009 ($32), which was a nice crisp drop for a lunchtime date.

A good, healthy way to welcome in the weekend.


The Westn Australian, April 2010

Insider's Guide to authentic Asian

Love Asian cooking but lost in translation when it comes to all those exotic ingredients? To help you separate the shao hsing from the tom yum, we've demystified some of the unusual items in the Asian pantry.


A Japanese rice wine best known as one of the main ingredients used to make sushi rice. It is very sweet in flavour and is used for cooking only. It can be added to seafood to mask 'fishy' aromas.
USE IT: Mix with soy sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger for a delicious teriyaki sauce.

Palm Sugar

A sugar made from the sweet sap of palm trees (most commonly date and palymra palms), palm sugar has a molasses-like texture and is widely used in cooking throughout South-Est Asia. It is largely unprocessed and therefore has a coarser, grainier consistency than other sugars.
USE IT: For a sweeter, more syrupy flavour, add it to a rice pudding made with coconut milk.

Tom Yum Paste

Tom yum paste is best known for its distinctive hot and sour flavours. Most frequently used in Thailand and Laos, its ingredient base includes lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, fish sauce and chilli, which are all either crushed in a mortar and pestle or pureed in a food processor to form a paste.
USE IT: Give chicken or prawn soup that authentic Thai flavour by adding tom yum paste to your stock and sprinkling with coriander leaves.

Panch Phora

An Indian version of five-spice, panch phora is a spice mixture made up of various seeds - mustard, nigella, cumin, fennel and fenugreek - which can either be used as is or pounded down into a powder. Oil can also be added to make a paste.
USE IT: Add a teaspoonful or two to a meat or vegetable curry dish to give it some extra zing.

Pomegranate Molasses

A thick, syrupy condiment that has its origins in the Middle East. The result is a highly acidic syrup which can be tempered with olive oil or honey. It can be used to add extra tang to sauces, soups and other savoury dishes.
USE IT: Add a dollop to vinaigrettes to give vegetables and salads some punch.

Shao Hsing (or Shaoxing)

A Chinese rice wine that is known to be one of the finest of its ilk, shao hsing is full of flavour and extremely dry, with a flavour not unlike sherry. It is made with fermented rice that has been steeped in the lake waters of Shao Hsing province in eastern China.
USE IT: Add a splash to the wok next time you're cooking up a Chinese stir-fry.


Not just that fiery green dollop that comes with your sushi, wasabi is a potent Japanese condiment similar to the horseradish root. It comes in many forms including dried, powdered and as a paste.
USE IT: Mix wit soy sauce, sugar and rice wine vinegar for a salad dressing with bite.

Rice Bran Oil

Similar to vegetable oil, rice bran oil - made by extracting oil from the germ and husk of a rice grain - is known to be one of the healthiest edible oils around. It has a mild flavour and a high tolerance to heat, making it perfect for deep-frying.
USE IT: Add a glug to your next stir-fry to add a delicate flavour and lower your cholesterol.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Scoop Magazine, Summer 2010

image: Jenny Susanto-Lee

Farmer's Markets

While visiting a local farmers’ market for the first time recently, it occurred to me that I might have slipped into another dimension by accident. Stallholders and customers were deep in conversation. People were stopping for a chat and a laugh with one another. Supermarket trolleys had made way for recycling bags. Welcome to the wonderful world of the farmers’ market.

Farmers’ markets are, quite literally, just that. They sell market produce that is often hours - not weeks – old, delivered fresh from the farm. In order to run a stall, vendors generally must grow, catch, bake or preserve all their own wares. Prices are normally cheaper, as the middle-man is cut out and the customer is essentially buying wholesale. Much of the produce is organic, seasonal, local and in as natural a state as possible. In other words, the way it used to be.

If ever there was a sign that we want to slow down and eat better, then surely the surge in popularity of farmers’ markets is it. In the US, the number of farmers’ markets grew exponentially from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009 as the country grappled with its need to reduce its junk food intake. In the UK, their popularity has never really waned thanks to a strong village culture. The benefits of buying fresh, local produce are nothing new to developing countries however, who have been doing it for eons. Happily, it’s our turn and, thanks to the trend of embracing all things community, we’ve jumped on the hay wagon with gusto.

Here is a round-up of local markets with the freshest food around.

Fremantle Markets

The Fremantle Markets have been around for over one hundred years and draw an eclectic crowd, from tourists to tie-dye devotees. Already attracting 40,000 visitors per week to its 150 stalls, the markets are in the middle of an overhaul.

“Over the past year, our markets have been on a push to alter everything,” says its business development manager and ‘Food Hour’ radio presenter Ann Meyer.

“Our main emphasis is to get rid of the middle-man, concentrate on the local producer and make sure everything’s grown direct.

“We’ve got Abhis Bakery making fresh bread on the premises with local organic flours to make the Yard as organic bio-dynamic as possible. We’ve also just secured one of WA’s best organic farmers, Shuan Lamb. You can’t get his produce anywhere else, it will just be at the Fremantle Markets.”

Open all day Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Cnr Henderson St & South Terrace, Fremantle.

Mt Claremont Farmers Market

After their humble beginnings in 2007 with eight stalls, this market now boasts over 50 stall holders and attracts nearly 3,000 customers a week. It is a community-based project that sells all manner of things, from organic cheeses, yoghurts and produce to gourmet chorizo sausages, hand-made chocolate, fresh coffee and French pastries. Just make sure you get there early.

“Our lettuce truck is what really sets us apart,” laughs Natasha Atkinson, the market’s manager.

“It pulls in, the side opens and there are crates of lettuce that people queue for. And I’m talking 30 to 40 people in a queue. At our recent night market, we had a queue from one end of the basketball court to the other. It’s super fresh - they pick the lettuce that morning. I did the ten day fresh test, and it lasted the full ten days in the fridge.”

Bring your dog, grab a coffee and buy the paper while you’re there.

Saturdays, 7:30am-11:30am.
Mt Claremont Primary School, 103 Alfred Road, Mt Claremont.

Perth City Farm Organic Growers’ Market

For the past six years, a small green sanctuary has been blooming in the heart of Perth’s concrete jungle. These markets are a little different to the others around town in that every vendor is a bona-fide certified organic grower.

“What we wanted to do was to educate the public on how necessary it is to support organic and bio-dynamic farmers,” explains director Rosanne Scott.

“All the products that people trade in our market building have to be certified organic bio-dynamic. People can’t just go and buy from someone else and sell here. The only retailer at our market is ourselves, City Farm, and everything we use is certified organic.”

As would be expected, the stallholders also represent the environment.

“We have Environment House who sell environmentally-friendly products, books and worm farms,” says Rosanne.

“And there’s chooks, ducks, geese, guinea pigs and rabbits for the kids to enjoy. People can get an organic coffee, where not only the coffee is certified organic but the milk and sugar as well. We try really hard to keep that ethical line and be vigilant.”

Saturdays, 8am-12pm.
1 City Place, East Perth.

Subiaco Farmers Market

Having just unfurled their banner recently, new-kid-on-the block Subiaco Market has already attracted a strong following, despite the heat.

“We started with 37 stalls, and we opened when it was 37 degrees,” recalls founder Sally Lewis.

“We’ve had great support from the community since then. There’s a really nice village atmosphere going on, where friends can gather and have a coffee while the kids have a play.

As a trained nutritionist, it was only natural that quality would be a priority.

“My focus is on getting top quality produce, with minimal spray, that is picked as close to market day as possible”, says Sally

“For example, our flowers are picked at 5am that morning. Our lettuce, spinach and greens are all picked on the Friday. Same with our fruit, such raspberries, cherries and apples. It was really important to me to sell produce that actually lasts.”

Autumn is also set to be a bumper crop, with home-made stock on the menu and a new stall that makes its own pasta.

“A lady from Vergones’ Fresh Produce has ordered a 200kg pasta machine from Italy and will be making gorgeous home-made pasta,” says Sally.

Open Sat 8am-12pm.
Subiaco Primary School, 271 Bagot Road, Subiaco

Other farmers markets to check out:

· Albany – Collie Street
· Gascoyne – Carnarvon Civic Centre
· Geraldton – cnr Maitland Street and Cathedral Avenue
· Manjimup – The Shed, Rose Street (every 3rd Sat)
· Manning – Clontarf Aboriginal College, Manning Road
· Margaret River – Community Centre, Tunbridge Street (every 4th Sat)
· Mondo’s - 824 Beaufort Street, Inglewood
· Peel – Pinjarra Civic Centre, Pinjarra
· York – 83 Avon Terrace

· Armadale – Council carpark, Jull Street
· Boyanup Memorial Park, South-Western Hwy (every 4th Sun)
· Eaton (near Bunbury) – Recreation Drive
· Kalamunda – Central Mall
· Mandurah Peel – Western Foreshore
· Midland – the Crescent
· Western – cnr High & Montreal Streets, Fremantle