The WA Signature Dish is an annual cooking competition that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce. The competition is open to amateur cooks who must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions.
This year’s competition at the WA Signature Dish Semi-Final was fierce. The cook off was held earlier this month in Perth and was a nail-biting morning for everyone. Following with Perth’s latest food trend, a number of the dishes showed the creative use of Australian native plants. There are so many interesting flavours hidden out there in the outback and I love seeing how chefs use these unique flavours.
The winning finalist for the Gascoyne region is Jerolina Rankin. Jerolina participated last year and narrowly missed the place in the finals. This year she returns to the competition with her Gascoyne seafood broth with Shark Bay wild prawns.
The finalist for the Kimberley region is Arylene Westlake-Jennings with Cone Bay barramundi and green mango and mizuna salad.
Talented local Perth food blogger Matt Cook is carrying the flag for the Swan Valley and surrounds with his dish; lemon-myrtle marron laksa-inspired curry.
Finally, Rachel Hartshorn is representing the Peel region with her dish of Harvey Beef eye fillet, bush tomato, native thyme and pepperberry with red wine jus.
The four finalists now must spend the next few months working alongside their dedicated Mentor Chefs in order to perfect their dish for the Grand Finale. The Mentor Chefs this year are Chris Taylor (Fraser’s) for the Kimberley, Peter Manifis (InContro) for the Gascoyne, Kiren Mainwaring (Co-op Dining) for Swan Valley & Surrounds and Jason Hutchen (Redmanna Waterfront Restaurant) for Peel.
The WA Signature Dish Grand Finale takes place at the Gourmet Escape festival on the 22nd of November. A 60 minute live cook-off will be held on stage and each finalist will present their dish for judging to Chefs Guillaume Brahimi and Shane Osborn and restaurant critic Matt Preston to select the 2015 winner.
It will be a great relief to many that this year, each of the four finalist’s dishes will be available to buy this year at Gourmet Escape. Chef Peter Manifis plans to prepare about 6000 of the finalist’s dishes at the WA Signature Dish pop-up restaurant. Festival punters will be able to vote on their favourite dish for the People’s Choice award which will be announced at the cook-off finale.
For more details visit www.wasignaturedish.com.au
Please note photo credits with thanks to Peter Maloney, Department of Agriculture and Food WA. I was afflicted by a bad gastro and couldn’t attend the semi-finals.
This year I return to join the team of bloggers and follow the journey of the WA Signature Dish Competition 2015. Many of you will remember my comprehensive coverage of last year’s competition which included a trip up to the stunning Gascoyne region where I went on my own paddock to plate experience meeting the local farmers and producers in person. I visited a number of banana plantations, ate chocolate pudding fruit straight from the tree and even got to climb on board a crabbing boat.
The WA Signature Dish is an annual cooking competition that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce. The competition is open to amateur cooks who must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions. Two contestants from each region will be chosen to compete in the Semi Final cook-off event on the 14 October in Perth.
This year Peter Manifis will join us again as the mentor chef for the Gascoyne region. Peter grew up on WA’s Pilbara coast and being the son of a commercial fisherman, he developed a passion for our State’s abundant seafood from a very young age. By the time Peter was ten years old he had already decided that he was going to be a chef. He trained at the famous Loose Box under French Master Chef Alain Farbregues and is now a partner in the successful South Perth restaurant InContro. Read my interview with Peter last year and see some of his mouth-watering creations at InContro restaurant.
The Hero Ingredients that the contestants must use from the Gascoyne Region this year are:
• Wild Shark Bay Prawns (Northern Star Ocean Products)
• Carnarvon grown tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, eggplant and chilli (Loveapple)
• Shark Bay Mullet, Shark Bay Scallops, Pink Snapper and Shark Bay Whiting (recommended by the WA Fishing Industry Council)
Once the four regional Semi Final winners are selected, they will each then work with their mentor chef for their chosen region to prepare them for the Grand Finale which will be held at Margaret River Gourmet Escape on the 22 November. The judging panel for the Grand Finale will consist of Guillaume Brahimi (Bistro Guillaume), Shane Osborn (from Michelin starred St Betty’s restaurant in Hong Kong) and a third high profile chef who is yet to be named.
The winner of the WA Signature Dish Competition 2015 will receive two days mentoring with Guillaume Brahimi at Bistro Guillame in Crown Perth, plus a trip for two to a luxurious remote Western Australian location for a wine and dine experience and the opportunity to meet some of WA’s most respected chefs and industry figures along the way.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for the 2015 WA Signature Dish Competition. The competition is organised by Buy West Eat Best, a food labelling program that’s all about supporting the local food industry in Western Australia. Buy West Eat Best aims to grow the value and consumption of local WA produced food. Buy West East Best provides consumers and the local food industry with a food-specific brand to clearly show Western Australian grown, farmed, fished and produced food.
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
For the final blog post on my trip to the coastal town of Carnarvon, I thought it would be useful to summarise my discoveries for my fellow gluten intolerants in a simple gluten free Carnarvon traveller’s guide.
Carnarvon is located about nine hundred kilometres north of Perth on the western coast of Australia. It is easily accessible by car, bus and air. This was my first trip up into the northern corner of our vast country and we originally planned to drive up on a long road trip from Perth. This would have taken us around ten hours excluding stops.
After giving it more thought I changed my mind and decided I wanted to experience more of the Coral Coast further north from Carnarvon on the same holiday. This would add even more hours onto our already long drive. So instead to us save time, we chose to fly into Exmouth with Qantas airlines, hire a car and drive direct from Learmonth Airport. The flight is about two hours and then the drive from Exmouth to Carnarvon is around four hours depending on the weather conditions.
I found driving around Carnarvon and through the Outback onto Exmouth was a type of road trip unlike anything I have previous experienced. The roads are much more remote than any city slicker like me could have even imagined. Roadside stops are few and few between with very little to offer the gluten free traveller. I arrived fully prepared with roads snacks packed in my suitcase and I was able to restock my supplies at the local Woolworths in Carnarvon town where they had a full range of gluten free breads, crackers, muffins and other snacks.
Outback driving is something you need some preparation for. My ten best tips for beginners are:• Check the road and weather conditions before you leave: We encountered some pretty crazy weather and had to change our routes due to road closures on a number of occasions. BOM gives up to date reports. Be sure to check their website daily. • Pack plenty of water. Remember there are minimal service stations once you get out of Carnarvon Town and onto the highway and it can get pretty hot out there! • Stock up on gluten free snacks before you set out. Those few and far between service stations have slim pickings for us gluten free peeps. Come prepared. • Tell someone your plans before you go • Plan your refuelling stops • Obtain a current and accurate map • Use a road worth vehicle ideally a 4WD • Ensure to organise your music devices with good tunes, a charger and a way to play it through your hire car radio. • Watch out for wildlife and livestock on the road. You will be surprised at how much wayward animals are out there. • Don’t drive after dark
We stayed at the Best Western Hospitality Inn where we found the rooms to be simple but clean and are conveniently located within walking distance to the town centre and the picturesque fascine. There are a number of other accommodation options including pubs, motels, backpacker’s lodges and caravan parks. There are currently no luxury styled hotels or chalets.
Where to eat:
My first recommendation for any foodie, whether you are gluten free or not is to get yourself a copy of the Gascoyne Food Trail map and hit the road for your own paddock to plate experience. You will find all sorts of naturally gluten free things to devour including fresh prawns, frozen chocolate pudding fruit and the sweetest bananas you have ever tasted.
For a more traditional feast dining in you need to bear in mind that a lot of the restaurants are closed from Sunday through to Tuesday and some of the tourist cafés are only open seasonally. For two nights of our stay we ate at the Sails Restaurant situated at our hotel because nowhere else was open. Whilst their menu is not marked with gluten free options, the chef was very obliging and could adapt most of the meals for me. We really enjoyed their ginger scallop entrée especially as it came with a substantial number of scallops to share.
It seemed that some other local eateries have yet to buy into the concept of utilising all the amazing fresh local produce available at their doorstep. After speaking with a number of locals I get the feeling this is soon about to change.
One place that has embraced using local produce was the Gascoyne Hotel. Their menu was clearly marked with gluten free options and even had a number of gluten free desserts on offer including cheesecakes, puddings and tiramisu. Whilst their creamy garlic prawns weren’t exactly cheap for an entrée size, they were worth every cent.
Another gluten free item on the Gascoyne’s menu was the salt and pepper calamari. This wasn’t quite the dish we were expecting with only a few pieces of calamari served underneath a mound of crispy rice noodles and generous lashings of a honey, sesame and soy dressing. As odd as this dish looked, the flavours did work well together.
The Boy also ordered himself the local snapper with chips and salad but alas this wasn’t marked gluten free on the menu. I enquired if this could be done gluten free however was informed that I could only have the dishes already marked gluten free on the menu. If you are craving gluten free fish and chips, I managed to find some at the Harbourside Café. They will charge a reasonable amount more for local fish than the alternative option of imported fish but all their staff were aware of how to avoid gluten contamination and prepared a fresh batch of chips in clean oil just for us.
A final recommendation is to head over to “The Precinct”, Carnarvon’s Heritage area on Babbage Island. This area is home to the One Mile Jetty, a beautiful historical jetty built in 1897 and maintained in good enough condition to walk nearly the full length.
The newly opened One Mile Restaurant located in the Centre next to the jetty and has a young and ambitious chef who informed me will be offering gluten free options on her menu. The Centre provides fabulous views of the jetty and looks out over the water making it the perfect spot to stop for a meal.
Coming up next in my Gascoyne series will take you to the stunning beach-side town of Exmouth where we stayed at the luxurious Ningaloo Novotel Resort and nearly became trapped there due to widespread flooding!Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au/ Water’s Edge Restaurant at the Gascoyne Hotel 121-125 Olivia Terrace, South Carnarvon WA 6701| (08) 9941 1181 | www.gascoynehotel.com.au Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook
One Mile Restaurant at the Interpretive Centre | Heritage Precinct Annear Place, Babbage Island, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 3423 | http://www.carnarvonheritage.com.au/ The Precinct is open daily from 9 am-5 pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
Over recent weeks I have been providing you with insider coverage of the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best; a government initiative to help promote eating locally grown and made produce. I was appointed as the official blogger for the Gascoyne region and travelled up to Carnarvon to attend the regional final.
The three other participating regions were Perth and Surrounds, Southern Forests and the Great Southern. Each region’s finalist received one-on-one mentoring by their delegated chef to help prepare them for the Grand Finale held at the Perth Cultural Centre on WA Day. On the big day, the Cultural Centre was alive with activity with much to see and do for people of all ages.
The WA Day event was a free event and the Buy West Eat Best tent was packed full of stalls offering tastings of all sorts of local deliciousnesses including banana smoothies, gelato, oils, condiments and best of all, gluten free lupin flour chocolate cake. I was joined by two of my dear friends Foodie Cravings and Perth Munchkin who were also attending as official bloggers representing Perth and the Great Southern.
Each contestant had ninety minutes to prepare their dish from scratch using a variety of ingredients sourced from their region. Rhiannon Birch was competing for the Perth and Surrounds region and her dish was Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours. Much to my approval her dish is entirely gluten free.
Clare King’s dish came from the Great Southern region titled “A Celebration of Beef in Thai style” and was made using a luscious Butterfield beef fillet topped with pearls of Pemberton Finger Limes.
Many of you have already been following on the blog the story of Paul Kelly, the contestant for the Gascoyne region with his Gascoyne tasting plate. This colourful plate included Shark Bay wild King prawns with salsa verde, plantation vegetable gazpacho with Abacus crab sticks, Shark Bay snapper ceviche and some simple pan-fried Shark Bay Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled Gascoyne vegetables.
Competing for the Southern Forests region, the softly spoken Alana Starkie prepared some stunning fresh Southern Forest marron with a Pink Lady apple, avocado and lime salsa. To make the competition even more challenging, throughout the entire cook off the four contestants were individually interviewed by both their chef and the hosts Anna Gare and Don Hancey. I was surprised how well they all kept their cool under pressure and kept their focus on cooking!
The final decision for the winning dish was made by the panel of high profile judges; Guillaume Brahimi, Ralf Vogt and Rob Broadfield. You could nearly hear a pin drop in the packed marquee as each judge carefully tasted the four dishes.
Whilst the quality and standard of each dish was high, there can only ever be one winner and this year the winner was Rhiannon Birch for her Perth dish of Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours.
For the recipes for all the contestants dishes head over to the Buy West Eat Best website.
The Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Finale was a free event held on the 2nd of June 2014 at the Perth Cultural Centre. I would like to thank buy West Eat Best and all the team at Clarity Communications for allowing me to be part of this fabulous WA Signature Dish experience. Also thanks to Paul Kelly and Chef Peter Manifis for putting in such an incredible effort for the Gascoyne region. Fingers crossed for a win next year!
After a long drive through the pouring rain it was a relief to arrive in Carnarvon ready for the WA Signature Dish regional final. It had been a right kerfuffle getting to our destination with missed flights, flight delays and severe weather warnings but we made it albeit one day late.
We arrived in Carnarvon in the late afternoon and checked into our accommodation at the Best Western Hospitality Inn. Our room was clean and simply appointed with a minibar stocked with nibbles, beer, wine and soft drinks. There were also tea and coffee-making facilities, free WIFI and room service however the internet connection was painfully slow.
On our first night we were a little weary from travelling all day so we ate at the hotel restaurant Sails. Sails is considered one of the more refined dining options in town in addition to being one of the very few restaurants that remain open seven days a week.
Having heard great things about Carnarvon’s fresh seafood it was all I was in the mood for. And the best way to start a seafood feast is with oysters. Now I realise the hot climate of Carnarvon excludes it from farming oysters locally this meant the oysters on Sail’s menu would undoubtedly be imported. However, when I get the fanciful idea of eating oysters I just will not stop until I am satisfied. These giant sized babies came from Frankland Bay in South Australia and were plump, creamy and surprisingly fresh. We enjoyed them served natural with a squeeze of cut lemon.
Before ordering anything else the chef kindly came out to speak with me about suitable gluten free options from his menu. I always appreciate this level of concern as it illustrates to me that they will ensure to take care when preparing my food. Our first dish was a seared prawn salad using local prawns tossed through a mighty sized salad of julienned bacon, roasted pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and baby spinach leaves. It was finished with a lemon, chilli and coriander dressing. The bacon was an odd addition and one we didn’t expect however being cut into such thin slivers it wasn’t overpowering and added just a hint of flavour with each mouthful.
Our second entrée was the grilled ginger scallops. This dish also has a level of curiosity about it as in addition to the enormous scallops served in the shell, there were extra smaller sized ones buried underneath. It worked out quite good value when you consider the price as there ended up being six scallops in total. It came served upon a scoop of steamed rice and wilted Chinese greens.
An unexpected touch of complementary lemon sorbet was brought to our table in the interlude between our first and second courses. After all the spice and ginger flavours it was a welcoming cleanser to prepare for our main meal.
For mains we both ordered the tropical barramundi. The fillet was grilled lightly, served on a bed of bok choy and topped with lemon butter sauce plus a spoonful of chilli mango salsa. A couple of poached prawns topped this collection of ingredients as a strange afterthought. Whilst the fish was soft and tender within, I felt the combination of lemon butter and mango salsa was too eclectic with only a small amount of each so that neither had the chance to shine. The end result was actually a somewhat bland dish. Such a shame because those simple flavours had a lot of potential.
We ended our night which Sail’s cheese platter for two which considering the price once again this was a generous portion size. The chef ensured to serve the water crackers in a separate bowl to avoid any gluten contamination which reinforced to me what a gluten free friendly place this was. There were four different types of cheese; chunks of tasty cheddar, smoked Dutch, Danish blue and Camembert sat among some pieces of fresh fruit and roasted nuts.
The complimentary breakfast provided with our room was very basic including some sliced toast, fruit and cheese plus an array of cereals. There wasn’t any gluten free bread available. You are able to pay a small amount extra for a hot cooked meal if you prefer but instead I bought some gluten free muffins from the local Woolworth’s supermarket which they grilled for me at no extra charge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Carnarvon and whilst the Best Western is by no means the five-star luxury that I love, it was comfortable and clean with friendly service. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again next time we are in the region.Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s accommodation at Best Western Carnarvon was partly funded for by Buy West Eat Best for my involvement in their WA Signature Dish competition. Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au
Despite living in Western Australia for nearly twenty years I am ashamed to admit that I have never journeyed further north than the seaside town of Dongara to visit my Bestie. Whenever I plan a holiday, the centre point of our activities is always based around experiencing the food of the places we visit. I didn’t feel any foodie gravitational pull coming from this region of Australia imagining it to be not much more than white sandy beaches, cattle ranches and red expanses of desert. The Boy on the other hand is a huge advocate of the North West and has tried to encourage me to go for years. He was over the moon to hear I was chosen to be the Gascoyne regional blogger for the Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish competition. He knew this would finally be the reason we could go up there together and he was convinced that I would love it.
After a number of hurdles tried to prevent us reaching our destination including missing a flight and battling a storm, we were incredibly relieved to finally drive into the pretty town of Carnarvon. Our first day was hectically busy with duties for the WA Signature Dish regional final which left our second day free to explore the area. With some help from the locals we managed to go on an extended version of the Gascoyne Food Trail; one unlike any other food trail I have gone on. Cast away images of your previous experiences visiting multiple tourist driven sites stocked with samples of artisan gourmet goods. Instead, this self-drive tour will give you a paddock to plate experience of the Gascoyne as you discover the region’s produce in its raw and naturally fresh state.
Our first stop for the morning was located down on Snapper Jetty to watch one of the local Abacus crab boats come in with their catch. Abacus Fisheries is a family run business owned by Peter Jecks and his wife. Living locally in Carnarvon Peter has been in the industry for over 20 years. Despite such a long time in the crab trade, he remains fiercely passionate being highly focused on producing a quality product in addition to proactively supporting the environmental sustainability of his fishing practices.
Peter is well known amongst Australia’s high profile foodies having featured on a number of television programs including Postcards WA and SBS’s Food Lovers’ Guide to Australia. I was very interested to hear that not a single part of the crab is wasted. The water that is used to cook the crab meat gets packaged and sold as crab stock in gourmet food stores. Even the shell is compounded to use as chitin in the medical industry for a number of applications including the manufacture of the dressings used as a second skin for burn victims.
That day, it turned out to be our lucky morning because not only did we get to see the crab fisherman come in with their haul, but we had timed our visit with one of the local fishing boats Cygnet Lass returning from a four day stint at sea.
This fishing boat provided the day’s fresh fish to Pickles Point Seafood which is located just doors down from Abacus crabs. Pickles Point is run by Gayle Dewar, one of our WA Signature dish contestants and they are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood.
Gayle was kind enough to take me behind the scenes where I saw a beautiful 3kg Red Emperor fish get neatly filleted in the blink of an eye with perfect precision. I made a mental note that next time upon our return to the region, we need to ensure arrange accommodation complete with a kitchenette! I would have loved to have bought some Red Emperor and cooked it up for dinner.
After a morning of photographing delicious fresh seafood, the two of us were desperate to grab a quick snack before we headed out onto the plantations. Harbourside Cafe is located along the same stretch of road as the fishing boat jetties so we ducked in there for a bite to eat. It has the vibe of a beach side fish and chip shop with simple décor and no table service. Their menu is literally pages long with an eclectic mix of local and imported seafood in addition to some Indian and Thai styled curries.
Avoiding the cheaper imported fish dishes, I chose the grilled Carnarvon snapper fillet served with salad and chips. The chef was happy to cook the chips in fresh oil to avoid any gluten contamination. My snapper was an enormous serve of two big fillets and I would have preferred a smaller size at a cheaper price. The fish was soft and flaked apart delicately under my fork.
The Boy ordered the crab cakes and prawn nori rolls. The crab cakes were topped with fresh prawns and a sweet chilli sauce. Obviously not being gluten free I didn’t try them but the Boy said they had a satisfying crunchy exterior with a creamy centre however didn’t have a lot of flavour.
The nori rolls were served deep fried which we both thought was quite curious. Stuffed with fresh prawns, seaweed and capsicum these non-traditionalist snacks were a novelty worth trying at least once.
Refuelled and ready for more exploring we headed out to the ring road affectionately known as the “fruit loop” by locals. The area is filled with fruit and vegetable plantations growing a wide variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs. The first stop heading out of town was Morel’s Orchard. Run by the absolutely lovely Jean and Doris Morel, this plantation is open to the public seven days a week including public holidays. Who needs a farmers market when you can buy your produce direct from the farmer? Honestly, it was like a dream come true for me!
Morel’s fruits were all so supersized and delicious looking but the most interesting of them all was the black sapote, or chocolate pudding fruit. This fruit is a species of persimmon with a yellow green inedible skin. The centre of the ripe fruit is a dark chocolate colour with the creamy texture of, yes you guessed it, chocolate pudding.
In addition to growing many seasonal fruits, the Morel’s property has row upon row of herbs and other vegetables growing lusciously. Everything looked so well-manicured and cared for as if it was just their own personal backyard veggie patch, but on a much larger scale. The Boy is an avid green thumb and his dream isn’t to be able to buy direct from farmers like me, but more so to be able to have his own veggie patch of this grand scale and get his veggies from his own backyard.
As we thanked Jean and Doris for their hospitality, Doris insisted that we try some of their chocolate coated frozen fruit before we left. I am so glad we did! Forget about Magnum ice-cream, these Morel freezer sweets are worth the visit in their own right. We struggled to choose which ones to eat and ended up greedily grabbing far too many; trying the chocolate coated black sapote, the custard apple, banana and strawberries along with some frozen mango. The smooth black sapote was definitely our favourite with the banana coming a close second.
Whilst many of you may never have heard of a chocolate pudding fruit before, you will be more familiar with one of Carnarvon’s biggest exports to Perth; the banana. I was grateful that Sweeter Banana’s business manager Doriana was happy to take some time out from her busy day to show us through the banana packing facility.
The Boy and I have had many a debate at home over which bananas are better; I love the smaller, sweeter ones and he prefers the picture perfect enormous ones. Whenever he does the grocery shopping he will always come home with the biggest bananas he can find which inevitably results in complaints from me because I think they taste powdery and bland. What I didn’t know was why this is the case.
Doriana was a proud advocate of the smaller banana which is characteristic of the Carnarvon-grown fruit. Their smaller size and better taste is all due to the different climate of the Gascoyne region in comparison to tropical North Queensland where the larger bananas come from. Carnarvon’s weather tends to be hot and dry having a much lower humidity level. The low humidity means that their crops do not suffer from the diseases and pests seen in the tropics making their produce pesticide free.
Because of these weather conditions, the banana plantations have to plant their trees much closer together than in the tropics. This creates a continuous canopy with the tree’s leaves which helps protect the fruit from the burning rays of the sun. As a result the bananas have a much longer growing time resulting in a smaller but much sweeter fruit. Next time you are buying bananas, look for the lunchbox sized versions and you can taste the difference for yourself. I am happy to say I have converted the Boy to eating our local WA sweeter bananas now!
Our final stop on the fruit loop was at the home store on Bumbak’s plantation. This plantation owner had become frustrated with the amount of good fruit she had to throw away year after year just because it wasn’t up to the commercial standard despite the fact it was perfectly fine to eat.
She created a way to value add to this large component of her harvest by making a variety of jams, sauces and marinades. Many of her natural home made products are gluten free and have won a long list of Awards at the Perth Royal Show. We grabbed a couple of jars to take home to try including her banana jam and some Thai coconut chilli marinade.
Heading back into town there is a cute little place worth mentioning called River Gums Café that is marked on the Gascoyne Food trail. It regrettably did not have a lot to offer gluten free so we didn’t stop there for a bite to eat but it is a very pretty location to stop for afternoon tea for those less restricted with their diets.
The last stop on the Gascoyne Food trail is “The Precinct”, Carnarvon’s Heritage area on Babbage Island. This area is home to the One Mile Jetty, a beautiful historical jetty built in 1897 and maintained in good enough condition to walk nearly the full length.
Until very recently you could buy yourself a drink and an ice cream from the Guardsmans’ Van kiosk to enjoy on your jetty walk. With the opening of the new Interpretive Centre, the kiosk has now been closed as it has been replaced with the One Mile Restaurant in the Centre. This restaurant was the location for our WA Signature Dish regional final. On the day of the final, the chef of One Mile Restaurant and I got chatting and I was excited to hear she plans to accommodate for gluten free customers. The restaurant was opening that week and I offered to return in order to try one of her first gluten free cake creations.
I’m glad we made the effort to return. She made a super moist orange almond cake that was different to your usual almond meal based cake. She included some gluten free flour to make it lighter and fluffier. Suffice to say I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it and the Boy who is “not a dessert person” was very happy to help me finish my generous slice. He even said it didn’t taste gluten free! Winning!
As we drove back to our hotel, the Boy looked over at me very satisfied with himself.
“Am I right?” he asked me.
All these years I had dismissed ideas of a trip up North with the perception that there was nothing up here that would interest me. Swallowing my pride humbly there was no way I could refute him; this is a place in Western Australia that every foodie needs to visit.
Gascoyne Food Trail | www.gascoynefood.com.au Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard | Facebook Lot H Harbour Road, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4078 | Open Mon-Sat from 9am-5pm (closed Jan-Feb) Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook Morel’s Orchard 486 Robinson Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8368 | Open 7 days (incl. PH) from 8.30am-5.30pm Sweeter Banana Cooperative Carnarvon | (08) 9941 9100 | www.sweeterbanana.com Bumbak’s at Terra Temptations 449 North River Road, Carnarvon, WA | 0409 377 934 Available at IGA Cottesloe River Gums Café Turn at the Big Banana on Robinson Street then it 34 Margaret R.O.W., Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8281 | Open Wed-Sunday from 10am-3pm during May to October www.carnarvonheritage.com.au The Precinct is open daily from 9am-5pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
I recently travelled up to the Northwest corner of Western Australia as the official blogger for the Gascoyne regional final in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. Having never visited this part of Australia before, I wanted to obtain a clear insight into its food industry in order to understand why they call themselves the “food bowl” of our State. The Boy and I flew in via Exmouth, collected ourselves a rental 4WD from the airport and drove straight to Carnarvon in the pouring rain to be ready to start early the next morning.
The competition event was held at One Mile Restaurant which is housed in the new Interpretive Centre facing out onto the historical One Mile Jetty in the Heritage Precinct. Whilst this ancient but well preserved jetty was constructed back in 1897, the accompanying restaurant was only built recently and hadn’t even officially opened! Their kitchen was so shiny and new creating a perfect work area for our four contestants to create their signature dishes. The fabulous four finalists for the Gascoyne region are Jerolina, Amy, Paul and Gayle. They all live in Carnarvon and show an obvious love for their home town and its amazingly vibrant produce.
The contestants weren’t scheduled to hit the stoves until mid-morning which gave Channel Seven’s Today Tonight camera team plenty of time to get loads of footage including getting individual interviews with each of them. Also joining the team was professional photographer Anton from Simply Designed, whose talent, skills and awesome equipment reminded me what a complete amateur I am with my little camera!
As each contestant was scuttled away for their private interviews, it gave me the chance to have a good chat with those remaining behind and learn more about what it is like living in Carnarvon and more importantly to plug them for suggestions on where to eat locally.
I was surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that despite being a town surrounded by an abundance of amazing fruit and vegetable plantations in addition to having access to some of the freshest seafood, many of the local eateries preferred to obtain cheaper imported ingredients in order to save on costs. Hopefully with highly publicized and well-run events like WA Signature Dish, it will help promote using local produce and this food culture will start to change. Certainly if the passion and enthusiasm of these four locals was anything to go by, it won’t be long before this happens.
Once all the contestant’s interviews were completed it was time for them to don their aprons and get down to business. Before officially commencing the cook-off, the region’s mentor chef Peter Manifis from InContro wished the contestants the best of luck before gesturing them into the kitchen.
Although the four in the kitchen were far too busy to stop and eat, the rest of us were getting pretty peckish. To our delight the newly appointed chef for One Mile Restaurant had kindly prepared a huge spread of food for us to snack on while we anxiously waited to see what the first dish would be. Our lunch included fresh sushi rolls, pumpkin soup, rice paper rolls, scones and a colourful fruit platter. When I chatted to the chef to find out what was gluten free, I was excited to hear she was a huge supporter in using her local produce and plans to promote this in her new restaurant once it opens.
Each contestant received their signature dish ingredients packed neatly in a crate and seeing them all go through each one was like watching kids at Christmas. Jerolina’s signature dish was a whole grilled Snapper served with Dabu dabu and coconut corn. Dabu dabu is a type of hot sauce found in Manado cuisine from Indonesia.
Her signature dish was the first one to be presented to the judges and she certainly set the bar high for her fellow finalists. The fish was so delicate and moist with a rich, spicy flavour from the Dabu dabu sauce. The chargrilled corn also had a hint of spice which balanced elegantly with the sweet coconut flavours.
Those of you who know me well, you will be familiar with my “flying hands of fury”. It is a term used by my friends to describe my ever-moving and highly expressive hand movements. Well, actually they are sometimes more like arm movements.
Within minutes of meeting Amy I concluded we must have been separated at birth because she also sported a similarly fantastic pair of flying hands of fury. Being such an energetic and vibrant person I was excited to see what creative and crazy dish she would create. Her signature dish was a stunning carpaccio of kangaroo fillet served on a bed of Oriental lentils with pickled beetroot. It was plated immaculately and I found it hard to believe she had no chef training.
As I am allergic to kangaroo meat, unfortunately I didn’t try this dish. Roo causes me to develop a rather unusual anaphylactic like response where my throat swells up and I struggle to breathe. Kind of like what I imagine a nut allergy to be. But to roo! It’s not pleasant. I was informed by those who ate the carpaccio that the meat was uber-tender and matched well with the creamy lentils and sweet beetroot.
Gayle runs the front of house for Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard in Carnarvon. Pickles Point are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood so it was logical that this would be the main feature of her signature dish.
She cooked a freshly cut fillet of Shark Bay Pink Snapper topped with butterflied Tiger prawns and served on a sweet potato mash with lime and mayonnaise. I looked over at the judge’s faces and I could see they were struggling to choose a winner. It was going to be such a hard call to make as every dish was outstanding.
The lovely, smiling Paul was the lucky last competitor to serve up his signature dish to the judging panel. This didn’t appear to frazzle him whatsoever and he looked so zen and calm as he prepared his dish. I wish cooking had that effect on me!
His dish was titled the “Gascoyne seafood tasting plate”. It comprised of four equally outstanding components each showcasing a outstanding number of key hero ingredients from the Gascoyne region; King prawns with salsa verde, citrus cured snapper, pan fried Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled vegetables; and snapper tartare with basil drizzle.
Narrowing it down to just one winner was going to be very hard and I didn’t envy the judges having to make this decision. The winner of each regional final will go on to battle it out for the title of WA Signature Dish on WA Day in June. The other three regional finalists are from the areas of Southern Forests, Great Southern and Perth. In order to help prepare the contestants for the big finale, each regional winner will receive intense one-on-one training from their mentor chef. I can see the Peter has a strong competitive streak in him so we couldn’t have asked for a more motivated chef to train our finalist!
As the crowd gathered around to wait for the announcement of the winner I could feel the excitement and tension in the air. The judges had used a points system to score each dish, assessing its flavour, presentation and originality but also on its ability to proudly showcase the produce from the Gascoyne region. Before they declared the winner, we were informed that it was an extremely close call with the top two contestants so close they nearly came in at a tie.
And the winner of the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional is……..Paul Kelly with his stunning Gascoyne seafood tasting plate. A huge congratulations to you Paul and also a big well done to Jerolina, Amy and Gayle for creating such amazing and individual signature dishes. Hopefully we may all meet again next year? 😉
Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best.
For those not up to speed on the happenings here on Chompchomp, I have been selected to be the official blogger for the Gascoyne region in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. This is a competition open to all amateur cooks in Western Australia with the mission to find the best dish that represents our State on a plate.
The Gascoyne region is located in the north-west of our State about 900 km north of Perth. It includes the regions of Exmouth, Coral Bay, Carnarvon and Shark Bay and forms the gateway to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef.
To enter a recipe in the WA Signature Dish competition, contestants have to use at least one ingredient from the choice of “hero” producers located in their region. For the Gascoyne these producers are:
- • Pickles Point Seafood who are well-known for their fresh local seafood including snapper, prawns and crab,
- • Sweeter Banana Co-op who supply much of our bananas here in Perth and around the State,
- • Loveapple who grow a variety of fruit and vegetables including red capsicums, tomatoes and eggplants, and
- • Morels Orchard who grow a wide range of tropical fruits plus loads of fresh herbs.
There are four finalists for each region that have been carefully selected from the multitude of recipes that were submitted for the competition. There will be four regional finals held over the next week in order to narrow it down to just one chef from each region who then go on to compete in the final on WA Day in June.
The Gascoyne finalists will be facing each other for their competition cook off on Monday 5th May in Carnarvon. The competition will be judged by Chef Peter Manifis from InContro restaurant in South Perth. I shall be travelling up to the Gascoyne region to be able to join them on the day. Being quite a distance to travel the Boy has agreed to go with me and make a holiday of it. We will stay up in the region for the week exploring all the amazing food they have to offer.
The four Gascoyne regional finalists are:
Jerolina RankinQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Simple and fresh, with influence from my Indonesian heritage Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? It sums up the Gascoyne – fresh seafood, sunshine in the climate, freshness of the soil and all the flavour that it brings to each individual ingredient.
Paul KellyQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Simple, I like to integrate local ingredients and see how they work together Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? Mine is wider than a dish, it’s a tasting plate – anyone that comes to town could pick a component and get a taste of the region – “a Taste of the Gascoyne”. It’s easy and versatile, so you could be in the caravan park or camping and cook parts of this dish.
Amy SheltonQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Home style but with English influence from my parents heritage. Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? It’s a little bit different. People are scared to cook with roo, so I hope the way in which I have created this dish, inspires others to try it.
Gayle DewarQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Simple and minimalist I like to let the produce speak for itself. I’m not one for disguising flavour, especially seafood Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? My produce is beautiful and fresh and it’s a simple dish with simple flavours. It’s just awesome.
Whilst I have travelled most of the south west of our state many times over, the seaside town of Dongara is the furthest I have ever travelled north. I feel somewhat shameful of this fact as I consider myself loyal to this beautiful state and I am very excited to be able to explore this Gascoyne region and all the food it has to offer.
Stay tuned for my next instalment!
The Gascoyne region in the north-west of our State is sometimes called the “food bowl of Western Australia”. It includes the regions of Exmouth, Carnarvon and Shark Bay and forms the gateway to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef where you are able to swim in the sea alongside the majestic whale sharks. The climate is warm all year round with average temperatures ranging from around 25- 30 C allowing an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to be cultivated including bananas, mangos and tomatoes.
The region is also well known for its freshly caught seafood which includes snapper, mullet, whiting, prawns, scallops and crab. I am really looking forward to our travels up North for the WA Signature Dish regional final in early May as I know I will be literally living on seafood. After a whole month of Eat Drink Perth overindulgence my heart and liver will surely be thanking me.
In the lead up to our Gascoyne road trip I was inspired to cook one of my old time favourites from a Kylie Kwong book my mother bought me years ago. The original recipe was for a 750 gram snapper however when I sent the Boy to the fishmongers to gather all the ingredients I needed, he came back with a 3 kg Red Emperor. Slight difference! I shouldn’t complain, a whole Exmouth Red Emperor with prawns sounds and looks even more impressive than a snapper.
His reasoning was that it was much prettier than the snapper. Fair call. Additionally I believe it is one of the most beautiful tasting fish caught from the Gascoyne region. To allow for the super-sizing I have had to amend quantities and cooking times from the original recipe. I have also made some adaptations to utilise more Gascoyne ingredients including tomatoes and fresh chilli. and of course I have ensured it is gluten free and fructose friendly
- 400 gm cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch tarragon
- Cracked white pepper
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 x 2-3kg whole Red Emperor, scaled, cleaned and gutted
- 320gm fresh uncooked prawn meat, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely diced lemongrass
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced ginger
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce/tamari
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon very finely sliced lemongrass cut on the diagonal
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced large red chilli
- Preheat oven to 150C (300F).
- Place the cherry tomatoes in a large roasting tin, drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with tarragon sprigs, pepper and half the salt.
- Cover the tin with foil and roast for 30 minutes.
- Removed foil and roast for a further 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and wilted. Remove tomatoes from the oven and set aside to cool slightly before drizzling with vinegar and sprinkling with the remaining salt.
- Meanwhile, put all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pat fish dry with paper towel and place on a large, oiled oven tray. Fill fish cavity with stuffing mixture, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with a little pepper. Wrap the tail of the fish in foil to prevent it burning when in the oven.
- Cover tray the whole tray with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and roast for a further 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the fish, it should be just cooked through when tested. The flesh should be white through to the bone. If the flesh is still translucent, cook for another minute or so.
- Carefully slide the fish into a large, shallow bowl. Pour over reserved tomatoes with their pan juices and garnish with lemongrass and chilli. Serve immediately.
I am a massive believer in sourcing local produce and will go out of my way to ensure the majority of food I eat is locally grown, fished, farmed and produced in this beautiful State I call home. The logical way for me to do this is to buy direct from the producers themselves however this can be a very time consuming process when you want to eat a wide range of food!
Buy West Eat Best is a government funded food labelling program which makes my life easier by providing a way of clearly identifying Western Australian produce. In order to use the logo businesses must apply and need to meet certain criteria before being registered. Regular random checks are performed to ensure compliance at both the retail and the manufacturing level.
WA’s Signature Dish is an exciting competition to be hosted by Buy West Eat Best over the next few months. The competition is open to amateur cooks who love food and cooking but are not professional chefs. The aim is to find the ultimate recipe that puts our State on the plate.
Regional food councils from around the State will be participating allowing each region to show off their key star ingredients. The four regions are Perth and Surrounds, Southern Forests, the Gascoyne and the Great Southern. I have been selected as the official blogger for the Gascoyne region and in the lead up to the event finale I will be updating you with the competition’s progress with particular attention to the Gascoyne. My dear friend Foodie Cravings will be the official blogger for Perth and Surrounds, the adorable Perth Munchkin will be covering the Great Southern and You Tube chef sensation Nicko’s Kitchen will cover the Southern Forests.
If you would like to enter your recipe into the competition, head over to their website and look at the different regions to select your ingredients. Ensure that your dish contains at least one ingredient from the listed choices. You do not have to live in the region you choose to compete in however you do need to be a West Australian resident. Using your chosen ingredient/s, you need to create an original recipe that you feel is worthy enough to be named WA’s Signature Dish.
There will be a cook-off held in each region at the end of this month in order to select the regional winners. These four winners will then be each mentored individually by a leading WA chef to compete at the Grand Finale cook-off in Perth on WA Day on the 2nd of June 2014.
The final winner will be chosen by a panel of three high profile chefs; Guillaume Brahimi from Bistro Guillaume, Rob Broadfield, the Food Editor at The West Australian, and Ralf Vogt the Executive Chef at the Crown Perth.
Entries close 7th April 2014. For more information and how to enter head over to the Buy West Eat Best website.