The Food Junkie

Taste, texture & tales. Inside the mind of a chef.

Personal blog of The Food Junkie, Rebecca Clark. Discover stories of taste, texture and tales inside the mind of a chef that's travelled the globe in search of her next food hit. Bec sports a private cook book collection to rival the British Library and Harvard and shares her cooking wisdom with practical tips and humour. She's co-owner of Fish D'vine and The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach, Australia. An iconic award winning restaurant in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

The moment of creation

Every now and then a recipe idea will pop into my head… ok it’s often! Generally it starts with an ingredient. One that is just so amazingly fresh, sitting there saying buy me, create with me, it’s my season, my time to shine. Chefs finds themselves in this situation often… stock rotation, needing to make room in the cool room in preparation for the next delivery, over ordering, over excitement, or my vice: hunting and gathering. Never do I go to a farmers market, supermarket, butcher, vegie shop or wherever and walk away with just what I need. There is always something that catches my eye, speaks to me. Yes, as sensibly insane as it sounds. Food does talk. I often make this simple to my apprentices by making them listen to a tomato sauce that has turned. The acid in the tomatoes, when gone, will bubble. Making a noise. The best way to spot this is to listen!

So this one autumn morning, there I am confronted with these amazing big pale green fennel bulbs with its feathery fronds, touching out to a darker green. So tasty, crispy and ready for my salad that willl accompany the Atlantic salmon I am having for lunch. Flown up fresh from Tasmania, it’s on my personal menu weekly. But do I buy one bulb, NO… it looks too damn good. So home I go, lunch is enjoyed and the other two bulbs are stored away.

It’s not often I eat the same thing many days in a row, to many other ‘talk to me’ ingredients out there. So a couple of days pass, fennel still looking great. Glancing at the bulbs I think I can roast it, braise it, soup it, make a stuffing, sauce it, but none of these are hitting home. March in the tropics can still be quite warm, maybe salsa it? Then it hits, pesto. Can’t be the standard kind, I want the fennel to shine more. The ideas start popping. Smoked almonds, lemon, garlic, smoked paprika and citrus.

Fresh, fragrant and tasty, fennel is perfect with seafood and owning a seafood restaurant I love and eat it often. Or for our next BBQ weather its chicken, lamb, anything. An antipasti platter or cheese platter, stirred through some pasta with slices of Morton Bay bugs… endless options! As it turns out it goes very well with itself. (I find a lot of wines do this too, go very well with themselves!) It is in fact so good I brought a special notebook, record the recipe and plan to put in my future cookbook that one day I’ll write. For now I will pour a glass of Riesling, gather a plate of sliced prosciutto, selection of cheeses and a side dish of the pesto. Cut some slices of crusty baguette and enjoy. I’m also going to try a mustard cabbage pesto later today. One of my favourite ingredients at the moment. Will let you know how it goes…

Buon appetito


  • 1 medium- large fennel bulb
  • ½ bunch dill
  • 1 cup smoked almonds
  • 1 tablespoon smoked salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon white ground pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Blend with roasted garlic oil (1 & 1/2 cups  olive oil that has been brought to simmer with 6 cloves of garlic, reserve garlic for best garlic butter ever!

For best results, if you can, let sit for a day or 2 for the flavours to marry, delish!