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.

New trend or revamp of old classics?

So why whole grains and superfoods one might ask? Not the junkies usual fare, not what I’m known for. Well, all food fascinates me and I mean everything. With this class I’m using a mix of ingredients I have used before and new ones I’ve just discovered, the intriguing factor has been a fascinating hit - a true food junkie hit!

Who doesn’t love a basket full of fresh greens, the glossy green to the warm hints of sage green. Berries kissed by the summer sun. The earthy, nutty, wholesome feeling of the grains. Fulfilling in so many ways.

The culinary delights that these ingredients can marry together is a true foodies dream.

What has taken me by surprise is what’s out there. What’s available within the ancient grain world. As trendy as they are now and after some experimentation I can understand why. The Aztecs and Incas were onto something then and thank goodness it hasn’t been lost. Just so many options, textures, tastes and then the added bonus of their nutritional value.

Some you can even feel the benefits just by their touch, gloss, shape and colour

In all of my master classes I go into study mode a few weeks prior, to design and create. The test kitchen is open. Using my skills that I’ve gathered over the years of being a chef.  This is my time to mix ingredients to bring new dishes to life, my creations. It’s my true passion. I start with designing a recipe, then test and test, until I’ve mastered the one I wish to showcase. Then I record and write the final recipe - which isn’t common for chefs, as it’s all in the brain.

With this class, it certainly has been a journey. A foodie trail that has blown me away and I can’t wait to share. I know it won’t be the only superfood class I will be holding.

Way too many avenues to explore.

So get out there, grab some grain and green and get creating. Pop in to The Prickly Pineapple and hunt and gather for all you need, book into the class and let your superfood journey begin.

Let's get fruity

 

It is without a doubt, my favorite time of year, spring. The weather in the Whitsundays is just stunning. Perfect blue sky days and just the perfect temperature. Yes, summer is coming and although it can at times be a little warm in the tropics, the tropical fruit start to flourish. Mango madness time, so deliciously sweet and the range now is amazing. Fruit salad for breakfast, just delightful.

Another way to enjoy the beautiful array of fruit is the classic fruit sorbet. A dish to make the most of these fruity delights. As the abundance of local strawberries start to disappear a sorbet is a fantastic way to linger on the delicious flavour. Blueberries, another fabulous berry and so good for you. The colours of all the fruit from mangoes to strawberries is a pleasure of beauty to the eyes and taste just divine. Is it worth it, hell yeah. A touch of pure bliss in the freezer for you to enjoy anytime. Serve in a bowl, in a cone or with another dessert, I love a sorbet with cheesecake, Yum!!

Fruits in season now are strawberries, papaya, blueberries, cantaloupe, bananas, pineapple, and rockmelon. So lets get fruity!

Classic fruit sorbet

This is a base recipe for fruit sorbet. It will cover most fruits but remember all fruits are different so sugar levels and lime/ lemon juice will vary. It will always need to be sweeter before freezing as the sweetness will drop when frozen. So just go a little sweetie. You can infuse other flavours into the sugar syrup, like cinnamon, lavender, cardamom, nutmeg, rose water, citrus peel, fresh herbs, lemon grass etc.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups fresh fruit, remove any skins pips or inedible parts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-6 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice to taste.
  • Remember you want it to be a bit too sweet but the citrus, important as it will enhance the flavour


Method

Peel, pip, do whatever the fruit requires, then roughly chop. Place sugar and water in saucepan and gently bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Cool, this can even be made the day before so it’s good ‘n’ chilled. Place chilled sugar syrup, lime or lemon juice and fruit into a blender and blend till smooth. This mix can now be strained depending on the consistency you require. So now, if using a machine, place into the bowl (frozen) of an ice cream machine and churn away.  Follow the machines instructions. When ready scoop into a plastic container, cover with cling film and lid. Keep in freezer till sorbet time.  Or place into a plastic container, place cling film on to protect from going icy and cover with lid and place in the freezer.

When frozen, remove, cut into chunks and blend again. Usually this step is only required once, but if you feel it needs it again, go for it! To check the flavour, freeze a little, try and adjust if needed. Quickest way on a small saucer.

Store in freezer, once again with cling film and lid to protect. Sorbet will last in the freezer for about a month, then it will start to go icy. But fear NOT. If this dose happen, or even before it does, perfect solution. Blend with Rum to make the perfect fruit daiquiri. YUM.  
 

Our local markets

I have said before, the markets are the soul of the city and OK our tropical paradise isn't by any means a city, but our local market sure is part of our soul. Part of the amazing community that comes together every Saturday morning to sell, gather and create special moments. Community spirited moments and yes a tourist attraction has been born.

For many, many years, every Saturday I visit our local market to gather fresh produce for the restaurant, bar, functions and my personal pleasure. Not many a mojito from the rum bar has passed over, without some local grown market fresh mint.  Over the years, so many culinary pleasures and the discovery of fresh, new and unknown produce to let my food junkie passion go wild. It's kept me inspired for new recipes and seasonal daily specials for the restaurant. It is a place for tourists to taste, try, buy and ask about our tropical culinary produce. 

I myself have given many tips and advice on how to use such beautiful fresh fare to tourists and locals alike. How much pleasure does this give me, priceless.

Many moons ago my business partner, Kevin and I also were stall holders. Amazing times, amazing memories full of laughter, banter and market vibes. Vibes like no other. The early rising to set up your stall, waiting for the coffee machine to start steaming. Ok, so Kev did most of the early set ups, but I have an understanding of the effort, rain, shine or stinking bloody hot, ourselves and many stall holders, God for how many years have they put the effort in. Ever tried to put a marque up in the wind?  Quite frankly, how darn lucky are we.

The market over the years has grown to more than just a market. It's a sanctuary to buy local produce, beautiful handy crafts, jewellery, clothes, doggie treats, gems and the list goes on. It's a buzz of tourists and locals gathering on our foreshore, to shop in its truly beautiful setting.

No, it's not just a market, it is a tourist destination, with the glistening blue ocean behind, swaying palm trees, golden sand, and the sound of the tides as they drift in and out. The amazing sand sculptures being crated every week. The local musicians playing a variety of toe tapping tunes. A mix of buskers performing their artistic talents. The camels, safari style taking kids, little and big ones for the ride of a life time. Just take a look at how many happy holiday makers are blissfully wandering around snapping photo after photos. Yes it is more than a market, it is a hit list tourist attraction, a must do for Airlie Beach.

The other amazing growth our markets have experienced is in the array of cuisine now on offer. Street food from all around the word, from Laughing Mao dumplings to Coxinhas Tropicana Brazilian treats. Ice creams to delicious homemade sausage rolls, complete with a song. Come on, where else in the world is a market so unique?  The stalls that offer seating with waffles, wraps, fresh coffee, smoothies and savoury crepes. Spring out on the shady shores, toes wriggling in the sand. The Authentic Mexican tacos, Thai delights, BBQ buttered corn cobs, raw foods, fresh coconut juice and other coconut products. From local seafood, Bowen mango sorbet, chimney cakes made before your eyes and yes, the list does go on.  

A stunning venue to catch up with friends for breakfast, morning tea or lunch, or all three. So close to the foreshore, how lucky are we. It’s to the Lions club and present and past stall holders that have worked hard to create this, an Airlie Beach institution, for this I am grateful.

So it is understandable that to move the markets has created a stir. It is obvious it means a lot to our community, as it certainly does to me. I do understand that in a small town like ours, with its amazing growth, changes will take place. They have already and more than likely will continue to do so. Chamber of Commerce have put together a proposal, that could be beneficial for the stall holders and the locals. Moving back to the original site does have benefits. The foreshore remaining the back drop, the shady trees, the kiddies playground and increased parking. Is this the answer? 

 The old and proposed 'new' location put forward by the Chamber of Commerce

The old and proposed 'new' location put forward by the Chamber of Commerce

I look forward to many more years of my market visits. My support of the market will continue.  Continue to have not only an amazing local market, but the tourist destination it has grown to be and maybe one that has room to actually grow in the future.  Have a read of the Chamber of Commerce submission and form your own view. Markets possibly in a better space, with room to expand and a market which can ultimately help events like the music festivals, is it a great idea? You can visit this link to download their submission... http://www.whitsundaycoastchamber.com.au/media/foreshore-redevelopment-feedback

I suppose we will never know if we don't give it a go!

The Australian Staple

As the months are getting a slight chill, well up in the tropics is a slight chill, we turn towards the winter warmers and soup always comes to mind. An all time Aussie favourite is pumpkin soup. The smooth, silky texture of this soup served with some warm crusty bread is a pure delight. It’s like a cuddle from the culinary world.

With there amazing golden orange flesh and stunning greys, shiny green and yellow skins, they talk to me as I pass them by at the markets and green grocer. Not only to create so many wonderful dishes but as food art, a table centre piece. Food art, in its raw natural state can be just as stunning as a bunch of flowers.

Pumpkin soup is an Australian staple, a mummy meal of the soup world. The sweet, earthy taste brings back so many childhood memories. A warming comfort food.

I am a huge soup fan of all soups. There textures, consistency, whether it’s a clearer consommé, a vegetable puree drizzled with a swirl of cream, a noodle broth or grain studded bowl of hearty goodness. They all have a place in my kitchen and a warming tone to my belly.

My market hunting and gathering can be, well it is, over indulgent. Such amazing produce and as much as I try not to, I do over buy. Can’t seem to fix this problem. When I see it, I want to play. So many dishes come to mind, so many amazing meals to produce, to experiment with. So as the weekend comes around and I need to make space in the fridge for this weeks hit. A pot of soup goes on. Starting with onions, then whatever hasn’t been consumed.

Often some of my spice blends will go in, too spice up a little. Curry powder being the favourite at the moment but Ras el hangout, Jamaican jerk and Persian all get a look in. Every week changes as the produce comes and goes. Some soups are pureed, some hearty chunky styles. It is a fantastic weekly treat and one I truly recommend. Healthy, filling and warming... so lets get soup making!

Pumpkin soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped leek
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 3 cups dice pumpkin
  • 1.5 ltr chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 or 1/2 cup of thicken cream, depending on how creamy you desire
  • Little extra thickened cream for drizzling
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt (optional)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Chopped chives
  • 2 bay leaves, scrunched (optional)

Method

Place chopped pumpkin on roasting tray with 1 teaspoon of oil and dusting of salt and pepper. Mix with hands to ensure pumpkin is covered with the oil and seasoning. Roast till just tender. In a large saucepan place onion and 1 tsp oil. Sauté and add the leek. You don’t want any colour on the onions and leek, just cook till soft. Add the potato and stock and bay leaves. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potato is cooked.

Add the cooked pumpkin and seasoning. Bring back up to the boil, take off the heat and allow to cool a little. Blenders don’t like it too hot. Remove the bay leaves. If you think it needs some more liquid, stock or water can be added. This depends on how thick you wan t the soup to be. Blend cooled soup with the cream. A stick blender can be used. Check the seasoning and then reheat to serve. Garnish with drizzle of cream and chopped chives

Tips

  1. If making your own chicken stock, use roasted bones, way more flavour.  Brought cooked chooks are fab for this. If you want to go a little Asian, add ginger and lemon grass to the stock.
  2. Other flavours like herbs, pesto, spices, sour cream, citrus, cheeses and oils can be add to change the taste. If you’re not suretake a little soup out and add the desired flavouring, taste and if it works for you, go for it. Blue Costello cheese works for me.
  3. Play around with different croutons. Herb, cheese, tapenade, pesto or spiced can add an excellent touch.
  4. Serve in little tea cups as a canapé.
  5. Made too much, can be used as a pasta sauce. Add some roast chicken, meatballs, prawns or anything really and stir through pasta.
  6. Sliced sauté onions and other vegetables will give it a bit more body.
  7. Crispy bacon sprinkled on top of your pumpkin soup looks great and taste wonderful little crunchy salty bursts of flavour.
  8. Stud the pumpkin soup with green peas. A sweet textural burst, even the peas and bacon together works a treat.
  9. Swap the potato for sweet potato, roast it too for a sweeter style soup.
  10. This is a base for many vegetable soups. Change the pumpkin to what you have.
  11. Nutmeg and pumpkin are great buddies, grate fresh if you can.
  12. A different take is to add red curry paste to the onions and use coconut milk instead of cream.
  13. Crispy shallots are another fabulous garnish. Crunchy little delights.
  14. Add some horseradish or mustard to the soup to make a lovely sauce for Atlantic salmon.
  15. This soup poured over feta, ricotta and bacon stuffed cannelloni is fabulous. Sautéed leeks, and onions, add little diced garlic and the bacon. Mix with feta, ricotta, little basil and seasoning. Use fresh lasagna sheets and roll. Place some soup in the base of the baking tray. Place the rolled cannelloni. Cover with ladles of soup. Lightly drizzle cream on top, cover with foil and bake around 30 minutes, then remove foil topped with grated cheese and grill.
The joy of food, it never stops giving.

Not sure Ask Me!