Hot article Foraging

A Fitting Foraging Finale

Morning folks, I’ve cracked it.

On my very last sojourn as Taste Master I think I’ve got to the very heart of what this campaign is all about.

I’ve eaten at fantastic restaurants and bars and had unbelievably good food from all over the State, but what it comes down to is how you GET the food, the UNIQUENESS of the setting and the PEOPLE you’re with. In this regard, Australia has it all.

Native ingredients in out of this world locations with great company.

I’m writing this on the plane back to Perth after an overnight trip to Albany on the Southern Coast of Western Australia. I was attending the launch for the region’s Taste Great Southern festival, a five week food fiesta celebrating the quality local produce and growers that they have in absurd amounts down here (Feb 22-March 30). Before the evening’s event I spent the morning foraging with Local chef and freelance caterer Dan Sharp (Organiser of Taste Great Southerns Oyster Festival) and Paul Iskov from Fervor Food.

Fervor Food is a special company, organising native pop-up dining events combining bush ingredients with locally sourced produce in spectacular locations. A dinner they held recently used native ingredients just metres from the table.

This is where I’ve come to realize that what Western Australia has is so unique. I love learning about bush foods, some of my favorite moments have been with Indigenous guides passing on their knowledge. I spent an AMAZING day with Doc Reynolds in Esperence recently, learning all about paper bark, coastal rosemary and traditional fishing techniques (film about that coming soon folks!)

It’s about having a deep respect for nature. If you look after the land, the land will look after you.

Anyway, I digress slightly, the day started off with lots of eggs. Four in fact…

…and then it was straight down to the water’s edge to collect some cockles. This is what an official cockle collecting implement looks like…

….this is how you use it (kind of)…

…and this is the bounty of cockles I collected in about 30 seconds, enough for a taste at lunchtime.

Then it was onto foraging for native ingredients and bush foods. Have a flick through this gallery, you’ll be amazed at the variety and abundance of edible wild plants, flowers, herbs and shrubs growing right under your nose. A lot of bush plants and fruits are very strong in flavour so only small amounts need to be used to add completelty different dimensions to cooking.

Continue reading

Hot article The Gourmet Tasting Plate for lunch incl. chilled avocado and coriander soup, puled pork belly w/apple cider and almond and sesame coated tiger prawns

Canapes in the Canopies – A Most Remarkable Day in Walpole

All together now….didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Walpole!

It was during my exploration of the Great Southern region that I was treated to a rather special day in Western Australia’s tidiest town (made even more special because it was the first time my family have joined me on a trip).

I’ve had some truly remarkable experiences as Taste Master over the past 5 months, with a lot of my favourite moments occuring in the smaller communities of regional towns (Kulin Races and Cambinata Yabbies, Dragon Boat racing in Broome, Carnarvon) and so Taste Master fans, it proved so yet again.

Walpole, on the Southern Coast of Western Australia, is a town of only about 500 people, but what they lack in population they make up for in spades with their friendliness and hospitality.

The day started off meeting Walpole Visitor Centre business manager Brad. He was going to be showing me around the sights of the area, but what I didn’t realise was that he was bringing along the great and the good of Walpole and the surrounding area’s tourism board. The more the merrier! So along with ten members of various important organisations from the region, we climbed aboard our bus for the day and were taken on a Magical Mystery Tour of some of Walpoles great attractions.

First stop was the Swarbrick Art Loop, a 500 metre walk in Mount Frankland South National Park featuring forest art exhibits and a rather long mirror.

Strolling around the peaceful public art trail, one needs only to look up to appreciate art exhibits interpreting the history and demonstrating the values and emotions associated with the Southern Forests…

Next up was a hike up the 411 metre high Mount Frankland, and a chat with this chap who’s been working atop the granite peak for the past 17 years…

Ted Middleton works in one of the most important fire lookouts in the South West, and gets to see the spectacular views from the top of Mount Frankland every day. Built in 1956, the towerman would walk to the summit from the base camp hut where he would watch for smoke and report his sightings and weather reports  by ‘bush telephone’.

No wonder Ted’s reluctant to change occupation, the views of the Walpole Wilderness Area are truly stunning.

After conquering Mount Frankland my stomach was starting to rumble. I knew we were off for a spot of lunch before embarking on the areas ‘jewel in the crown’ (The Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk), but I wasn’t expecting this…

A long table lunch prepared by renowned Denmark Executive Chef Frederick Kirby. Canapes in the canopies. Yowsers!

It’s not an everyday occurence to have a long table Walpole Wilderness Tree Top Walk luncheon, but it’s certainly an extremely welcome one!

After lunch it was time for The Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, a walkway situated amongst the canopies of some of the tallest timber giants on Earth, the magnificent tingle trees. Set 40 metres above ground, it gives a great bird’s eye view of the forest, before descending to the boardwalks below to explore the Ancient Empires Walk. These trees are found no where else on Earth, with some being over 400 years old.

OK, I’ve now explored the forest by foot on the Ancient Empires walk, viewed the Walpole Wilderness area from high above atop Mount Frankland and had a bird’s eye view from the canopies of the tingle trees on the Tree Top Walk, what could possibly be next??

I KNOW! It’s time to experience the Walpole Nornalup National Park by boat on the WOW Wilderness Eco Cruise, and why don’t we save a dolphin whilst we’re at it?!

Our destination was Western Australia’s first designated Wilderness zone, The Nuyts Wilderness Peninsular, and a guided walk across secret tracks to a secluded beach on the Southern Ocean. Everything was going swimmingly and I was thoroughly enjoying listening to Skipper Gary’s knowledge of the area and his ‘cake for questions’ game, when crew spotted a dolphin beached on a sand bank at low tide in the Nornalup inlet (darn that dolphin, I’d nearly won cake).

The dolphin (known to locals as Esther) had been following her calf across the sandbank when she became stuck, and it was only because of Gary’s knowledge, awareness and quick thinking that we were able to save her.

So trousers off, shorts rolled up, here’s how we did it.

After the dramatic rescue of Esther we continued onward to The Nuyts Wilderness Peninsula, where Gary took us on an interpretive trek to a secluded beach on the Southern Ocean…

…and if that wasn’t enough for one day, on our return to the boat a BBQ had been set up with local producers Coopers Beef and Nabawarra Pastoral Co. supplying the food and Brad cooking it all up…

So once again folks, it’s the regional towns where the most interesting and unexpected things usually happen.

Thank you people of Walpole, that was a truly remarkable and memorable day.

Tips and Tricks

Getting to Australia’s Great Southern

  • Explore Walpole and the Great Southern region in a four to five day round self-drive journey.
  • Virgin Australia also operates flights into Albany and then it’s about a 120kms drive to Walpole.

Where I stayed in the region

  • Ocean Beach Caravan Park, Denmark

My Insider tips

  • The Walpole Nornalup region is a wonderful combination of wilderness and coast, give yourself enough time to explore.
  • Enjoy hiking? Follow the 127kms section of the Bibbulmun Track between Walpole and Denmark. Walk from the karri and tingle forest near Walpole then head southbound to the rugged coastline towards Denmark.

Events to keep an eye out for

Hot article Magnificent views of the coastline

A Million and One Things to do in The Great Southern

Hello there Taste Master fans, I’ve just come back from a motorhome exploration of the Great Southern region (Albany, Denmark, Mt. Barker and Walpole) and I tell you what, they’re not short of things to do down there!

The Great Southern is the largest and most diverse region within Australia’s South West. It has wild, untamed coastal scenery created by the sheer force of the Southern Ocean, idyllic seaside towns that remind me of Cornish fishing villages back home and national parks with some of the world’s rarest species like the endangered Malleefowl.

There’s also significant historical importance linked to the area, with King George Sound near Albany being the first European settlement in Western Australia, and the city of Albany itself being the departure point for the majority of ANZAC troops leaving for Europe in World War 1.

Now, do you remember at the beginning of this blog me saying they’re not short of things to do down here??! Well here’s a photo gallery of my first 24 hours in Albany, hold onto your hats.

Wow, what a mammoth introduction to the city of Albany, but it warranted it because there’s loads happening down here. Look how tired I got though.

Continue reading