15 April - by Liz Hallam
How many times are you served a dish in a restaurant to be informed that a certain ingredient comes from a particular area, and your eyes glaze over? Tasting Australia’s “A Breath of Fresh Eyre” held at the Arkaba Hotel on the outskirts of Adelaide provided the discerning food lover with a sense of time and place for the sensuous array of pristine seafood from the rugged peninsula.
Self confessed larrikin, Tony Ford, the Eyre Peninsula Food and Wine ambassador, explained the reason for this event by recounting the evolution of Tasting Australia. In the early days, regional producers used to arrive, set up a stall in Victoria Square and take pot luck.
Ford is excited that Tasting Australia has embraced the concept that “people want to know more about the food they are eating”. People are now more discerning. More than ever they want to be intimately involved. Knowing where their food comes from, how it is produced and the reality of paddock (or sea, in the case of the Eyre Peninsula) to table is now an integral part of the dining experience. He is proud of the evolution of seafood production and how the region has embraced sustainability.
Cheong Liew, South Australian food legend and Tasting Australia ambassador, echoes Ford’s comments about the evolution of Tasting Australia. “In the early days it was more about showcasing South Australia,” says Liew. “We would bus-in media and transport them around the state. International journalists would write about us and the brief was met. We loved it, but we have moved on. Tasting Australia is now focused on everyone. There is no Tasting Australia without involving the regions now. That’s what it is all about.”
Happy to share some cooking secrets, Liew always prefers his oysters raw, but was happy to take a ride on the wild side. His favourite cooked oyster recipes include deep fried oysters (as eaten by Omar Sharief, in the movies), pulled apart and dipped in a green pepper sauce. Just a little bit naughtier, try a version of Oyster Rockfeller, served warm, cooked until just pink with spinach and absinthe.
When pressed, Cheong said his favourite seafood from Eyre Peninsula is native green lip abalone. Revered by the Asian community for having powerful benefits for kidney health. He has a mouth-watering recipe for lamb chops and a rich abalone roe sauce.
The best of the Eyre was on show, with fresh Pacific oysters in their prime, shucked in front of your eyes. The firm, fleshy oyster floated through a salty ocean brine.
The star of the show was a seductive whole Spencer Gulf Hiramasa Kingfish. It was smoked whole and served with beetroot and pear puree. Port Lincoln tuna ceviche, Spencer Bay Gulf prawns and smoked mullet also joined the party.
The Seafood of the Eyre Peninsula booklet was on each table, an excellent reference that should be on every food devotee’s bookshelf.
However nothing can replace the real thing. Coffin Bay, Spencer Gulf and Post Lincoln are now places attached powerfully to my food memories.