I did my weekday but on a Saturday morning routine (fast shower and change into outfit layed out the night before) and got myself to my 'going to the city' bus stop. There was absolutely no traffic and the silence was refreshing. I got on my bus and cruised down the streets in a very non-Sydney fashion. My latest foodie adventure was about to begin.
Today was Market Day and I was fortunate enough to book a place on the Paddock To Plate market tour and cooking class conducted by the cooking school at The Essential Ingredient, Rozelle.
The plan for our day was a 7.30am meet up at the school (hence my crack of dawn wake up) before getting on a bus (no SSG parking panic attacks!!) to the Sydney Morning Herald Grower's Market in Pyrmont.
I felt like I had found that pot of gold at the end of the Kitchenaid rainbow. In my 4 years as a Sydneysider, I have not yet been able to locate the market. To be driven there, escorted through it and then be guided through making the best of what the market offered was an adventure I was more than up to.
So, make sure you're comfy and that your internet is up to the challenge of an image heavy post. It's time to get on the bus.
The market is held once a month in the shadows of Star City Casino at Pyrmont Bay Park. It's the perfect location for the country and the city to meet up for a coffee, have a bit of a stroll with the kids or pets and pick up some fantastic produce.
It really is a very pretty spot. Tidy rows of stall holder tents stretch across the park against a backdrop of the water and its boats. There was live music, a lovely vibe and Kylie Kwong doing a guest cooking demonstration. Kylie is a champion of the slow food movement and also of going local as far as possible with regard to sourcing produce. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see Kylie in action. There was so much else to see and do.
|Strawberry fields forever........... Sorry, that's courtesy of the SSG Manor Bellini I'm sipping as I type this post.|
Our first stop on the tour was run by Rowan Farm who grow strawberries and make their own pies and jams.
Readers, nothing was left to chance today. Everyone did their bit to make sure that our group would have no reason to refuse anything offered by our gracious hosts. I went for a run and went without breakfast and The Essential Cooking School provided these nifty, envionmentally friendly sets of tasting cutlery.
Berry Pie for breakfast. That's fruit and dairy in the one convenient package. Yes please. I'll let you know how the jam tastes tomorrow.
We supermarket shoppers are so deprived in the area of mushrooms. Will you look at these beauties! So alive, so richly coloured! These are grown by Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms. The story behind this company is lovely. I think we've got time for me to share it.
The company produces species of 'tunnel mushroom' - named because of the conditions under which they are grown. It's perfect eco friendly production. The tunnels are actually in a disused railway tunnel in Mittagong. The whole farming process ensures that nothing goes to waste. In the photograph above, you might have noticed two pots of mushrooms. They are examples of a process where eucalyptus sawdust is sterilized inside the pots before the mushrooms are able to grow in them.
|Sun over Pyrmont.....|
As luck would have it, we visited the market in the midst of peak fig season for New South Wales. The grower's stall we visited belonged to The Leppington Valley Farm, 50 minutes south west of Sydney. It went without saying that figs would be on the menu for lunch.
Some of the other produce from the region includes these Heirloom Tomatoes.
As well as these vibrant beans and zucchini flowers. The zucchini flowers look as if they're made of silk, they are so brightly coloured.
Our next stop was at Darling Mills Farm who are at the forefront of what's fashionable in salad greens.
You heard it here first, micro herbs are this season's must have at the restaurants of Sydney. The micro versions have a lighter flavour and look great on all those intricately plated micro sized creations beloved by the discerning degustation menu.
Brilliant Food is aptly named. They make the most amazing smoked seafood.
We sampled their smoked ocean trout as part of a canape with wasabe cream and pickled Tuscan onion. This would have to be the perfect accompaniment to a glass of champagne.
A close second would be this Franck Foods duck rilletes. So good on some French stick. Don't worry, I brought home a jar. To tide me over until the next time I can assemble enough accomplices to attack a full Peking Duck.
Have you ever drunk extra virgin olive oil? Well, I did today. Through my teeth. And it was a zingy, green grass flavoured experience. I have to admit to previously taking great pride in buying imported Italian olive oil but after Sam's straight talking session today, I'm buying local for quality and taste as well as it being the right thing to do.
Sweetness the Patisserie is the creation of Gina, an energetic graduate of the corporate world. Sugar and confectionary were practically part of Gina's DNA and finally nature won out over nurture. She left a senior role with IBM and studied to become an artisan confectioner.
Gina we are so glad you left the world of computers. They never fail to raise blood pressures. Your florentines and peppermint patties on the other hand brought our group nothing but smiles and endorphin rushes. Sweetness is famed for its marshmallows and macarons as well.
On that sugar enhanced note, our tour finished. We had 15 minutes to work the market before it was time to leave in the bus to get cooking. I think my shopping is worthy of a completely separate post.
|Places to go, food to cook.....|
Tom was the perfect teacher with relevant professional experience. Aside from his years at esteemed British restaurants, being mates with Jamie Oliver, writing several books and catering his own wedding reception - Tom has also worked with students with all levels of cooking experience (including teenage girls). So I felt perfectly at ease and did not get any performance anxiety to speak of (because if there's any adult woman who can empathize with stubborn, always right teenagers, it would have to be me).
|The lovely produce we sources at the markets.|
Our kitchen time was divided between Tom showing us key cooking techniques and then the group splitting to prepare recipes that Tom had created for the day based on the produce we returned from Pyrmont with.
Remember those luscious figs? Well, I grilled them before dressing them in lemon zest and balsamic.
Before they were tossed into this salad with fennel, goats cheese, pomegranate seeds and toastes almonds.
A side of Brilliant Food's smoked trout became this salad with a horseradish, watercress and creme fraiche dressing.
We roasted some beetroot to make this salad.
Our piece of dry aged organic beef from Tinja farm starred in this dish. It was seared and then roasted before being topped with a dressing of cherry tomato and streaky bacon. The garnish is beetroot.
|Beef and bacon not only alliterate, they are deluxe together. Deluxe. I'm craving that KFC Double Burger a whole lot less now.|
Speaking of usual weekend routine, a return to form is in order. I'm going to have a sleep in tomorrow before getting back to the core values behind my blogging identity. Core values. It's what the entire ALP in NSW are looking for at the moment.
See you 'round the QVB for a late Sunday morning coffee, y'all.