Saturday 29 August 2009

Ochre restaurant, Cairns.

Wattle seed damper loaf with peanut oil and native dukkah

AS part of my looksee tour of PNG, we were treated to a night in Cairns. An absolute must on my to-do list was eat of Ochre Restaurant.

Australian tasting platter, featuring Barramundi spring rolls with wild lime dipping sauce, Ochre house salad - mixed salad leaves, roast Roma tomato, crisp bacon, olives, Mungalli feta cheese, spiced macadamia nuts, emu fillets smoked in paperbark and quinoa with native herbs.

Formerly Red Ochre Grill, this restaurant is owned by Chef Craig Squire and specialises in fresh local seafood, game, bush foods, premium Australian produce and regional Australian cuisine.

Some of their most famous dishes include Salt and Pepper Prawn and Crocodile, Grilled Kangaroo with Quandong Chilli Glaze, Wattleseed Pavlova and their Australian Antipasto Plate. I had heard many things about their lemon myrtle panacotta, which the Lonely Planet Guide touts as "worth moving to Cairns for". I was also curious about their smoking of meats in paperbark.

Salt and pepper leaf crocodile, grilled kangaroo with Quandong chilli glaze
, sweet potato fritter and dipping sauces.

The restaurant is styled to reflect the colours of the outback, from the violet sunset banquette to the earth red walls and natural timber features. The menu changes seasonally and is unique in its use of Australian Native foods and regional produce such as Bunya nuts, lemon aspen and samphire.

The Ochre manages to showcase native ingredients whilst studiously avoiding the "bush tucker" hype. The restaurant itself reflects "Australia" without resorting to the larrikinism of The Ettamogah Pub or "Green and Gold Glory/our country was built on sporting prowess" bullshit. The service was attentive, friendly and professional. I hope that more local chefs who announce themselves as proponents of "local foods" tap into using some of these amazing local ingredients.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Lunch of the Month

At the Lae Golf Club

The theme was "colour me crazy", which was harder than it sounded, given that my luggage was lost and I pretty much had on the clothes I'd left Melbourne in, THREE DAYS BEFORE!

I establish my position as the new village idiot with The Goode Wymen of Lae, by whipping out my camera and taking photos of food. Like the locals at the market, they are all a little weirded out by this.

Pretty much all the food in PNG is organic, primarily because pesticides et al are just too expensive. When you buy your fruit and veg at the markets, the produce is from the surrounding villages, each of which grows one, maybe two crops. Locals may have walked 3 hours down from their Highland village to sell their produce.

Possibly the sweetest, plumpest prawns I have ever eaten.

A side of smoked salmon is promptly demolished.

It sounds all very Mehm Sahib and pink gin, but it's not. Expat wives aren't allowed to work. It's a condition of their husband's visa. LOTM provides an excellent networking opportunity, and raises money for local charities and schools. Education isn't free in PNG. In a country where the average wage is about $1.10AUS per hour, educating a child can cost as much as $500. Rather than the clique of hot house flowers that I expected, I met a wonderful group of intelligent, sassy, independant women who are very involved in their local community. AND I possibly lined up a gig for some volunteer work with Médecins Sans Frontières as well.

Not bad for a morning's work.

Sunday 16 August 2009

What's been going on in pg land

Things have been tough lately. And tight. I've said it before, the line between prosperity and destitution is a very thin one indeed. Lots of things have had to go by the wayside, like money for exotic and yummy ingredients. I've been working 2 extra jobs and have barely had the time to blog.

let alone had the motivation.

For a while there, the novelty of Frugal Foods kept the blog alive, but you guys can only hear about so may posts based on mince and canned tomatoes.

For a while I have felt like I have nothing new to offer. All my posts are based on my whiny-arsed position of Furry's unemployment.

It has really sucked to be me, and sucked even more to read my boring, gormless, whining posts about how hard it is yada yada yada.

So, you probably have wondered where I have been for the past week or so. PG, who pretty much lives her open life on the Interwebs, has had no blog/facebook/twitter act-shawn.

Thing have to be pretty crook in Tallarook for PG to disappear of the www.radar for a week at a time.

Or maybe I am a totally self-absorbed numpty and none of you have noticed?

Anyway. Here's what I've been up to.

and a bit of

and even a bit of

yes, folks. I'z been away.


As in Papua New Guinea.

As in LAE, PNG, where Furry will shortly be taking up his new position as Logistics and Operations Manager for a local rice company!

For those who follow my self-indugent ramblings, you may recall that Furry recently went for a job in PNG, only to be pipped at the post.

Well, late last Thursday, we found out the guy who got the job had knocked it back, and that Furry was now the successful candidate.

So on Tues of last week, we were flown to Lae, in PNG to have a looksee at what is going to be our new home for the next 3 plus years.

I thank you all for the collective ju ju that allowed this situation to develop and promise you more exciting posts from PNG. Furry is moving up there in about a week, and I will hopefully be off around the end of the year. There are still some decisions to make that might change the timelines of my move, but at this stage of the game, it's all systems go go GO!!


BBQ'd fruit bat, anyone?

Sunday 9 August 2009

All you can eat sushi/sashimi

Mme Mouse and her squeeze, TiMOthy recently asked out to an amazing find. An all-you-can-eay Japanese restaurant in Doncaster. I have to admit that I was a tad nervous. All you can eat Asian restaurants conjure up, for me anyway, images of nasty greasy food in baine maries LONG after they've past the Staphylococcus aureus point of no return. Limp prawn crackers and ubiquitous Asian/Aussie dishes like lemon chicken.

I shuddered to think what an all you can eat resto would do to sushi and tempura.

Yamagata Teppanyaki - Melbourne Restaurant Address: 15 Andersons Creek Rd, Doncaster East Phone: 03 9841 988.

$33 on a Friday night will get you seated in a bustling, noisy resto that is strangely reminiscent of the "Island Trader" franchise of the 80's, only smaller. There are a couple of Teppanyaki stations, but the patrons are mostly there for the all you can eat.

It's not a buffet. It's an al a carte of sorts. The kind you see more and more often these days in Asian conclaves such as Box Hill, Springvale and Glen Waverely. You get a menu with (in this case) about 30 different items on it, You tick what you want and it's brought to your table.

A trick here for the first timers.

Order EVERYTHING you think you might want, because your first order will be fine, but we found that subsequent orders got lost in the last minute rush by the other patrons.

The sushi and sushimi very fresh. The rice lacked the distinct rice wine flavour of other restaurant sushi, but hey, we paid $33 a head for it. I wasn't complaining.

Rather than Aussie-ising the menu, Yamagata offeres some more traditional fare such as whole deep fried sardines, and yakatori eggplant.

And of course, there is tempura, miso, gyoza, tataki, green tea icecream ,tonkatsu pork and other familiar dishes.

Australians are used to the rarefied Japaneses restaurants, all tatami mat and Shamsen elevator musak, with students in kosode and obi. Maybe a little bit of slap-and-tickle frivolity if you miss catching the fried rice bowl at Teppanyaki.

While the food may not be up to the standard of Kuni's or Shira Nui, it is much more like a bustling Tokyo Ginza cafe from the 70's, No nonsense good food served fast, efficiently and cheaply.