From the SAGE Farmers Market managing committee chairman, Stuart Whitelaw.
ABC has been running an ‘Australia Cooks‘ competition for the past couple of months. As they say:
There’s a story to be told about our blossoming regional food culture in regional Australia and the talented people behind it.
What is real Australian Cooking?
What ingredients make your region unique?
Australia with its many flavoured cultures serves up a vibrant mixed buffet of incredibly diverse food.
Australia Cooks is a national call out to cooks, food bloggers and passionate foodies to be a part of the local food chain and support local growers and food producers to design a dish that defines their region on a plate.
If ever there was a challenge custom made for the SAGE Farmers Market, this was it. The market is the backbone of the weekly menu for probably 500 local families, so we know it’s nothing new to construct meals completely from the market.
The words ‘defines your region on a plate’ is the real message here, and I decided that the recent branding of our region as part of the ‘Oyster Coast’ was good enough reason to feature oysters as the star of the dish.
But I have to confess it is one of my great regrets that I don’t like oysters. My late wife Christine was a huge fan though, and whenever oyster-loving friends came to visit I would do a version of the dish that I entered into the competition. The dish is ‘BBQ Oysters with Grilled Potatoes and Samphire’.
Sourcing the ingredients from the SAGE Farmers Market was almost too easy.
The oysters were Clyde River oysters from McAsh Oysters. Now Christine really loved these, but her absolute favourite were from Tuross Lake. She could pick them out of a blind tasting for their creaminess and some other magic that she couldn’t put to words.
Olive oil and hazelnuts came from Erehwon Orchard near Towamba who have been at the market with their oil, olives and nuts for almost a year.
Zucchini came from Queen Street Growers (400 metres from the market)…
… and the spring onions from Old Mill Road BioFarm at Turlinjah.
The potatoes were grown by Michael Hulse from Deua Farm Produce. Michael grows the best spuds you will ever taste. For this dish I bought some of his waxy ones (Nicola).
The garlic was the last of the season from Upriver Garlic.
The other three ingredients were from my garden (limes and warrigal greens) and foraged (samphire) from the edge of the lagoon near my house.
A foodie friend who loves oysters was keen to help prepare and to try the dish, which I cooked over a wood BBQ using casuarina for fuel. It gives a great flavour to anything you cook.
The great thing for someone who is not that good at opening oysters (like me) is that the oysters are put on the grill at the last minute and heat from the fire steams them in their shells, which then conveniently open.
As well as the oysters, I cooked some fresh sea mullet on the barbie from Affordable Seafood at Batemans Bay (who are at the farmers market every week) to put in my dish. I love sea mullet because it is sustainable and it is great grilled, due to the high fat content (great omega-3 levels).
The dish was cooked, photographed, and the recipe entered into the ‘Australia Cooks’ competition. Then came the long wait, as the ABC was swamped with last minute entries. The email came through late on 13th April, telling me my recipe was one of the winning entries.
‘BBQ Oysters with Grilled Potatoes and Samphire’ was one of two recipes from our region chosen to be published in the forthcoming ABC ‘Australia Cooks’ recipe book.
The other chosen recipe is a cheese tart from Bega. Pretty appropriate!
This win is a great testament to the variety and quality of the local produce available in our region. It also highlights how vital the quality of our waterways is to the growers and producers.
There are continual threats to our water quality, and we must be vigilant. Should we accept the assurances of mining companies that processing gold using cyanide at the headwaters of the Deua River is perfectly safe? There is little doubt that even the presence of such an operation will have an adverse effect on the produce and seafood of the catchment.