Spanish Feast with Casa Pepe + SBS Food Journey Festival
It was inspiring to hear stories about Noemi’s family and how she started Casa Pepe and by the night’s end, we were like a bunch of old friends pigging out at the dinner table. It was such a memorable evening, I felt compelled to write about it.
Noemi from Casa Pepe invited a few of us bloggers – Shellie, Cherrie, Thanh and Agnes for a Spanish Feast at her beautiful home. The reasons for this are highlighted in Shellie’s post. We were incredibly humbled by her generosity and hospitality that night.
At the SBS Food Journey Festival, the lovely Noemi took me through the steps to make an authentic Paella at the festival. The first tip is to not rush the process. In fact, they recommend slow cooking the ingredients before adding the rice resulting in a more flavourful Paella. Do not ‘shovel’ around the Paella and letting rest are essential steps. Noemi did highlight the fact that when cooking for a mass audience such as a festival, the usually timely process of making the right Paella is rushed to compensate for demand.
First off the rank came pizza, Spanish style, dressed with fetta and vegetables. Not round like Italian pizza, but rectangular. Some say that pizza was actually founded in Catalonia. I guess it follows the same argument that Italians also got their inspiration for pasta from Asia (noodles). Anywho, the base was think and so delicately crisp, we were yearning for more.
I’m not usually a big fan of quiches as it seems to make me feel like I’m eating a cheesy oily sponge. This howver, was not the feeling I got when happily devoured the light and not at all oily Cheese and Quince Tarts. I loved the sweet and savoury combination.
Here comes the seafood! Calamares fritos. We actually do this dish back in Philippines, and is very popular in backyard parties where you’d find everyone with one hand on the beer and the other, scooping up the squid. The fried baby squid, coated with a crunchy layer of golden batter, didn’t actually need any lemon due to it’s flavourful and buoyant texture. The guys were giving me the evil eye as I plated my third serving. JAJAJA!
The anticipation for the Paella was killing me. So much so that I actually thought the the tangine covered tomatoes was the Paella! Then the beast came. With our faces in in awe of this whimsical array of colour, our reflexes pulled out our cameras for duty. By the time the 100th picture was taken of the whole spectacle, we started scooping up the very generous amounts of juicy mussels, jumbo jet prawns and tender chicken. The rice was vibrantly yellow and cooked to absolute perfection. You can taste the subtle sweetness from the wine slurpped up together with the killer seafood juices- it was a delight eating this. We were all giggling after we sat there in the few minutes of rare silence that night.
How do end such a perfect meal. With perfect dessert of course: Turron & Pedro Ximenez ice cream with beautiful bits of crushed almond amongst a creamy subtle base of alcohol.
Thank you Noemi for such an unforgettable Spanish food journey and for opening up your home and heart and thanks to Shellie for rallying the troops. Did you know that Casa Pepe caters? Treat your guests to a Spanish Feast by contacting them on: http://casa-pepe.com.au/
SBS Food Journey Festival
Held at the mammoth Royal Exhibition Building, the SBS Food Journey Festival made its debut this year. Yes, I am way late in finishing this post but I chose to hold off until after I wrote about the Spanish Feast with Casa Pepe. The premise was to take you through the celebration of food, culture, music and dance. SBS called upon a bunch of Melbourne Food Bloggers to write about their experiences and assigned each one of us specific parts to cover. The group of us met there at 10am sharp on the Saturday then again for lunch where we did a little feasting in the sun and shook our bootays to the sounds of African beats.
Below is a reproduced version of the piece I wrote for SBS. Due to the word limits on the piece, I had to cut out some of my favourite highlights and I thought I’d give it some love with new photos of course. Think of this as the director’s cut . LOL!
Let the partaay begin!
Senor BBQ was definitely the most memorable food stall, likely due to the whiffs of juicy ribs, chorizo and chicken wings sizzling on beds of charcoal. The passionate and upbeat Hernan took the time to talk about his heritage and explains how to cook meat the Argentinean way. Firstly, there is no need for marinade as it is slow cooked on charcoal.
The secret lies in how the beef is cut so when it cooks, the marrow starts to melt into the meat.
What makes it taste absolutely sensational is a traditional Argentinean sauce (Chimichurri) infused with garlic, parsley, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, black pepper, lemon and cumin applied after the meat has cooked which also helps to cut through the fat and clean the palate.
Hernan recommended the mixed grill platter and was sure glad he did. The ribs were smokey and tender as were the chicken wings that had nicely charred bits that me eating them to the bone. Also good were the Chorizo sausages (20% Beef and 20% Pork) served in crusty bread rolls and topped with their signature sauce. The staff at the stall are a mix of musicians, actors, performers, film makers that get together for their love of food.
More Highlights from the festival
The variety of natural and organic salad dressings are becoming increasingly scarce in our supermarket stores, so it was great to see the whimsical range of YUMM Dressings at the festival on display in sorts of exciting flavors and colours- from Poppy Splash to the Maple Zest which can be used on winter salads and smoked meats. Ingredients are locally sourced and because it is preservative free, it is best to store them in the refrigerator after use. Owner, Tarryn, recommended using their Thai Zing that won a 2010 Sydney Fine Food Show – Silver medal
The art of making the perfect Baklava has been a challenge for many. Lynette tells me that the secret to making a Baklava is to use broken ground cashews along with a orange blossom syrup glaze. The stall showcased a colourful array of Turkish and Middle Eastern delights from (Filled Easter Biscuits), Arabic coffee to the brightly tinged Mshabbak Beirut.
Jeet, the enthusiastic owner of Curry Leaf, introduces me to the culinary world of authentic Indian cuisine. I ask him what makes a great Butter Chicken. Jeet says it’s all in the process. Firstly, the chicken is marinated with spices then cooked in a Tandoor oven. There are 3 types of gravies. In the butter chicken, it is made up of ripened tomatoes, butter, cream, resulting in a rich and full bodied base. The ultimate secret? Cashew paste which gives it a creamier texture.
For those who have no time to marinate meat, poultry, fish you name it, Gourmet Morsels offer the perfect solution. For a nation that loves cooking our steak on the barby, I was recommended the Outback Pepper Steak mix. The tip is to add the spice mix just before you start grilling and because there is no flour added, the meat won’t end up unnecessarily burning.
The popular Indonesian restaurant located in South Melbourne serves up a great Ayam Bakar (Grilled Chicken). But for someone eating Indonesian cuisine for the first time, the friendly team suggested Gado Gado – a refreshing vegetable salad comprising of green vegetables, tofu, boiled egg, potatoes and served with a tangy peanut sauce made up of lime, chili, tamarind and shrimp paste. Another highly recommended dish are satay chicken skewers, beef rendang and grilled chicken.
The Beechworth stall was buzzing with activity with festival goers sampling what looked to be an endless variety of honey. To clear up the myth around honey becoming cloudy, Amanda pointed out that it’s actually a good thing that this happens as its part of the natural process. If it’s 100% pure honey, the tiny hardened pieces throughout means that it’s candying. Another interesting fact is that and that honey has no used by date! In terms of storage, it is best kept in the pantry.
Amanda also spoke about the feral Asian honey bee invasion that negatively impacts on our flora and fauna. We agreed that the impact goes further than threatening our honey production. You can read about the issue here. Spread the word!
Real Food Distributors
Have you ever craved a healthy but indulgent cookie? Mary’s Gone Crackers Chocolate Chip Cookies are vegan friendly, wheat free and gluten free. After sampling the choc chip range, I asked how they managed to make it taste so good at the same time keeping it allergy free. Interestingly, it is made up tapioca flour, brown rice flour and chia seeds without having to add refined sugars which contribute to the overall deliciousness. Let’s just say I came back for seconds.
Chocoholics and Macaron fanatics be warned. Ganache who has outlets in South Yarra and Collins, specialises in exquisite European handmade chocolates and pastries. They also offer chocolate and macaron making classes. Out of the 50 varieties of chocolate, owner, Arno recommends the very popular Caramel Dome and Red Marble to the Chocolate Filled Hearts for that special Mothers Day present. Although, I think all mums would be happy with any of the chocolates from Ganache.
Byron Bay Chili Co
Our trend towards all things spicy has given Byron Bay Chilli co the opportunity to win the 2007 Scovie Award out of 750 entrants for their most unique and most popular product is the Coconut Chili. John recommends using the chili sauce with Fish Tacos. Having sampled a freshly made batch, I can attest to the fact that this chili sauce is a winner especially when combined with sour cream.
This is my all time favourite chili sauce. I’m now up to my second bottle and it’s only been a month.
Laikon Deli, who has operated over three generations, showcased a variety of European delights including sparkling French Berry and specialty jams to the more traditional items like provolone cheese and biscotti. When preparing for a party, tips or the perfect antipasto platter would be to include mortadella ham, provolone cheese, sopressa, blue cheese, Hungarian salami, pickles, olives and crusty sourdough.
Food Rehab attended as a guest of SBS Food. You can see my written piece on their website here.
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