Marseilles update


cropped-IMG_3634-e1410859726243.jpgThe Old Port – a Mediterranean treasure

It has been an enduring love affair. Imagine our excitement therefore when we returned to Marseilles for a summer sojourn and found the place sparkling, fresh and fairly crackling with renewed vigour. What a transformation in four short years!

Being named European Capital of Culture for 2013 was the stimulus to complete the makeover. Without losing any of her old raffish charms it appears that the whole city of Marseilles responded to the call to dust off the cobwebs, smarten up and pop on a dazzling smile with which to greet her visitors. France’s old ‘dowager aunt’ port city has morphed into a vibrant, lively, creative and confident Grande Dame.

Looking to settle into a ‘local’ life for our extended stay, we unearthed a stylish simply renovated apartment in a marvellous old building right in the heart of the old port. This afforded us a most interesting, unimpeded view of the street life below and the extraordinary Norman Foster mirrored pavilion, situated at the bustling old port. Underneath which one could always see happy people, performing antics reflected from the mirrored surface above.


The ancient Old Port of Marseilles offers an extraordinary space where one can mingle with a passing mélange of locals and visitors every hour of the day and evening.

International super yachts berth side by side with working ferries, pleasure cruise yachts and small boats of every imaginable size, type, name, many painted in the colours of Provence.

Jostling for space the small working fishing boats directly disgorge their daily catch to be laid out on fish stalls along the wharf. Here a multi-cultural mix of shoppers haggle with the fishermen or their women over a stunning variety of small or large whole or filleted fish, oysters, mussels, octopus and clams to grace their tables for lunch. The seabirds sit patiently waiting for the guts, heads and cast off pieces of tuna, mackeral, sardines and more.

Casual restaurants, cafes and bars line one side of the port, while on the opposite side, sit more formal, long established venues, most offering their particular Provencal, Sardinian, Italian or Moroccan menus. After a decent sampling, the general standard of dishes is to be commended! 

The wharf-side walkway along the port is a tourist mecca for tastes of Provence – tempting stalls of lavender; sweet macaroons, nougat; soaps; Provencal linens and small glasses of sweet yet piquant citron presse to whet a dry summer throat. Depending on the time of day a championship game of boules may be underway, a jazz band can burst into foot tapping tunes or the rumblings of a demonstration may be heard gathering in a crowd from the passing throng.

And away from the port the enticing boulevards and old streets have been scrubbed clean to welcome shoppers, seekers of culture, history and art with arms wide open and inviting venues full of sparkling ‘jewels’, reminiscent of a pirates treasure chest.

We tried several times to find the dark, narrow dodgy streets above the old port each crowded with exotic food stalls displaying their middle eastern sweets on open street tables. We had once driven down these corridors at speed, sweating, too fearful of being accosted to open the windows or stop. These days a less fearful, definite ‘stop and shop’ destination at the bustling friendly Middle Eastern bazaars and street stalls.

And up in the Panier district we found old buildings beautifully renovated as stylish new hotels, bustling narrow arcades filled with quaintly presented new ateliers offering creative individual arts, crafts, clothing and pre-loved bric-a-brac. Tiny ‘hole in the wall’ kitchens offer dishes piled high with delicious regional specialities.

Where the streets open out on to open spaces or Places can be found markets selling all manner of wares. Especially good are the fresh food markets displaying the best of the seasonal Provence produce, beckoning buyers with vegetables stacked high, snowy white goats and sheep’s cheeses, freshly baked organic breads, beautifully dressed poultry and lamb. Locals interspersed with the odd lucky visitor line up as politely as ever and wait their turn to purchase their chosen wares before it is all snapped up and the place once more provides a calm, quiet and shaded public space.

As exciting as ever, noisy, hot, mostly sunny, magnificently broody. An inspiring melting pot of cultures – so much culture, so many faces, art, history, so many languages, so much humanity – all pulsating with colour, restless energy and life, Marseilles endures.

Oh, I must tell you about….



Pan fried whole sardines


Good olive oil (enough to coat 1/2  cm bottom of the pan

Whole fresh sardines, heads on, gutted (say 3-4 per person)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Plain flour (enough to dust all the sardines)

Parsley or dill, finely chopped for garnish

Lemon wedges

If you cannot face eating the sardines intact just remove the innards. Place the sardines on a work board, make a small incision lengthways under the belly and gently remove the guts with your fingers. Or have your friendly fishmonger prepare for you.

Wash the sardines quickly and pat dry. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and stand 5-10  minutes.

Heat the olive oil to hot but not smoking, in a shallow pan.

Season the sardines with freshly ground black pepper.

Dredge them in the plain flour, shaking off the excess.

Place them in the hot oil to fry. approx 2 minutes. Leave enough room between them to be able to turn them over.

Turn over and fry on the other side for approx. 2 minutes.

Drain on paper towels. Garnish with chopped parsley or dill.

Lift sardines onto serving plates and serve immediately with lemon wedges and a big finger bowl.

Preferably pick the sardines up in your fingers and fillet them off the bone with your teeth – yummm.

I like them best served simply with lemon wedges, preceded or followed by a chopped salad of tomatoes, red onion, capers, cucumber, herb leaves and torn crisp lettuce leaves, dressed with a little cider vinegar, olive oil and grindings of black pepper.



The Buzz of Vintage 2014 – Cote de Beaune


Driving along the dusty, vine-strewn roads through the wine villages of the Cote d’Or around the town of Beaune we are continuously assaulted by swirling autumn leaves. Captured by the insistent breeze, the leaves float sideways from the trees like discarded fairy cloaks. The landscape is bathed in warm autumn tones; deep emerald green, rich russet, ruby reds, aged daffodil and ochre. An artist’s palette upon which the passionate inhabitants of this highly prized wine region are hard at work in the fields picking their precious grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir.

The air crackles with the frisson of the grape harvest or vendange in full swing.

The time is right, the September full moon is rising and mild sunny weather reigns as vignerons urge the pickers or vendangeurs to fill their grape buckets with care while maintaining a cracking pace. In these world famous vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Volnay, Pommard and Corton-Charlemagne the grapes are picked by hand.


Here, as in other grape growing regions of Burgundy, there is a respect for and adherence to a lunar or cosmic calendar for the biodynamic principles of viticulture.  Vans, trucks, tractors and people-movers dot the countryside signaling the areas being picked – hats bob amongst the vines and it’s bottoms up on picking crews. The sun is smiling on Burgundy’s Cote d’Or today.


We stop often to urge them on, tempted to join in but we have promised our services to a friend who is yet to start harvesting. In truth, we are ‘newbies’ and as such not a greatly prized commodity among the regulars pickers. Among the vines the teams consist of family members, from the youngest to the er, most mature, experienced domaine hands, regulars and annual ‘returnees’ all working harmoniously alongside viticulture students from across the great wine world. Nationalities abound. Minimum wages, often supplemented by meals and usually fairly rugged accommodations, are paid to all comers regardless of experience or age; everyone we meet seems to be happy just to be here, privileged.



Vintage lasts from several days to about two weeks, time is of the essence to pick the grapes at their peak. From early morning until around 7pm a steady rhythm is maintained in the vineyard. Even allowing for sunglasses, gloves, hats and pruning shears this is dirty, hard back-breaking work.

Hanging low on the gnarly vines grape bunches of green, gold or black peep from beneath their protective umbrella of golden leaves at the top of the vines.

Hungry workers on the move from around 6 am, break for a quick lunch, well short of the usual 2 hours observed in this part of rural France. There is urgent work to be done; uncertainty about changes in the weather hang in the air.

Essentially this is agricultural work that requires many hands before the waiting trucks gently transport their precious cargo to the wineries where the grapes are crushed of their juices.

Each night, happy sounds ring out as different domaines stage their paulee or traditional long table dinner accompanied by copious bottles of burgundy, to celebrate the end of their vintage.

Roads we came to know as quiet country lanes over the preceding 6 months are now busy with all manner of vehicles, many with bins full to the brim with iridescent grapes. Massive wooden doors are swung open, as are barn doors, wrought iron Domaine gates and the windows and doors of local houses. All about are vine leaves dragging along under wheels, decorating dashboards, blowing in the streets. Our corner of Burgundy has thrown open the doors to welcome the harvest.


Considering the daily changing conditions; sunshine, heat, rain, frosty mornings and autumn chills; the mood everywhere is buoyant, friendly, bustling and expectant.

In village barns, on campsites and, an unusual site in France, glimpsed through windows – hang lines of freshly washed overalls, t-shirts and socks – evidence of just what a dirty business this is – dust, grape stains, mud and sweat. Recently washed down boots, shoes and rubber Wellingtons line up outside doorways, all sizes, all shapes.

As each Domaine finishes harvest, we salute convoys of cheerful honking trucks, cars and motorbikes that follow the white Renault vans, doors wide open, as they pass through the villages festooned with yet more grape branches.  All those smiling faces dirty from rain and their day among the vines. If one could only capture the electricity in the air………….

Now it’s our turn.

Will this be a good year, maybe a great year? Will it be as good as 2009 or 2005?


“I wish I knew”

Edward Hopper New York Restaurant

How do you react when someone asks you to name your favourite restaurant, wine, type of cuisine, ingredient, food, country, book, colour, piece of music…?

I used to shuffle my feet, mumble “um” “ash” while my eyes rolled, drop my head and procrastinate while hoping someone else would jump in with a firm, confident and immediate reply and the moment would pass.

Seriously how can one possibly have a single favourite. Surely the  mood, the day, the weather, the moment makes that decision for you.

OK, let’s try somewhere to eat –

Is it that slightly aged and dingy tapas bar in Cadiz, owned by a former bull fighter, that serves the most heavenly wafer thin jamon, “Manteca” or perhaps that richly scented and perfectly spiced lamb tagine with a pichet of local house red in an otherwise forgettable truckie’s lay-by  on the road to Pau in Aquitaine, south west France? What about Gaston that buzzy Noosa institution serving terrific cafe food and wicked coffee in a stylish atmosphere day in, day out ( swimmers, thongs, sarongs and sunglasses welcome), in arguably Australia’s premier resort town.

My mind has just wandered to those exquisite lightly poached and peeled little plum tomatoes with slivers of sweet caramelised garlic bathed in a whirl of the freshest olive oil you can imagine in the bistro at the L’Hotel de Beaune. Hmm, I can still taste the lightest, tastiest, crisp crumbed little scotch egg at Heston Blumenthal’s pub, The Hinds Head in Bray, England…and the softest perfect cloud-like handmade gnocchi bathed in simply the best ever tomato sauce with shreds of torn basil and freshly shaved parmesan floating lazily  down to meet the dish at  Lupino, a sassy little Italian Ristorante in the thick of the urban grunge down one of Melbourne’s great city lane ways?

Hmmm, type of cuisine? Ah well, definitely Moroccan, well make that Middle Eastern, Turkish actually, hang on, I think Japanese, no French, ahhh Italian, can’t live without a a few good pan-Asian dishes and now that I think about it there are some cracker English dishes, despite what ‘they’ always say!  And yet I find it hard to go past a good modern Australian dish displaying an altogether different character, style and flavour from most other cuisines, blessed with the enthusiasm of a young cheeky nation of chefs, unafraid to test the traditional boundaries.

Ingredients, lets think – tomatoes are way out in front, but a perfect avocado is heaven, a sustainably line-caught fresh fish or spanking sea-scented just shucked oysters. What about lively, vivid green watercress, …mushrooms, mushrooms mushrooms, yes of course!

I can feel a long conversation coming on… ‘Oh how I wish I knew…!’


Food Thoughts


Dr. Kikunae Ikeda

“Those who pay careful attention to their tastebuds will discover in the complex flavour of asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat, a common and yet absolutely singular taste which cannot be called sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter…”

Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, Eighth International Congress of Applied Chemistry, Washington 1912



It was in the high days of the early ‘90’s when I was first introduced to the word Umami and the notion of its meaning by a very excited winemaker. Dr. Michael Peterkin, a terrific bloke, a Western Australian winemaker of great repute was enjoying a glass of wine at the bar of our fine restaurant of the time. It was our house custom in those days, to invite our favoured highly respected chefs and wine people to sign the timber bar wall. Michael wrote “Umami – skanky feral savoury” and suddenly we just had to learn more.


A Japanese word, Umami is these days considered the 5th of the primary or basic tastes. These tastes being bitter, salty, sour, sweet and savoury.  Umami is the savoury taste.

Variously described as a ‘good flavour, meaty, deliciousness, savouriness’ and so on, we can all be thankful that in 1908 Dr. Kikunae Ikeda settled on the name umami, although scientists are still divided about the existence of this 5th taste. It appears that it was close to 100 years later that the acceptance of umami as a tastebud stimulator really started to catch on.


Hard to define alone, umami, once a subtle savouriness is identified, becomes more obvious as the elusive essence that makes food taste so delicious.

Particularly notable in mushrooms and truffles, umami does occur naturally in some other vegetables, meat, cheese and wine.

Personally, I am quite taken with the idea that the word ‘umami’ is imbued in someway with mystical or spiritual qualities.


Confused? Well, do some more research!


Mushrooms, Glorious Mushrooms

And still they keep coming! Each Saturday reveals at least one new variety at the bountiful Beaune market. Last week there were two; ‘pied violet’ a soft purple tinged buff capped beauty with a delicate yet distinctive aroma and the ‘rose’ with a broad cap in velvety pale brown and white. This week, the elusive Pholiote du peuplier or poplar fieldcap. Velvety brown cap, long white stalk and simply delicious steamed with one dash each of light soy sauce and sherry.

How can a fungus excite so much controversy? What stimulated our original lust for mushrooms?

Black, brown, spotted, white-ish, grey, yellow, red with spots and sporting gills of green, purple, beige, brown or orange, they appear as trumpets, little rounded caps on long stalks, large flared caps on short stalks, eggie ovals, lacy netted hats with spores, pores, blisters, blimps and as regular old common button mushrooms. Mostly they look enticing however of some 35,000 varieties world wide, only about 300 are safe to consume.

We are all familiar with the world’s most cultivated mushroom, the button or champignon, which until the middle of the 20th century was pretty much the only mushroom we were familiar with. Around 1650, the button or more correctly, the ‘Agaricus bisporus’ was first cultivated in Paris, France, in areas where mushrooms were frequently collected on used compost from melon crops.

Originally grown in open fields, the discovery that light was not necessary for the growth of mushrooms led to successful cultivation in natural caves, tunnels or quarries in a cool, moist environment. Caves are still the preferred environment for the production of both commercial button and some exotic mushroom crops.

From our early hunger for this remarkable fungi, our taste buds were titillated for the more exotic mushrooms that were growing wild in the open fields. Increased travel also broadened our taste for exotic species of different cultures.

While edible mushrooms are unquestionably sublime eating; mushrooms are simultaneously lauded as an amazing health aide; condemned as highly poisonous (death is not unknown) and in some quarters, considered desirable as a hallucinogenic drug. Mushrooms have that elusive magical taste – chefs call it ‘umami ‘ or the fifth taste sensation. Let’s talk more about umami later. If you really love the flavour of mushrooms, you will already be familiar with the unique savoury taste which blends easily into a wide variety of dishes.

Mushrooms are picked throughout France, however the climate in the south of the country means more abundant quantities are available in these regions. Morels, cepes, chanterelles – yellow, golden, grey;  black trompette de la mort; pied de mouton; shiitake and enoki can all be found in most local weekly markets throughout Provence and Burgundy in the mushroom season.

Most years the French enjoy a bumper mushroom crop. They have a real love affair with their wild mushrooms, regarding them as a delicacy, not necessarily something about which you should be afraid but they do take mushroom collecting very seriously…


Article 547 of the Code Civil stipulates that mushrooms belong to the owner of the land where they grow. Each commune has the right to decide whether mushroom picking is allowed, can say what quantities can be picked, can charge a fee or can totally forbid mushroom picking in the surrounding forests.

Do keep in mind, it is necessary to contact either the local town hall (Mairie) in the commune where you wish to go picking or the local prefecture and that there are a number of rules that should be adhered to when picking mushrooms…

* Mushrooms must be a certain size before being picked so that they have a chance to release their spores

* Tools of any sort are forbidden with the exception of knives.

* A knife must be used to cut the stipe so as not to damage the mycelia

  • Mushrooms must be carried in a wicker basket to let the spores fall out and help propagation.

Besides the sense in these regulations, one looks so French tripping gaily through the fields carrying a beautiful aged wicker basket!

Late summer to autumn is the perfect time to forage for fresh wild mushrooms. The prevailing conditions – humidity, heat, rain, clusters of fallen leaves and plant matter provide the essential elements.

I find it safer, more comfortable and equally as exciting to attend the markets and be able to make a wide choice. The only scary things here are how much I am about to spend on my next mushroom feast and how awful my stuttering French sounds due to the excitement generated by my buying spree!


In rural France, which is after all, where you are most likely to locate plentiful mushroom patches, do remember that the pharmacist in the local chemist is usually able to help you differentiate between which mushrooms you can eat and those which are inedible. I have seen many village Pharmacy shop windows displaying signs encouraging one to step inside with the mushroom basket for inspection and approval. The other window is often filled with snakes jammed in bottles to warn of the perils of snake bite or maybe as treatments for mushroom poisoning, I have still to really grasp the meaning of the impressive snake-jar windows…


Are these generally ugly looking fungi really any good for the health? Yes, yes and you better believe it, yes!

They are low in fat, low in sodium, an excellent source of potassium, high in proteins, vitamins and dietary fibre.  Mushrooms have very few calories and contain approximately 80-90 percent water, hence they are considered beneficial for weight loss and maintaining a healthy metabolism.

It is said that there is more potassium in a mushroom than a banana. Since potassium helps lower blood pressure and diminished the risk of stroke, mushrooms are recommended to people suffering from hypertension.

Mushrooms are believed to help fight against cancer. They are an excellent source of selenium, an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Mushrooms are rich in copper, a mineral that has cardio-protective properties. A single serving of mushrooms is said to provide about 20 to 40 percent of the daily needs of copper.

White button, shiitake and oyster mushrooms are all said to have specific healing properties and it has been found that mushroom extract helps to arrest migraine headaches and is beneficial for people suffering from mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Finally, mushrooms keep their flavour after drying and reconstitute well for cooking. Many varieties are dried and packaged for worldwide distribution, still attracting very good prices in their altered state.

Who could possibly resist the magic of mushrooms?


Cassis – a well kept secret.

We could have missed it altogether. On our first approach to Cassis, we encountered a wall of traffic congestion. As we crawled along the motorway every entry signposted to Cassis was blocked with serious policemen and fire trucks, circling helicopters dragged their buckets still dripping from the last water dump; a huge pall of smoke hovered overhead. Brush fires. We retreated for the day.

The Cassis markets drew us back several days later.  Entering the narrow streets, we joined the line of cars heading slowly towards the old fountain square from where the market snakes through the little streets to the port. Young gendarmes controlled the flow of traffic with good humour, a wave for their friends and a gentle word to would be parking violators. This was the market of my dreams. Fresh summer fruits, goats cheese straight from the farmer, sexy underwear, spanking fresh fish and Provencal table napery. It was such a wonderful experience, it rates an exclusive article. Appearing shortly.



One of the best approaches to Cassis is the winding scenic 20 minutes drive over steep majestic rocky limestone cliffs from Marseilles. A landscape of red and white rock dotted with wiry tough scrub looks down on beautiful wild bays.Overworked as they are, charming and serene are the absolutely perfect descriptors for this chi chi little coastal resort that has evolved from an ancient fishing port. Cassis is quite possibly the best kept secret on the French Riviera. We found it all the more enticing due to its popularity with Marseilles locals and Europeans.

The harbour area is arguably the prettiest with the old fountain spouting cool water in the square leading down to the gravel-strewn place at the wide mouth to the port, where charming older French ladies play boules with their intensely competitive husbands. Still a fishing village, colourful little fishing boats share the harbour with some serious yachts and touristy boats for visiting the calanques.

Rebuilt in the 18th century on top of the old ruins, Cassis has lost none of its medieval charm. Some 16th century buildings still exist in the narrow village streets behind the port. The soft pastel colours of Provence have been used to quirky yet tasteful effect in the restoration of a number of village houses. The port is lined with terrace cafes and restaurants with a terrific choice of price and fare. More little restaurants can be found on the back streets of the village away from the port. The wise word is that you can eat out every day or night for at least a week with every meal of consistently excellent quality at a fair price. We would have to concur. Look out for Chez Gilbert and La Paillotte. Delicious local seafood dishes.

Wine has been made around Cassis since the first occupiers landed on these shores in antiquity. In 1936 Cassis was one of the first of three to receive an AOC for appellation wine. Certainly the first in this region. Vineyards are everywhere. There are some famous name Domaines with their vines growing in the midst of the village, others cover the hillsides on all aspects.  While red, rose and white are produced, white is the most famous.

There is a fine old chateau-fort Chateaux de la Maision des Baux, 1381, which looks down on the harbour, now privately owned so no visiting.

There are a couple of fine sandy beaches just outside the port and then there is the Bestouan Plage Rocks. These are huge flat rocks popular as a nudist beach. The rocks are a winner for sunbathing as they say here, however swimming is another matter entirely as access to the water is off the rocks and back up to them is via a ladder so you need a great tan, tight muscles and nerves of steel. So if this takes your fancy, come well prepared with water and rock climbing shoes. While the beaches look inviting, with moderate temperatures year round, swimming is for Europeans. Maybe the water is pleasant at the height of summer, provided you don’t hail from a sub tropical climate. We made the mistake of diving right in and our howls of anguish at the cold frightened many sunbathers off the beach.

A little more gentle but still a healthy bit of exercise is a visit to the famous chiselled cliffs of the Calanques. A wonder of nature these spectacular Calanques are inlets or bays created out of the cliffs between Marseilles and Cassis. They can only be viewed by boat or hiking over rugged terrain. On the Cassis side the first calanque is like a private mooring club, home to everything from kayaks and rowing boats to large pleasure craft to enormous racing yachts. Access is still via steep rocky walks up the limestone cliffs. The White Stone of Cassis which first made the town famous has been quarried here, one way or another since antiquity.  I have read that it was used in the base of the Statue of Liberty, NYC as well as the quays of all the large Mediterranean ports.

Cassis has survived a chequered history of rulers and influences. Pirates broke the long periods of peace with their occassional plundering visits.  Now the only plundering is undertaken by the happy holidaymakers shopping, eating, drinking and making merry.


Boeuf Charolais a la Ficelle (Charolais beef on the string)

1kg medium carrots

1 small green cabbage or kale,

3 medium leeks, washed

3 medium onions

3 turnips

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 star anise, whole

200ml good beef broth

6 medium potatoes (desiree or charlotte are good)

1 bottle good red wine (preferably a Burgundy Pinot Noir!)

1.5 kg Charolais beef fillet (any excellent middle eye fillet)

sea salt, freshly ground mixed pepper (or black)


also: twine to tie beef; a wooden spoon long enough to sit over the top of casserole; wide heavy based caserole with a lid.


Peel the carrots, onions and turnips. Cut the cabbage or kale into quarters, cut the leeks in half crossways.

Arrange all the vegetables in a wide casserole, add broth, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, add them to the rest of the vegetables after 15 minutes of cooking.

When the vegetables are soft, remove from broth.

Pour the red wine into the pan with the broth, the rosemary sprigs, the star anise and simmer, uncovered over medium-low heat for 1 hour. Taste the broth, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile tie the beef with a long string to keep its shape, leaving a long piece of string at each end.

Tie the ends of the string to the handle of a wooden spoon, then place the spoon over the casserole.

The meat should be submerged in the wine stock without touching the bottom of the container.

Cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove meat from pan and let stand, loosely covered for 10 minutes.

Remove the rosemary and star anise from the broth.

Reheat the vegetables in the broth.

Slice the beef into thick slices, place on warm deep plates, add a variety of vegetables to each plate, ladle over the broth and


Some crusty baguette would be most desirable to polish off that delicious broth…


Eat, Live, Laugh

Eat, Live, Laugh and perhaps even learn a little..

Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia. Funny little seaside village. We call it home. My already generous bosom swells often with pride at the remarkable achievements of this creative and diverse community.

As late autumn morphs into winter from May through July, each year Noosa bears witness to not one, but two extraordinary festivals. Both first conceived and delivered around a decade ago, the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival is presented each year over 4 delicious days around the middle of May. This is followed in hot pursuit by its slightly older sibling the The Noosa Longweekend Festival, staged over 10 action packed days in July.

Defining features of both these festivals are the audiences and the participants they attract, staged in our unique location. Both make the most of Noosa’s performance facilities, restaurants, the river, the natural landscape and the nearby lush hinterland. Local Noosans mingle with devotees to dance, literature, the environment, music, theatre, film, forums for ideas and debate, even a hint of politics and eagerly awaited on each program, many outstanding, mouthwatering food and wine events. Impressive for a small beachside resort on the Queensland coast better known in days gone by as a surfers paradise. The performers, for that is what they are, talented performers, are drawn from the ‘cream of the crop’ in their respective fields; internationally, nationally, from intrastate and from our own gifted community.

Born of a need to stimulate our local economy and add some spice to the gentle rhythm of life in Noosa, the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival and the Noosa Longweekend are now recognized as world class events. For our creative community, stunning environment and safe, relaxed lifestyle coupled with a desire to share our spoils with a wider audience is a recipe hard to resist. To display our finest assets while attracting the finest on offer from shores near and far, or something similar.

I could go on extolling the virtues of these sensational festivals however I feel most aspects have recently been enthusiastically, lyrically and widely documented, so I simply say ” Wise up”, watch as the programs evolve, book early and be here for the time of your life in May and July 2014.

Being dedicated to the promotion of good, clean, sustainable, regional and delicious food accompanied by a decent glass of fine wine or two, the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival satisfies me greatly on many levels. One aspect of this festival that I find irresistible is the Culinary Exhibition where some of Australia’s finest food producers and manufacturers display their wares; offering tastings of their produce while imparting priceless knowledge, sharing tips and enjoying the banter of their peers. This provides a unique opportunity to meet and mingle with the people on the front line of our outstanding food production.



1.  Gundowring finest ice cream from Victoria. Decadent, creamy, simply too delicious to stop at one flavour. Fig, French plum, ginger, espresso, coconut, spice, white chocolate and macadamia – need I go on?


2. LiraH…ingredients of success. Granite Belt, Queensland. Vinegar, verjus and wine. “We recognise that our products are not “consumed” but rather are a tool, which in the hands of the chef combine with other great ingredients to produce successful dishes”. Truly so, these ‘ tools’ certainly work their magic in dressings, sauces, marinades while being precise little flavour explosions when sipped off a spoon!


3. Humbugz Honey, Kingston, South Australia. With around 6 distinctive varieties, exceptionally good honeycomb rounds and a divine good quality chocolate bar filled with honey, locate your nearest stockist as fast as possible.


4. Cedar Creek Cheeserie. Maleny, Queensland. Trevor’s buffalo milk cheeses are continually evolving. The mozzarella raises tomatoes, basil and a slug of good olive oil to heavenly heights. I can’t live without the haloumi, very moreish and the soft, snowy-white Love Supreme, drizzled with Humbugz honey, well…


5. Li-sun exotic mushrooms. Swiss Brown, Shiitake, Oyster,  Shimejii and Wood Ear. Southern Highlands, NSW.  “Buried underneath the hillside, alongside Mt. Gibraltar between ….” A wonderful range of exotic mushrooms that thrive in Dr. Noel Arrold’s cool, damp and dimly lit tunnels, they truly impart their seductive flavours to many dishes. Read all about it…

6. Tasmanian Gourmet Kitchen. Longford, Tasmania. A delicious, well balanced small range of speciality chutneys, marmalades and preserves. Perfect accompaniments to the marvellous artisan crafted small goods in the delicious.awards, ” from the paddock” category. I could not make a decision and came home with 5 varieties in beautifully presented jars.


7.  Snowy River Station Samphire. The banks of the Snowy River, Victoria.

Pioneering stuff this, cultivating one of the world’s oldest and most intriguing foodstuffs. Like ‘sea asparagus’ it is a sensational fresh vegetable dish or garnish with fish, shellfish, a slice of farmhouse terrine or scrambled eggs with shaved truffle. I know fresh is best but I like the pickled samphire, which comes in a decent sized jar and means it is at hand for spontaneous use whenever the mood or dish demands it.


8. Pacdon Park. Manufacturers & Purveyors of Gourmet British Foods. Moama, NSW. The British are here! Started by a couple of likely lads from Lancashire homesick for childhood dishes are producing some exceptional traditional British fare. Traditional pork pies; pork sausages from a variety of English Counties; a range of cured meats; black and white puddings and a crowning glory, their truly delicious haggis, no really.


9. Pangkarra Wholegrain Pasta. Clare Valley, South Australia. Made from select durum grain grown on the family farm comes this premium wholegrain, stone milled and low temperature processed pasta. Low in fat, high in protein with a mild nutty taste, this pasta range is full of health benefits and delicious to boot!


Oh no! I am not nearly finished, so many more producers, produce and tales to share with you. But I restricted myself to 10 so that’s it for now… except a little sweet treat to finish…

10. Sweetness The Patisserie. Epping, NSW. Artisan delights from these crazy dedicated people who spend their days whipping up batches of irresistible, light and moreish sweets. This range is so delicious, all thoughts of guilt just evaporate.


The Noosa International Food & Wine Festival:

The Noosa Longweekend Festival:



Braised Rabbit & Mushroom Pie

Rabbit & Mushroom Pie

Braised Rabbit and Mushroom Pie

Matt Golinski Recipe

serves 6-8


This braised rabbit is the same as in the recipe for braised rabbit, chestnut mushrooms with potato gnocchi and crispy shallots. It is such a beautiful braise it works equally as well for this great pie.

For a delicious winter variation, include 2 medium parsnips or 3 small turnips, peeled and diced to the braising vegetables.


1 x 1.5 kg fresh rabbit, jointed 6 pieces

1 onion, diced

Stock ingredients

1 stick celery, diced

1 leek, washed and diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 sprigs lemon thyme

2 bay leaves

8 peppercorns

1 litre chicken stock

flour for dusting

Rabbit Cuts

50 gm butter

1 small handful of flat parsley leaves, finely chopped


Saute vegetables, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns until soft and beginning to colour.  Transfer to a casserole or deep tray.  Rinse the rabbit and pat dry on paper towels.  Dust with seasoned flour and shallow fry in a heavy pan until golden.  Arrange pieces on top of vegetables and pour over boiling stock.  Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit the inside of the casserole, place on top of the rabbit.

Braise in oven for one and a half to two hours at 170 degree C or until the meat easily flakes off the bones.  Allow to cool in the liquid, remove meat from bones, take out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, flaking the meat into small chunks.  Strain braising liquid and reduce to no more than 500ml.

Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil and add reduced braising liquid.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat, add rabbit and chopped parsley. When heated through, remove from heat, swirl in butter. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

The filling is now ready for the pie. This can easily be prepared the day before making your pie.




1 1/2 cups plain flour

Braised Rabbit

a pinch of salt

3 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche

1 egg yolk, dash of milk just beaten to brush the top of the pie.


1 pie dish or loose bottomed cake tin 28cm diameter (or make 2 smaller pies)

dried beans or raw rice blind bake the bottom pastry crust.


Lightly grease the pie dish with a little of the butter.

Pre-heat oven to 200C.


N.B. I have often had occasion to use salted butter and omitted the pinch of salt with no change to the lovely flaky crust this dough delivers.

My personal preference is to use creme fraiche when it is available.


Sift the flour and salt together, rub in the butter until crumbly. This can be done by hand or by pulsing quickly in a food processor.

Add the sour cream or creme fraiche and work together lightly.

Flatten slightly into a large thick pancake shape, wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Cut into 2 pieces, one a little bigger than the other.

On greaseproof paper, roll out the larger piece to approx. 1/2 cm and using the paper to move the pastry, cover the bottom and side of the buttered pie dish. If necessary, pushing lightly into place with your fingertips. Chill for 10 minutes on the greaseproof paper.

Roll out the other pastry piece and chill until ready to use.

Leaving the greaseproof paper on the pastry, cover the base larger pastry with the dried beans, deeply enough to come up the sides of the pie dish.

Place in the pre-heated oven, on a hot oven tray and cook until the edges are just golden. Remove the greaseproof paper and beans. Place the pastry back in the oven just to dry the centre of the pastry. Remove, fill and top with the other pastry piece.

Use any left over pieces to decorate the top. make 4 tiny slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape.

Brush with the egg wash and bake on the oven tray, for about 25 minutes or until golden.

Leonie in Her Element