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Tag Archives: yarra valley

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese

Is there something called ‘too many’ pasta recipes?

Well, not in our household. Pasta recipes are often like that almost one-pot meal that is so quick to put together which is what most of us are looking for on a daily basis. And the non-saucy ones make the perfect leftovers for the next day lunch boxes.

In fact, I make the heavy, sauce based pasta dishes only occasionally. I tend to make pesto a lot, several variations of it, depending on what the herb garden is producing in abundance. I also enjoy roasting tomatoes and bell peppers for a thick sauce which is used along with pasta and other veggies. I use cold cuts, sausages and prawns a lot too as these need much less time to cook when compared to other meats.

While I prefer most of my everyday pasta dishes to go easy on cheese, today’s dish intrigued me as I had never paired goat’s cheese with pasta before. I have had it plenty on a cheese board but never with pasta. And when I came across some delicious Yarra Valley goat’s cheese, I knew I just had to try this dish out.

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese - thespiceadventuress.com

This is a fairly simple pasta dish with very few ingredients and hence the flavour depends on the quality of spinach and goat’s cheese used. I added some red chilli too, to add another dimension to the overall flavours.

The best type of pasta for a dish like this is the thin noodle like ones, usually referred to as spaghettini. Its light and the perfect shape and texture to absorb flavours especially when there is no sauce or too many ingredients vying for attention.

Let’s get on to the recipe then…and do share your feedback with me if you happen to try it out.

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 500 gm dried spaghettini
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 3 garlic cloves; crushed and finely chopped
  4. 1-2 long red chilli (less heat variety; use less or omit depending on heat preferences)
  5. 150gm baby spinach leaves
  6. ¼ cup basil; torn
  7. 150gm goat’s cheese
  8. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per packet instructions; drain (reserving ½ cup water) and keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the garlic and chillies; sauté on low heat for a minute.
  3. Then add the spinach leaves and cook on medium heat till just wilted.
  4. Add the cooked pasta with half of the reserved pasta water. Toss on high heat for about a minute.
  5. Remove from heat and fold in the basil and goat’s cheese
  6. Serve immediately.

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese - thespiceadventuress.com

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Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

We have a tradition that we follow for Adi’s birthday; it began 2 years back when he turned 7. We decided that instead of having a regular birthday party every year, we would try and do an activity/experience/travel etc…. something off our bucket list every alternate year.

So it all began with a helicopter ride for his 7th birthday, which I have written about here. And before we knew two years had passed by and this year, we decided to treat him to a hot air balloon ride!

There are quite a few Australian travel and tourism accounts that I follow on Instagram, and that’s how the idea of a hot air balloon ride took shape. I would often see breathtaking images of the balloons on these accounts, both floating around the cityscape and also the picturesque Yarra Valley so it was not long before we decided that this was the experience we wanted to enjoy as a family on his big day.

We didn’t have to spend much time researching the company we wanted to book the flight with. Safety was paramount, especially in the wake of the recent tragic balloon accident. So there was to be no shopping around or compromise. And hence ‘Global Ballooning Australia’.

Apart from being endorsed by the State tourism board, a quick look at their website is enough to understand why we went along with Global Ballooning. Safety and experience – that’s what you must look for and the company offers just that. Instead of me rambling on about their safety standards and experience, here is a link that you must check out if you are planning on a hot air balloon ride.

Global Ballooning offers rides in both Melbourne CBD and Yarra Valley. We chose to go with Yarra Valley, because we had already done the helicopter ride in the CBD and wanted a different view to experience. And Yarra is one of our favourite weekend destinations with its picturesque valleys and wineries, so we knew it was bound to be a breathtaking experience.

There are different packages to choose from and we chose the one with the ride and a champagne breakfast afterwards at Balgownie Estate. There are both private and public rides; ours was a public one which means we ride along with other passengers.

It’s always an early start in the morning, at least 2 hours before sunrise when you go hot air ballooning. And the real reason for that is not just to watch the sunrise but the air conditions are best at this time. Instead of driving from home at such an early hour, we decided to stay over at the Yarra Valley Grand Hotel, a vintage stay in the heart of Yarra. A budget friendly stay yet an amazing hotel with so much history and character.

After assembling at the Balgownie Estate, we were briefed by the staff about how we will go about the whole ride, a few safety instructions and other important information about ballooning in general. Then we boarded a vehicle that would take us to the property where we would be assembling the balloon and taking off. This can vary depending on the direction of the wind and where the pilot deems it best to take off.

A five minute drive after which we got to the property and before we began assembling, we were all briefed about the safety instructions. We then got to meet our pilot for the ride, who once again took us through safety procedures and instructions. And then we began to assemble….

I think the rest of our experience is best explained through photographs…..

The setting up process:

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Photograph Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

Up in the air we go….. (The next two photographs were taken by the camera that was attached to the balloon and can be bought from the company for a nominal fee).

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

The magic of a sunrise….

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

Breathtaking views all around!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Yering Station

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Our pilot Bryan…..so witty and charming!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

Time to land….

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Packing away the balloon!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

One last click before we say goodbye!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

Off to Balgownie Estate for an amazing breakfast (we were ravenous!)…

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

And before we leave, a bit of wine tasting at the Cellar Door…

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review

Located in the heart of the Yarra Valley, the Yarra Valley Grand Hotel is an iconic landmark building that opened its doors in 1888.

We decided to drop by for lunch at the in house restaurant and bar while on our recent trip to the Yarra Valley. Apart from the regular restaurant, the hotel also houses Herb’s backyard that serves gourmet pizzas and drinks. The hotel is also a hot spot for weddings and special events with special areas dedicated for the same.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Apart from the dining options, the Yarra Valley Grand is also a great place to stay over. The 4 star fully appointed rooms have still retained the old world charm yet equipped with the most modern facilities.

Stepping inside the Yarra Valley Grand transports you to a different era. In spite of all the hustle and bustle (the restaurant is packed especially on weekends), the space feels warm and inviting. The ambience is definitely old world charm yet with a contemporary touch.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The restaurant space is huge and spread across different areas. There’s plenty of seating yet it’s advisable to make a prior booking. Fortunately we were able to get a table within 10 minutes of walking in.

The menu at Yarra Valley Grand is modern Australian pub food. The menu is not extensive but you are likely to find something for everybody; also there are specials everyday which are based on seasonal produce.

We bought a selection of drinks including a single malt whisky, sparkling white, beer and lemon lime bitters. Nothing much to write about but there’s a good range of drinks including some great Yarra Valley wines.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

As I mentioned the restaurant was extremely busy and we were informed by the staff that there would be a bit of a delay for the food to arrive. But we decided to wait anyway. I think that was not a very wise decision as we had to wait 45 minutes. No complaints though as they did inform us the same.

We didn’t order any starters instead we opted for a salad – the crunchy Thai salad with crispy noodles, Thai chicken, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, herbs, cashews and nahm jim dressing. Perfectly well balanced flavours and textures and it was a delicious start to the meal.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

For mains, we had the Saltibocca – half roasted chicken, crispy pancetta, sage, potato gratin and sautéed spinach. The chicken was cooked perfectly and all the accompaniments complemented the chicken perfectly. Definitely recommended.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The second main we ordered was the Twice cooked pork belly – with son in law egg, chilli jam, creamy mash and tendrils. An absolute stunner of a dish; the pork was just melt in the mouth with a crispy layer and every single element on that plate was perfect. Definitely dish of the day!

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The third main we chose was from the special of the day – Grilled trout with Schezwan pepper and salad. The flavours were good, the fish was cooked well but not an outstanding dish in terms of flavour.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

And the final dish we ordered was the Porterhouse with chips, salad and a red wine jus. The only dish that disappointed us; the steak was a bit tough and chewy. It wasn’t a bad dish but not good either especially after we have had such amazing steak experiences at other places in Melbourne. So by comparison, we weren’t too happy with this one.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Overall, a great place to stop by for food or to stay over while visiting Yarra Valley. I am sure, we will definitely be going back…

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel

19 Bell Street,
Yarra Glen 3775

Phone: (03) 9730 1230
Website: http://www.yarravalleygrand.com.au/

Timings:
Monday – Sunday ~ 11.30am till late

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – All the food and drinks were paid for by my family.

October Favourites

October literally flashed by in the blink of an eye.

Since my parents are visiting me, the days go by super busy with a lot of travel that we do on weekends. There’s no particular routine at home and it all seems like an extended vacation to me.

Yarra Valley was one of our travel destinations in October. And unlike most visitors, we checked out the Yarra Valley Orchid Show instead of visiting the usual spots. My parents are such avid gardeners, especially fond of growing ornamental orchids at home. So this was something they were totally looking forward to, especially to pick up some gardening tips from the experts.

If you love orchids, then do check out the Orchid Societies of Victoria. The society has lots of registered clubs across Victoria and holds a lot of shows around the year. So it’s a small but great show to visit if you love orchids or want to learn more about growing these beauties.

Yarra Valley Orchid Show - thespiceadventuress.com

We also went fishing at the Australian Rainbow Trout Farm in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges. The farm specializes in Rainbow trout, Golden trout and Atlantic Salmon. It’s a great spot for a one day family picnic which includes the fishing experience, bbq pits, children’s playground, mini golf course etc…

I have been here before and you can read all about that experience here. We also caught all the different varieties of fish and I used the golden trout to recreate last year’s recipe again at the farm. Delicious and perfectly grilled, do try it out if you haven’t before.

Australian Rainbow Trout Farm - thespiceadventuress.com

I was quite surprised to see how popular Halloween has become in Australia. Personally, I do not celebrate it and quite frankly find it a bit weird. But given the nature of my work, I did create DIY Halloween themed pizzas for Stuff Mums Like. It was fun doing the project because I have finally nailed making pizza bases from scratch.

So do check out the post if you would like to attempt making pizzas at home, So much fun and way better for your health.

Halloween DIY pizzas - thespiceadventuress.com

Last week, I attended the Kids Business Bloggers Brunch at Encore St Kilda. A fantastic event with lots of brands to interact and meet up with. I have decided to collaborate with a few that I personally use and enjoy, so do watch out this space for more information.

One of the highlights of the event this year was the partnership with Ryobi. Barry Du Bois, star of The Living Room and Kerryn Carter, founder of Tool School were among the VIP guests for the day sharing their inspiring story which has highly motivating and moved many of us to tears.

Another highlight was the DIY workshop set up by Ryobi for all the attendees, where each one of us could make our own food/cheese/presentation board. We were taught how to use Ryobi power tools for sanding, drilling, driving etc…. to create our own board. I must agree that it did give me lots of confidence and I am seriously thinking of executing some DIY projects over the summer hols.

Ryobi power tools DIY workshop - thespiceadventuress.com

Have you started planning for your holiday parties?

I have. And even before the menu planning, I have the tablescape sorted this year with this stunning stoneware and pottery range from Salt & Pepper. I picked up pieces from the ‘Artefact’ and ‘Relic’ collection; both have a rustic yet contemporary feel which I totally love. And the duck egg blue and slate colour tones would go perfectly with the white Christmas theme I have in mind.

Salt and Pepper stoneware range - thespiceadventuress.com

And now other news from around the globe…

My love for travelling kicked in well and truly only after I had a baby; and I thoroughly enjoyed travelling the world with him. If you think travelling is difficult with a baby, then here is the expert talking.

Well, this has what Instagram has truly become!

Margatini, now that’s interesting.

A spicy old fashioned!

This shakshuka sounds more interesting than the original version.

Chicken chickpea curry; that’s a new combination for me.

I am not a huge avo lover but this coconut avocado lime soft serve seems perfect for summer.

This chai masala bundt cake looks simply awesome.

Dark chocolate tahini cups! Now that’s an equally delicious use for tahini as hummus.

 

Grilled Steak (with curry flavoured smoked sea salt) with Chimichurri Salsa and Fennel Salad (dressed with strawberry port wine vinaigrette)

Quite a mouthful title, isn’t it?

It had to be because today’s post is my dedication to the farmers and food and wine producers of the panoramic Yarra Valley.

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Travel, for me, is not about just visiting a destination. It is about the whole experience of discovering what that place has to be offer, albeit at a small level. It is about bringing back not just memories but also intimate knowledge about the culture, food and life of that region. So when I got this amazing opportunity to visit Yarra Valley as part of the regional food group tour, I bought back some incredible food products and wine using which I created today’s recipe.

From the Gateway Estate, I bought home this bottle of strawberry port wine which I used to make the salad dressing. I really wanted to bring back some dry aged steak but unfortunately travelling by public transport didn’t allow me that luxury.

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While walking around the regional farmer’s market at Yering Station, I came across the Smoke and Roast stall. Getting to hear about my fascination with spices and the like, the owner offered me a sample of their signature curry flavoured smoked sea salt which I have used in today’s recipe as the spice rub for my steak. I also bought a pack of their original smoked sea salt and this gorgeous looking salt container.

While I have used plenty of smoked sea salts before, I have never come across a curry flavoured one. Bang on flavour; totally recommend this one for your spice pantry.

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I also picked up a bottle of Yering Station ‘Old Beenak Road’ Shiraz 2013. A single vineyard wine, I could not have asked for a better pairing to my steak. It was rich yet velvety and smooth with the hint of ripe blackberry fruit and peppercorn spices. The wine tasting session did improve my knowledge and helped me pick a really good bottle.

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Our final stop in the journey was at the Locavore Studio from where I didn’t bring back a product but rather recipes and cooking skills. I learnt to cook the perfect steak and also picked up a great chimichurri salsa recipe, both of which are put to use today.

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Usually I photograph the food for the blog beforehand for optimal light conditions. But today, I am inviting you to our dinner table – no unwanted props or stylized food; this is how we eat whenever I make something special at home.

So come along on this delicious journey……

Ingredients:

For the fennel salad:

1. 2 cups mixed salad leaves
2. 1 fennel (white bulb); sliced lengthwise finely
3. 1 small red bell pepper; sliced lengthwise finely
4. 1 small red onion; sliced lengthwise finely
5. Fennel fronds; for garnish
6. For the vinaigrette:
• 4 tbsp strawberry port wine
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• Salt, to season
• Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Note – If you do not have strawberry port wine, use vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic or any other port wine. Orange juice is also a great one to experiment with.

For the chimichurri salsa:

1. 1 cup fresh continental parsley leaves; finely chopped
2. 1 cup fresh coriander; finely chopped
3. 3-4 fresh mint leaves; finely chopped
4. 1 garlic clove; crushed and finely chopped
5. 2 tbsp strawberry port wine (red wine vinegar can also be used)
6. ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
7. Salt, to season
8. Dried chilli flakes; a pinch (or more to suit your preferences)

For the steak:

1. 3 Scotch fillet steaks (the best quality you can buy)
2. Smoked curry flavoured sea salt rub
3. Olive oil
4. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Note – If you cannot get the smoked sea salt rub, use any spice rub of your choice or just salt and pepper.

Method:

To prepare the salad:

• Cut all the vegetables and place in a bowl. Refrigerate till serving time.
• To prepare the dressing, mix all the ingredients given under vinaigrette. Vigorously shake well to form an emulsion and keep aside.
• Dress the salad just before serving (remember to shake the vinaigrette again) and garnish with fennel fronds.

To prepare the chimichurri:

Combine the chopped leaves, garlic, port wine, olive oil, salt and chilli flakes. Taste and adjust balance if necessary. Refrigerate till serving time.

To prepare the steak:

• Heat the grill to smoking hot; most people make the mistake of not heating the grill enough so make sure its smoking hot.
• Crush the smoked sea salt lightly (the salt crystals were chunky).
• Rub olive oil onto both sides of the steak well and then rub the smoked sea salt all over the steak.
• Place the steak pieces on the grill lengthwise; after a minute turn the steak breadthwise on the same side to get the nice criss cross marks. Half a minute later, flip the steaks over and repeat the same (almost one minute each). This is an approximate time for a medium done steak.
• Remove and rest for 1-2 minutes before serving.

Note:
• If you prefer medium well, then place in the oven at 180°C for 2-3 minutes.
• Timings are always an approximate as the cooking times will vary according to the cut and quality of meat that you are using. So go by the feel of the meat and cook to your preferences.

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Yarra Valley – Unique Food and Wine Experiences

With the sun shining bright, it’s time to revisit Yarra Valley and talk about the unique food and wine experiences this beautiful region has to offer.

Most of you have read about my previous article on Yarra Valley and the amazing experience I had meeting several farmers and food producers of the region. If you haven’t, then I would strongly recommend reading that post as today’s article is a continuation of that.

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After we visited the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group Farmers’ Market, it was time to experience the glorious wines at Yering Station, Yarra Valley’s first vineyard. Established in 1838 by the Ryrie brothers who retained the aboriginal name of ‘Yering’ for their station; today, the property is owned by the Rathbone family who took over in 1996.

Yering Station is one of the breathtaking jewels of the Yarra Valley. A panoramic landscape that spreads over hectares, the property sits harmoniously amidst beautiful vineyards as far as eyes can see, a magnificent winery and restaurant complex which attracts locals, tourists and wine enthusiasts equally.

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Just strolling through the open expansive spaces of the station can be a beautiful experience. There are plenty of sculptures and art works installed; especially loved the stone works.

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The restaurant complex is another beautiful space where you can lunch with the most breathtaking view of the Yarra ranges. Though we couldn’t have lunch there, I would strongly recommend enjoying an idyllic but exquisite lunch matched with Yering’s award winning wines here.

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The Cellar Door is where all the wine tasting action happens. The original winery building has been beautifully restored showcasing the Yering wines in all its glory. Private tastings are available and the team at Yering is extremely knowledgeable and proud of their collection. Visitors can also make wine purchases; the adjoining produce store also stocks an array of handmade artisanal products like chocolates, preserves etc….

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Totally recommend a private wine tasting session which is a great way to sample the best Yering wines. Our wine expert for the day was the effervescent and very handsome Ewen Jarvis, who amused us with little anecdotes, all of which gave us a deeper understanding of wines. I love wines, but still a very beginner level so this tasting session helped me volumes to not only expand my knowledge but also to choose the perfect bottle of wine to bring back home.

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If all that wine tasting works up your appetite, then head upstairs to Matt’s Bar, an informal dining space where you can experience the best of the seasonal produce in the form of shared plates, tapas and sweet treats.

Yering Station:

38 Melba Hwy Yarra Glen 3775
Victoria, Australia

Phone no: +61 3 9730 0100

Monday-Friday
10:00am-5:00pm
Weekends & Public Holidays
10:00am-6:00pm

Website: http://www.yering.com

Restaurant & Bar:

Open 7 days from 12.00noon for a la carte lunches
Open all public holidays
Closed Christmas Day

Cellar Door

Monday to Friday from 10.00am to 5.00pm
Saturday and Sunday from 10.00am to 6.00pm
Phone no: +61 (0) 3 9730 0100

Matt’s Bar

Open Saturday and Sunday from 10am
Menu changes daily
Bookings not available
Available for lunch functions

Now, there is a reason why we didn’t dine at the Yering Station. We were off to indulge in some hands-on cooking at Locavore Studio, courtesy Yarra Valley Transfers.

Locavore Studio is the brain child of Chef Jessie Rae Crossley, who after years of travelling and cooking on Super Yachts of the rich and famous in Melbourne, London and France has finally set up her own space in Lilydale.

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Locavore Studio is one of the best cooking schools I have seen in a long time. A beautifully set up space with individual work stations, it has an extremely professional yet inviting feel to it. Jessie’s love, passion and knowledge about food comes through immediately and her enthusiasm is really infectious.

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Jessie welcomed us with champagne and after a lot of admiring of her space, we all settled down to the class where she demonstrated 4 simple, easy to make dishes using the freshest produce Yarra has to offer. Here is what we learnt;

Yarra Valley Chilli Linguini with ashed goats cheese, Buxton Trout and capers. The beauty of Yarra Valley produce shines through in this dish; delicious swirls of linguine with just a hint of chilli generously flavoured with the smoky creaminess from the goat's cheese, flaky smoked trout rounded off by the saltiness from the capers.

Yarra Valley Chilli Linguini with ashed goats cheese, Buxton Trout and capers. The beauty of Yarra Valley produce shines through in this dish; delicious swirls of linguine with just a hint of chilli generously flavoured with the smoky creaminess from the goat’s cheese, flaky smoked trout rounded off by the saltiness from the capers.

Dry Aged Steak with Chimichurri Salsa. The dry aged steak from Gateway Estate is just melt-in-your-mouth and pairs brilliantly with the herby and refreshing flavours of the chimichurri salsa.

Dry Aged Steak with Chimichurri Salsa. The dry aged steak from Gateway Estate is just melt-in-your-mouth and pairs brilliantly with the herby and refreshing flavours of the chimichurri salsa.

A simple micro herb salad

A simple micro herb salad

Oregano and Garlic Foccacia

Oregano and Garlic Foccacia

Strawberry and stroopwafels trifle. Delicious stroopwafels from the regional farmer's market  with fresh Yarra valley strawberries and cream....the colour in that glass says it all.

Strawberry and stroopwafels trifle. Delicious stroopwafels from the regional farmer’s market with fresh Yarra valley strawberries and cream….the colour in that glass says it all.

The most distinctive feature of Locavore Studio is that after Jessie demonstrates how to make each dish, we also get a chance to cook the dish ourselves at a cooking station. For someone who loves to cook and learn new styles of cooking, I found this extremely appealing. And the highlight for me was learning to cook the steak perfectly.

Since there were four dishes, we were divided into groups and I paired with ‘The World Loves Melbourne’ to prepare the dry aged steak with chimichurri salsa. It was a whole lot of fun and laughter…..

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After all of us prepared the dishes, it was time to sit down at this beautifully arranged rustic wooden table and enjoy all the dishes that we had made amidst a lot of fun and talk.

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Jessie teaches a wide range of cooking classes; being a professional chef, she can easily customize a class to your specific needs or you can choose one from her most popular ones like Mexican street food or Spanish tapas. Apart from this, Locavore Studio also specializes in catering for all kinds of events and also takeaway meals. Indeed a beautiful way for anyone to experience the fresh and vibrant produce of the Yarra.

At the Locavore Studio, we also got an opportunity to meet Martin Cheney from the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group and discuss the importance of regional markets and the necessity to utilize and purchase locally grown food for a healthier society.

Locavore Studio

12 William Street East
Lilydale, Victoria

Phone no: 0400284949

Website: https://www.locavore-studio.com/

For more information to plan your trip, visit http://www.visityarravalley.com.au/ and http://www.yarravalleyfood.com.au/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yarravalleyregionalfoodgroup and https://www.facebook.com/YarraValleyandTheDandenongs

Instagram: https://instagram.com/yarra_valley/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/yarravalley

Yarra Valley – Meet the Farmers and Food Producers

Most of you would have seen the tons of pictures that I posted on my social media channels from my recent trip to the Yarra Valley. So be prepared for a long picture heavy post today.

I was incredibly lucky to be invited by Yarra Ranges Tourism to be part of their Regional food group tour and explore the Farmer’s market and local produce grown in the region. Since there was plenty we did that day, I am going to write about this over two segments. In today’s post, I will introduce you to the many food producers and farmers of the region and what to expect at the regional farmer’s market and in the next post, I will take you on a trip to the Yering Station private wine tastings and a beautiful cooking experience at the Locavore Studio.

Our day began with a quick coffee and personal introductions at a quaint little café in Lilydale. Our travel host for the trip was the very enthusiastic Orson Koch, from Yarra Valley Transfers. Apart from offering luxury coaches and bus charter services, the company also offers food and wine tours, events assistance, wedding transfers etc….. I totally recommend using a service like this when visiting the Yarra Valley especially if you are a newbie to the region or would like to enjoy a unique, customized travel experience of the region.

Photograph Courtesy - Yarra Valley Transfers

Photograph Courtesy – Yarra Valley Transfers

Orson was a delightful companion who knew almost everyone personally in and around the region so we were privy to loads of insider information and unique experiences which might be otherwise missed if we were to travel just on our own. And what more, he even had an esky ready in the boot for all the ‘fresh produce’ shopping….

Our first visit was to the Gateway Estate Farms. Located at 667 Maroondah Hwy, the Gateway Estate is one of the best places in the Yarra to experience and sample regional produce. We visited the high tech hydroponic green house (about 5000 square metres) where strawberries, capsicums and basil are grown in tons. The sight was breaktaking and the session informative.

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We met Brett Spurling, who took us on a tour of the greenhouse explaining about the benefits of the zero waste closed loop irrigation system and how it can enable large scale farming using a fraction of the water and fertilizers than required in an open field farming system.

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A unique wire system to grow capsicums

A unique wire system to grow capsicums

Pots and pots of basil....

Pots and pots of basil….

The farm produces about 7 tons of ripe, red strawberries annually and one of the highlights is you can visit the farm during the berry picking season and indulge in this fun activity with your little ones. (I have already begun to plan a small holiday with my son to the farm to get our hands on some juicy, red strawberries straight from the ground). Get more details here, if you would like to plan the same.

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

A teeny weeny one just came out to pose for me!

A teeny weeny one just came out to pose for me!

At the Gateway Estate, you can also shop for the freshest produce, all grown in the local farms in and around the Yarra region. The season’s best is always on offer so make sure you have plenty of boot space to bring home an array of fresh vegetables, fruits, berries and herbs.

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The in store farm gate is also stocked with a range of dried herbs, spices and blends, chutneys, dips, relishes and homemade jams. Totally recommend the capsicum relish made from those grown in the green house, it was absolutely delicious.

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The Gateway is also home to a small Angus cattle herd which means that you can also source some great quality free-range dry aged beef. Apart from all the regular cuts, you can also pick up home made sausages, pies and lasagne, all prepared using the in house beef and fresh local produce.

It’s not just fresh produce that you can buy at The Gateway but also wines and liquers. There are a few Estate produced Pinot Noirs and Shiraz but what really caught my fancy is the strawberry liqueur, port and cream. Ask for tastings and especially ask for the ‘strawberry shot cake.’ I came home with a bottle of strawberry port which I have been saving to use in a dish.

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The Strawberry Shot Cake

The Strawberry Shot Cake

And if all the strawberry picking and shopping has tired you out, make sure to stretch your legs in the quaint little café inside the Estate. I had a really good cappuccino made from locally roasted beans and the best egg, cheese, bacon toast with capsicum relish. And I really mean the ‘best’ part!

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Our next visit was to the Regional Food Group Farmer’s Market at Yering Station. Iconic and one of the oldest farmer’s market in Victoria, this one has grown leaps and bounds since its inception in 1999. The Regional food group farmer’s market is held on the third Sunday every month inside a rustic farmhouse style barn on the scenic Yering Station grounds and is the best way for visitors to sample and purchase the best produce that Yarra has to offer.

Yering Station

Yering Station

There cannot be a better way to interact with the farmers and regional food producers; a brilliant system that allows one to sample and purchase the finest food and wine this region has to offer.

Here is a pictorial guide of just ‘some’ of the sights from the Farmer’s market;

Big pots of vibrant and delicious paella on offer from Lady Paella. Apart from the seafood version, there is a vegetarian option (the first time I am seeing one!) with a whole lot of veggies, herbs, eggplants and currants. Moreover, these were also gluten, dairy and egg free.

paella

How beautiful does this plaited garlic look? Make sure to pick up a bunch from the goregous Norma of Sure Things Garlic.

garlic

Or maybe you would like to stock a couple of bottles of Giverny Estate Kiwi Fruit Sparling Cider; would be perfect for the summer.

kiwi fruit cider

How about some delicious jams from Jam Lady Jam? I especially liked the spiced Syrian fig jam……

jam

Perhaps some ginger cordial……and the lovely lady behind it tells me that it is an award winning one!

ginger cordial

These guys do such wonderful stuff with meringues; no wonder their company is called Unforgettable Products. I came home with a pack of meringue bites and a meringue lollipop for my son….

meringues

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And how will The Spice Adventuress come home without any spice blends in her shopping basket. Look what I found….curry flavoured smoked sea salt from Smoke and Roast.

smoke and roast

For more information on visiting Yarra Valley, to plan a tour or to stay informed of current and future events; visit http://www.visityarravalley.com.au and http://www.yarravalleyfood.com.au

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yarravalleyregionalfoodgroup https://www.facebook.com/YarraValleyandTheDandenongs

Twitter: @yarra_valley

IG: @yarra_valley

Disclaimer – As mentioned, I was invited to an all expense paid trip to the Yarra Valley but all the photographs and opinions are solely mine.

Warm Summer Pasta with tomatoes, olives and salami

I am a late ‘wine bloomer’ being introduced to it in the right way only in my late 20s. Till then, my only experience of wine was the occasional glass of homemade ones my mum used to prepare annually in time for Christmas.

But living in India, it was not easy to experience wines on a frequent basis. Good wines are hard to come by and cost through the roof so wine-drinking was a very occasional affair exclusively reserved for special occasions. But thanks to friends living abroad, a good bottle of wine often made its way to our table which we would guardedly use making sure that we paired it with the right kind of meal and ambience.

Aussies are big on wine (but then they are big on beer, cider…basically big drinkers anyway!) and this is the best place to experience wine from across the globe, without having to burn a hole in our pockets.

With both of us having a real interest in wines, we began to experiment and learn more about it, in our own small way. We are no wine connoisseurs, but we are definitely beginning to understand and appreciate our bottles better.

One of the better known Australian wine brands is the De Bortoli Wines. And when I received a discount voucher, it was the best time to put these wines to the test.

We got two bottles, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz. The wines arrived carefully packaged along with a copy of the 2015 De Bortoli food and wine calendar. The calendar got my attention immediately with a bunch of amazing recipes paired perfectly with a De Bortoli wine. It is a beautiful calendar with amazing rustic food photography, notes on the De Bortoli family, information about wines and recipes. A well-thought of and put together calendar…..

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Today’s warm summer pasta recipe comes from this calendar and we paired it with the 2012 Windy Park Chardonnay from Yarra Valley.

This is a simple and classic Italian recipe; just perfect for the warm, humid summers of Melbourne. Not one of those sauce laden, heavy dishes, this warm summer pasta incorporates fresh tomatoes, olives, garlic, herbs, sun dried tomatoes and spicy salami.

It’s quick and easy to prepare; slightly cook the ingredients with some good quality olive oil and toss the tagliatelle through it. Ready in minutes and a boon for days when you don’t want to slave away in the kitchen heat, especially during this festive season.

I really cannot describe wines in the flowery wine language but I can say so much – this one was medium-bodied with fruity, floral notes. And it paired beautifully with this warm summer pasta.

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So, with wine or not, this warm summer pasta is a great family dish and so simple, that you must try it for sure;

Original recipe by Leanne De Bortoli

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Ingredients:

1. 500 gm tagliatelle (or any ribbon-type pasta)
2. 5 ripe, red tomatoes; peeled and chopped
3. 8 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
4. 60gm black olives, pitted
5. 10 slices spicy salami, cut into strips
6. 2 tbsp olive oil
7. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
8. 2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
9. 3 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
10. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
11. Parmesan cheese, grated
12. Salt, to season
13. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Method:

(Slightly altered from original)

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water till al dente or according to packet instructions. Drain and keep aside, reserving ½ cup of the water.
2. In a deep pan, heat olive oil and sauté the salami strips for a minute or two.
3. Add the fresh tomatoes and garlic and sauté on high for one more minute or till the tomatoes are slightly mushy.
4. Add the sun dried tomatoes, sage, olives and balsamic vinegar; mix well and immediately add the drained pasta.
5. Season with salt, black pepper.
6. If the dish feels a bit dry, add a few spoons of the reserved water to loosen it up.
7. Remove from heat and add the basil and Parmesan; toss well to combine.
8. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese.
9. Enjoy with a glass of wine and your loved ones!

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Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post; I received a discount voucher for De Bortoli wines at a blogging conference but paid the rest from my own pocket. All the opinions expressed are mine.

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