She really is as lovely as she is on tv. Maggie Beer, I mean. And her food really does taste as good as it looks too.
Now that I've finally recuperated after my whirlwind, gluttonous weekend in the Barossa Valley, I can look back on my trip with hindsight and finally put my thousands of thoughts into words. Because, to be honest, it took me awhile to get over the fact that Steph and I actually won something, let alone a weekend away to South Australia and lunch with Maggie. Now that I actually believe it happened, I can tell you all what I learnt, what I drank and more importantly what I ate.
The trip started with a visit to the Miele kitchens in Adelaide, where we had a lengthy and enjoyable cooking lesson with Maggie herself. This was an awesome suprise because we didn't know she would be cooking for us, let alone teaching us. We got insider info on how to make the perfect pastry (sour cream is involved), how to choose the best fish for sashimi, how to make sure chook legs don't burn when roasting a whole bird (tuck them under the breasts - that sounds...suspicious but really does make sense), why we should store nuts in the fridge and always roast them before cooking with and other little tricks that I'm not going to tell you, because I gotta keep some things in the vault.
Above all I learnt one really important lesson from Maggie: fat is flavour. I've been avoiding this conclusion for a long time now, but I now swallow my pride and admit that adding a knob of butter or a lashing of olive oil to any dish really does make it taste so much...better. And, as Maggie proudly declared to us, she had just had a check up from the doctors and is fighting fit despite what her cooking may lead us to believe. Sing it sista.
For the entree we had: Kingfish sashimi with Umeboshi, vino cotto, extra-virgin olive oil and chives and a wholemeal walnut roll.
The kingfish was amazing. Absolutely amazing, the soft fish literally melted in your mouth. Umeboshi is a salty Japanese plum and Maggie created a beautifully contrasting relish-like salsa to serve ontop of the sashimi which added a delicious bite.
Main: Roasted quince glazed quail served with a morello cherry and herb stuffing, served with creamy polenta, cavolo nero and quince, and a huge witlof and radiccio salad
I had never eaten quail before this meal and had always wanted to try it. Initially I felt like I was doing something wrong eating poultry that was still pink inside but I then understand why - the meat was so tender and juicy. And please, don't even get me started on the stuffing. The quince glaze added a nice sweetness to the flesh and the polenta was cooked to perfection - oozy and decadent and with no cheese added I could fully appreciate the flavour of the polenta itself. The witlof salad added a much appreciated freshness to the meal. Such a bitter leaf is a taste that needs getting used to but I absolutely love it.
Dessert: Almond frangipane tart with corella pears on a sourcream pastry crust with Maggies vanilla bean icecream
Yum. Fingerlickingly yum. And so easy to make especially with the sour cream pastry base.
After the meal ended we got driven out of Adelaide and into the stunning green hills of the Barossa Valley. After a much needed food induced nap (or coma, in my case) at our hotel, Steph and I went up to the bar to enjoy some local wines, because hey, when in Rome...
The next day and slightly hungover, we explored the culinary delights the Barossa has to offer. Our trip was timed perfectly, as it was the annual Barossa Gourmet Weekend when local specialty stores offer numerous tastings and the never ending wineries put on events with live music and lots of free wine.
We started our day at the Barossa Farmers Market where Steph and I ate way too much pistachio fudge, goats milk brie, chili chocolate buds, olive tapenade, and air dried fruit from a very enthusiastic farmer who was a little bit crazy about his ambition to conquer the culinary world one dried apricot at a time (granted, fruit dried in this way is insanely tasty). The whole shed was full of locals keen to share their wisdom, opinions and thoughts about the beautiful produce of the Barossa Valley.
The best thing I saw was an olive oil stall run by a rugged, grey bearded man who, while the rest of the market busily buzzed around him, played his slide guitar quietly to himself, not wanting to draw any attention. Fortunately I didn't miss the sight of him. There was even a women painting a still life painting of a bowl of pears. Yes, Pears. Ah I felt so at home amongst these slightly manic food types.
The next stop was the Barossa Valley Cheese Co shop, where we tasted some of the delicious soft cheeses on offer. I love cheese, so much, and the only thing holding me back from buying the whole cabinet was the fact I wouldn't be able to refridgerate the wheels of goodness until the next day.
Out of the numerous wineries in the Barossa, Maggie had recommended we visit Whistler Wines. When we arrived there was a bunch of dapper old men in matching red and white striped suits playing some big band tunes in front of an audience perched around outdoor tables next to smoking fires. It was all very quaint! Steph and I being vineyard virgins were so excited at the prospect of free wine tastings that we may have committed a major winey faux pas; instead of taking a tiny sip and appreciating the subtle flavours of each wine and then pouring the rest of the glass away, we happily guzzled each sample.
Our pride broken but our enthusiasm spurred, we continued to taste a variety of reds and whites and as a result of this I am now an avid rosé drinker! I bought a beautiful bottle of the Whistler rosé which I am waiting to chill and crack open on a steaming summers day. Unfortunately for my pocket I also learnt a valuable life lesson during our winery experience: expensive wines do taste so so much better.
Last stop was at Maggie Beer's Farm Shop. The place to buy all of her extensive food products, grab something to eat for lunch and have a free cooking class in the kitchen for where The Cook and The Chef series was filmed.
We were lucky enough to have lunch in the kitchen itself, and got to sample the delights of a delicious little Farm Shop picnic basket - porcini mushroom and verjuice pate with gruth cheese, freekah salad and wood oven bread.
The porcini pate was silky and smooth and just really really delicious. The gruth cheese was slightly tart and was delicious dolloped on top. The freekah salad had little bits of preserved lemon, herbs and I think sweet chutney through it. I want the recipe because I could eat that day after day.
Steph had the roasted red pepper pate which was equally as delectable. When does it stop, you ask?!
Alas, it stopped at dessert; a lemon curd tart with clotted cream. The perfect ending to a perfect, tummy filling, giggly, educational and amazingly surreal weekend.
For more info on:
Maggie Beer: http://www.maggiebeer.com.au/
The Barossa Valley: http://www.barossa.com/
Whistler Wines: http://www.whistlerwines.com/
Novotel Barossa: http://www.novotelbarossa.com/
Barossa Farmers Market: http://www.barossafarmersmarket.com/home/
Barossa Valley Cheese Co: http://www.barossacheese.com.au/