|Season Restaurant Noosa on the Beach, where we had a lovely dinner together the night before the cook off|
Up early for the second day of the tour, I shot off down to the beach again to people watch and shoot a few decor pics. My favourite homewares store in Noosa was closed when we left Noosa in the morning and closed when we got back at night, so unfortunately, I never did see inside. Next time Beach Dwellers and there will be a next time. I instagramed a shot of the store to Facebook and my mum commented she had walked through the door to that store, many many times over the last 20 years. Me too, and I want to get back in there some day soon, as they always have so many fabulous pieces.
|Our entre of Duck and Mushroom Dumplings in broth with Shiitake Mushrooms and Duck Skin Garnish|
After a big breakfast we jumped aboard our transport and headed up into the hills to SJW Mushroom Farm in Woodford for a tour and lunch. We were booked in to have a beautiful mushroom inspired meal cooked by our judges for the following days cook off, Sammy and Bella of My Kitchen Rules fame. After a tour of the farm, we were handed a glass of Moet and invited to take a seat. I had to pass on the champagne, as I am not one to start drinking at 11am in the morning. God knows where it would have ended up if I'd started that early.
|A Main Course of Mushroom and Mussel Egg Nest Salad with Braised Pork Belly and a Caramelised Jus|
The tables were beautifully laid and I loved the floral centre pieces with mushrooms on skewers to accent the lovely food. This would be a fabulous idea with a strawberry or another fruit or vegetable theme too.
|Forest Floor Dessert: Chocolate Mushroom Dirt with Meringue Mushrooms and Ginger Creme Garnished with Native Violets|
It was the coldest day of the year so far, in this part of Queensland and I was completely under dressed for the chilly wind. But I slid out of there with a warm glow after some fantastic food and conversation, with a really interesting bunch of food lovers. Sammy turned to me as I was leaving and asked, "Are you nervous about tomorrow?" I said "No, it's in the lap of the Gods", which was true at the time. I was however, beginning to think if this kind of food is the standard, I am toast.
Up again early the next morning, packed and on the road by 7.45am, this was the day, that a year long competition was going to be over. I still felt very little tension, which was because I knew I couldn't change much now.
I had a lovely chat on the 40 minute drive up to Spicers Tamarind Resort to UK Gourmet Garden winner, Filipa from Gourmet Mum. She is a very nice and well grounded girl and I can see why she is now also the international winner. She writes the UK Gourmet Garden Newsletter each month, as part of her Ambassadorship role. I told her if it was up to me, I'd employ her too as she's a terrific girl. She didn't believe me when I told her my age. Even though it was dark at dinner, it made me like her even more.
As we walked into the resort cooking school, I was thinking just one thing.
I didn't want to cook off in the first group. But as luck would have it, I saw my ingredients all laid out and ready to go. Nothing like getting it over with I guess.
There was a bit of confusion about prep time verses cooking time, but either way I ended up having way too much time to cook my dish. My strategy was to do a family meal, which someone could just about do with their eyes closed, because as was explained to us by Nick White Gourmet Garden CEO, the product is not trying to replace fresh herbs and spices, but is an alternative to them. It's about the convenience of time poor cooks going to the fridge and being able to add flavour and a bit of zing to their cooking, without having to plan much in advance.
I decided to cook Ginger Chicken with Lemon Grass, Almonds and Snow Peas It's an easy dish, which is low in fat, full of nutrients and something the entire family can enjoy together.
Ginger Chicken with Lemon Grass, Almonds and Snow Peas
400g (4) Chicken thigh fillets trimmed of fat
1 onion diced
2 tablespoons Peanut oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry or Chinese Cooking wine
3/4 cup Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon corn flour
3 tablespoons Gourmet Garden Garlic
3 tablespoons Gourmet Garden Ginger
2 tablespoons Gourmet Garden Lemon Grass
200g snow peas topped and tailed
100g Slivered Almonds toasted
1 green onion finely sliced diagonally to garnish
1 long red chill deseeded and finely chopped to garnish
Heat oil over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of Gourmet Garden garlic and 1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden ginger. Stir to combine.
Add Chicken in batches. Brown and set aside in a bowl.
Make the sauce by combing the soy sauce, sherry, chicken stock and cornflour. Whisk to combine and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, add the remaining garlic and ginger and the lemon grass and fry onion until soft.
Add the snow peas, almonds and sauce mixture. Stir for a minute or so, over a high heat so the sauce thickens.
Toss cooked chicken through the sauce.
Serve immediately over rice cooked in chicken stock
Garnish with green onion and chilli
The verdict was that the chicken was moist, the snow peas were crisp, the herbs came through (an important factor in this competition), and the presentation in a shell was great, but Sammy would have liked to see something a little more complex for the final of a cooking competition than, a stir fry. Fair enough too. What this wonderful experience has shown me, is that I do need to get out there and push myself much much more. I am a good home style cook, but the whole scene has moved on big time since I was really interested in cooking to impress. I am now inspired to do much better and looking at some of the other competition dishes there is a wonderful world of cooking out there to discover and inspire. Check these out.
|Lisa's Herbed Risotto with Scallops and a Chorizo Crumb and Amanda's Fish Balls in Asian Broth|
|Jae's Steamed Ginger Pudding with a Lemon Grass Syrup and Ginger Cream|
|L to R Margan's Barramundi with Herbed Hollandaise Sauce and Curly chips|
Filipa's Piri Piri Chicken with Herbed Sweet Potato Chips
Tam's Herbed Raviolli with Roast Pumkin
Anne's Thyme, Ginger and Pear Pudding with Ginger Creme and a Walnut Praline
Apologies to the contests whose food I didn't get to photograph.
Sammy and Bella said they would be happy to eat any of the dishes in a restaurant, which was very kind. But there can only be one winner.
Drum Roll please
The winner, Laney from Crash Test Mummy.
The judges said Laney chose a dish which home cooks would be able to master and each element to the dish was beautifully executed. They loved that she used pancetta instead of pastry to encase the quiche. All the other parts of her dish made good use of the herbs and it was beautifully presented.
Congratulations to Laney, whom I think will make a terrific Ambassador for the company.
|Pancetta Herb and Garlic Quiche with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and a Basil Salsa|
So that's it from me today Beach Dwellers. I have been treated to an amazing experience and I would like to thank Gourmet Garden Herbs and Spices for supporting bloggers in this way. It is unusual that a brand puts so much into running a competition. I am so very glad I participated and am very grateful for the fabulous time we were shown.
Thank you.Today I am linked up here
Inspire Me Tuesday
Take a Look Tuesday
Wow Us Wednesday
Thriving on Thursday
Feathered Nest Friday
With Some Grace
Show and Tell Friday
Chic on a Shoe String
Weekend Wrap Up
Chef in Training