Monday, May 20, 2013

Ginger Chicken with Lemon Grass, Almonds and Snow Peas and The Gourmet Garden Cook Off Final

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
Coastal Charm
Metamorphosis Monday
Essentially Jess
Inspire Me Tuesday
Take a Look Tuesday
Wow Us Wednesday
Thriving on Thursday
Transformation Thursday
Feathered Nest Friday
With Some Grace
Show and Tell Friday
Foodie Friday
Chic on a Shoe String
Weekend Wrap Up
Sunday Showcase
Chef in Training


  1. Those dishes look so delish...

  2. I think your dish looked delish!!!! What a great day it was.... Even if it was freezing on day 2!!!!

  3. Well done! Your dish looked gorgeous in the shell. I'll be serving that one up soon. Noosa hey? Tough way to compete... Lovely photos Carolyn, as always :)

  4. I think you did really well. I would have been a nervous wreck. Yes, cooking standards seem to be ever on the rise and I myself seem to find myself forever scrambling just to keep up. Well done on a fantastic effort and I love your presentation with the shell! xx

  5. Your photos are fantastic Carolyn. A great post. It was a great opportunity. I haven't been to that many brand for blogger type functions before but I think Gourmet Garden had a wonderful idea getting bloggers together like this. It was very generous of them and we were truly spoilt. You are definitely the hostess with the mostess and I'd happily eat your Ginger Chicken, shell and all, anytime!

    Anne xx

  6. How did the judges ever make up their minds?! So much to say about this post! You did a fantastic job on your dish! Loved seeing some of the dishes in the competition. Can't wait for a tour of the Signature on Hastings shop. The photo of the day-the beach shot of the three (hunky) men walking.

  7. Replies
    1. They were older guys rocking those cozzies alright. Imagine handing out with you mates in Noosa every morning. Heaven.

  8. Lovely to see some pics - heard so much about this event!

  9. Oh my, how fun and so many wonderful dishes to taste. Love your and such fabulous pictures too. Thanks tons for joining Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  10. What an experience to have! The food all looks so yummy too. I would love to see mushrooms growing like that. #teamIBOT

  11. Oh yummo - my mouth is watering!

  12. Another great wrap up Carolyn. Disappointed that I didn't get to taste your chicken - it sounds like a meal my whole family would enjoy. Hope it's not too long between catch ups. Amanda xx

  13. Fantastic photos! Drool.
    Oh how I LOVE Noosa.
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  14. Congratulations on getting to the finals and being able to enjoy the whole experience. I would have crumbled under the pressure of cooking for the judges.

    1. Thanks Di

      It was a good exercise in holding it all together.

  15. Well done on getting to Noosa in the first place! Your dish looks amazing!

  16. Loved seeing all the IG pics from the day, and this post has just complemented them!
    Good on you for even giving it a go I think! I would be useless at something like this

  17. What an awesome experience, your dish sounds great and I am going to whip one up!

  18. Oh I feel so proud of you... how daft is that. Well done you, I only ever aspire to be a simple cook but am dead keen to eat as well as possible so will stick by your side and eat what you cook. What an amazing event, well done Gourmet Garden for working SO WELL with bloggers.

    1. Ah thanks S, I can always relay on you to be the nice person that you are.

  19. Thanks girls for all your lovely words. There's nothing like being in it to win it and I think all involved were winners, because it was so much fun and has inspired me so much.

  20. What a fantastic post Carolyn - a great summary! And to think you were just minutes from my parents, they live near Woodford, not far from Maleny. Your dishes looked fab and I will be sure to pass them on to my mum, who is a chef (a shame I didn't inherit her skills!)
    Em x

  21. Hi Carolyn your dish looked great I am going to try that some time next week so a big thanks for giving me something new to try.Ps you are looking really well have you lost more weight recently cause you certainly look fit and happy .-love dee

    1. I think I put some on in Noosa but I am back to healthy sustainable eating and cutting out the booze this week. Thanks Dee for your kind words. Don't forget I never print the horrible shots of me. Believe me there are quite a few.

  22. Really enjoyed reading about the Gourmet Garden experience. I am impressed by your ability to assess the situation, make mental notes for the future and then move on. A lot of us could learn from that healthy, balanced approach. Glad you had a good time at the Sunshine Coast!

    1. Thanks V
      What's the point of holding onto it? I was not good enough on the day, but I try to draw on the positives and they were so much more than not winning the cook off.


  23. Wow! It looks like you are having a great time. The food looks fantastic.

  24. Hi Carolyn, this is a fantastic post! Really setting the scene for the final cook off. We are so very excited you enjoyed yourself and loved getting to know everyone over the three days. Good luck with your blogging future!

  25. looks like a lovely time with amazing food!

  26. I was dying to hear all about how it went so thanks for the detailed recap Carolyn! :D Congratulations to Laney! Everyone's dishes looked so good.

    1. Thanks Lorraine
      The food really was fantastic. As you are aware, there are so many good home cooks out there.

  27. It looks like everyone presented such beautiful dishes! Congratulations on making it there Carolyn, your dish is amazing :)

  28. Yay Carolyn! Was rooting for you, and your dish looks delicious! Can't wait to see what you dish up next

  29. Well done you on going so far and what an awesome experience to have. That stirfry looks divine ... actually all the food does. How did you not put on 10kgs lol xx

  30. What an awesome experience. I love the shell! All the food looks amazing, and your photos are great! I would love for you to share your post at our Photog Show and Tell link party.

    Have a lovely day :)

  31. congratulations on reaching the finals, it must have been a lot of fun!

  32. I love the idea of serving food in shells x


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