Since starting this blog a couple of years ago, I’m quite surpised at how far I’ve come, and how much I have learnt, all through the process of trial and error. I always strive for something better, new ideas, and inspiration. I don’t have a studio, or special lights, or a set of props, each place I cook in I use what is available to me, look for the best natural light and battle it out with the flies. Being on the road has been very beneficial, as I am constantly meeting new people, discovering new produce and being introduced to new opportunities. I’ve come to realise that there is no point in planning or worrying too much about what the future holds, or whether I am making the right decisions. Everything folds out the way it is meant to. And luckily enough for me, lately, it’s been folding out pretty nicely.
Opportunities have been popping up left, right and centre, from being part of the upcoming annual Darwin Banana Festival this weekend, where I have been hired as a ‘banana stylist’, to writing recipes and styling shots for a new Australian foodie mag, and, to the point of this blog post; my entry into a competition to win a trip to discover and document, the food, culture and experience of Sri Lanka.
I’m so grateful to all of my supporting friends, who are constantly letting me know of little competitions and advertisements they see on social media, that they think I might be interested in. I would have missed half of them, including this competition, if it wasn’t for them. It’s such a lovely feeling, getting older, and realising how lucky I am to have these beautiful, supportive, creative and genuine people in my life.
Regardless of whether I win a position in the Sri Lanka trip, it’s been a fantastic experience completing the entry. As with each blog post I do, I try to push myself for a new angle, and this one really got me out of my comfort zone. If you told me ten years ago that I would have the confidence to ask a bunch of near strangers (except you Mel), to sit on the beach and share a meal while I take photos of them, I would have said, no way! But, despite the very unfortunately times spurt of rain, everything went perfectly and we had a great time, not to mention the delicious food! It gives me confidence, and makes me excited, to know that, unlike my first trip overseas five years ago (where I was too shy), I will be able to photograph more and speak to the locals more about their traditions, culture, recipes, ingredients, etc.
I’ve included my short essays here that were part of the application. It was so hard to stay within the word limits!
Also, if you have a spare couple of minutes and would like to nominate my blog in the upcoming Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards, it would be hugely appreciated, if you think it deserves a nomination that is! http://www.saveur.com/article/contests/blog-awards-2015-nominate
Competition entry essays:
The Story Behind the recipe.
After a month in central Columbia, I was full to the brim with carbohydrate laden meals of rice, beans, potatoes, bread and meat. Thank goodness for the obligatory bowl of Aji on every table at even the smallest of roadside eateries, I drenched all my meals in this delicious homemade chilli salsa. I was itching to get to the coast.
So, with one last bowl of steaming, chicken feet soup at the bus station, we were on our way to Quito and then to a tiny coastal town called Canoa. We knew nothing about the place apart from the fact that it was a small surf town, famous for it’s slow paced, relaxed vibe.
After a rough overnight bus trip from Quito, we were finally approaching the coast. Morning rituals were getting underway, people riding to work, roadside stalls selling delicious treats and smiling school kids jumping on and off our bus.
We were exhausted, and starving, by the time we arrived in the main street of Canoa (a dirt road running the length of the beach). The beach was lined with little food shacks, shaded by Coco-Cola and Pilsner tarps. Each had a blackboard touting Ceviche, which we knew very little about. As far as I knew, maybe, it was some form of raw fish dish. But, as we had experienced so far on our trip, anything could be eaten at breakfast time, and we were too hungry to care. So, we picked one shack at random and sat down at the plastic table on the sand. Without having to order anything, we were brought two bowls of ceviche and some fried plantain. With a squeeze of fresh lime, and a tad of hesitation, we dug in. WOW! What a fresh and flavoursome bowl of food we had in front of us. The fish so soft and the lime so tangy, paired with a kick from some chilli sauce and the crunchy plantain chips. What a dish!
After that, we ate it at least twice a day for the week that we were there, but, as hard as we tried, we just couldn’t find that one shack where we had eaten our first. It was like it had disappeared, and no other could match it.
About me and why I should be chosen for the gig.
After years of studying art, architecture and teaching, feeling lost and unfulfilled, I finally saved enough money to travel overseas. I started with the Americas, backpacking and having my mind blown by the amazing traditions, landscapes, and people. It was on this trip, whilst working in a bar on the beach in a small fishing village in Peru (famous for it’s amazing tuna), that I came to the realisation that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was cook. To never stop discovering ingredients, recipes and methods from all over the world, to cook meals that bring people together and make time stand still for a little while, whilst we all enjoy the fruits of the land and the labour of the people who love to cook with them.
Upon returning to Aus I was lucky enough to gain a position in a small cafe, that, over the two years that I helped to run the kitchen, has now turned into one of the most well known cafes in the Hunter.
With only a short stint in Europe in those two years, I decided that it was time to really hit the road. I sold most of what I owned, and have been travelling through Australia in a 4WD ever since, with an overseas ticket booked for April.
My foodblog has been an amazing creative outlet for me also. Something that has been forcing me to learn and discover new things about food and cooking, almost daily. Every meal I create, and every photo shoot I do, creates a new challenge for me. I never do the same thing twice. Discovery is my passion!
1kg white, firm fleshed fish, I used Robinson Bream
Juice from about 5 limes
1 cup coconut cream
1 tsp caster sugar
1 long red chilli, finley diced
Handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper
2 ripe but still firm avocados
1 large mango
1 long red chilli
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs olive oil
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (or plantain chips if you can get them), lime wedges, sliced chilli, chilli sauce, and salad leaves, to serve
Make sure there are no bones in the fish. Slice fish into pieces about 3cm long and 5mm thick and place in a large, non-reactive bowl. In another bowl place the lime juice, coconut cream, caster sugar, chilli, and coriander. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Add to the bowl with the fish and stir well to combine. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but no longer than 10 hours.
When nearly ready to serve dice the avocados and mango into 5mm pieces. Combine in a bowl with the other salsa ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to mash the avocado too much.
Serve ceviche with the salsa, tortilla chips, lime wedges, chilli, chilli sauce and salad leaves.