Insatiable television food adventurer Maeve O’Meara has been in and around the Illawarra again recently filming for her latest Food Safari series.
And the evergreen Food Safari pioneer knows she will be back, having only scratched the surface of the region’s rich multicultural food culture.
Earlier seasons of the Food Safari franchise would focus on a particular culture or nation’s dishes, before O’Meara turned her attention to elemental themes with last year’s hit Food Safari Fire. Her current series, themed Earth, will feature a Marshall Mount property and a beloved Turkish spice paste.
O’Meara and her chef friend Somer Sivrioglu (of Sydney’s Efendy fame) travelled to the property of Sivrioglu’s mate Arman Zu’s at Marshall Mount to film a segment featuring the famed Turkish pepper paste biber salcasi.
“That is the umami bomb of Turkish food, and it goes into so many dishes,” O’Meara told the Mercury.
“You’ve got a sweetness, and a little bit of warmth.
“These two chefs, under the sun in Marshall Mount, there they are with the mountain of bullhorn chillies that they’re putting through a machine to mince, then they put it in this great big cauldron to mince, and the fire helps give it flavour. Then they spread it out on a big flat platter to then sun-dry for four days. That’s the pepper paste.
“To be there on this sunny day recreating these dishes from their homeland, something that would have been done for hundreds, probably thousands of years, in Australia under the gum trees.”
Most recently she popped up down at the Farm beach at Killalea, filming an episode of the forthcoming series Food Safari Water.
At the Farm she cheered on one of Sydney’s chefs of the moment, Lennox Hastie, as he cooked a whole flathead.
“That will be one of the key images of the next series that we do,” she said. “We’re always coming into your area, as well.”
Hastie, whose Surry Hills restaurant Firedoor specialises in cooking over flame and coals – treating the fire itself as an ingredient – did his thing, lighting a fire and cooking the fish straight on the coals.
“It was just magic, magic fish and that will be the beach that everyone looks at and says ‘wow’ – the light’s fading, the fire’s coming up, the fish is cooking perfectly. You’re not going to get that in a restaurant – the pearlescent sky, the ocean behind … woah. Fantastic.”
Food Safari Earth screens at 8pm Thursdays on SBS.