Category Archives: Cuisine

The Pleasures of the Greek colony of Paestum – in Italy!

Text: Garry Benson
Images: Garry Benson
Editor: Tracey Benson

Paestum
Two of my passions – there are lots – are old ruins and food, as evidenced by my car and my waistline. So when I was invited to a housewarming I was very excited as it was in Rivello, Basilicata, at my friends John and Dora’s newly converted barn.

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

Rivello is about 5 hours south of Rome, so with friends Zoë and Susan we headed off on the Autostrada via Naples for a three day visit. As a drive, it was a wee bit gruelling due to being on the wrong side of the road for an Aussie. That my two navigators had widely differing views of their role it didn’t help.

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

After a great party and visits to local spots like Lagonegro, we agreed to take an easier (and quieter) route to Pompeii where we’d stay for a couple of days. So I decided the coastal route via Maratea, Sapri and the wonderful 7th century ruins at Paestum, right in the centre of a region known for its delicious mozzarella di bufala cheese. That’s the basic for one of my favourite Italian dishes, the simple but delicious Capresé Salad (I’ve included my recipe at the end).

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

Along the way, you pass mozzarella farms where ‘vendita diretta’ signs show they’ll sell you dripping bocconcini (balls) of cheese made fresh that morning—usually within 300 feet of the scenically grazing bufale that provided the milk. (The yogurt, honey, and fresh ricotta are excellent as well.)

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

Reids Italy website says:

It’s amazing to think that a culture could misplace three entire ancient Greek temples and forget about them for nearly a millennia, but that’s what happened when malaria and pirates drove the AD 9th century citizens of Paestum into the hills. Time forgot the crumbling ruins of this city founded in the 7th century BC until the 18th century, when a road crew rediscovered its remarkably well-preserved temples hidden among the weeds and poppies.

Map - Italy
Map – Italy

Reids Italy website goes on to say:

Poseidonia, or the City of Poseidon, was founded in the 6th century BC by Greek colonists from Sybaris. It trucked along nicely as the Roman colony of Paestum after 273 BC, and gained a small measure of fame for its enormous roses (which continue to bloom twice a year in gardens around the site).

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

Reids Italy website article continues:

Malaria decimated the population, and in the 9th century the Saracens wiped it off the map and out of memory. It wasn’t until the 18th century while building a road through the area that anyone other than farmers stumbled across the three incredible temples jutting out the of landscape, surrounded by blue-gray mountains. The three Doric temples at Paestum are said to be the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. These magnificent monuments date back to the 6th and 5th centuries BC, and are dedicated to the city’s namesake Poseidon (also known as Neptune, god of the sea), Hera and Ceres.

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

You can admire these stunning monuments in all their  beauty as Paestum is off the beaten tourist path. The site takes 1–2 hours to see; and the museum another 40–60 minutes. It is possible to do it all in one morning by taking an early train from Naples (or leave the Amalfi Coast in the morning and head to Salerno and the connection), and lunching at the Nettuno restaurant on site.

Opening hours (from Reids Italy)

The Paestum archeological site is open daily from 8:45am until around sunset (last entry an hour before closing). The actual closing hour ranges from 3pm to 6:30pm over the course of the year, and it literally changes—in increments anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes—every 15 days (no joke); see http://www.infopaestum.it for a detailed chart.

The Paestum museum is open daily 8:30am to 6:45pm, but closed first and third Mon of every month.

Mmm, mozzarella: These plains of the Cliento coast are the epicenter of Italy’s mozzarella production, so be sure order some at lunch to indulge in the freshest mozzarella you’ll ever taste. The nearby beach: if you fancy a dip in the sea after a hot morning at the ruins, follow signs marked ‘mare’ for the beach, about a 20–30 minute walk from Porta della Giustizia.

Image credit: Garry Benson
Image credit: Garry Benson

My recipe
I love the summer fruits of tomatoes, bell peppers, and chilli, and each year grow pots and pots of Sweet Basil. This is the last of the homegrown crop, I’ll have to buy them from now on. One of my favourite side dishes is Insalata (salad) Capresé:
4 vine ripened tomatoes
6 grape tomatoes
4 Roma tomatoes
4 bocconcini, sliced
10 capers
10 de-pipped Kalamata Black Olives
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
salt and cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
balsamic vinegar, to serve

Method
Step 1
Slice each tomato lengthways from top to bottom into thick slices. Place on a serving plate mix with the sliced bocconcini between each layer of tomatoes and top with capers, olives and basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper.
Step 2
Just before serving, drizzle the salad with an oil and vinegar dressing.

Present with a small bowl of basil pesto (I add a bit of extra lemon juice for some tanginess.)

Hint: Like strawberries, to get the full taste of the tomatoes take them out of your fridge an hour or so before serving.

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Review: Beachwood Café

Text: Garry Benson
Photos: © Garry Benson 2014
Editor: Tracey Benson
Some days are diamonds, some days are stone.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

From Ankara to The Hague to Angourie
Today was definitely a diamond day. The weather was brilliant as I travelled from Coff’s Harbour to visit friends in Grafton. Over a delicious morning tea they mentioned a great Turkish restaurant in nearby Yamba. And so I met talented Turkish born chef and author Sevtap Yüce.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Author of two books on Turkish cuisine (‘Turkish Flavours Cookbook’ and ‘Turkish Meze Cookbook’) Sevtap has woven her own fresh Australian flavours into traditional Turkish dishes. As her website blurb reads Sevtap loves nothing more than ‘eating out of the earth’. Not only does she cook with the products supplied from her own garden, she sources produce from local farmers.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Sevtap moved to Australia from Turkey at the age of 17. After a decade in Sydney, learning English while working in a patisserie in the Inner West plus a stint at Bill Grangers’s cafe, Sevtap moved to Angourie on the New South Wales North Coast and opened her restaurant, Beachwood in Yamba in 1994.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

It just so happened that today was the last day that her Yamba restaurant Beachwood Café would be open for 10 days from today (May 21st) so the menu board was quite sparse, but the resulting food was sublime. Now this is a travel blog so I’ll resist the urge to include some recipes but suffice to say the food was to die for.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

The kitchen is tiny but what taste treasures appeared… with great charm and personal service, Sevtap was right on the front line, checking with patrons, taking orders and jollying the locals. When I asked her what wines were available she appeared moments later with all the bottles so I could make a choice.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

If you’re anywhere within 200kms of Yamba make an effort and enjoy this hidden treasure of culinary charm. And while it seems that Sevtap is having a break, she is actually taking the time to complete her third cookbook. So get on her website to buy the first two!

http://www.beachwoodcafe.com.au

Beachwood Café is tucked away on a peaceful side street, right in the heart of town at 22 High Street in Yamba.

Contact Beachwood:
Phone (02) 6646 9781
Email: sevtapyuce@hotmail.com

Opening hours
Usually open on Tuesday through to Sunday.
Breakfast is served from 7am – 11am,
Lunch menu is available from 11am – 3pm.
Please note: Beachwood is closed on Mondays.

Beachwood is a licensed cafe, a selection of wine and beer is available to compliment the lunch service.

References
Beachwood Cafe http://www.beachwoodcafe.com.au
84th and 3rd Cookbook: Turkish Flavours and a Giveaway

365 Places: Sanur’s Balinese Restaurant

Day 19: Sanur’s Balinese Restaurant, Belconne, Canberra, Australia

Today I am writing about another restaurant I love – Sanur’s.

Rijst Tafel Sanur: From Sanur's website
Rijst Tafel Sanur: From Sanur’s website

Since moving to the Belconnen region 7 years ago, this restaurant has been a favourite for group dinners with friends and family alike. I have had a few birthday dinners at Sanur’s and the food is always delicious.

This is my ideal order:

  • Balinese Duck Roll $12.9 Roast duck meat, tangy paw paw salad, wheat pancake & Balinese Sweet Sauce (2 pancakes)
  • Nasi Rames Daging $16.9 Indonesian style of mixed rice with gado gado, beef rendang, perkedel daging, crispy shallots & garlic crackers
  • Coconut Delusion $8.9 Coconut pancake filled with unti (shredded coconut) with pandan anglaise, ice cream & toasted almonds

The Duck Pancakes and the Coconut Delusion is to die for! Marty and I usually share these, otherwise we would not finish our main course.

Another good thing about Sanur’s is the food is all Halal, so if you have Islamic friends, it is a great place to take them.

Website: http://sanurs.com.au

Shop 1, The Broadwalk
1/114 Emu Bank, Belconnen, 2617
Phone & Fax: (02) 6162 1688

Opening Hours
Lunch 12.00 – 14.30 (Tuesday – Saturday)
Dinner 17.30 – 22.00 (Tuesday – Sunday)

For more information about this project, check out the map for 365 Places.

A Kangaroo Tale

Text: Garry Benson
Photos: © Garry Benson 2008
Editor: Tracey Benson

It was during the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’,  a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008, at Fregon, APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands in Central Australia, that I first tasted Kangaroo tails.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

I’ve worked on the Ara Irititja database since 1989, but this shoot was different – a major exhibition of work of these artists was due to open in Adelaide and they needed a documentary and book. My work as cinematographer and photojournalist got me the gig – it helped that I have been initiated into some Watiku (men only) and Tjilpi (elders) Tjurkupa (dreamings).

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

You may have heard of kangaroo tail stew, but chances are you have never eaten it. It’s a shame, as it is the most delectable part of the animal.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

The only places I have seen it sold have been in the Northern Territory and South Australia, in both cases near Aboriginal communities – where people have very well-informed preferences when it comes to kangaroo cuts (and buy tails with the skin on so that they can better cook them in the coals of a fire).

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

Rather than hunt for the kangaroos, the Anangu of Central Australia prefer frozen kangaroo tails, skin and all. These shots were taken during the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

 

© Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

A kangaroo is in effect pentapedal (five-legged), using the tail like a limb while walking and a counterbalance while running – it is no meagre appendage. The alternative to buying a kangaroo tail is of course to go out and get one from a kangaroo yourself.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

But you are not allowed. If you own land you can probably get a permit to shoot some as a culling exercise and ‘pest control’, but these cannot be eaten and must be tagged and left to rot in the field. If you accidentally hit one with your car (as I did recently), you are not allowed to later cut the tail off and be ‘in possession of it’ – something that applies to all native fauna.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

And you cannot (except for some wallabies in Tasmania) hunt one.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

Alongside the government supported shooting of some one and a half million kangaroos a year, the world’s largest terrestrial wildlife harvest, it is illegal to take one for your own pot.

 © Garry Benson 2008
© Garry Benson 2008

But frozen kangaroo tails continue to be a major delicacy for the Anangu of the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands in Central Australia. I must admit I’d prefer a nice grass-fed Angus steak with all the trimmings – hard to find 500kms from *The Alice…

*Alice Springs

365 Places: Jag’s Cafe

Day 13: Holbrook,  New South Wales

Today, my post is about a cafe I love to visit when in transit to Victoria. Jag’s cafe is located in Holbrook, a town better known for having a massive submarine in a park, which is part of a museum. We have never quite worked out why a submarine is located more than 300 kilometres from the coast, but it is.

image

Jag’s has great coffee and a nice cafe style menu. Anyone who knows me, gets that I will always stop for a good coffee. What I love most about this restored shop is how it has been decorated,  I call it ‘contemporary’ country style. Exposed brickwork, ornate copper vases with silk flowers and lots of polished timber and leather furnishings characterise this cosy cafe.

image

These days you have to turn off the Hume highway to get to Holbrook, but if you are seeking a nice breakfast or lunch, stop by Jag’s. You won’t be disappointed.

365 Places: Ardeche Restaurant, Canberra

Day 10: Ardeche Restaurant, Civic, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Today the remarkable place I wish to share is not a town or a country – it is a restaurant: one of my favourites in Canberra. Ardeche for us is a place we hold dear, not a place we go to every week or month but to mark special occasions. For example, we had our son’s 18th birthday there and it was top-notch. We were so impressed with the level of service and attention to detail, which helped to make this event so memorable for all of us and especially our son.

Although the restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, don’t let that fool you. The service is always impeccable, though thankfully not pretentious or arrogant – unlike so many other Canberra restaurants and cafes. The food is simply divine, we always think that we will have room for dessert, but there is always a wee little corner left for soufflé.

Tonight was a special dinner for the family to acknowledge our son moving out of home. This is his favourite restaurant and the home made omelette option just could not compete with dinner at Ardeche.

Here is what we ate tonight:

~Entrée~

Soupe à l’oignon $13: ​Traditional french onion soup served with a parmesan Croûton.

Escargots à la Bourgogne $20: Pan fried snails, garlic, butter & white wine, served in a puffed Mille Feuille, finished with a sweet pepper coulis.

 

~Main course~

Poulet flambé au Pernod et sauce au safran $26.50: ​Breast of chicken- char-grilled and oven baked, flamed in Pernod, white wine, saffron, mushrooms, cream and served on bed of saffron risotto.

Poulet Tagine $25.50: North African Style Chicken with dates, lemon, chick peas, served with spiced Couscous & minted yoghurt.

Boeuf Bourguignon $26.50: Traditional French beef casserole with mushrooms, onions,​ carrots, bacon & red wine, served with a side of pomme purée.

 

~Dessert~

We had the blackboard special – Chocolate soufflé with Grand Marnier  ice cream

Crème Caramel: Crème Caramel, grand Marnier passion fruit  coulis and served with Vanilla ice Cream.

Desserts $14.50

Considering the quality of the food and the service, we consider the price to be reasonable by Canberra standards. I will have to think about another special occasion we can mark by going back to this little gem.

Tilley’s – a Canberra institution

Tilley's light © Tracey Benson 2014
Tilley’s light © Tracey Benson 2014

When we first arrived in Canberra in 2001, we lived in a tiny apartment in the infamous Brigalow Court in O’Connor. The rent was cheap, it was close to the school, the university and located opposite the Lyneham shops.

In those early days, I would often meet a friend for coffee at the cafe across the road, Tilley’s Devine Cafe Gallery, affectionately known as Tilley’s. I learnt very quickly that this cafe had a rich history as an identity as a local music and social venue.

Tilley’s has a special history for Canberra women as well, as when it initially opened men were only welcome if they were in the company of women.

Lights at Tilley's © Martin Drury 2014
Lights at Tilley’s © Martin Drury 2014

Sally Pryor, in 2003 wrote about Tilley’s in the Canberra Times:

With elegant, dark wood fittings, a moody, deep red colour scheme, and soft jazz wafting between the old-fashioned booths lining the walls, there is some things essentially nostalgic and cinematic about Tilley’s romantic atmosphere, reminiscent of a Hollywood film noir. Its timeless in a way that’s hard to emulate in a youngish, fickle town like Canberra, where high turnover of night spots seem inevitably dictated by the relative hip-factor of the decor, the DJ and the cocktail menu.

Over the years we have had some special times at Tilley’s, for example, we celebrated our son’s 21st luncheon there, which was a lovely day. Another fond memory is of  the cold winter’s day we were very privileged to see Martha Davis from The Motels rehearsing for the evening concert. I remember being quite star struck as well as feeling incredibly lucky to see one of my rock heroes in such an intimate setting. When I asked the waitress if we should go (as we hadn’t paid to watch), I remember her smiling and telling us to relax and enjoy our hot chocolates. Our son was only 8 at the time and he wondered what the fuss was about. For me, memories of playing “Take the ‘L’ out of lover” on the record player in my bedroom came flooding back. At the time, The Motels were one of my favourite bands, so to sit in the booth, all nice and snug watching  Martha was really special.

Inside Tilley's © Tracey Benson 2014
Inside Tilley’s © Tracey Benson 2014

Today, after a gorgeous morning getting pummeled at the foot&thai, we wandered over to Lyneham for a delicious lunch at TIlley’s. It is a cafe style menu, with generous servings and some nice options. The Mushroom Bruschetta was delicious, my husband really enjoyed the Fish and Chips and the Portuguese Chicken Burger was a winner with the 21 y/o.

Tilley’s has not changed much over the years, and Sally’s description of the decor and music in 2003 still holds true. This is a rare thing in a town where re-branding cafes is almost a yearly occurrence, thanks to some bad advice going around from some marketing ‘guru’. Also what hasn’t changed is the quality of the coffee, they certainly know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino – it is surprising the number of cafes in Canberra that don’t know how to make a decent coffee. So after a morning of self indulgence and spoiling, we are off to a great start for the Easter long weekend.
Phone for reservations and information
Reservations available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week.
+61 2 6247 7753

Location
Corner of Brigalow & Wattle Streets,
Lyneham ACT 2602, Australia