As mentioned in my last blog, I absolutely love meeting the food producers when we put together our From the Source stories, and seeing how much love and passion goes into producing the food that ends up on our plates. It never fails to open my eyes and make me re-appreciate what I am eating and even why some things cost more than others. When you realise that capers, for example, need to be individually handpicked by a small group of pickers sitting on box crates under the hot Australian summer sun, it makes you understand and appreciate why they don’t come cheap.
If there was one thing I came away from my recent trip to South Australia realising overall, it’s that the local producers feel that South Australia hasn’t received the attention it should for being one of the great food producing areas of Australia. And not only for big crops like grapes and oranges. Farmers in the Riverland area especially are experimenting with niche products grown on a small scale, and there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on.
Capers are a good example of that. We visited one grower in the Riverland area – Barry from Kolophon Capers. It started as a semi-retirement plan for Barry and his wife Helen, but Barry – who admitted that he used to hate capers – seems to have discovered a bit of a hidden talent and has been winning a host of awards for his produce. I can see why. I am also now a caper convert. Having only ever tried the imported versions, which I have always found to have an unpleasantly briny flavour, his crisp, zingy capers and caper berries were a revelation to me.
We took a bit of a detour via the Banrock Station Wetland Centre to see how executive chef Peter Kent uses capers in his menu. He has very kindly given us his recipe for parsley and caper pesto which he uses as a crust on fish, topped on bruschetta, in risottos and pastas or as a dipping sauce. You can try his recipe below.
I have also included another alternative pesto recipe courtesy of Keryn from Illalangi Olive Oil, the final food producer we met on our travels. Perhaps the biggest thing I took away from Keryn was just how little thought I had given to the olive oil I was using in my cooking at home. Oddly, it had never occurred to me to taste the olive oil before I used it.
At Keryn’s shop, she gave us a taste test of the very first batch of olive oil to come from their olive harvest the week before. We sipped it straight off a spoon, without any bread to disguise the flavour. She then let us taste it in comparison to a popular big brand and I was astounded at how bitter it was. It made me realise just how important it is to properly taste the olive oil in your pantry before you splosh it in your pan and add its bittnerness (or otherwise) to your meal.
What about you, fellow foodie? Do you taste test your olive oil before choosing a brand to use? Or do you have a favourite pesto recipe you’d like to share?
If you try the recipes below, send us your photos and let us know how they went.
Parsley and Caper Pesto
Peter Kent, executive chef at Banrock Station
½ cup washed and drained salted capers
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup almonds
1 garlic clove
extra-virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until desired spreading consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
Rocket, Almond, Pistachio & Parmesan Pesto
Keryn Gorman, Illalangi Olive Oil
100g fresh rocket
250ml Illalangi or Australian extra-virgin olive oil
100g grated or shaved parmesan
juice of a freshly squeezed lime or two
100g Illalangi Tanami Apple & Chilli Dukkah (or a selection of ground almonds, pistachio and pinenuts)
Wash and spin rocket. Place in a food processor. Process and add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Add parmesan and process to combine. Stop machine and stir in lime juice and dukkah (or ground nuts). Pour into serving dish. Serve with crackers or tossed through some cooked pasta.