We sit down with SBS’s favourite food presenter, Maeve O’Meara, as she shares her favourite Food Safari moments, recipes, as well as the many varied (not to mention delicious) perks of her job. "It’s so exciting to discover a new dish and learn how it comes together. Something about being in people’s kitchens or cooking over a fire really adds to the magic," she says.
By
12 Feb 2013 - 11:37 AM  UPDATED 1 May 2015 - 2:05 PM

Tell us about the chefs and home cooks you met while filming the new series. What do they have in common?
Passion, pride and some of the best food on the planet. We are immensely privileged to be given the chance to go into people’s homes and restaurant kitchens across Australia – it is so exciting to discover a new dish and learn how it comes together and why it's important in that cuisine.
 
Was there a cuisine you discovered during filming which you didn’t know much of before?
One cuisine I didn’t know much about but fell in love with is Afghan – I was so touched by the people we filmed, so interested to read stories of this proud nation, that I devoured everything from novels to recipe books. One of the dishes I absolutely loved is a pretty little dumpling called ashak that is made when special guests arrive.

As a result of filming Food Safari, how has your palate changed? Were you food curious as a child?
Of course. I usually try all the recipes at home within a day of our filming. Some are harder than others. Those beautiful Afghan ashak (dumplings) take skilled hands to make look as good as they do on our show! My life has been a continual search for new flavours – from an early age I’ve been drawn to a delicious exotic world, far from the meat and three veg Irish-Australian family I grew up in.

Are there any food trends you predict emerging in 2013?
For years, Food Safari has charted some of the great cuisines of the world. We already had our Peruvian episode in the can when I read a prediction that Peruvian food would become the new black in the food world. Our Peruvian episode gives you the tips on how cook and serve it, and also the secret to the best chips in the world – incredibly crunchy and served with a creamy chilli sauce. Sometimes food shows can shine the light on foods that are yet to make it the mainstream, and that’s what I love.

This series includes an exploration of the food of Darwin and Broome. What did you take away from those experiences?
For a start, how proud I am to be Australian. Somehow these places really give you the sense of that link to country which Aboriginal people have. I’ve also realised that the ability to fish and catch mudcrabs is an invaluable skill and results in some of the best tasting seafood you’ll ever eat – no fishmonger can match it. The fish I ate on the beach in Broome with my dear friend Alan Pigram was probably the freshest fish I’ve ever had – he prepared a local dish called susame – like sashimi, using raw sliced raw fish.

What do you love most about your job?
I love helping to find the people we film, though Food Safari wouldn’t exist without the sheer smarts of our two amazing researchers, Georgie Neal and Jacinta Dunn. I love planning and filming with my dear partner, Toufic Charabati, who is the director of the show; marvel at how clever our cameraman, Peter Clarke, is in capturing great food and people; the skill of our editors (on this series Sue Bell and Rowan Tucker Evans). I love being in those markets and kitchens and back gardens, and showcasing the talent that is all around us. And I love that people love Food Safari – we were mobbed when we filmed in Darwin’s Mindil Beach Markets, with people saying they just loved Food Safari.

One must-cook recipe from the new Food Safari is Danish gravlax. We learnt the secrets from top caterer Jesper Hansen (Blonde Catering). It's now a big favourite in our house!

Cooking for friends makes me feel happy – so many great moments in my life have been spent around our big dinner table.

My go-to lunch this month is in New Zealand – I’m leading one of my Food Safaris there and tasting a week of great food and wine.

The smell of freshly grated nutmeg takes me back to my grandmother’s warm kitchen where so many delicious things were baked and tasted.

I can’t wait to go back to Broome. I love the people, the landscape and the food.

My kids always ask me to cook chicken adobo (from the Filipino episode – a winner!).

The one thing I haven’t eaten yet is cockroaches... and hope I never do.

I always have good coffee beans in my pantry.

The last cookbook I gave as a gift was actually the Food Safari cookbook, which has just been published in soft cover. I use it at least twice a week and it makes a fabulous present.

One kitchen tool that changed my life was my mandolin... love that precision slicing.