They’ve travelled the world in search of unique and tasty fare, but this time around, Andy Allen and Ben Milbourne are staying local.
“In your own backyard, you just know what you can get rather than trying to find the really good stuff – it was an absolute free for all,” Allen tells SBS of his series, Andy and Ben Eat Australia.
He grew up in Maitland in NSW, west of Newcastle, but spent the weekends by the seaside with his family, casting a line off Fingal Bay in Port Stephens where their holiday house was situated.
“Mum and dad were school teachers so every Friday, we’d pack up the car and head up to the bay and enjoy the ocean and the beach. Now, mum and dad live there,” says Allen. “It’s a lovely part of the world.”
The chef and co-owner of Three Blue Ducks Rosebery shares his top eight Aussie food and travel experiences that are slightly off the beaten track.
1. Visit any farmer’s market in Tasmania
“Ben always preaches to me that Tassie produce is the best in the world – and with good reason,” says Allen of his co-host, close mate (and Tassie resident) Ben Milbourne. “You can drive and no matter where you are, you’ll see some form of agriculture in less than 15 minutes.” The state’s micro climates contribute to its lush bounties. And the top chefs have cottoned onto this fact, choosing to intervene minimally with their ingredients. Allen recommends stopping at a local grower’s market, or simply pulling up side of road to sample apples that have fallen from trees. “They’ll be some of the best apples you’ve ever had,” he says. “Just drive and try and see as much as you can.”
2. Dine at Franklin Bar and Restaurant, Hobart
“For me, Franklin epitomises the ‘less is more’ philosophy,” believes Allen. At the hip Hobart eatery, chef David Moyle, who worked under the tutelage of Andrew McConnell in Melbourne, is doing very little to three or four ingredients on a plate; think slices of albacore and yellowfin tuna scattered with fried saltbush, sea celery and horseradish. 28-30 Argyle St, Hobart, Tasmania
3. Take a cooking class in Palm Cove
“I was amazed by all the produce coming out of Cairns and Frasier Island when I got there,” says the chef. Allen suggests taking a cooking class at the beachfront Nu Nu in Palm Cove, were you’ll get to sample local treats like banana palm heart, fresh tamarind and some great dairy products, too. 1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove, Queensland
4. Spend a day on the mudflats of Cooya Beach, Queensland
Brothers Linc and Brandon Walker follow the traditions of their ancestors by educating visitors about their country on the far north east coast of Australia. “We met Lincoln there – he had three spears in his hands and we started walking out on the sandy mangroves, and then we got into ankle deep water," Allen recalls. "He said to us, ‘boys, we’re going for these crabs. You’ll see them, they’ll see you, and they’ll prop up on their hind legs, and then it’s about who gets who first, because they’re going to run straight at you.’ We got five or six blue swimmer mud crabs and did an amazing cook-up in the afternoon. That experience was one I’ll never forget.” www.kycht.com.au
5. Go abalone-diving in Tassie
Just be sure to do an anti-rain dance beforehand.
6. Go fishing in Port Stephens
“The food up in Newcastle and Port Stephens is going gangbusters, and there’s some great bars as well.” On how to spend the day in his home town, Allen recommends getting back to nature. “It’s hard to drop a line and not catch a flathead,” he says. And do your best to cook whatever you catch.
7. Visit the Fermentery in Daylesford, Victoria
Sharon Flyn began fermenting when her daughter became ill, but she fell in love with it, and so did everyone who tried her stunning products. “You’ll go into a big white cool room that looks like a witch’s laboratory. Sharon is lovely and doing some crazy, crazy things in fermentation.” Both novices and chefs will enjoy the experience, Allen reassures. 11/57 Leitches Creek Rd, Daylesford Victoria
8. Go foraging for Indigenous ingredients on Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
Quenten Agius of Aboriginal Cultural Tours offers insight into Adjahdura culture, traditions and beliefs. Here you can forage for the quandong, a native Australian fruit, and hear some dreaming stories before tucking into delicious local butterfish cooked by a local Elder. www.aboriginalsa.com.au
Quandongs are an Indigenous Australian fruit, prized for their high vitamin C content (twice that of an orange). Originally used for medicinal purposes, their slightly tart flavour makes them a great base for preserves, syrups or baked treats. Here, it's used in a sweet and savoury jam that makes the perfect accompaniment to silky and rich butterfish.