And this little piggy went to market…..

As we celebrate the cultural diversity of this wonderful land that we live this long weekend, I thought it only fitting to head off to my local Farmers Market here in Newcastle. As an old friend once said, it was a “glad to be alive day” this morning with the sun shining and the sky replicating the blue of our local beaches.

The market was once again bustling with buyers, and being my first for the year it was great to be reconnected to this community again. Though a little low on the usual market stalls (being a long weekend and people still in holiday mode), my regular stops were all available.

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My bounty included the following:

I was able to pick up my “verjuice” from Helen Gillard at Mill Creek Vineyard, an essential ingredient to add to risotto, pasta sauces and really anything that requires a hit of wine flavour without the alcohol. Helen claims to have been making verjuice long before Maggie and believes her product is superior. I think she is well justified in this statement. She is great for a chat and is an inspiration to all women as a successful business owner. My Swiss Browns came from Rainbow Mushrooms and eggs and ripe tomatoes from Ricardoes. To my delight I found the bananas I have been buying for years come from Morning Mist Macksville and according to Mr Manfredi are better than our Queensland equivalents. I tend to agree. Stone fruit was in abundance today; cheap and flavoursome. Bunches of ruby beetroot ready for roasting, bags of true sebago tatties and some baby carrots were purchased in excess to my usual order. I plan to try and replicate one of the most delicious dishes I have ever eaten with the latter. Carrot/parmesan/sesame is the simple name given to this dish served at the hip and happening, now impossible to get a table restaurant called ester in Chippendale Sydney. The baby carrots were roasted in stone ovens (no I don’t have one of those so perhaps doomed already?) but served with an incredible parmesan butter that was silky and utterly delicious. Its worth a try right? My partner in crime for these carrots is my “finger on the pulse”, Sydney friend Fi, who is desperate for the food techy and I to unlock the secrets of this ridiculously simple dish so that she can eat it at will without having to line up with the Sydney elites!

Lastly some indulgent pastries from Fosterton Bakery for morning tea and a bunch of yellow roses (my favourite) just for home.

So first market visit done and dusted for 2015, with the hope of visiting more regularly this year. Newcastle Farmers Market is open on Sunday from 8am and Wednesday afternoons. Please support one of the best markets in NSW!

And as I say on this weekend every year….Happy Australia and Survival day! Hope everyone has a great day and remembers how very fortunate we are to live in such a culturally diverse and wonderful country. Thank you to the Awabakal and Worimi people for sharing this fabulous place with my family and friends on this weekend. It truly is a great place to live and eat! TBHxx

The Bountiful Hunter on holiday to…..Scotts Head

I’ve just returned from a wonderful relaxing beach holiday at Scotts Head. Accompanying the food techy and I were our 17 year old son, Panforte Cate, her hubby “the Legend”, and their two beautiful girls (one being my Favourite Redhead in the whole world and the other my cherished and adored goddaughter). Scotts Head is situated on the land of the Gumbaynggirr people, in the Nambucca shire of the Mid North Coast of NSW. Thankfully it remains a reasonably undeveloped coastal town with little infrastructure apart from a bakery, take away shop, pharmacy and the ubiquitous bowling club. The beaches are what brings people here as they are good for swimming and if the swell is working off the point a longboard surf is assured (much to the delight of the food techy).

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We spent our days swimming and boogie boarding, walking the stretches of beach, eating sausage rolls from the bakery with a follow up of icecreams for afternoon tea, catching up on books which were meant to be read last year and drinking icy cold Heineken from the kegs bought at Aldi the week before.

A few of the days were less ideal for beaching, so we decided to explore the region whilst the weather was cooler. The Fav Redhead and I spent a morning op shopping in Macksville and Nambucca. The pick of these would be the Lifeline at Nambucca plaza with plenty of true retro donations on offer. Whilst visiting the Vinnies in Macksville, we stumbled across a little gem of a cafe for morning tea. Harriets Gourmet Provisions is located in Wallace st, directly opposite Vinnies. Coffee is supplied by the delightful Mr Manfredi and comes as ordered with good strength and flavour. The Fav Redhead ordered an ice chocolate that had fresh cream piled so high that she wasn’t sure when the chocolate started,  and was giddy with excitement when she realised her freshly baked choc raspberry brownie was being gently warmed for her.

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The brownie was a winner and completely sold out whilst we were there requiring the chef to make another batch. This was a blessing as Panforte Cate had requested a take away piece to bring home. Harriets also provides a “book swap”, where books can be exchanged for another based on an honesty system. I love this sort of thing! Adding to the querkiness of this place, was a bottle of handcream on each table for the ladies to apply after recaffeinating! As many of the north coast towns of NSW are now being bypassed, Harriets makes for a fab rest stop to fill up on good coffee and homemade treats.

Another day was spent with all the girls taking a day trip 45 mins up the road to the beautiful Bellingen Valley. This happens to be my spiritual birthplace as both my mother and maternal grandmother were born here. I always feel I have arrived home when I visit and have the fondest of childhood memories playing with my brother and cousins on my great grandmothers farm at nearby Urunga. Ironically it is also where Cate spent much of her childhood visiting the infamous “Brigalow caravan park” on her family’s annual pilgrimage north. It would be many years later that we discovered this connection.  We are kindred spirits indeed.

Bellingen is a beautiful historic little town that has several delightful stores ready to be browsed. It also sports the fabulous Hearth Fire Bakery, tucked down a little alley off Hyde st where a burgeoning macadamia fruit loaf and a lump of good crusty (real) sourdough were purchased in readiness for a brekky the following day. A recent addition to the main st is Bellingen Green Grocers, a store packed with beautiful fruit and veg, nuts, self serve honey, organic local goods including yoghurts and cheese, all manner of flours, grains and legumes, and not a plastic bag in sight. We picked up some cheap delicious mangoes and a bag of the tiniest home grown cherry tomatoes that the goddaughter devoured all by herself the following day.

Worth a look is the historic Hammond and Wheatley emporium, if not for the buildings facade and original staircase. Prices are for the upper end of the market, but lovely for a browse. The girls all fared better at a delightful double fronted store called Vivid, where the sales racks beckoned and we happily relieved them of their burden.

Other finds on this trip included the humorous yet delicious local open range hens eggs called Rock and Rollin. The carton proclaims that the hens are given the opportunity of listening to all sorts of music during their laying times. My carton was labelled classic rock and judging by the colour of the yolks, some Aussie classic acts must have been playing. They are available at all the local farmers markets, but ours were found at the Scotts Head supermarket! They were delicious scrambled! Thanks again to Mr Manfredi who had alerted me to them via twitter. His eggs had listed to reggae…

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In terms of eating out in the local area, Scotts Head itself is limited except for the fabulous Taverna Six restaurant located in the small strip of shops across from the caravan park. Locals advised it was closing soon due to high rents so be quick. We ate there last year, and although the menu was fantastic for the adults, it lacked in providing for the kids. Not a criticism by any means, but be aware. There is of course the bowling club and this will meet your needs in the schnitzel and trivia nights department, but nothing flash otherwise. We opted to take the 12km trip back into Macksville to eat at the infamous Star Hotel. Regular pub meals at good prices were served, but their specials board held more interest for us. The kids were well catered for here too. The local Nambucca oysters were beautiful and reasonably priced.

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All in all a restful and rejuvenating week that was much needed after a hectic 2014. We have booked again for 2016! TBH xx