Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shepard Avocado

Shepard Avocados have just come into season and will continue through to mid May. They are easily identified for their green skin and elongated shape. Shepard avocados won’t go brown once cut so there is no need for lemon or plastic wrap so they are ideal for salads and even in pasta dishes. Their buttery flavour and consistency make them perfect for dips or spreading on toast and sandwiches.

Contrary to popular belief, Shepard avocados do not contain any cholesterol. Avocados are the most energy dense and nutrient rich fruit per calorie - making them an ideal part of any meal. Shepard avocados are described as a whole food, which means that each piece of fruit contains the vitamins and minerals that are essential for infant development. These nutritional qualities and smooth consistency make pureed avocados one of the first fresh fruits a baby can enjoy.

To select a ripe avocado, gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. A ripe Shepard will yield slightly to your touch. Store ripe Shepards in the fridge - better still, eat them straight away!

Fruit for later use should be firm to touch and stored at room temperature until ripe and ready to eat.

Shepard avocados are grown in on the Atherton Tableland and in Bundaberg, Queensland - the only places Shepards are grown in the world!

Regional Food Branding

Next month a well known branding guru from Melbourne will be coming to Tropical North Queensland to run a series of workshops with the food and agri-food tourism industry to develop a regional food brand. It is something that has been talked about for a several years and now the time has come.

When you think of areas such as Barossa, Margaret River and Yarra Valley, you immediately think of an indulgence of fresh regional gourmet food and luscious wine. How did that happen? The people of the regions worked together to share a mindset of values and behaviour that created a language to clearly describe their region and its produce, and defines its point of difference. They have persisted over the years and have successfully marketed their regional brand nationally and even internationally.

So what does this region have that is unique and sets us apart from all the others? Everything! Whereas other regional brands tend to revolve around wine, olives and cheese, our region has a very diverse range of unique fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, seafood, coffee and nuts; the list goes on! With the contribution of regional food and tourism champions at workshops held in Cairns, the Tablelands, Cassowary Coast and Mossman where the uniqueness of each area will be identified, a very different regional branding is set to emerge.

Lime and Gin Mousse

Courtesy of Georgie Hinchley of Bingil Bay


4 eggs, separated

½ cup castor sugar

1 tsp grated lime rind

2 tsp gelatine

1/3 cup lime juice

1 tbl gin

1 tbl sugar, extra

2/3 cup thickened cream

What to do:

Beat egg yolks, sugar and lime rind in a small basin with electric mixer until thick. Sprinkle gelatine over combined lime juice and gin, dissolve over hot water, cool to room temp. Gradually beat gelatine mixture into egg mixture. Transfer mixture to large basin. Beat cream until soft peaks form, fold lightly into mousse mixture. Beat whites until soft peaks form, beat in extra sugar until dissolved. Fold lightly into mousse mixture in two batches. Pour into 6 individual glasses and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Serves 6.


A rhizome spice that is related to the ginger family and originates from tropical Asia. It’s vibrant yellow-orange colour and strong fragrance enhances many dishes in Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisines. In Europe it has been used as a cheaper substitute for saffron. Can be purchased as a powder or buy fresh and grate or chop rhizome as you would ginger. Fresh leaves can also be used in curries or for wrapping parcels of food, and it is said to impart medicinal quality. Ayurvedic practices use it medicinally and now there have been several recent studies on Turmeric with glowing health benefits that are worth investigating. So this is really the spice of life!

Support Local Restaurants

When the airline dispute occurred in the early nineties, we saw the first downturn in our then emerging tourism industry. It was devastating for the hospitality industry and small owner operator restaurants suffered the most.

Working in a major hotel at the time, enduring an occupancy an all time low and empty restaurants, we were about to make a decision to shed a sizable portion of our staff as other hotels in the region had done. These were our loyal employees with families and commitments, and who we had spent time and effort on training and development of their skills and esprit de corp.

It was a decision we didn’t want to make. So we decided to ‘go for broke’ and declared an entire hotel 50% sale for a week. It was so popular we were able to extend it for three week; and these three weeks of a busy hotel got us over the hump. There was no profit but we saved our staff. It showed that people in town were still willing to spend; albeit for a bargain price.

What I am saying here is that the hospitality industry is currently in another of these slumps and needs your support. At present there is an abundance of bargains available for diners of the restaurants in Port Douglas, the Beaches and Cairns. The restaurants are certainly not making any money from these low price super specials but hoping to lure customers and to keep their good staff. If they can just get some turnover for the next three months, there is light at the end of the tunnel when the high season kicks in.

We have a good restaurant industry in the region and especially for those who support local food, they deserve your support. So Bon App├ętit!