Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Going nuts over Australian macadamias

I've learnt a few new things recently:
a) it is indeed possible to misplace a big chunky DSLR camera;
b) it's quite fun out in rainy weather when you’re prepared for it;
c) raw sorrel has an amazing citrus flavour;
d) the macadamia nut is the only nut that is native to Australia; and
e) the new season of Australian macadamia nuts are currently being harvested and dried for our eating pleasure.

Australian macadamia nuts - in shell and kernels
(Image courtesy of Australian Macadamia Society)
Australian macadamia growers, predominantly in subtropical northern New South Wales and Queensland, are anticipating a yield of 39,000 tonnes of macadamia nut in-the-shell in this year’s harvest, which will translate to 11,500 tonnes of luxurious macadamia nut kernels, of which 35% remains in the domestic market.

Colin Fassnidge, Australian Macadamia Society's Lynne Ziehlke and Australian Macadamias
ambassador Eamon Sullivan at Sydney Seafood School, Sydney Fish Markets, Pyrmont
This nugget of agricultural information was imparted at a recent Sydney Seafood School experience, courtesy of the Australian Macadamia Society which represents growers and the broader industry.

Olympic swimmer, and Perth café and restaurant owner, Eamon Sullivan, is an ambassador for Australian Macadamias and was on hand with restaurant chef and owner, and My Kitchen Rules judge, Colin Fassnidge, for a bloggers "maca nut" cooking challenge.

Sullivan and Fassnidge demonstrating macadamia recipes
While I’ve enjoyed many a macadamia nut, mostly roasted and salted, I've never really cooked with the nuts – until now.

On the menu for the challenge were a winter-appropriate Jerusalem artichoke and macadamia soup by Fassnidge and a not-nearly-as-healthy-as-it-sounds macadamia granola by Sullivan.

Sullivan and Fassnidge
Sydney Seafood School is such an excellent venue for classes, starting with the demonstration kitchen where both Fassnidge and Sullivan cooked, entertained and educated the small class.

Fassnidge plating up his soup

Sullivan's macadamia nut granola out of the oven
While there was wine and banter on hand, one did need to pay some attention as we'd be recreating the dishes shortly after.

It didn't take long for the demo kitchen to fill with hearty smells of onion, Jerusalem artichoke and creaminess of Fassnidge's soup nor Sullivan's caramelly, sweet, nutty granola.

Australian Macadamias aprons
In the Sydney Seafood School kitchens, it was action at all stations from the word go. Fassnidge and Sullivan did the rounds, proffering helpful advice and tips that I wouldn't mind in my kitchen every time I cook.

Macadamia and Jerusalem artichoke soup
I found chef Fassnidge's general seasoning tip – salt, pepper and, intriguingly, lemon in everything – particularly interesting and one that I'll be trying in the home kitchen.

We garnished his creamy, white soup of blitzed macadamia nuts and Jerusalem artichokes with more macadamias, raw sorrel shreds and picked crab flesh; the latter presumably to suit the Sydney Seafood School charter.

It was by far the best soup I've had any hand in making with the unique flavour of the root vegetable enhanced by the presence of creamed, rich macadamia nuts. The sorrel was a crowning glory, lifting the soup with its fresh citrus flavour.

Macadamia nut granola mixture uncooked
Meanwhile, Sullivan's macadamia granola was admittedly not something the elite athlete would eat too often. His recipe incorporates 300g of sugar, a combined 300mls of honey and golden syrup and almost 300mls combined of oil and butter.

The rolled oats and dessicated coconut give the granola a definite 'Anzac biscuit' taste and feel. But given the oil and sugar content of the granola, I'd recommend it as a now-and-then dessert treat with yoghurt or ice cream rather than an everyday breakfast item.

Macadamia nut granola out of the oven
The speed in which my granola was caramelising – or let's be honest in my case, burning – in the oven had me a little thrown, so too it's seemingly not-solid state while cooking. It firmed up as it cooled on the tray out of the oven and was loudly crunchy when completely cooled.

Fassnidge and Sullivan tasting and judging dishes
With both soup and granola completed in under an hour in teams of two, I was pretty happy with my efforts and the end result of dinner and dessert (burnt granola bits aside), even if they weren't winners of the night's challenge.

Sydney Seafood School dining room light features
We dined on our efforts in the Sydney Seafood School's gorgeous dining room after a fun and educational kitchen session.

Following the class, inspired and equipped with a hamper of "maca nuts" and other macadamia products, thus far at home I've made a macadamia choc chunk cookie based on a mashing of a couple of recipes and will be trying out Sullivan's decadent macadamia chocolate brownie recipe soon.

My macadamia and salted chocolate chunk cookies
Buying and storage hints (from the Australian Macadamia Society):
When buying macadamias, look for ones that are plump, crunchy and light-coloured.

To help maintain their quality, correct storage is vital. Once opened, keep macadamias in an airtight container, refrigerate and use within two months, remembering to return nuts to room temperature before eating.

The Australian Macadamia Society was founded with the objectives of promoting and coordinating all aspects of the Australian macadamia industry, to encourage free exchange of ideas and information, and to foster goodwill among members. See their Facebook page for macadamia recipes and ideas.

Food, booze and shoes participated in the Australian Macadamias Food Blogger Challenge with thanks to the Australian Macadamia Society and Crossman Communications.


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

The macadamia granola looks great.. then I had a look at the recipe and yes, it definitely should be a treat. Perhaps I can tweak it so I can make it a breakfast meal :D

Anonymous said...

Did you find your camera?? We love macadamias at home, mostly eaten raw as a snack but also in soups, sauces, treats, etc.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

would not have thought to add lemon to soup! sounds interesting, will have to try that out some time. i love roasting macadamias and throwing it into salad :) any chance you can give me a copy of the mac & jerusalem artichoke soup?

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow what happened with your camera? And hehe the occasional spot of rain is nice but I think I've had enough by now! :P

Annie said...

pretty amazing of the recipes you can make with macademia nuts. though i think i would have spent half of the night drooling at Eamon Sullivan instead of cooking...looks like a fun night!

Joanne T Ferguson said...

I'm nuts about macadamia nuts, true!
What a fun experience and love your choc chip photo too!
Cheers! Joanne

My Kitchen Stories. said...

It was a great experience and lots of fun. I am t
Totally addicted to macadamias now.

Tina said...

Hi Tina - Yes, cutting out the sugar and oil; maybe honey could be a replacement that doesn't set hard...?

Hi lateraleating - Yes I did, thanks. To be honest, I've never eaten macadamias raw before!

Hi Viv - Hope you like the soup!

Hi Lorraine - Hadn't used it in a while and then it wasn't in the three possible places it should have been. And then it was...

Hi Annie - Haha, I think there was a bit of that going on. No wonder I didn't win the challenge... ;)

Hi Joanne - Thanks :)

Hi My Kitchen Stories - Wasn't it a great event? :) I've gone through almost all my hamper!

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