I was recently lucky enough to be invited on a Food Safari by none other than the wonderful Maeve O’Meara. Having watched (and adored!) her television series I was hugely excited to experience a safari for myself. Fairfield was the chosen destination, because of its wide and varied choice of cultures and foods. A group of us met at the old Fairfield pub for a coffee before setting off on foot to explore some of Maeve’s favourite Fairfield haunts. Our first stop was to Tierras Latinas, a Peruvian store stocking South American ingredients such as tinned and fresh chillies and many varieties of corn. We tried a tasty corn snack and also sampled a drink made out of purple corn.
From there we headed to the Afghan Bread Shop, where Habib showed us how to make delicious Afghan loaves in a clay tanur oven. The bakery produces 4000 loaves per day, and the bread was absolutely divine especially straight out of the oven.
After the bakery we headed to a beautiful Chilean café, La Paula Continental Cakes, which serves a huge array of traditional South American desserts. There’s a lot of caramel here so Mick was in heaven as we sampled some gorgeous sweets and empanadas.
We were starting to feel a bit full from all the sampling but there was plenty more to do and see and eat before the day was done! The next stop was Al Jamil market, which stocks a huge array of Middle Eastern spices, condiments, seeds and legumes and homemade pickles that can be bought by weight. We sampled chancliche, an Arabic cheese doused in olive oil. I also picked up some aged basmati rice and owners Jamil and Nasrin’s own spice blend to make a lamb biryani later on.
Our next stop was Ivan’s café, in the Neeta shopping centre. Zahida showd us how to make Burek, the delicious, light-as-a-feather pastry which is then filled with spinach and cheese, or meat fillings. Watching her roll and stretch the dough from a ball into a table-sized sheet of pastry so thin you can see through it, was just amazing. And the results were to die for.
Just around the corner from Ivan’s café is his butchery. Ivan is a gorgeous character, all smiles and stories. He became a master butcher in Europe before moving to Australia about 30 years ago. We tasted some of his excellent salamis before waddling off to lunch. Yes, all of this sampling has occurred before lunch!
We headed back to our starting point, the Fairfield pub, to visit the Green Peppercorn restaurant. This is run by the Inthavong family, who are passionate about Lao and Thai food and also about their community of Fairfield. Our hosts were Tona and Ketty. We were given a cooking demonstration and then treated to the most incredible Laotian banquet. A highlight of the banquet is the sausage, made by Tona’s father and with a fiercely guarded recipe. There were salads, stir-fries and rice dishes – all stunning. And just when we thought we couldn’t fit in another thing, along came dessert! Deep-fried ice cream in a filo pastry shell was absolutely gorgeous, and a Pandan crème brulee was divine. It was a spectacular end to a fascinating and very tasty day.
It’s quite incredible to me the range and diversity of cultures all within a few blocks of each other. There are people from 133 different countries in this suburb, all of them with a story to tell. It was a privilege to hear some of these stories and meet these people who are bringing a taste of their homeland to Australia.
Maeve will be conducting another Food Safari through Fairfield on 9th August. If food, and laughter, and meeting great people are your thing, I would highly recommend going.
See Maeve’s website for all the information – www.gourmetsafaris.com.au