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Kitchens with class

With local produce at its heart, central west NSW is spoilt for

choice gourmet destinations, writes Marguerite Winter.

Immediately beyond the Blue Mountains

and loosely bordered by the towns of

Condobolin in the west, Cowra in the south

and Coonamble in the north, the central

west has been one of NSWs principal food

bowls from colonial times onward. If it was

gold that brought the first settlers to this

region, today the lure is of olive oil,

perfect peaches, sublime honey and

gorgeous chardonnay.

The gentle slopes and wooded outcrops

in the east support orchards, vineyards,

vegetable crops and livestock. Each

subregion has its specialities; Cowra, for

instance, is rightly celebrated for its lamb,

particularly as presented by Paul Loveridge

at The Quarry Restaurant & Cellar Door

just outside town. River flats along the

Lachlan River once supported large-scale

vegetable gardens around the town, one

belonging to a Japanese gardener who

supplied white peaches to Tetsuya's

restaurant in Sydney. Today the district is

noted for its farmed rabbits, asparagus,

prunes, olive products and stone fruits.

Until recently, little Cowra boasted the

celebrated Neila restaurant (hatted for

12 years), where chef Anna Wong and her

husband, Jerry Mouzakis, offered a short

menu big on flavour that included Wong's

famous caramelised pork hock served with

a beetroot salad.

Local specialities and produce from

their vegetable garden and orchard feature

at the seasonal cooking school Wong now

runs from her "shed" at their Neila farm,

and star in the product line she is

developing under that label. Her glistening

gem-coloured jars - inspired combinations

of cherry, lemon verbena and Sichuan

pepper; plum and chamomile flower;

peach, watermelon and chilli; caramelised

peach and ouzo; and kumquat, lychee and

mint - make superb bases for dressings

and sauces.

Lively nibbles include chopped fennel in

a traditional Chinese pickle, gingerbread

spiced Chinese red dates and tea-spiced

walnuts. Bags of the famed wafer-like

crispbread with nigella seeds she served at

the restaurant complement the range.

In Sydney, her product line has so far

reached Rushcutters Marketplace on Nield

Avenue and Quattro Fromaggi Deli & Vino

bar in Mosman, and is available from The

Essential Ingredient at Kingston in

the ACT.

Wong is not running her regular classes

through the summer but will put together

sessions for up to eight on request. She's

also catering for private functions of a

minimum 20 at her former restaurant in

the town. Her next offsite gig is the

Windowrie Long Lunch with Neila this

month as this district's best-known winery

celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Class topics include the original riffs on

Eastern and Western classics that are

Wong's vibrant signature, with thoughtful

tips on technique. We caught the last class

of spring, where we handled pan-fried

dumplings (war-tip) and a green-teasmoked

duck breast salad made

memorable by a dressing centred on her

cherry, verbena and Sichuan pepper jam.

Her personal style stove-side is buoyant,

warm, informed and inclusive.


o

Finer details

Neila

Cookery classes on

request and catering

for private functions.

neila.com.au

Windowrie Long

Lunch with Neila

October 25.

windowrie.com.au