Pimp My Plate #33 – The Boatshed, Tea Gardens, NSW

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PMP is usually focused on brunch or lunches under $19 but we’re about flavour and value so we remain flexible.

Ducks, pelicans, local vibe = fabulous.

Snap! Sometimes a lazy lunch perched on a river is a much better bet than a citified Melbourne Cup lunch.

If you need convincing, consider a restaurant table overlooking a river, watching a duck family paddle past, while you’re served a complimentary glass of sparkling wine.  

Almost a moving meditation!

On the pier opposite, a large pelican basks lazily in the sun eyeing diners. Languid, but not crazy lazy, he is ready and alert to consume any food morsels that slip through the wooden decking into the water below.

Sometimes you want to slow the pace a little, because sometimes a lazy lunch can feel like a holiday in itself.

And sometimes you don’t even know you want to slow down until you do.

That’s the vibe you whole-heartedly and effortlessly embrace at Tea Gardens Boatshed. Why hurry paradise?

For me, Miles Davis’ ‘So What’ came to mind in an easy, ‘I’m where I want to be’ vibe.

Here there are boats, but no marina. Instead the river is fringed with mangroves and sea birds, not infrastructure.

The natural calm and serenity is punctuated by the pop of an occasional champagne cork, the clink of glasses, conversation, and easy laughs. Paradise, right? Are you relaxed yet?

The food at the Boatshed embraces this languid mood, but it’s not lazy, instead it glows with fresh goodness and attentiveness on the plate and the palate.

What brought me to Tea Gardens? I was travelling back from Tastings on the Hastings food festival and chose to stop over in Tea Gardens to break our trip back to Sydney. We had no set plans for Melbourne Cup Day or any expectations of fine dining.

We found both.

I’m a Sydneysider, and to see a poster advertising a Melbourne Cup lunch – the ‘race that stops a nation’ – for $60 a head felt a lot like finding an Eames chair for sale at a thrift store for $5. If only I had, ever.

So that was surprise #1.

Surprise #2 was that the Boatshed could accommodate our booking with only one day’s notice.

On Melbourne Cup Day, it seems that the locals in Tea Gardens are spoilt for choice between their own lounge rooms, their local RSL, and the local hotel. Perhaps locals consider it a bit ‘fancy’ to go to a restaurant, who knows.

The Boatshed isn’t ‘fancy’ it’s just simply fabulous. And it’s situated slap-bang on the river bank in a prime ‘embrace Nature’ position.

Which means we immediately felt any weight from city life instantly evaporate from our shoulders. Sun, wildlife, food. You get the picture.

We visited the Boatshed twice – once for the special occasion degustation Melbourne Cup lunch, and then again to eat on a regular work day.

I’ll start with The Cup lunch.

Canapes on arrival, a glass of sparkling wine, and then three courses of delicious food. We were ready.

The sun sparkled over the river as boats lolled about on the calm blue water, and sea birds stretched their wings in the sunshine.

We joined a small group of diners – a mix of locals, and Sydney expats.

You can’t fake “country hospitality” or its twin, “country congeniality”.

Where else would a restaurant come to a standstill as we demanded one of the diners don his inflatable horse and jockey garb – because we missed it first time around – while his wife held aloft a bucket of champagne because they won best costume of the day. They won for attitude and bravado, rather than celebrity. So much of that missing these days!

On this day, in this place, quality food, friendliness and inclusiveness surpassed any on-trend city hipster-ism.

Between courses, conversations swirled between local concerns like midges, art courses, dog-walking, and other local gossip. Temporarily, we felt like  adopted family. And that was even before one of the locals generously offered to buy everyone in the restaurant a drink. Name the last time that happened to you?

This Melbourne Cup lunch was the best I’ve ever experienced. And at $60 per head I kept kicking myself – is this real? It was. And it was really worth $160 per head.

So you can understand why we went back for lunch – and were similarly impressed.

The Boatshed serves great food – simple, full of flavour with, on special occasions, a flair that is easily comparable with Sydney bistros.

Spend your money here. Feel the love and enjoy the flavours. Feel special. Support the locals. Meet the locals.

RATED: Oh so, pimped!  FOOD: 5/5   Feel special and eat well.
VALUE: 6/5   VENUE ATMOS: A holiday in each bite!   VIBE:  Punching way about their weight and winning.

TEA GARDENS BOATSHED – 110 Marine Drive, Tea Gardens, NSW

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Thanksgiving Pumpkin Ice Cream

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Had. To. Try. It.  In time for Thanksgiving!

With only 80gm of sugar in the whole recipe, what’s not to like?

How does it taste? The flavour of this Ice Cream is a sweet, subtle pumpkin flavour, with a very creamy, dense texture.

Don’t try making this with canned butternut pumpkin – I know you wouldn’t – it must be fresh! Did you know that the orange flesh of butternut pumpkin is naturally sweet? So there’s no need to kill the flavour with excessive amounts of sugar.

If you’re worried any recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream for Thanksgiving is full of ‘pumpkin spice’ because you are so over that flavour, relax! The only ingredients in this recipe are cream, milk, sugar, and pumpkin. If you want to add a touch of spice I suggest grating half a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg into the pumpkin puree mixture. Trust me, forget the cinnamon and just grate in the nutmeg, to taste.

You’ll need an electric ice-cream maker to make this. Mine is a clunky older style but works fine. Check the ice cream maker specification and quantities for yours against this recipe before starting as my recipe uses more cream than milk.

Let’s get started…

PUMPKIN ICE CREAM

Yields: approx. 3 cups
Serve with pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, pudding, waffles, pancakes, or in ice cream cones.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cooked butternut pumpkin
1 cup (8 oz.) of thick pouring cream
½ cup (2.5 oz.) of cold full cream milk
Orange Americolor food colouring gel – I used ½ teaspoon, or personal preference

3 egg yolks (use the leftover egg whites to make meringue – they stay fresh for 2-3 days)
1/3 cup of superfine white sugar
1 level Tblspn light brown sugar

7 oz. thick pouring cream

How to make Pumpkin Ice Cream

Step 1

Dice enough butternut pumpkin to fill 1 ½ cups, and steam in a medium saucepan until soft.

Take off the heat, and put aside to cool. When cool, transfer pumpkin into a small bowl and put into the fridge for 15-30 minutes until completely cold.

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Step 2

Take the pumpkin mixture out of the fridge and spoon it into a food processor. Pour in the cup of cream and half a cup of milk, and puree until there are no lumps in the mixture. Then add the orange food colour to the pumpkin puree, and pulse again until completely mixed through. Set aside.

Step 3

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and thoroughly mixed.

Stir in the pumpkin puree and mix through thoroughly.

Step 4

In another medium sized bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form.

Fold the cream into the egg and pumpkin mixture, and whisk briefly until well combined.

Switch on your ice cream machine and pour in the mixture. Start churning the ice cream, to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Homemade donuts? Yes, please

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NOV 5 is National DONUT DAY in the USA, so with a nod to New Orleans, here is my recipe for homemade donut-beignets – doughnets? This is my first attempt at donuts and as usual, I like to add a little spice.

I warn you, they are delicious! 

DONUT~BEIGNETS
Makes 18-20 (4cm round)

Oil or candy thermometer
Metal tongs or metal slotted spoon

T=tablespoon

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 large beaten egg
1/4 cup caster sugar
3 T melted unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups Sunflower oil, for frying

Sugar-spice coating: Mix together 3 T caster sugar with a generous pinch of ground Cinnamon and a pinch of Allspice.

Let’s get started…

Melt butter in a small saucepan on low heat and allow to cool. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, egg, and cooled melted butter.

Sprinkle flour into the egg mixture bit by bit. Use a mixer on low speed until all the flour has been combined.

Preheat oil over medium heat in a medium size saucepan or deep non-stick fry-pan (keeping an eye on the oil it as it is heating up).

Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, use a tablespoon or plastic coffee scoop to carefully plop the batter into the oil.

Cook 5-6 donut balls at a time, keeping a close watch on the oil temperature, adjusting down if necessary to keep the temperature consistent and not skyrocketing up in temperature.

Fry the donut balls about 1 minute on each side, or until golden brown. Carefully remove with metal tongs or slotted spoon and turn off the heat. Drain donut-beignets onto a plate lined with paper towels.

When hot enough to handle, roll the donuts in the sugar-spice mixture.

These are perfect with a cup of fresh coffee. Take some to work to share. Enjoy!

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