A food tour of South Australia

GRACEFUL LINES: Barossa wine country, South Australia.
GRACEFUL LINES: Barossa wine country, South Australia.

We are the can't cook, won't cook brigade, preparing to dish up dinner with a Master Chef.

We could be about to take part in any one of three reality television programmes. Instead we are on South Australian Harvest, a five-day coach trip around Adelaide, The Barossa and Kangaroo Island.

We are starting in Adelaide where we are sitting around a dining table with appetisers laid out before us, looking as though we are about to say grace.

DAIRY QUEEN: A stop at Adelaide's Smelly Cheese Shop is a must for cheese aficionados.
DAIRY QUEEN: A stop at Adelaide's Smelly Cheese Shop is a must for cheese aficionados.

For what we are about to receive we all look truly terrified.

We are ready to embark on an interactive cooking demonstration with 2012 MasterChef Australia All Stars winner Callum Hann and dietitian Themis Chryssidis at Sprout Cooking School.

Hann just asked who among us does a bit of cooking.

The blank faces say it all.

It looks like we are can't cook, won't cook types, busy professionals with too much on our plates, if you'll pardon the pun, to be of much use in the kitchen.

But we certainly have no reason to be afraid.

This is not Master Chef, we are not going to appear on television, and there is definitely no prospect of elimination.

Hann says it breaks his heart when people see cooking as a chore, so he is a man on a mission - to show the Class of 2014 how to create delicious and healthy food even we have time to cook.

Sprout Cooking School is directly above Adelaide Central Market so we head downstairs for a tour.

The indoor market, which has about 80 stalls, has been described as "the city's pantry".

It's open five days a week and every Friday night and again on Saturday morning. Thousands of people crowd in to buy weekend supplies of fish, bread, cheese, fruit and veges, meat, poultry, seafood, confectionery and coffee - and maybe eat out at one of the cafes.

We marvel at the Smelly Cheese Shop, where they sell 300 different types of cheese, including some "little stinkers" all the way from France, and get to dip strawberries in a spectacular chocolate fountain at Providore.

Back upstairs, we begin our cooking session by tucking into appetisers sourced at the market - Wild Loaf fig and walnut bread and a Smelly Cheese Shop offering studded with delicate edible flowers.

Then Hann and Chryssidis demonstrate three dishes - pork and green apple salad, cajun salmon with peach salad and dill yoghurt, and deconstructed cheesecake with passionfruit curd and figs.

The classes are all about doing, not watching, so after each course demonstration it's our turn. We split into small teams for our cook-off and then sample our creations before Hann and Chryssidis show us the next.

And between each course, a Master Chef does our washing up!

When it comes to the dessert our fear is back with a vengeance at the sight of the piping bag.

We almost throw in the tea towel but Hann and Chryssidis are on hand.

We're amazed by how easy the recipes are and how impressive the dishes look and taste, even though we cooked them.

The Kiwi Capers - myself and another New Zealander on the trip - rather let the side down in the nutrition quiz which follows.

It's not knowing the calorific content of our breakfast muffin that catches us out.

That and a question about dividing chocolate into equal size pieces to share.

There's so much food to try on this trip, one of AAT Kings' 52 Brilliant Breaks, that you do need to pace yourself.

Also in Adelaide, we enjoy lunch on the first day and a tapas meal on the final day at La Boca Bar and Grill, a new dining venue with an Argentinean flavour.

At the lunch we try a dessert called La Jasona - candied pumpkin with almond cake and pumpkin ice-cream. Smoked trout at the final meal is a highlight for me, especially as it's not a dish you'll find on any New Zealand menu.

On the second day of our trip we head out of Adelaide to Maggie Beer's farm shop near Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley.

Maggie, a Barossa food tradition, is a self-taught cook, food author, restaurateur and food producer who started a pheasant and quail farm with husband Colin in 1973, having moved from Sydney to rural South Australia.

Fashion in food has never been of interest to Maggie, who appeared on our TV screens in The Cook and The Chef.

She now produces a range of gourmet food "unhampered by rules and dietary guidelines".

The fig and almond frangipane tart we are offered tastes so good it must be bad for us but in the interests of research we eat it anyway.

Then we get to dip little sampling sticks into products in the shop, including tomato and sultana chutney, burnt fig jam and salted brandy caramel.

The Barossa may be a haven for foodies but it is also world-famous for wines.

Our coach takes us to Torbreck Vintners, where we meet senior winemaker Craig Isbel.

Isbel tells us the grape to glass story, emphasising that Torbreck's aim is to grow the best quality fruit possible and do as little as possible to it in the winery.

Isbel shows us a 27-litre bottle in the bottling and labelling plant. Filled with Torbreck's RunRig, it would set you back a staggering A$10,000.

In the afternoon we visit a vineyard everyone knows - Jacob's Creek, where we see the actual creek and then sample many wines at the impressive glass-fronted visitor centre.

That night we stay at the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort with the vast vineyards of Jacob's Creek winery laid out before us.

Our food and wine journey continues on Kangaroo Island, just a short ferry ride from the South Australian mainland.

Our main reason for visiting Kangaroo Island - often described as a "zoo without walls and cages" - is that it is a place to see Australian animals and birds in their natural environment.

But the island is also a paradise for foodies, producing whiting, sheep's cheese, a unique variety of honey, marron, and wines.

Our coaches travels down a dusty red track towards Andermel Marron where owner John Melbourne teaches us some facts about marron (freshwater crayfish), which get their name from their chestnut colour.

Marron were introduced to the creeks on Kangaroo Island from Western Australia, and have multiplied ever since.

At John's Marron Cafe, we eat a lunch of hot and cold marron, prawns, scallops, fruit, ciabatta, salad and John's Two Wheeler Creek dipping sauces, including dreamy lemon myrtle tartare.

After our break, the can't cook, won't cook brigade share photographs on social media of Sprout Cooking School dishes successfully recreated for family and friends back home.

Mission accomplished, Mr Master Chef.

The writer travelled courtesy of AAT Kings.


AAT Kings' five-day South Australian Harvest is one of the coach company's 52 Brilliant Breaks, categorised as food and wine, nature and wildlife, cultural experiences, family experiences, active adventures or winter escapes, and offered in Australia and New Zealand.

The land-based cost of the South Australian Harvest trip is from $2295 per person twin share, with departures starting from October. The experience starts in Adelaide, where there is a tour of Adelaide Central Market and an interactive cooking demonstration with Sprout Cooking School, run by MasterChef Australia All Stars 2012 winner Callum Hann and dietitian Themis Chryssidis.

Then it's on to Australia's premier wine region, The Barossa, including a visit to Maggie Beer's Farm Shop, before heading to the quaint German-influenced village of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.

One evening and a full day are spent on Kangaroo Island.

South Australian Harvest includes many meals, sightseeing, accommodation, transport, the services of a driver guide and airport transfers. Visit aatkings.com (0800 500 146), or ask your travel agent.

Sunday Star Times