Mark LeCras a foodie highlight of Mingenew Midwest Expo
Give a group of farmers two sheep carcasses, fresh barramundi, lupin products and the chance to share the spotlight with an AFL star, and something extraordinary is bound to happen.
In the case of last week’s seven Paddock to Plate cooking demonstrations, it meant breaching the city-urban divide and showing a keen audience just how good WA produce could be.
With a steady hand and and a big grin, former West Coast Eagles small forward LeCras cooked up a meal of fresh barramundi from the Coaker family’s broadacre farm at Morawa, pairing it with a lime and chilli dressing.
LeCras was brought to Expo by Bankwest and he shared the stage with two much-loved WA broadacre producers — Watheroo farmer and Cocky Likes to Cook founder Brad Millsteed and Mingenew farmer and The Farmers Cook WA founder Fiona Cosgrove during the 12pm Paddock to Plate presentation last Wednesday.
LeCras, who kicked a personal best of 12 goals against Essendon in round 16 of the 2010 season, said he enjoyed “having a bit of a cook- up” with the pair.
His session with Mr Millsteed and Ms Cosgrove focused on “surf and turf”, with barramundi from Morawa and lamb backstraps from Three Springs butchers, served on fresh Mingenew Bakery breadstick.
“Whenever you can cook some local produce you should take the opportunity,” LeCras said.
“I am really interested in cooking meat and any protein is good... I am definitely becoming more interested in cooking.”
LeCras, who caught reams of fresh barramundi while on holiday in the Kimberley earlier this year, said the best way to cook fish was to keep it “nice and simple”.
“Just a bit of salt and pepper on the fish, it is beautiful,” he said.
Despite growing up in Cervantes, last week was LeCras’ first Expo, and he found himself posing for plenty of photographs with parents and children alike.
The former Eagle kicked 441 goals in 211 games during his football career, the third-most goals ever kicked by an Eagles player.
Earlier that day and later that afternoon, Mr Millsteed took to the stage with his friend and Geraldton butcher-extraordinaire Evan Reynolds.
The pair, who presented at last year’s Expo, prepared and cooked two hogget carcases donated by Harold Park Dohne stud master Charles Wass.
“On Wednesday we watched Evan take a carcase from hanging on a hook to being on the table and ready to eat in 15 minutes,” Mr Millsteed said.
“We really wanted to give some connection to the fact that a carcase can very soon be on the table.
“It was all about taking it to the end point, and it was just fantastic.”
Cooking is a passion for Mr Millsteed, who regularly shares his creations with his Twitter followers by using the hashtag #cockylikestocook.
“Cooking is my hobby, and I want to convince guys that it is not uncool to cook,” he said.
Ms Cosgrove emceed each of the seven Paddock to Plate and cooking demonstration segments during Expo’s two days.
She said she was thrilled to share the stage with LeCras, after starting her Facebook page The Farmers Cook WA to share recipes with other farmers.
She now has amassed 2242 followers, and uses the platform to showcase easy-to-cook recipes for feeding staff during seeding and harvest.
“Instead of cooking this year I thought I would emcee this instead ... everyone in Mingenew knows I love to talk and love to cook,” Ms Cosgrove laughed.
“The focus has been about using local produce when we can ... and cooking from scratch. Sharing the stage with Mark LeCras was just awesome ... my kids were very jealous.”
Mullewa farmer Tanya Kitto took to the stage twice on Thursday to showcase her range of lupin products through her business My Provincial Kitchen, which she and her husband Rob Kitto launched from their farm last year.
The gluten-free lupin products were showcased on the Expo’s main stage and put up for sale in the home and living pavilion.
“My take over the couple of days was that it seemed people were very excited to see that lupins had taken another step,” she said.
“It is not just lupin flour, but there is now a product that people can take home and easily use.”
The Kittos showcased recipes from their packets for pancakes, savoury muffins and chocolate brownies, as well as creating a crumbed chicken using a blend of wholemeal and self-raising flour.
Another highlight of the presentations were two sessions on Thursday with Mingenew’s own foodie celebrity, Samara Cobley of Sottacetto, whose tasty preserves are popular among locals and customers further afield.
She cooked a Lebanese-style pizza with chickpea flour, hummus, Harold Park lamb, Bookara Goats yoghurt, and balsamic vinegar and beetroot relish.
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