Posts tagged Expo

Sea Urchin: My chat with John from Cando Fishing


Meet John Shea. I met him as I was walking along an aisle at the Fine Food Australia trade fair, absolutely starving. John offered a friendly smile and some fabulous mussels, and then as we got chatting, he offered me some sea urchin. SEA URCHIN. Some of the freshest, plumpest, most delicious sea urchin I’ve ever had. So of course I had to find out more.

Sea Urchin

From my chat with John, I learnt that the Sea Urchin has five tongues, which are hold the tasty bits roe of the urchin. Each urchin has about three million eggs, spread out over the five tongues. They eat kelp, and pretty much all of their energy is diverted to reproducing.

And as with any living produce, there is most definitely a season to sea urchin. According to John, there is a saying in New Zealand, which is that the sea urchin is ‘ripe’ when the pohutukawa (a plant) is in bloom. This means that the sea urchin harvesting season corresponds to summer, which is when this particular plant is in bloom.

So what is a ‘ripe’ sea urchin? And why harvest in summer?

Well, it turns out that when the water is cold (during winter), it’s not a good time to spawn. And since we’re basically eating the reproductive organs of the sea urchin, that means that not a good time for spawning = no roe. But in the lead up to the warmer months, the sea urchin start gearing up for reproduction, meaning that the tongues start getting plump and firm, and swelling up, ready to ‘give birth’. This is the best time to harvest and eat sea urchin, because you end up with an amazing, fresh, plump product.

If you harvest them too late, then well…we all know that birthing can be a traumatic event.

The colour of the sea urchin also varies. Some are a light yellow, and varies right into a dark brown. All of that just really has to do with the fact that mother nature doesn’t quite make everything consistent, and the dark brown sea urchin, while not as pretty in presentation, is still just as yummy. Trust me, I’ve tried.

If you want to go out and get some of this deliciousness for yourself, then be sure to pick urchin that is plump and firm – not watery – and smells like the sea. If it smells fishy, then it’s no good – sea urchin has a pretty short shelf life. Even better when you can see the little roe – it should look rough like the surface of your tongue. If you were eating it straight, I would definitely suggest that you can get them plump if you can – it’s so worthwhile for the texture and flavour that they provide.

The urchin that I’ve tried from Cando fishing is MASSIVE by the standards that I’ve seen in most reputable Japanese restaurants. I’ve never had urchin as satisfying and decadent, and I’m not saying this because John was lovely enough to give me product to sample. They are really quite versatile, and delicious, and it’s inspired me to come up with a few recipes with sea urchin.

How do you like to enjoy your sea urchin?

Good Food and Wine Show, 2013

My stash: (Clockwise from left) Scarmoza Blanca from La Latteria, Colgate tea flavoured mouthwash, Kumquat spread from St Dalfour, Truffle Tapenade from Wine and Truffle Co., Flavoured salts from Smoke and Roast, Smoked garlic from Smoke and Roast, Porcini salt from Salt Meats Cheese.

FREE FOOD. Need I say more?

The Good Food and Wine Show is one of the bigger food expos that I attend every year. Beyond the aforementioned free food, I love the opportunity that I get to have a chat with small producers whom I might not otherwise get a chance to talk to, or might have to travel far to meet.

For example, meet Larry.


Larry is, in his own words, “the truck driver, the harvester, the everything” at the Handorf Hill Winery. Not having that much experience with wine – and not being very good with alcohol – I had many questions, and Larry patiently and eloquently explained to me the intricacies of the flavours and aromas of wine, and especially how the weather and microclimates affect them. The most interesting thing I learnt from Larry was the effect of the cool weather on tannins.

Tannins are compounds that are present in things like tea and wine, and contributes a certain kind of astringency that gives you that slightly dry feeling in your mouth. Because tannins are found in the grapes, the rate the grapes ripen will affect the amount of astringency that you get in your wine. From what I understand from Larry, the cooler Adelaide climates allow the grapes to ripen slowly, allowing the tannins to mellow out, resulting in a gentler wine. How cool is that?

There were also plenty of other producers:

chocome layout

ChocoMe had the most beautifully presented bars of chocolate I’d ever seen.

robinvale layout

Robinvale estate, with their adorable graphics adorning their myriad of flavoured oils and vinegars.

salumi layout

Salumi Australia had a MASSIVE and impressive display of cured meats in every shape and form. And had these little cones at $5 a pop, besides the samples that they had on display.

smoke and roast layout

Smoke and Roast had a very energetic spokesperson, and had the most beautiful-smelling smoked garlic and flavoured salts. He was sharing recipes left, right and centre and inspired me to try out his salts on a slow roasted pork belly. He said to different salts on different sections, to create a sort of rainbow of flavours, depending on which piece you eat.


The Wine and Truffle Co. had a great array of truffle products, and an impressive piece of truffle protected by a glass cloche. I was impressed that they could tell me off hand when the truffle was harvested – it’s very important to ask when buying truffles because truffles tend to go stale after about 10 days – and I loved the truffle tapenade so much that I bought one home for myself.


Kikkoman had a genius way of getting people to try their soy sauce – rather than getting people to dip crackers in (I’ve seen this happen, who gets people to try soy sauce with crackers?), they actually had little pieces of salmon and cucumber sushi for people to try with their sauce! I know it sounds simple, but I don’t think that I would’ve thought of that.


This is the most exciting bit of the day for me. Bohemian Delights had wild mushrooms out for sale, and there were samples of Slippery Jack mushrooms (right) which were simply sauteed with salt, pepper and some caraway seeds. SO DELICIOUS! There was also a man at the stall – the owner’s father – who told us that his wife uses Pine Nut mushrooms (left) in her goulash, instead of meat, before saying (with a wink in his eye) that Czech women make the best cooks.

And that was my Good Food and Wine experience. Did you go? Which were your favourite stands?