Spirit House, Yandina QLD – Thai BBQ Lamb Salad

BBQ Lamb SaladI love spring. My garden is popping with colour, my house is infused with the scent of jasmine and gardenias and some of my favourite foods are in season.

I also love Christmas and am not averse to a little extended anticipation. What’s not to look forward to? It’s a time to celebrate everything that’s right with the world – family, fun, peace and of course, food. It’s also a time to the share the things you love most with those nearest and dearest. So there’s no better time to share some of my favourite spring, summer and festive food with you.

As you might know from a previous blog, I have spent many happy hours at Spirit House – the restaurant and and the cooking school. I have also spent many delightful hours in the pages of their recipe books, cooking their sensational creations and sharing them with family and friends.

Spirit House Thai Cooking BookMy favourite from my almost complete Spirit House collection (and of everything else I have), is Spirit House’s first publication – Thai Cooking. It’s entirely navigable for novices, challenging enough for more experienced cooks and spans the spectrum from canapes, salads, stir-fries and curries to desserts. It’s great all year round and I turn to it almost weekly for curries in winter, stir-fries in spring and salads in summer.

My favourite spring dish celebrates not only its Asian origin, but the gorgeous produce of Australia and the season – Thai BBQ lamb salad. The good news is, because they are such nice people, the authors have given me special permission to share it with you.

Recipe

They have also given me a little heads-up that a best of Spirit House cook book will be available before Christmas, featuring a compilation of their favourites as well as 20 new recipes.

In the meantime, have fun with this one and if you want to venture out for an appetiser, something really special or a little of something you won’t (unfortunately) find in any of their books yet, scroll down for a little “taste” of what’s on offer at the restaurant right now.

Salmon SoupIf you have eaten at Spirit House, cooked any of their recipes or try this one, then you’ll know that their food is balance epitomised. Authentic Thai food, celebrating local produce, using traditional but also embracing some contemporary techniques and always perfect.

Point in case their coconut soup with salmon, lemongrass and chilli oil. Delicate, moist fish is a perfect match for the hint of chilli which just cuts through the coconut milk and with finessed restraint does not overpower the subtlety of the lemongrass and kaffir lime.

I could tell you about the pork belly, but I’ll (almost) let this picture speak for itself. It looks sweet and it is sweet, but it’s also satisfyingly fiery with all the crisp on the skin you want.Pork Belly

Too often I’m enticed by scallops and am left more than a little disappointed by the obligatory vogue accompaniments.  Spirit House’s Thai version with puffed roti and fried green peppercorns is inspired. IScallops wish I could tell you more about it but I completely and utterly lost myself in the moment and other than telling you it is one of the best things I have eaten – ever – I’m afraid you’ll just have to try it for yourself.

New on the menu, so something we felt compelled to try, is the pulled wagyu with pickled shitakes. This dish best demonstrates the old with the new. WagyuMore savoury, but with the chilli hit you’d expect, generous shavings of wagyu work well (if not very substantially) with thick, gnocchi-like noodles, basil and wafer-thin garlic crisps.

If there is one thing that makes Spirit House work (apart from the exceptional food, service and good energy), it’s the consistency of the place and its people. I have never been there and not seen co-owner Helen Brierty close at hand and it’s telling.  In all the years I have been dining there, the gardens have always been beautifully tended, the menu true to its roots, the food and service faultless and everything weaved through with a delicate efficiency.

Spirit House

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Spirit House – Yandina, QLD

SH RestaurantThis is not my first visit to this exceptional establishment, it’s my tenth. But it’s my first since I started writing and my nod to its excellence is well overdue. Set on a peaceful lake amongst a lush tropical garden, Spirit House is not just a restaurant – it’s an experience. The exceptional presentation of exquisite contemporary Thai food, served with subtle elegance in the most tranquil of settings makes it so.

SH Soft Shell CrabI can recommend pretty much everything on the menu, but today I start with the tamarind chilli soft shell crab with minced pork and Asian celery. I love tamarind and its sourness in this dish is in perfect harmony with the hit of chilli. The light crunch of the shell gives way to delicate, sweet flesh and finishes well with the dusting of nuts.

SH Pork BellyMy husband has the pork belly to start and it’s as good as it always is (yes, he almost always orders it). The rich crispy skin, sweet citrus caramel sauce colludes with the ginger and mint salad to bring him back for more every time.

SH Massuman Beef CurryThe massaman seared lamb loin is nice and spicy – delicate heat comes through the sweetly caramelised sauce. The Kipler wafers are beautifully light and crisp and the pickled garlic adds a nice contemporary twist.

SH Green Pork CurryThe star dish today is the green curry pork loin. Spice crusted and served with (yes, more) pork crackling, shavings of apple, Thai celery and shredded kaffir lime leaves, it’s fresh, punchy and incredibly moreish.

Over the years I have had the very great pleasure of not only eating at Spirit House, but also attending their cooking school. It’s great fun, really hands on and both Kelly Lord and Annette Fear are great teachers. I have yet to join them on one of their culinary tours to Thailand and Vietnam but look forward to it immensely.2012 July 604

Wild Rocket at Misty’s – Montville, QLD

Narrows CottageOver the years my husband and I have had many happy retreats to the Sunshine Coast, more often than not staying in Noosaville. This time, hanging out for a last little snap of winter, a bit of green and a dash of red, we headed to Montville – a little inland from Noosa and set between Baroon Pocket Dam and the coast, abundant with rain forests and delightful crafty village shops.

Narrows RainforestWe found just the sanctuary we had a yen for at Narrows Escape. A small retreat run by the most delightful people who seem to anticipate everything you might need before you even consider it. Each wooden cottage is nestled amongst the trees, some alongside a little creek and all with a hammock, spa bath and fireplace.

Narrows Escape Breakfast HamperFor once it was nice not to have to pack any provisions, as included in the rate was an impressive breakfast hamper laden with eggs, bacon, fruit, spreads, orange juice, milk and chocolates; a welcome bottle of bubbly and a cheese platter. Every morning we had warm, freshly baked croissants delivered to the cottage with the newspaper on Sunday, and if we had chosen not to venture out we could have had a two-course meal cooked and served to us in our cottage.

Misty's ButtonsWe spent the first morning walking up an appetite in the rain forest and then settled in at Wild Rocket @ Misty’s for a lazy, lengthy lunch over a bottle of wine. Situated in one of the most historic buildings in Montville, but serving modern bistro-style food, Wild Rocket offers great value with a side of charm.

Misty's BurgerThe burger is a hunger buster and loaded with freshness and zing. A proper homemade beef patty, perfectly cooked and juicy, with smoked chilli relish and pickled cucumber a perfect complement to the bacon and hand-cut fries.

Misty's Thai Beef SaladThe Thai beef salad is just as well balanced and fresh. So good in fact that we returned the next day and switched choices.

If you haven’t been to the hinterland before, it’s a great place to the get the cement out of your system. One of the most beautiful walks is to be found at Kondalilla Falls and an easy half hour drive takes you to the Eumundi market on a Sunday. A little way away, tucked into a surprising sanctuary in Yandina, is my favourite Thai restaurant – Spirit House.