Recipes for suc­cess

Rolling along the Mur­ray on a food-themed voy­age

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays For Seniors - CATHER­INE MAR­SHALL

SNAKE birds perched in the gum trees are angling their heads to­wards the river, div­ing in spo­rad­i­cally to snare their catch; the fish, in turn, glide up to­wards the fad­ing light and feast on the in­sects that skate along the sur­face of the mighty Mur­ray.

A flotilla of pel­i­cans closes in, pink-billed ghosts emerg­ing from the mist and cir­cling Mur­ray Princess, which has docked for the night at Blanchetown, 130km north­east of Ade­laide.

Light from the boat floods the river, il­lu­mi­nat­ing fish so plen­ti­ful the pel­i­cans need only dip their beaks into the wa­ter to have them over­flow with din­ner.

From the wood-pan­elled bar on the Sturt Deck comes the tin­kling of laugh­ter; guests are sip­ping the cock­tail of the day, iron­i­cally named the Pro­cras­ti­nat­ing Pel­i­can. It’s a rich blend of Kahlua, cherry brandy, dark creme de ca­cao, co­conut milk and cream, made more dev­il­ish still by the knowl­edge that we’re about to tuck into a feast, our fourth in just one day.

But we’ve noth­ing to be ashamed of, says cruise di­rec­tor An­drew Kerr, for there is some­thing mag­i­cal that hap­pens here: the river vapours curl up­wards and in­fuse the decks and seep into the cab­ins and into suit­cases and per­form a strange shrink­ing trick on pas­sen­gers’ clothes so when they re­turn home they can no longer squeeze into them.

Be­sides, the cen­tral pur­pose of this ex­cur­sion is food. We are on the in­au­gu­ral Julie Good­win cook­ing cruise, a five-day fes­ti­val of all things de­li­cious with the win­ner of Aus­tralia’s first MasterChef com­pe­ti­tion. So far to­day we’ve break­fasted and lunched on great moun­tains of food; in the af­ter­noon we gath­ered in the Pad­dle­wheel Lounge and watched as Good­win, in a makeshift kitchen, made shot-glass swigs of gaz­pa­cho and plat­ters of crumbed cala­mari and Thai chicken meat­balls, recipes taken from her lat­est book, Gather.

We took notes and asked ques­tions and watched at­ten­tively so that we might faith­fully repli­cate th­ese dishes at home, but re­ally what we were hang­ing out for was the taste-test. Mur­ray Princess’s kitchen staff, briefed ear­lier by Good­win, had made suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of the cock­tail fare so we could all en­joy it while sip­ping on straw­berry-laced cham­pagne.

Af­ter­wards, we dis­em­barked and took a stroll up to Pais­ley Road in Blanchetown, past a grave­yard and fields over­taken by clover to Burke Sal­ter win­ery, where the one fam­ily has grown grapes for three gen­er­a­tions. The old Mo­bil Ser­vice Sta­tion, built by Burke Sal­ter and his wife, Yvonne, in the 1950s, is now the cel­lar door, the me­chan­ics’ garage the tast­ing room.

As the wine flowed, Burke’s son Greg, who runs the win­ery with his wife, Jane, ex­plained it isn’t only wine-drinkers who reap the fruits of this land — rab­bits, cock­a­toos and kan­ga­roos are par­tial to them, too.

‘‘Whenit’s go­ing to be one of those stink­ing hot

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