When it comes to cooking, Windmill Café owner Joey Caruana likes to think outside the box and by doing so he wowed the audience with his seafood lasagne at this year’s Bundy Flavours.
He said he explored different ways to use locally sourced produce in some typical dishes, putting his own unique twist on old favourites.
Joey’s culinary experience made cooking a locally caught seafood lasagne look like a breeze and the smell that drifted across the Bundy Flavours crowd was amazing.
Joey said he liked to dish up meals people often struggled with or found to be too complicated, such as seafood, breaking it down into easy steps for every day meals with fantastic taste.
Using seafood from the Red Shed the chef started his dish by quickly sealing the scallops, prawns and golden snapper which he said would seal in the individual flavours.
Moving on to the sauce to bind the seafood and lasagne together, Joey said he chose not to use the traditional red tomato sauce in his seafood version.
“I do a bachemel sauce but I actually do a reduction first, from a reduction of crustacean, so prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and I do like a bisque to make it like a seafoody, cocktail mornay and I lay it out,” Joey said.
Layers of the delicious béchamel are repeatedly poured over the lasagne sheets, seafood and mozzarella cheese.
“It sounds that easy – because it is that easy,” Joey said.
Bundy Flavours make right ingredients for seafood lasagne
“That’s the concept because we have the best seafood of anywhere, and seafood is so easy to use by sealing quickly – it doesn’t take hours to cook or prepare, it can be rinsed off and used immediately.
“The hero of the dish is the seafood and we don’t overpower it with tomato sauces, as we don’t put tomatoes in it.”
Joey said to imagine mornay sauce, like used in a fish pie, flavoured with tarragon and lime thyme to give it the zing along with lemon infused oil.
“The longest part of the dish is the baking time, but because the seafood cooks so quick it’s all relatively fast,” he said.
Availability of produce keeps Joey in Bundaberg
As a local chef who only moved to the Bundaberg Region two-and-a-half years ago Joey said it was the freshness and quality of the produce that kept him and his family here.
“Our produce is second to none. We are the leader in all fresh produce and I wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t great,” Joey said.
“I spent the last 10 years North-West of Liverpool in England, my wife is from there and my kids were born there, but coming here and having the opportunity to taste the food.
“And one of the great things about having a coffee shop in Bargara is I get to taste the food and I know all the growers, I know all the producers by name, I know where they are from and I know their kids.”
Joey said this opened the doors for the Windmill Cafe to change its menu with the season and it was a privilege to cook for the crowds at Bundy Flavours year-on-year.
“This is my third presentation at Bundy Flavours and it’s been great,” he said.
“I am a huge believer in our destination, our destination for food, for our great reef, for our farmers and growers.
“I am a food fanatic, love food, dream it and believe it; I truly believe that is why people are here in Bundaberg, for their love of food.”
Joey’s passion for cooking has helped him travel the world but he said there was nowhere else he would rather be, then here in Bundaberg.
“I originally trained as a chef 30 something years ago in Sydney, where I worked in an Italian restaurant and then I spent three years in Singapore and a few years in Hong Kong,” he said.
“While in Hong Kong I went back to uni and did a hospitality degree in hotel management.
“The passion for food … in this region is just getting stronger and strong.
“I love the passionate part of the service we have here and I believe build it and they will come.”
How to make Joey's Bundy Flavours seafood lasagne
1 green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons plus extra 1/2 cup of butter, divided
1/2 kg uncooked prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2kg snapper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cream
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
9 fresh lasagna sheets
In a large pan add onion, oil and 2 tablespoons butter until tender.
Stir in scallops, prawns, fish and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; return to a boil.
Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 4-5 minutes or until prawns turn pink and scallops are firm and opaque, stirring gently.
Drain, reserving cooking liquid; set seafood mixture aside.
In a large saucepan melt the remaining butter; stir in flour until smooth. Combine milk and reserved cooking liquid; gradually add to the saucepan.
Add salt and remaining pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Remove from the heat; stir in cream and 1/4 cup cheese.
Stir 3/4 cup white sauce into the seafood mixture.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Spread 1/2 cup white sauce in a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.
Top with three pasta sheets; spread with half of the seafood mixture and 1-1/4 cups sauce. Repeat layers.
Top with remaining pasta sheets, sauce and cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting and enjoy the delicious taste of seafood!