Saturday, 30 November 2013

Interview with Tony Lufti, Managing Director of Greenwheat Freekeh Pty Ltd Australia

Tony Lufti

Mr. Tony Lufti, Managing Director Greenwheat Freekeh Pty Ltd Australia

Tony’s professional career has focussed on managing the development of ventures with particular emphasis on Greenfield or start up activities and transnational business. His company, Greenwheat Freekeh Pty Ltd (GwF) is the first to develop the only technology in the world to manufacture ancient food of Freekeh with modern automated means. His company has been recognized with numerous awards and federal grants for innovation, exports and value adding. Tony recently shared a few minutes with The Yum List and answered some questions we had about this new superfood.

What is freekeh?
Freekeh is not the name of a variety of grain like quinoa or barley or rice. It is a 100% natural process which we apply to grains we harvest when still young and green before they mature. In this process we capture and more importantly retain all the goodness of young green grains which is lost when the grain matures. This is why freekeh is much tastier and healthier than mature grains. Freekeh to grain is like wine to grapes. You can make different kinds of wine from different kinds of grapes and likewise we can make different kinds of freekeh from different kinds of grain. They will taste different from one to another but be very high in nutrition and health benefits.

Is it gluten free?
No it is not. We will produce freekeh from non-wheat grain varieties. Freekeh can be made from many grains and some will be gluten free.

How sustainable is it?
The production of freekeh is better for the environment than the production of normal mature grains. Because the grain is harvested early where the farmer does not need to use chemicals which are not only bad for the consumer and the environment but also harmful to farm economics and the future of farming (chemicals are very expensive). Also, harvesting the grain early helps manage many problems with rye grass which is a serious issue in Australian farming.
Freekeh generates a premium to the farmer while at the same time helps reduce farm risk (early harvest means the crop is less exposed to end of season conditions which many times lead to the grain never finishing due to drought or end of season rain or diseases and pests). It simply means less farm risks, more farm returns, less costs, no chemicals and better product of the consumer.

Is it organic?
Many times the term organic is misunderstood or misused. If the question means is Greenwheat freekeh free from any chemicals, additives, colouring, preservative, GMO, pesticides, pesticide residues or anything of this nature then the answer is 100% yes.
Our factory can easily be certified organic at this stage but there are no organically certified farmers in South Australia at present. This will change in the near future and we are also seeking to transfer our technology to produce freekeh in other regions of Australia and other countries where organic farming is more prevalent.

Is it non-GMO?
There is no GMO wheat or cereal crops produced anywhere in South Australia and our Greenwheat Freekeh is 100% GMO free.

What are some different ways to use the grain?
From using it just like rice (rice substitute) to blending freekeh with rice to add taste and improve the nutritional value of the end product to using it for breakfast cereals, Freekeh is hugely versatile. Freekeh flour can be for pasta, noodles, bread (now freekeh flour is being used for pizza dough in New York City and it tastes great). Some companies are using Freekeh grain to make many Freekeh salads or Freekeh soups. Some are using rolled Freekeh or flaked Freekeh for breakfast cereals while others are using Freekeh to make ready vegetarian meals and freekeh burgers (both vegetarian and with meat). Really the list is endless.

What's your favourite way to enjoy the grain?
I eat it almost by itself. I sometimes cook the cracked grain with little salt (not much at all) then add feta cheese, tomatoes and olives with possibly orange pieces and eat it. It is very filling and great for weight loss. Also I love freekeh as a breakfast cereal. I also eat it in place of rice and sometimes mix it with rice. I love it in soups as it soaks up the flavour. There are many recipes now on the internet and recently on Today Tonight (Channel 7 Australia) the program had it with mushrooms and beetroots and it looked great.

When you say it has a 'secret' technology what do you mean?
Making freekeh is not as easy as harvesting the green grains. If you do that then one of two things will happen: 1. If the grain is aerated then it will continue to mature the benefits of the green grains will no longer be present since the grain matures; or 2. if the grain is not aerated then it will mould within 24 hours. Our technology is proprietary and highly protected. It has been subject to many attempts of theft after it took us many years to develop. Through our process we use natural means (fire) to bring the grain to a precise state at which point we immobilise the enzymes in the grain without cooking it. If this point is missed then grain will either be cooked or the enzymes will continue to cause the grain to mature.

Is the packaging environmentally friendly?
Our packaging is recyclable but we are also looking at new packaging as well.

How does it add biodiversity to a farmer's crops?
The shorter season allows for more crop rotation which helps with the nitrogen fixing in the soil and also reduces the dependence on chemicals and fertilisers which the world has grown accustomed to over the years. Just as importantly, freekeh is a great way to alleviate the need for GMO crops (particularly in cereal production) and is a way to secure the future of farming. It is a reality that farm economics have been deteriorating over the years forcing many farmers off the land, which can be a good thing for the future of our planet and next generations.

Greenwheat Freekeh is exclusively imported, marketed and distributed in Asia by The Model Cook (M) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary company of The Model Cook Pty Ltd, Australia. For more information, please contact or call +603 7733.1338.

Superfood Greenwheat Freekeh is now available in four stores - Hock Choon Jalan Ampang, Jaya Grocer Intermark, Village Grocer Bangsar and Village Grocer Mont Kiara. 

It is available in Wholegrain and Cracked grain at 400g net which is good for 8 - 10 servings and retailing at RM 23.90 per pack.

Greenwheat Freekeh

Friday, 29 November 2013

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Banjaran Entrance

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh

The entrance of the Banjaran never fails to impress. Giant limestone outcrops rise above a hot spring lake and, lush green vegetation invokes thoughts of dinosaur times. At the right time of day you can actually see steam drifting from the water’s surface in what appears to be a mystical oblation to the gods. 

Greeted warmly by name (you must pass through tight security before arrival), but also with the tranquil sounds of nature and soft music, deep breathing is easier at the Banjaran. The pulse immediately lowers and, with every intake of green vista, peace becomes more of a reality.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Banjaran Pool
Pomelo, The Banjaran’s signature restaurant is open walled with a high thatched roof and cooled by ceiling fans. Natural timber is used in a variety of forms for décor. Installation artworks, shelving, tables and hanging wall pieces take advantage of the organic beauty of wood and provide connection to the surrounding pristine environment.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Pomelo, Rustic Wood Furniture
Priding themselves on food that not only tastes good but makes you feel good too, Pomelo serves up their version of a high tea aptly named, The Good Afternoon. Savouries, sweets and a host of hot and cold drinks are presented in portions just the right size to abate afternoon hunger twangs but not spoil your appetite for dinner.

All the Day (Light Savoury Dishes)

Bringing my mum and dad along, who are visiting from Australia, it’s fun to hear everyone’s very different opinions of the food.

Beef or chicken can be chosen for the Club Sandwich (RM26). Hubby chooses the sliced chicken, which comes with lettuce and fresh tomato layered between a trio of toasted wholegrain bread slices. Hubby says, “It’s fresh and hits the spot.”

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Club Sandwich
Cold Brochette (RM20) is a refreshing afternoon nibble. Skewers of crimson watermelon cubes are alternated with rectangles of firm pressed yoghurt. The yoghurt feels surprisingly creamy and tastes more of a smooth cream cheese than tangy yoghurt. A bed of pea leaves carries the fruit and dairy, and is seasoned perfectly with a light honey dressing. I love it.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Cold Brochette
Hot Brochette (RM28) brings local flavours to the menu with chicken satay sided by a cacahuete (peanut) and coconut sauce. Chunky pieces of nut in a gently spiced salsa are an all round hit! Even after the chicken pieces are finished, spoons continue to scrape the bottom of the sauce dish. Mum says this is her favourite.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Hot Brochette
Large Blini (RM28) is a round pancake topped with a trio of pink salmon spirals, fat capers, white onion rings and a dill dressing. It’s clean and simple and dad enjoys this savoury plate the most.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Salmon Blini
Culinary Cocktails (RM25) – NOT TO BE MISSED!

Real highlights on the menu are the Culinary Cocktails. These are something special and worth ordering all four varieties. The family agrees. Hubby says, “A gift from heaven.” Mum remarks, “Died and gone to heaven.” Dad confirms, “No matter what you pick you won’t be disappointed.”

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Culinary Cocktails
Fruits - mango and granita with yoghurt and mint. A canary yellow bottom of pureed fruit proves naturally sweet. The white yoghurt top is freshened with shredded mint. All politeness is forgotten as everyone tries to get the last spoonful.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Culinary Cocktail - Fruits
Tea – pomelo and green tea espuma with lime kaffir café. Plump pomelo juice vesicles burst with freshness and the green tea and lime further enhance the best of Asian flavours.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Culinary Cocktail - Tea
Café - three textures and two temperatures. Chocolate, coffee, creamy, hot and cold – it’s a wonderful contrast. Be sure to dig deep to capture it all in the first mouthful.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Culinary Cocktail - Cafe
Vegetable – white carrot milk, honey, star anise, ginger and organic brown sugar. This is the mildest of the four. It’s more liquidy and tastes like a drinkable fruit cocktail.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Culinary Cocktail - Vegetable
Assorted Cake Varieties (RM6)

For those just wanting a small, uncomplicated bite that barely dints the pocket, a variety of cakes are simply presented fanned across white rectangle platters with shooters of sauce and an adornment of green leaves.

Mango Cake with Raspberry Sauce proves sweet and moist and is given a refreshing tang with a tart berry topping.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Mango Cake
Banana Cake with Chocolate Sauce is apparently a local favourite.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Banana Cake
Chocolate Cake with Mango Sauce is a slightly drier cake encouraging a generous pouring of the fruity mango dressing.

Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Chocolate Cake

A variety of freshly squeezed fruit juices are listed on the menu with their health benefits alongside.  The Pineapple Juice (RM16) is full of digestive enzymes, while the Mango Juice (RM16) is claimed to be rehydrating and improve blood circulation. Mum was happy with her juices finding them full flavoured and not watered down.
Pomelo, Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Mango and Pineapple Juices
I had a Freshly Brewed Coffee (RM15) and found it well balanced, while the boys chose tea, which are also accompanied by their supposed nutritional advantages. Dad had the Crème Caramel (RM20), which is a delicate red tea from South Africa blended with French spices. He says it could be dessert in itself and would drink it warm or iced. From the Flower Tea menu hubby ordered the Lavender, which claims to calm the nerves and relieve stress and is a lovely mauve colour.

pomelo, banjaran, ipoh
Creme Caramel Tea
Dreamily leaving the paradise of the Banjaran, dad sums up our afternoon tea with a quote showing his down-to-earth-Aussiness, “It’s bloody good tucker.” We all have to agree.

Reason to visit: gorgeous setting, healthy meals, culinary cocktails

The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3
31500 Ipoh
Perak Darul Ridsuan
+6 05 210 7777

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Dining Room

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion

The minute we heard there was a new menu at the Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, we made a reservation to try out the refreshed line up. Falling in love with Chef Lance’s previous degustation experiences, prepared using classic French cooking methods but celebrating local ingredients, we couldn’t wait to see what he had whipped up this round.

See previous write-ups on past dining journeys and comments on setting and service here (August 2013) and here (May 2013).  Today I focus purely on our culinary capers.

The Host Table (Table d’ Hote) is a brilliant way to sample a range of dishes across the menu. Priced at RM183 for five courses plus an amuse bouche, bread and petite fours, it’s worth adding RM78 for wine pairing, which gets you five glasses of specially selected drops from around the world.

Mum and dad are visiting from Australia so I bring them along wondering if they’ll love the Dining Room as much as hubby and I do.

Freshly baked breads are first dished out on rounds of grey slate. Sourdough, muesli and white bread slices are soft within and crusty on the outer. They’re delicious on their own, but a smear of butter and a sprinkle of French sea salt, “heightens the flavour,” says dad, while mum says, “spoils it” who loves the leavened dough all on its own.  

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Sourdough, Muesli and White Bread 

A Creative Beginning

The Amuse Bouche, Peking Duck Tuile and Five Spice Peanut Butter, starts the meal with intrigue. A wafer thin layer of chicken tuile with black sesame seeds is grasped by the hands of a metal photo frame. A wooden block base holds a smaller cracker of rich duck flavour with a peanut buttery finish. It lingers… almost like the real thing sticks to the roof of the mouth. Taste judgment is delayed as our minds try to comprehend what we’ve just eaten. It’s an impactful start.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Amuse Bouche 
Beetroot Ravioli comes with home produced truffle infused ricotta cheese, lemon beurré noissette and olive tapenade with a malt crumbling. Truffle wafts the air before the dish arrives. Not stated in the menu, but a surprise for guests, is a quail egg on top. The colours are gorgeous - canary yellow yolk, purple-red-violet pasta and a pale rosy pink centre. Mum and I love this plate and find it hard not to compare the rest of this meal with this beauty.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Beetroot Ravioli 
A French Aix Rose accompanies as the wine pairing. It’s light, crisp and provokes thoughts of picnics in the park. It’s an excellent match.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
French Aix Rose
Sour Cream Olive Oil Mousse with potato consommé and grated heirloom potato chips makes a dramatic entrance. The soup comes in a steaming teapot and is poured over the small mound of multi-textured ingredients in the bowl. This one rips conversation from the table and nothing is heard except avid slurping and swallowing – it seems almost a race to finish. A smoky bonito flavour dominates. Sour cream smooths the palate and the fried tangle of finely grated chips add crunch.  Micro chives make a natural herbal friend to the cream cheese.

best restaurant penang
Sour Cream Olive Oil Mousse
The wine partner, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, has a lovely sweet perfume with strong passion fruit in the mouth and a saliva inducing finish. We’d all happily have another glass.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 
A Baked Tiger Prawn with Crustacean Oil is sided with a vanilla and bourbon jelly, pickles and wakame. Served on rectangular platter, the tiger prawn is butterflied and sprinkled with a black, but very mild in power, pepper. It sits on green seaweed. A trail of emerald, orange, yellow and ruby lead the eye to the end of the plate and a drizzling of oil made from lobster makes the dish glisten under the flash. Each item in the trail begs to be eaten alone to experience the distinct flavours, but then all together to understand the whole.

fine dining penang
Baked Tiger Prawn with Crustacean Oil
A Lebanese wine, Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blanc, compiles a smathering of grapes - viognier, sauvignon blanc, clairette, bourboulene, muscat a petits grains, ugni blanc, chardonnay and verdejo – and each sip intensely brings out the strong crustacean taste in the dish. It’s an interesting combination, but perhaps a tad too diverse for our Western palates to truly appreciate it.

macalister mansion penang
Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blanc
A sherbet of strawberry cider and yoghurt snow cleans, refreshes and prepares us for the main. Insulated glass bowls are cradled in wooden blocks. The blush coloured ice makes a pretty centrepiece and the scattering of yoghurt gives the appearance of a winter wonderland.

palate cleanser

The Main Affair

Pan Fried Chicken Breast comes with a truffle mousse overlay. Black and red caviar and micro greens add bite to the flavour and, colour to the presentation. The chicken is tender and surprisingly moist for breast meat. A bell pepper coulis links a train of eggplant, zucchini and tomato ratatouille from the protein to the edge of the plate.  Coriander oil shimmers the top and petite balls of potato rolled in black olive and orange zest further add to the artwork. Mum fancies this as her preferred dish (after the beetroot ravioli). The Argyle Willamente Valley Pinot Noir from Oregan, USA lingers in the mouth and proves a light red can go wonderfully with poultry.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Pan Fried Chicken Breast 
macalister mansion, fine dining penang
Argyle Willamente Valley Pinot Noir 
Duck Confit is filled with soft onion slices and is best mixed together with the jus, roasted sweet potato and gremolata. Tiny rounds of zucchini slices wrapping curd cheese are rolled in citrus powder and look like little pot plants with micro greens poking out of the top. This full flavoured bird is dad’s favourite main. He quite enjoys the Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva from Italy too with its soft cherry, vanilla, cocoa and spice, as the liquid companion.
macalister mansion penang
Duck Confit  
wine pairing penang
Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva
Pan Seared Cod with salmon mousse, a crustacean veloute and avruga caviar is predictably the dish I’m most fond of. A strong taste of the ocean is presented with the mousse resembling sea foam. A black pepper Parmesan tuile carries through the original idea from the amuse bouche and black caviar and edible flowers add vibrant colour. The Argyle Willamente Valley Pinot Noir goes equally as well with this fish, as it did with mum’s chicken.
Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Pan Seared Cod  
The Wagyu is unavailable so hubby chooses a Rib Eye Tenderloin instead. It comes as a tower of meat layered with a rustic mushroom garlic sauce and plentiful greens. The outer flesh is caramelized while inside is pink and tender. It leaves a sweet aftertaste and hubby finds the beef the most desirable of the mains.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
 Rib Eye Tenderloin 
A Sweet Ending

White Chocolate and Yoghurt Mousse comes with almond praline, mango tuile and a sensational whipped mango ice cream. The mango tuile tastes of ripe tropical fruit and toffee and melts upon first contact with a warm tongue. The round middle resembles a tri-layered biscuit. The crunchy nutty base of almond praline grounds a gently flavoured mango jelly and is topped with the velvety mousse. Be careful not to fork the mango balls on the side! Gently scoop up the sun yellow spheres with your spoon and allow them to break in your mouth. Wow!

fine dining penang
White Chocolate and Yoghurt Mousse  
A German wine, Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, complements the sweet conclusion with its citrus and minerals providing a crisp, acid intensity.

macalister mansion, penang
Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
Last time we visited, we were fond of the finishing petite fours, but wanted to see more of Chef Lance injected into them. We like his revamped ending. Instead of four nice but ordinary bites, the meal concludes with one single square of chocolate caramel. Coated with a fine coat of cocoa dust, it’s chewy, sticky and memorable.

Dining Room, Macalister Mansion, Georgetown, Penang
Chocolate Caramel 
Chef Lance’s menus are packed with food worth contemplating. Plan to linger. Plan to partake in the wine pairing. And… plan on a surprise for your palate.

Reason to visit: elegant dining with a twist, lovely wine paired menus, gorgeous location, excellent service

Dining Room
Macalister Mansion
228 Macalister Road
10400 George Town
Penang, Malaysia
+6 04 2283 888

Open daily from 8am – 1am

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