Nosh on Namoi and other north west adventures

Cotton fields in full blaze just out of Narrabri

The Nosh on Namoi is an annual food festival held on the banks of the Namoi river in Narrabri, New South Wales. With three days up our sleeves we decided to make the 7 hour trip and see what the north west of New South Wales had to offer. It was a lot of driving but made for quite an adventure.

We headed down through Goondiwindi and the open road dazzled us with sunflowers, cotton and lots of road trains. We witnessed incredible mirages where the distinction of sky and land disappeared and trees looked like they were floating. These were the most impressive mirages I have seen and took over the entire horizon. After an early start and a few pit stops we arrived in Narrabri around 1pm. The festival had about 20 stalls and featured numerous wineries. The festival was laid back and a cooking competition had drawn most of the crowd in.

Nosh on Namoi

On blogging adventures I can be so busy thinking about what I should buy, who to talk with, what questions to ask and what photos to take that I forget to introduce myself properly and my husband stands awkwardly next to me not knowing what is running through my head.  Being travel weary didn’t help so after grabbing a coffee I set off on a mission to get ingredients for our camp dinner.

First stop was  Arc-en-ciel Rainbow Trout, which is pronounced in French: Ark – ohn – See – ell. The Arc-en-ciel trout farm is located in Nundle, which is about 80km south-east of Tamworth and produces smoked trout, smoked trout pate, trout gravlax and trout caviar.

I grabbed a packet of honey smoked trout which is made by gently smoking the trout over local stringy bark wood.

Next I met Anne Williams from Gwydir Grove.   On their property they have 5000 trees but there is another 18 000 trees up in Moree that form part of the Gwydir Grove brand.  We chatted about the competitive nature of the olive oil industry and our mutual love of Australian olive oil.  Gwydir Grove was the first to put out a range of olive oil infused with native herbs but even this is now common among olive oil producers. You might pay a bit more for local olive oil but the quality is world class. When faced with an international industry full of deceptive labeling, the authenticity, love and dedication of Australian olive growers is worth supporting.

Happy smiles at Gwydir Grove

olive oil

I bought the Lemon Myrtle infused olive oil and the native mint and garlic olive oil. Both were $13 for 250ml.

From the Paradise Fresh stall I bought a couple of tomatoes and a packet of Bellata Gold linguine.  Paradise Fresh is a local  fruit and vegetable delivery service connecting rural customers with leafy vegetables direct from their farm in Tamworth and other produce from local growers. It is encouraging to see this service operating in regional New South Wales.

Garlic, basil and celery linguine - What an interesting flavour. When I strained the cooked pasta you could really smell the celery. This packet cost $2.50.

I didn’t get to meet the creators of Bellata Gold but the story goes that Doug Cush, a farmer from the golden durum triangle, discovered that his durum wheat was being used by the finest pasta makers in Italy. Bellata Gold grows the durum wheat  in the rich black soils of the Nandwar Range. The 100% durum wheat gives the pasta real al dente characteristics which is why it is so prized among pasta makers.  Bellata Gold has an interesting provenance fact, in that it is the only known commercial pasta world wide, that is 100% traceable back to the paddock on which it was grown. Bellata Gold does not manufacture other products besides pasta or share its facilities and is guaranteed egg, milk and soy free. For a dried pasta choice Bellata Gold is a winner.

So far for my dinner creation I didn’t have a sauce so I thought a bit of cheese stirred through the pasta could give it a nice creamy texture. I bought a block of Cheddarbelle from Hunter Belle Cheese.

Hunter belle cheese is located in Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW.

The cheddar is soft and creamy and melts in your mouth but at a cost of about $63/kg this is not exactly an affordable item to add to my list of household staples. The thin block in the picture cost around $10.

With dinner ingredients all sorted we headed out to Yarrie Lake, about  30km west of Narrabri. Yarrie Lake is perfectly round and has milky coloured water. The campsites are plentiful and dotted around the edge of the lake, each with a sheltered picnic table and bin. Make sure you visit the caretakers first, it costs $15 per night for an un-powered site. There is flush toilets and hot showers on the caretakers side and eco-toilets on the other.

We were warned that since the main road into the lake had been graded, people tended to fly down the road. We were better off taking a site a few hundred metres down a track on the opposite side of the lake, away from the main thoroughfare.

Our spot was one of the best camp sites we have been to. We had our own private secluded lawn, shelter and bin right on the water’s edge. We built a fire, went for a swim and cooked up our Nosh on Namoi feast to the soundtrack of the Waifs.

The ingredients for our Nosh on Namoi dinner feast

Our kitchen

The only item that required cooking was the pasta.

Nosh on Namoi feast of linguine tossed with cheddar cheese, honey smoked trout, fresh tomato and drizzled with olive oil. I had to take the picture in the car as the flash couldnt capture it and this was the only light left.

After watching the sun set over the lake we were treated to an amazing night spectacular. The stars reflected in the lake and we sat on the sand intrigued by all the little frogs. It was romantic and brilliant.

As we were going to bed we watched a campsite back at the entrance to the track light up, a generator start and car after car pull up. By 9.30 the serenity of the bush was gone and we endured the most outrageous night in our camping history. The music was so loud it would have been quieter camping in a nightclub. The group grew to between 50-100 people and the endless music (with countless song repeats) obtrusively blared out until 4am making sleep impossible. The revelers hooned around in cars, set off fireworks and at one point fired guns. We found out the next morning from the caretakers that the revelers had set up camp without their permission. The disruptive party could be heard 3km across the lake but once the caretakers realised the number of people present they were not game to intervene.  The police had been called out but only managed to stop the party for about 5 minutes.  We are tolerant campers but this was a disgrace. I can not understand the selfishness and sheer lack of respect for others. I sincerely hope the caretakers get some justice and the culprits are held to account.

The next day we were determined not to let the events of the night ruin the remainder of our trip, we packed up camp and headed to the CSIRO telescope. The telescope information centre is  open to visitors everyday from 8am–4pm. The facilities here are a real credit to the region and we were grateful that the centre  has such faith in tourists to leave the place open but unmanned.  There is a small theatre playing videos as well as other photos and exhibits,  drink cooler, toilets, viewing platform and even BBQs. It was a bit eery wandering around on our own but it was all very interesting.

The coolest thing was the whispering dish. It is two upright dishes about 100m apart. I stood in front facing one dish while my husband stood in front of the other one (you can just see my husband in the middle of this photo). When you talk directly into the dish (even in soft voices) you can hear the other person as if they are standing right behind you. Freaky but awesome!!

I would have loved to spend some more time around the Pilliga scrub and visit the salt caves and  hot artesian bore baths but we were tired so decided to head partially home and stayed the second night in a motel in Inverell. It was probably a good thing we didn’t camp as the next  morning we woke to heavy rain which lasted most of the drive home.

I hope to one day go back to Yarrie Lake and spend some more time exploring and tasting the regions unique offerings.  Covering new ground is revitalising and the long driving stretches are spent absorbed in wonderful conversations with my husband.  As for the bad parts…well they make the best stories to tell later don’t they!

Sunset over Yarrie Lake


One thought on “Nosh on Namoi and other north west adventures

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s