Over the last four days, my family has been delighting in succulent meals created by two world-class chefs. Each night I have declared that particular dinner to be my very favourite. Chef Larah Heinrich says that Canberra Gourmet was borne out of a yearning for a taste of home.
“It was actually my craving,” she laughs. “My Mum was here, and we were craving a longganisa sausage but couldn’t find one that tasted right. Longganisa is a Filipino sausage, like a fresh Spanish chorizo. So, we made our own and that was the start.
“When I started with this company, I was thinking about mothers like me who have a husband who works until midnight, and is rarely home. It is hard to make comfort food that is good for you. Just cooking with young kids can feel impossible. I thought, ‘there is a need for that and we want to cater to that need’. If there is a great meal in your freezer, you can cook it easily whenever you want.”
Larah’s husband and business partner, Thomas, is head chef at Sage; or he was, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced him out of his job.
“Before, Thomas was always working, so we just couldn’t make the meals. Then COVID-19 happened and he was stood down. So we decided, ‘this is the time. Let’s do it!’ We are being positive and taking this opportunity. It is a blessing that we can enjoy combining our knowledge and skills in cooking, creating dishes and writing recipes.”
Larah and Thomas prepare the range of tried and taste-tested meals in Sage’s well-outfitted kitchen. Their meal range continues to expand and change. In the coming week, they will be developing two family-sized budget meals. They want to offer delicious, substantial dishes that everyone can afford and freeze well.
Here are the meals we ate:
Chicken Afritada. A favourite of the Heinrich family, this dish is always in demand on the website. “This dish looks very simple,” Larah concedes, “but the chicken jus is a three-day process and the flavours are hard to replicate. It’s what you’d expect from a Spanish tomato-based dish but with undertones of ginger and fish sauce.”
The complex umami of the tomato concasse, melding with smooth jus, produces a smooth deep sauce. The rich red sauce coats the chicken and potatoes like a silken blanket of yum.
Braised Lamb Shanks in Mulligatawny. Mulligatawny is a full-bodied curry soup. Flavours of red lentil, pearl barley apples, carrots and coconut milk. “This dish is a combination of both Larah and me,” says Thomas. “It is Larah’s soup recipe with me braising the lamb shank.” Larah’s soup is a generous serving, creamy with the smoky undertones of South Indian curry. The flavours of the Thomas’s tender braised lamb go perfectly with it.
Thomas’s Braised Short Rib Steak with Nouc Châm is currently their most “fine dining offering. It is a dish I created for Sage and I have adjusted it to do in bulk”, he says.
These are absolutely the tenderest short ribs. Rich and meaty with magical melt in your mouth striations of fat. The sweet, sour and salty notes of the Nouc Châm have caramelised onto the tender meat and we top it off with the pine nuts spice mix. Such a great dish.
Garlic and Herb Longganisa. Thomas lays out the plan of attack: “I cook the sausages, making sure to follow the unusual instruction. While the cooking method makes them all golden brown and juicy, it also creates an ambrosial pan of juices. Piquant with spices and a hit of fresh pepper, I serve them chopped up over steaming rice with the pan juices poured over the top.” Thomas mentioned that he didn’t feel there was much room for improvement with their newest recipe of sausages, and I wholeheartedly concur.
How do you get your own Canberra Gourmet meals?
The meals come frozen and sealed in Cryovac bags. Larah and Thomas recommend an overnight defrost in the fridge before following the reheating instructions. You will find each dish’s instructions when you double-click any of the meals on the website. Be sure to follow the directions for cooking for best results!
Pick up your orders daily from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm Monday to Saturday or 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday.
Or let Larah and Thomas deliver the meals to you every Friday. You can place your orders from Sunday through to Thursday and your delivery will take place on Friday.