110 locals descended upon the the Merredin Regional Community & Leisure Centre this week (Healthy Weight Week) for The Great Merredin Cook Off!
The rules were simple: The cooks each had 15 minutes to prepare a dish using three mystery ingredients (two of which everyone in the same round all had in common, and the third was unique to each contestant) and no more than two additional ingredients of their choice from the food table. They were given absolutely no other information or notice of what they would be allowed to cook with until right before they had to start cooking.
Contestants had been invited, chosen, nominated or buttonholed from all walks of Merredin. We had business owners, a Councillor, teachers, a football player, a doctor – and several of the cooks’ children who seemed to think dad needed a helping hand!
The first round was all about chicken and mushrooms. We had chicken, chickpea wraps, a full English chicken breakfast (with chicken strips instead of sausages), a chicken with mushroom and tomato sauce and a chicken and mushroom soup … which is made all the more impressive when you realise that the cooks were only given a cutting board, a knife and an electric frying pan!
Next up were two local celebrity chefs. Scott from Merredin’s Northside Tavern, and Ian from Kellerberrin who is the owner/chef at Attadale’s Stella Blu came out to demonstrate some delicious, healthy dishes. Scott made a scrumptious bolognese on a bed of kale with a light coating of macadamia parmesan, while Ian made an exquisite Thai inspired chicken salad.
It had everyone’s mouth watering … and fortunately for everyone, the two chefs had been busily preparing enough to share in the hours leading up to their demonstration, so we all got a taste! (And some of us, second and third tastes!)
Round two of the competition was all about onions and beef mince … and this round became battle of the meatballs and bologneses!
One of the cooks, Matt, told us at the end of the night that, “One of the great things about tonight was that 10 people who aren’t professional cooks showed that it was possible to create 10 tasty and healthy meals in just 15 minutes using limited ingredients. It proves that if you haven’t got much in the house or are tired after work, you don’t need to run out for takeaway – you can still prepare something quick and healthy.”
The event, run by the Shire of Merredin in collaboration with WA Country Health Service, was also an opportunity for community consultation. Shire organisers walked away from the event with lots of ideas and suggestions from the community regarding future foodie events and health initiatives for the town.