Maeve O'Meara hosts the TV series Food Safari Water.
Maeve O'Meara hosts the TV series Food Safari Water. SBS-TV

Bounty of the oceans celebrated in mouth-watering series

STANDING on a windswept beach southeast of Adelaide, Maeve O'Meara never thought she'd be foraging with her feet.

The journalist is on the hunt for everything tasty that grows in the water, both salt and fresh, in the latest season of SBS's long-running series Food Safari.

"We were at this beach where they collect pipis. You do this funny dance in the sand and you can feel them under your feet," she says.

"It's cold, it's blowing but it's certainly not an air-conditioned office. It's a beautiful place with great people. People of the water are just so inspiring and they love what they do."

Over 13 episodes of Food Safari Water, Maeve taps into the bounty of the water and those who love to work and cook with what many consider the best protein the planet.

"Coming after the Earth series, to then be in this beautiful oceanic world heading out on boats - in quite high seas some of the time - was a completely different landscape," she says.

"The similarity across the series is that the people are passionate about what they're doing, whether they're farming mussels or putting down oyster pots or diving into 8C water collecting scallops or fending off white pointers to collect abalone off Kangaroo Island, there's a similar amount of passion.

After meeting producers, growers and foragers, Maeve teams up with a chef or home cook who introduces a recipe showcasing that key ingredient.

"In terms of taste it was one revelation after the other," she says.

The series runs the gamut from 'fin to tail' whole cooked fish to raw dishes including sashimi and freshly-shucked oysters.

"One of the big things I've learned is trying to buy the whole fish and learning to fillet fish yourself or cook it whole. It's a smart, easy and more delicious way to go," she says.

"Then there's the incredible taste and health benefits of eating raw fish. Fish are seasonal and although a lot of Aussies think of seafood in summer, winter is the key time when their fat content is high."

Maeve O'Meara with the fish that produce Yarra Valley caviar in a scene from Food Safari Water.
Maeve O'Meara with the fish that produce Yarra Valley caviar in a scene from Food Safari Water. SBS-TV

Plants are also on the menu, with Maeve shining a light on Australia's fledgling wakame (edible seaweed) industry.

"Wakame is something that we know from Japanese restaurants, but to be able to access Australian wakame is new," Maeve says.

"James (Ashmore) is the only person in Tasmania doing that and you can buy it online. When it's dried it's so light and easy to transport.

"There are forests of wakame growing in Tasmania. The spores of the wakame came in the ballast waters of Japanese boats that would pull up and fill up with wood products. It's amazing because it's a species that grows alongside the natural species."

Filming the past two seasons of Food Safari back-to-back has transformed what Maeve eats at home.

"I don't think we've dropped enormous amounts of kilos, but what we eat at home is more plant and seafood-based," she says. "You've got to practice what you preach."

Food Safari Water airs Wednesdays at 8pm on SBS-TV.