Tag Archives: local food

To Seed or Not to Seed ?

 In the past 10 years or so we have seen extraordinary shifts in the way we talk about food, its source, production and the ever – increasing trend toward Urban farming in our cities.

It seems obvious to me that this is not a random movement but rather a timely one, that is a result of a ‘counterbalance’ to the chaotic world around us and the inner desire to connect to each other and maintain a connection to the cycles of nature – the only problem is, we love to take short cuts!

 One of the first things we do when we decide to start a garden or get the urge to grow some fresh food is go to the local nursery and buy some seedlings with the thought …” I’ll just get the garden happening and get some seeds later”- As much as I am accustomed to the ‘short cut’ version, I have also experienced the great joy that comes with sowing seeds and watching them brake through the soil searching for light and life itself.

 There is something innately thrilling about being a part of the cycle of life – You see, a seed is literally a ‘POD of Possibility, it will remain in its dormant state until 3 basic conditions are present; a growing medium, water, and sun.  When you take the road less travelled and actually “plant seeds” you connect with the entire cycle, a greater sense of responsibility has now been bestowed upon you and there is a far greater chance your seedlings will grow into healthier plants having adapted to their environment sooner.

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 Now this all might sound a little too esoteric for some but if we are really serious about our food and where it comes from then we must start at the very beginning of the chain. In taking responsibility for the entire cycle we now come up against some very interesting and often difficult issues – the commercial world of seeds and the ‘control ‘ of seed production.

The hard- core reality is; crop diversity worldwide is diminishing, seeds are being genetically modified, patented and literally controlled by companies such as, Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. In an ‘Urban farming environment’ it is easy to overlook the bigger picture of the farming world but in fact it is essential that WE in the cities become aware of the fragility of our food chains and help support small organic growers and producers who are committed to saving seeds for our future.

 So when next you ask the question, “To seed or not to seed” in your garden take the time to research a little about the seeds you are buying- Make sure the seeds you purchase are Organic or Heirloom meaning simply….Old Traditional Open Pollinated seeds, no hybrids, no GMOs and no chemical treatment, then and only then can we say, ‘we are in control of the food we eat’. 

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A Culinary Dash to Vietnam

 

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To describe Vietnamese cuisine one would choose to use words like, vibrant, fresh, distinctive, colourful, harmonising, delicious, and healthy to name a few. Vietnam has been described as ‘three countries in one bowl’ with very distinctive styles from the North, Centre and the South. Cultures that have influenced Vietnamese food include, Chinese, French, Indian, Khmer(ancient Cambodian) and Siamese (ancient Thai).
In the North, the Red River Delta, you will find the best quality rice in Vietnam which has made the rice noodle dish “pho” famous around the globe for its silky textured noodle soaked in a delicious beef broth, thinly sliced beef strips and garnished with fresh herbs like coriander, mint, basil and bean sprouts.
Central Vietnam is characterised by its saltier and slightly more spicy flavours.  The sea salt farms in this region have led to the preserving of fish and vegetables, making pickles a regional specialty.
The flavours of the South can be distinguished by their sweeter and more tropical tastes. Influences here came from ancient Cambodians, the Khmer and Siam cultures introducing palm sugar and coconut into dishes such as curry.

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Wherever you go in Vietnam you will be overwhelmed by the quality and freshness of the food, the lingering smells of freshly ground spices, the cooking of regional specialties and the smiles on the faces who serve them. The market is the central pillar of Vietnamese life and it would be difficult to say you had been to Vietnam and not have taken the time to walk through the most tantalising sensual experience one can have.


The Snowy Veggie Patch project

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This is Snowy and he has been homeless since the age of 14 until he met John Brabant, the founder of the Carevan Foundation in 2009.

Finally in his 60’s, Snowy has a place he calls ‘home’- a sunny apartment in the NSW town of Albury/Wodonga.

The “Snowy Veggie Patch” project was born out of the contemplation of what it must have been like to be constantly on the road, hungry, never having roots to lay down, a sense of security or a sense of belonging … the many qualities most of us take for granted.

I met Snowy in 2012 and talked with him about his love of food and discovered he had a flare for cooking. During our chat, Snowy mentioned he had done some fruit picking on his travels but had never planted a seed in his life.  Hitting me like a thunderbolt, I knew we had to give him that opportunity – to really plant some seeds and watch them grow!!

There is a sense of wonder and excitement in planting seeds a connection perhaps to the unseen forces of Mother Nature. The act of growing our own food gives us a sense, that at least for now, we are still connected to something outside of ourselves.

Not being swayed by his small urban balcony we have planted, Basil, Coriander, Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Capsicum, Jalapeno Chili’s, Tatsoi, Beetroot and some Micro Greens for Snowy’s salad.

If all germinate according to plan then Snowy suggested he could give some to his neighbours – “What a great idea Snowman”

This project would not have been possible without the generous support of Bunnings in Albury and the wonderful caring kick ass CEO of Carevan , Jodie Tiernan.  

 Thanks guys

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We will be keeping you updated on Snowy and his Urban Veggie Patch – stay tuned.


Love a road trip

There is something very exciting about a road trip in the country , not knowing where you will end up, what treasures you might find or who you might meet that will put a smile on your face. I recently had the opportunity to explore the beautiful Muswellbrook Shire,  slightly off the well worn track of the hills around the Hunter Valley region .If you feel like a weekend away, there are some great foodie gems and a couple of colorful characters to be found in the hills between the coal mines and vineyards of the ” Upper Hunter”. On the edge of Muswellbrook township you will find a seam of gold, cheese that is, at the Hunter Belle Cheese factory where their award winning ‘Camembelle’ and ‘Goldenbelle’ will surprise you. If you happen to have a sweet tooth then you might be tempted to sample their scrumptious array of fudge made in house but a word of warning… Don’t spin your taste buds out tasting cheese followed by fudge! If you don’t feel like fudge at the cheese factory don’t worry because this area seems to sell allot of fudge and can be found in almost every little town.

Hunter Belle Cheese

Turkish delight chocolate fudge

Where would an antipasti platter be without olives and fine food be without great olive oil… Both can be found in ‘olive heaven’ about 14kms from Muswellbrook on the Denman Road at Pukara Estate.It’s best to take your time tasting the delicate award winning olive oils and flavoursome vinegars as this experience is not often readily available in the city under the guidance of such passionate people.The perfect accompaniment with olives and cheese is of course wine and there is no shortage in this region, too many to mention here, so just to give it your best shot and try them all.

Pukara Estate olive oils

Continuing on our road trip we are amazed at the contrast between open cut coal mines, lush green hills softened by vineyards and beautiful horses that seem to stand out so majestically. As it happens, some of Australia’s best thouroughbred horse studs are nestled here and we were fortunate enough to visit one , Darley Woodlands horse stud. OMG…. I can’t describe it in words just CLICK HERE.

Darley Woodlands horse stud

Before our road trip was over there was one little gem we had to visit, a tiny and I mean tiny town, called Sandy Hollow . There is possibly 3 things you could do in this town… Have a drink at the pub,  stay at the tourist park or visit David Mahony’s art/ sculpture garden and coffee house. We opted for the later and what an excellent choice. We spent ages-chatting with David and his wife, sipping coffee and squeezing in scones cream and jam before they suggested we just ‘have to’go up the road and get some special honey. On their advice we spun the car around and headed for honey.

Horner’s Honey

That’s the thing about a road trip in the country there is always wonderful produce and a warm and friendly person to be found just around the corner or over that hill, perhaps we should have just kept driving.

T is for Truffles

It is cold here in Canberra; it’s truffle season and I’m excited I have two little magical, round, nobly black nuggets in my possession. I would like to say that I got up at 5am and braced the frosty morning to follow a sniffing dog to the base of an oak tree… but I didn’t, I simply went down to the EPIC farmers market in Mitchell, a suburb of Canberra and followed my nose to Damian Robinson from Turalla Truffles’. 

The powerful aroma was intoxicating and the excitement of seeing a pile of these rare black beauties must have overwhelmed me. I asked the price of the largest Black Perigord or Tuber Melanosporum  it turned out to be about $150… Oops, “maybe I shall just take this small one”, I smiled and said to Damian.

Lucky for me or perhaps because I asked, I got an extra truffle for the promise of sending him the pictures. – Thanks Damian J

The Turalla truffle team

My foraging trek to the market in search of truffles, also turned up a melody of freshly harvested mushrooms, biodynamic leeks, a bag of chestnuts and some lovely fresh pasta sheets – so now I had the ingredients for a recipe floating in my head it was time to go home to prepare my “Mushroom & Chestnut ravioli with a truffle infused cream sauce”.

The spoils

The 2012 Truffle Festival is in full swing here in Canberra with cooking classes, truffle hunts and dinning experiences but for me, some fine dining at home with my partner and a glass of French bubbles sounds like heaven to me.

Cheers


The Perfect Oyster

The Bluff

Oysters have been a long sought after delicacy around the world whether you are stranded on a remote island surviving only by the spoils of mother nature, sitting by a seaside town where the oysters are said to be ‘the best in the world’ or sitting in a Michelin star restaurant” ….the humble oyster may be considered by some of us as a nugget of pure wild and creamy joy.

In the words of the famous French Poet, Léon-Paul Fargue (1876 – 1947), who happened to be an oyster lover, “Eating oyster is like kissing the sea on the lips”.

So friends, it would seem only natural that one should try to sample as many kisses from the sea as possible, and my recent trip to Queenstown, New Zealand, I think I fell in love…..with the famous “Bluff Oyster”

Now, I don’t know the reason why they are sooo creamy maybe it is the extremely cold and clean waters of the Foveaux Strait, but if you get the chance to sample these little molluscs I would suggest you only invite someone you love to share the experience and what better place to taste them than at the  talk of the towns new restaurant owned by celebrity chef Josh Emett.

The experience of dining at Rata was truly delicious and the perfect conclusion to a day of Shotover jet boating and Ziptreking !!

If you can’t get all the way to New Zealand’s South Island then I recommend a trip to visit my mate Jim Wild down at Greenwell Point. Jim harvests the delicious Sydney rock oysters and are freshly shucked to order. There is something so refreshingly earthy about sitting by the river, with a dozen or two freshly shucked plump little beauties and a glass of French bubbles, laughing with Jim about why oysters are good for you.

Here are a few tempting images from adventures of a twisted lemon to find the perfect oyster :)

Sydney Rock with a dollop of Prunier caviar

Oyster selection Vancouver

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Food Revolution Day

Viva la food revolution!!

All around the world on the 19th May 2012 in some 45 countries, hundreds of small groups of people gathered together to “stand up for real food” in support of Jamie Oliver’s message to the world…..

“Somewhere along the line, our relationship with food broke down. “On May 19, I urge you to stand up for real food and pledge to bring food education back into our schools, workplaces and communities. Cooking with real ingredients, understanding where food comes from and passing along that knowledge will get us back on track.”

Jamie has long been a favorite chef of mine with his down to earth approach, his cheeky sense of humor and his mission to teach people to eat good fresh produce, so of course it comes as no surprise I wanted a slice of the revolution !

Our revolutionary leaders were Enzo Guarino and Carla from casa-e-cucina. They hosted a fantastic day of tasting whilst chatting at the legendary Pino’s Dolce Vita in Kogarah, Sydney. As Enzo and Carla lovingly prepared pasta from scratch, our intimate group swapped and shared foodie stories around the table…reminiscent of any revolutionary plot.

Food is the best way to open up a conversation with strangers, you can talk about the flavors, where ingredients are sourced, old ways, new ways, techniques and traditions but the conversation will always lead back to the taste sensation of whatever morsel has been savored in the mouth and the smile it puts on our faces.

So in the spirit of the Food revolution, go forth gather some friends or even better a group you don’t know yet and make some new friends, share a meal cooked lovingly with the freshest of local ingredients.

As EPICURUS, once said ….” We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink”.

Thanks Jamie ,Enzo, Carla and Pino

The revolution starts here

 

 

Carla lovingly supports the pasta

 

 

Revolutionaries at work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


For the love of Mushrooms

I love a good drive in the countryside, I love meeting people who have a connection to growing food  and I love the passion they have for what they  produce.

Having spent the better part of 15 years living in the Shoalhaven region, I have been extremely lucky to have found some exquisite pockets of ‘FOODIE heaven’- two hours drive South from the heart of Sydney…. Producers of cheese, wine, oysters, raspberries, organic vegetables, olives, organic meats and more . 

On one of my many excursions I set out to find the infamous “Mushroom tunnels” I had heard about in the Southern Highlands. I did a little research and phoned ahead to meet with Dr Noel Arrold, a microbiologist who took over the disused railway tunnel in 1987. We had a clandestine meeting on the side of the road before a short drive to the railway line , then it was on foot for a few hundred meters before reaching the tunnel itself.  I must say, it is a very EERIE feeling at first as the big tunnel door creaks open to reveal a dark, damp and earthy smelling, very quiet tunnel!

Thankfully, Noel hit the light switch and there  before me was the most awesome sight I had ever seen….. “mushroomly speaking”.

Kilometres of fresh Swiss Browns, Shiitake, Oyster , Shimejii, and Wood Ear mushrooms. These mushrooms thrive in the cool, damp and dimly lit environment of the tunnel which resembles the conditions that occur in the mountainous forests of China, Japan and Korea where these mushrooms occur naturally. As we walked down the tunnel I was struck by the beauty & form of these fungi who’s job in nature is to degrade the dead trees and turn them into organic matter.

 
The Mushroom tunnels are general not open to the public but you can organise small group tours at certain times of the year by contacting the locals
Stay tuned for some mouthwatering mushroom recipes on the soon to be added “Recipe” page !!

Cooking In Paris

After the very moving ‘Vietnam experience’ in March 2011,  I once again found I had the travel bug.. and this time just to balance the scales it was off to Gay Paris- Ooh la la!!!

Paris is all about Food, Love and Life and every thing in between. The only way to embrace the city of love is to sample it one mouthful at a time ! French classes are optional as most people in Paris speak English and although they appreciate you are trying hard to speak their language… they will nearly always answer you in English- no need to worry about French classes even though I did anyway - I wasn’t there to speak French I was there to COOK !!

I took classes in both private homes and cooking schools, with the Pièce de résistance being the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school

http://www.cordonbleu.edu/lcb-paris/

C'est moi and Chef Frederic Lesourd

One of the most popular cooking schools for tourists is Cook’n with Class in nostalgic Montmartre- All chef’s here speak English and the classes are designed for all levels.

http://www.cooknwithclass.com/challenging

If you do nothing else, take the French Baking class where you make croissants from scratch or for something more challenging try the Molecular Gastronomy class.

There is nothing like freshly baked pastries

If you are planning a trip to one of the world’s most delicious cities check out our friends website for some hot tips on things to do whilst you are there…

http://www.greetingsfromtheamericangirl.com/

à bientôt


Welcome Vietnam Style

Let’s begin the journey into the world of ‘Inspirational people’  and their connections through the love of  FOOD .

My first story comes from the journey I made with a couple of friends of mine, to Vietnam in 2011

Resigning from any job always motivates one to move in another direction and that’s exactly what happened early 2011. I rang a couple of friends …a chef, a photographer and a film production everything person and asked them if they wouldn’t mind coming to Vietnam on a whim to film a couple of ideas I had floating around in my head  - To my surprise they all said YES and within three weeks we were on a plane flying to Hanoi.

The only brief was to explore the markets, meet some locals and find some heart warming stories about food !

The results of this “spur of the moment” exercise yielded some very inspiring connections.

My vision for this blog is to share stories of inspiring people by way of visual content, either stills photography or video and hope that you too get inspired to perhaps Share, Inspire or simply Taste the joy in good, fresh, local produce. 

As the Ancient Greek Philosopher, EPICURUS, once said ….” We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink”.


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