Posts Tagged ‘food’
This weekend my Sunday Mail Ask a Farmer interview is with a husband and wife farming team who grow custard apples on the Sunshine Coast.
This odd-looking fruit is sweet and creamy on the inside and green and heart-shaped on the outside.
The early varieties were all hand pollinated. That meant the farmer had to collect the pollen by hand in the afternoon and walk back through the crop and paint it back on in the morning.
What a nightmare. Thankfully self-pollinating trees have been developed.
Custard apples are hugely popular in Asia and are very versatile. Use them in milkshakes, cheese cakes, or just by themselves as a lovely, creamy sweet dessert.
They’re in season until early June.
According to Masterchef 2 winner, Adam Liaw, Aussies are now embracing the quintessential dessert fruit as they broaden their palates and experiment with more exotic foods when it comes to home cooking.
The health world moves in fads. Some fade, some are enduring.
Baby wheat looks like it’s here to stay. You probably know it as wheatgrass. It’s generally sold by the shot (it’s not the best tasting thing) and is said to do excellent things for your immune system.
That’s because the new shoot of wheat is filled with goodies such as chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and enzymes. But chlorophyll makes up about 70 per cent of the grass – hence the green colour.
The western consumption of wheatgrass started in the 1930s as a result of experiments conducted by American nutritionist Charles Schnabel. He used fresh cut grass to nurse dying hens back to health. The hens recovered and produced eggs at a higher rate than the healthy hens.
I recently interviewed Jan Struthers of Wheatgrass Noosa for my Ask a Farmer Feature in the Sunday Mail. She started juicing wheat when she became sick with streptococcus and lupus. At the time wheatgrass was hard to source so she used her training in horticulture and landscape design to grow it and now supplies wheatgrass for both medicinal purposes and also to brides looking for a sleek, modern table centrepiece.
Little do they realise it’s also a Persian tradition to have a vase of wheatgrass on the wedding table as it’s an ancient symbol for fertility.
The best way to consume wheatgrass and reap the benefits is to juice it using a juicer which ‘presses’ the ingredients. Jan sells trays of wheatgrass for $13 each.
This is how she grows it.
‘Ewww, I don’t like this,’ James declares, without even touching it. ‘I want a peanut butter sandwich.’
Over the past year I’ve taken steps to lift my game in the kitchen … and if I’m honest it had a fair way to lift.
I invested in a miracle machine, otherwise known as The Thermomix and I enrolled in a 10-week cooking course at the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food in Ipswich, Queensland.
The wonder that is the Thermomix needs an entire post all to itself to satisfactorily explain why it is so wonderful. Custard, pastry, dips, bread, sorbet, Thai curry … you name it this thing makes it (with a small amount of help from me). Maggie Beer eat your heart out.
So today I will focus on the Jamie O cooking school. The man’s a genius. I first interviewed him back in 2000 in his pukka tukka Naked Chef days. But for me his best work has come more recently through his food revolution, which teaches the masses how to cook well on a budget. That’s what his Ministry of Food is all about.
It offers cheap ($10/class) lessons in cooking basic, wholesome meals on a budget.
Over the 10 weeks we cooked a green chicken curry from scratch (paste and all), we roasted a chook (amazing), we did a mean stir fry and much more. I actually enjoyed myself and have found a new interest (I won’t go so far as to say passion) for cooking.
So when the opportunity arose earlier this year to meet Jamie again and interview him I accepted, keen to see how the pro deals with the big issues … getting his kids to eat his meals.
He’s a father of four – three girls and a boy – and he’s always putting up great pictures on Instagram of his kids and their family veggie patch.
He may have cooked for celebrities, Presidents and Prime Ministers, but he told me that some of his toughest customers are at home. Happily I discovered that if he doesn’t serve meals that are the right shape and colour his kids won’t eat them. (So glad I’m not the only one facing this problem).
Here are his top tips for being a star in the kitchen.
I’m always banging on about food and where it comes from. Until I met my husband I had no idea how my food was produced and nor did I give it any thought. I just blindly turned up to the supermarket each week and loaded up on my favourites.
It’s not until you become involved in farming that you realise just how much effort is involved in producing a regular supply of high-quality food. Growing it is hard enough but then there’s the costs of production, the transport, the selling, the storing, the packing, the refrigerating and the merchandising … all of which ensures it arrives to customers in great condition.
But in recent times there’s been a worrying trend. Many farmers are packing up, selling out and leaving the industry. Some want a different lifestyle, but for many the financial and personal rewards just aren’t there. Just like the family home, the cost to run a farming operation has skyrocketed in the past few years. Electricity and water prices are out of control, as is insurance. But there’s only so much the consumer is willing to pay for their food, leaving many farmers wondering, ‘why do we bother’? Sure they can break even (in a good year) but why should they settle for that? Like any business, the focus is as much on turning a profit as it is on producing great products.
Many in the industry have been sounding the alarm, warning that if too many farmers leave the land Australia faces a food shortage in the years to come. Already much of the food on sale here is imported and if the Australian farming community continues to shrink we’ll see a great reliance on food imports. Think about how hard it is to find an Australia-made t-shirt now … in the future it could be the same for your fresh food.
Some people may rejoice at this suggestion. Cheap, cheap, cheap they twitter. But surely fresh food shouldn’t just be about price … it should be about freshness. And safety and quality and knowing that in buying locally-produced fresh food you’re supporting and sustaining local businesses and local jobs.
Last weekend the Courier Mail’s Q Weekend Magazine ran a great article by Amanda Watt, looking at our food security. Scenic Rim farmers Robert Hinrichsen and Matt Muller were quoted in the article. Read it here.
Then in the Sunday paper was a story about the cost differences between buying Australian and imported foods. The reporter found that it cost $60 extra to buy all Australian products. Sadly not everyone will see that extra $60 as money well spent.
It made for interesting reading and begs the question – where does the extra money go? How can someone grow rice in Thailand, pick it, pack it and ship it to Australia for a fraction of the cost of the Australian-grown rice? Obviously labour costs in Thailand are well under ours – here in Australia unskilled labourers are paid about $22/hour plus super.
Then there’s the cost of implementing systems, tests and checks to ensure the safety of the food that is sold in Australian shops. Taxes add to the cost, as do inputs … things like electricity, water, fuel, freight and fertiliser … which are rising in price all the time.
The high Australian dollar has also done bad things for Australian farming because it means our produce is too expensive to export and that foreign produce is very cheap to import.
I just hope that ultimately consumers will see the value in buying Australian and understand that by supporting the Australian food industry they are also supporting local jobs and local businesses and most importantly they are buying fresh, safe food that has been produced in line with the highest health and safety standards.
Last night for dinner I served my boys some lovely, super-fresh corn, grown by our friend Farmer Ed.
It was picked yesterday morning and was juicy and sweet. I lathered it in butter, pepper and salt and plated it up for my Junior Masterchefs.
Umm, so you won’t be eating dinner tonight James? He prefers to drink his dinner (see picture right). Yep, that’s soy sauce!
His brother Alex was more tactful and at age six he’s already the expert negotiator.
He said in his most serious voice: ‘Mum do you know why I don’t like corn? It’s too sweet, my sweet tooth only gets chocolate and lollies.”
How can I argue with that?
I’m hoping that our latest family project will make the boys more inclined to eat their veggies. Sure dad has a big veggie patch at work but I’ve finally managed to convince Mr Bean to build us a little veggie patch at home. We held a family working bee on Sunday and Mr Bean and Alex battled to be in charge. James and I walked off the job at lunch time for refreshments and to escape the power play between father and son.
Now it’s finished and this morning the three boys planted some herbs. Mr Bean has promised to contribute carrot, corn and onion seed to the cause and we’re also hoping he might sacrifice a bit of his Aussie garlic – it’s as rare as gold that stuff.
I will keep my blog updated with our progress … and with news about whether Alex’s sweet tooth comes around to the taste of corn.