It’s been way too long since I wrote here.

Life has changed significantly and focus has shifted on food, wine,  the restaurant industry and my children more than ever before, it’s an exciting time, although now I am toying with the idea of a new blog so will certainly keep you posted on any changes or updates in the coming months.

My friend, John Ford, asked me to give a talk with him at the Sustainable Living Festival in February  this year. It was a great time and an honour to have Chris Smyth from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Oliver Edwards from GoodFishBadFish and Angeline Charles of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) join us for a panel discussion. Differing opinions are inspiring and important in the quest to find foundation to our own beliefs; robust discussion is healthy.

One of the many things people took from the talk was the fish cooking chart we handed out, it’s a simple list of different sustainable Australian fish species and the best methods by which to cook them.  I’ve had a few requests for it, so here it is again:

fish cooking chart

Advertisements

Olive oil is a vibrant accompaniment, cooking tool and significant ingredient and the oils we’re producing in Victoria are worth seeking out.

   Delis, green grocers, farmers markets, supermarkets all have extra virgin olive oils sitting on their shelves. Olives oil from all over the world – Australia, Italy and Spain particularly – but it’s the Victorian olive oil industry that’s creating some luscious gems of viscous liquid that, like their European cousins, tell the story of their region, their cultivation and their harvest.

Olive oil tastings are (almost) as common wine tastings and when you taste olive oil, take a moment to think about the vibrant golden greens and yellows the oils take on. A taste of the oil and you may find yourself discussing the texture and viscosity, considering the aroma and flavour and then looking for fruitiness or herbaceous, grassy characters on the palate which are all pivotal to the character of a good olive oil (it sounds a little like tasting wine!).  Local olive oil producers are creating a product that’s complex, delicious and of great quality and we’re embracing what we see.

Like wine and different grape varieties, there are different olive varieties each with their own character and attributes to add to the oil. Manzanilla would be one of the most versatile olives in the orchard, renowned as being a good all-rounder as a table olive and an oil olive, much of the Australian olive oil we buy is made from Manzanilla. Richard Seymour, owner of Mount Zero olives in the Grampians with his parents Jane and Neil says, “If you talk to a processor they hate them [manzanilla olives], as they are notoriously hard to press but for the effort the reward is worth it.”

Mount Zero also grow picual, frantoio and coratina olives on their 200 acres that they bought in 1992 taking on an over-grown olive orchard of trees that had been planted in the 1950s. They don’t irrigate their trees, producing a sturdy, intense fruit that is responsive to its season. Richard explains, “Because we don’t irrigate, as the trees get older their roots go deeper and deeper into the soil. This year there was lots of moisture around and we had a great year, some years are harder than others but when there’s lots of rain and if there was irrigation as well, too much moisture can cause the oil to be lacking in flavour.”

 Rose Creek Estate in the outer-suburb of east Keilor sees Tony, Lina and Angleo Siciliano make their olive oil from mostly frantoio but also grow manzanilla and corregiolo olives among other varieties on six acres with 300 trees. The Siciliano’s press their olives over a couple of months underneath their house, “Some of the trees mature earlier, some later,” says Lina. The family have three harvests: pressing green olives first; semi-ripe second and ripe black olives in the third harvest as “you get more oil from the olive,” she explains. It’s the yield of oil to olives that explains why some oils are pricier than others, Tony explains, “ When we press the green olives we get about four to five litres from 100kg olives, semi-ripe olives yield nine to ten litres of oil and the black produces 20-22 litres per 100kg of olives.”

Yield, time and mother nature all bless or hinder any agricultural pursuit and olive oil production is no different. Heading out to the Bellarine Peninsula, Rosalind Ellinger set up Mason’s Creek olive oil back in 1998 on 10 acres, has about 1200 trees and went into commercial production in 2004. Like Mount Zero she doesn’t use irrigation which can be frustrating regarding yield but guarantees a better quality product. “We get about 1200 litres of oil from 10 tonnes of fruit,” says Rosalind, “which may be less than others but it’s a quality product.”

Mason’s Creek grows Kalamata olives (which are only good for the table not for oil), manzanilla (for table and oil), frantoio and corregiola (for oil only). Ellinger finds it best to let her customers know when the olives were picked by placing the harvest year on the bottle, “That way people know how long the oil has been in the bottle,” she says.

Freshness is one of the most important characters of olive oil. It is simply the juice of an fruit and has a quality that deteriorates over time. Olives are traditionally picked in late autumn, early winter – so that’s November, December in Europe and May, June in Australia. The Australian new season’s olive oil was released in June and July and this is the freshest olive oil you can buy at the moment. When buying olive oil, look at the best before or use by date or what is becoming more common is the ‘pressed date’ or ‘harvest’ date you will find on some local products.

Mount Zero olives in the Grampians have started putting a ‘pressed’ date, similar to Mason’s Creek harvest date and it’s important to note that olive oil isn’t good after 24 months. So if you pick up a bottle of oil and from the dates on the bottle it’s been on the shelf a bit too long, keep searching. This wonderful liquid that highlights produce, dresses salads and cooks delicately is deserving of our understanding to get the best out of it.

 

In October last year, I was thinking of what to contribute food-wise for my mum’s birthday party, I was arriving in Brisbane that morning, time was an issue and I was asked to ‘make a plate of something to nibble on with drinks’.

I love prawns from Queensland, they have a meatiness to their texture and a sweetness in flavour that I really enjoy and as dull as it may sound to some, I love standing over the kitchen sink, peeling each one, separating the shells from the flesh and putting the shells aside to make a quick stock. To keep it really simple I made sandwiches – yep – prawn sandwiches.

*Finely sliced pieces of fresh sourdough baguette held chopped prawn flesh that was tossed with home-made mayo, some chopped fresh parsley, two torn basil leaves (you don’t want the basil to overpower but just lift the flavours), generous squeezes of lime juice, one short, sharp squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper in small sandwiches that lasted two bites.

I was asked to make them again on Christmas day to have while we sipped sparkling wine and opened presents. The request surprised me.

I asked my sister who was hosting lunch, “Why do you think people enjoy these so much?”

“Look what you’re doing,” she said,”you’re taking time and peeling those creatures and doing a fiddly job for us. Who doesn’t want prawns peeled for them, it’s kind of you to do it and you make them taste good. It’s a luxury.”

What’s a luxury for some is an act of love and generosity for another and so it is that I will probably be making prawn sandwiches at family events for the foreseeable future.

Who would have thought that a prawn sandwich could represent luxury, love, giving and family.

Happy 2011.

*This paragraph is the recipe for these simple treats. Quantities obviously equate to the number of people and to your taste. I like to make my own mayo but there are some decent ones out there to buy if you’d rather not go down that track.

An article I wrote for Epicure The Age about lamb, prawns and garfish for late summer,

early autumn barbecues and grills:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/epicure/brilliant-on-the-barbie/2010/02/01/1264875994244.html

 

Thanks to all of you who listened to my chat with Myf Warhurst today on ABC local radio. We talked about leftovers and sustainable fish – it was alot of fun.

I’m here to write down some leftover recipes for ham and turkey, when it comes to waste,the best thing we can do is share ideas on what to do with leftovers to prevent the enormous amount of waste each year that comes along at Christmas time with the presents, the indulgence and the difficult relatives.

If you love leftovers, seek out http://foodwise.com.au, this is a wonderful idea and great cause!

Ham

 – quesadillas or flat bread filled with thinly sliced ham, jalapeno peppers and Mahon or Manchego cheese and grill or cook in a sandwich toaster.

– heat oven to 180C; dice fontina cheese and mix with diced ham, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.  Spoon onto a square of puff pastry and fold over, brush with melted butter and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

– make a dip of cannellini beans (it’s ok to use tinned) and mixed with lemon zest, garlic, chopped basil and tarragon, salt and pepper and shredded ham. Serve as a dip with toasted pita bread or smear over good quality bread and finish with beetroot, lettuce, tomato and sprouts for a great sandwich.

– baked eggs – heat oven to 180C. Line a ramekin or another small dish with thin slices of ham. Sautee some chopped cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and put in the ramekin. Crack an egg in and place the filled ramekin in the oven for 8 minutes, cook for longer is you like a hard yolk, just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t dry out too badly – say, no longer than 13 minutes.

Turkey

– a play on a Waldorf salad. Chop up turkey flesh and mix with finely sliced celery,some pinenuts, chopped green apple, chopped parsley and garlic chives and bind together with mayonnaise( if you can make your own its worth it and a great way of using up leftover eggs). Just before serving squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top of the salad and give it one more stir through. A touch of salt and pepper now will do the trick for seasoning.

– a summer salad of turkey, sliced mango, coriander leaves, red onion, avocado, lime juice, chilli, ginger, sesame oil (just a small touch) and the same of soy sauce.

– a retro quiche – heat oven to 180C  line a greased cake or quiche tin with puff pastry then brush the base of the pastry with leftover cranberry sauce. Combine 6 eggs, salt, pepper, one cup of cream, half a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of grated parmesan with chopped turkey meat, chopped coriander, basil and parsley. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and cook for 40 minutes but give it a check after 25 minutes just to make sure it’s cooking evenly and well.

Let me know if you’d like to read some more leftover recipes – I have plenty!

email me at hilary@foodwiththought.com.au

I look forward to hearing from you,

Hilary

Fancy doing some Christmas shopping with your food shop?

Guide To Fish will be available for sale again this year at the Melbourne Farmers Markets in the lead up to Christmas and it makes a great Christmas pressie!

The guys from the Australian Marine Conservation Society will be there too, to talk about the scientific side to the fish in the sea.

See the dates below for where we’ll be and when and come and say hello!

If you can’t get to the markets Guide to Fish is still available for sale online here

We hope to see you there!

Hilary

Saturday 5th December

Veg Out Community Gardens, Chaucer St, St Kilda. 8.30am – 1pm

Saturday 12th December

Collingwood Childrens Farm, St Heliers St, Abbotsford 8am – 1pm

Saturday 19th December

Gasworks Arts Park, Graham St, Albert Park, 8.30am – 1pm

Wednesday 23rd December

Slow Food Convent night market, St Heliers St, Abbotsford 3pm-8pm

Here’s an article about sustainable restaurant practices in the UK:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124959000895812157.html

my hope is that this means the issue of sustainability in food will  infiltrate our restaurant market here and the food industry will become  vocal on this issue, and create a culture and vitality that is needed to help the general public understand how important sustainable practice is to us as a community and to a healthy sustainable future.