Last year was extremely full. The images in this post depict happy moments, spent here in Australia, in the UK, on my first trip to Italy and a speedy visit to Chicago. Above see, ‘Campo Di Fiori’, one of Rome’s fabulous markets which offered an abundance of screamingly fresh produce such as these zucchini flowers, while the real ‘fresh food people’ called loudly; with well earned pride. The Italian Muma on view is in fact me, shot by my sister whilst wandering cobbled paths on a medieval hillside village in Tuscany. The eggs were gathered in Ilford NSW on easter Sunday and the Western Australian sardines express the full force of their proximate sacrifice.
I spent spring and summer in the UK and was very fortunate to attend a short course ‘Exploring the Microcosmos’ at Schumacher College; part of The Dartington Hall Estate in the Transition Town of Totnes in Devon. The course was led by ecologists and scientists Dr’s Stephen Harding and Phillip Frances with Eva Bakkeslett and Sandor Katz providing the artistic and practical components of the week exploring all aspects of fermentation. After over 30 years of my own exploration of lacto fermentation, I deepened my love and understanding of beneficial bacterium and was invigorated by the many collaborations. Eva utilises fermentation through her art works and installations and encouraged us all to do the same. I ‘painted’ using an alive sourdough starter! Schumacher college is unlike anywhere I have been, it runs as a cooperative with everyone contributing to all facets of the colleges day to day running. After a few simple rituals and a thorough induction, I found myself a part of a very beautiful and harmonious whole. Everything got done, fun was had, friends were made and I felt reluctant to leave. The kitchen produces fabulous vegetarian meals to look forward to and recreate. We ere formed into small teams, with names reflecting the course topic, this was charming and very amusing when the team ‘E coli’ was put in charge of the clean up! After attending a short course, anyone is eligible to apply as a longer term volunteer; something I would leap at on my next trip to the UK. There were 1000 origami birds hanging in the great hall where everyone on campus gathers each morning, these were an installation as part of someones thesis. Some of us took the opportunity to go to one of the very few remaining authentic cider houses, where you will not find beer. “Ye Old Cider House” is in Newton Abbott in South Devon and well worth travelling to; to sample a wide range of naturally fermented ciders and fortified wines. This was somewhat of a highlight and though I drank in sips alone, my voice was raised and my legs were as jelly upon leaving.
Jude Blereau’s Whole and Natural Foods Chefs Training Program runs yearly in Perth WA. Details and applications for 2015 are available through Jude’s site, in the link above. This is a selection of images taken during our visit to Balingup last year; where we take students to meet biodynamic and organic producers on working farms. We are hosted by Katrina Lane from Taste of Balingup. The 2014 students were incredibly fortunate to participate in an event Katrina organised with Simon Bryant and Sam Ward. Both chefs generously imparted their expertise and provided extraordinary feedback to and about these women.
I continue to teach the lacto fermentation, sourdough baking, meat, fish and poultry sections of the program. I am extremely grateful to Jude for the continued opportunity to work with her in co creating a program to inspire and educate the next generation of wholefood chefs and related entrepreneurs.
The 2014 cohort were a very special group of women, committed, cohesive and hungry for everything they could learn, they will go far, look out for them. An internship is part of the WNFCTP, Buena Vista Farm in the Southern Highlands took another of our students, one is soon to spend four weeks at Matt Wilkinson’s restaurant ‘Pope Joan’ in Melbourne and a student who came to the course a primary school teacher, after her internship, is employed at The Mary Street Bakery in Highgate Perth, learning the art of commercial sourdough baking.
I will be back in Perth and in Balingup next month and I return to Mondo Organics in Brisbane, to teach two weekend workshops in May. You will find the details and booking information on my class program here.
If you or someone you know, is interested in hosting a wholefood cooking class or course at home, please check the information here
I brought several kilos of each home, I will be finding good places to include both over the next few weeks, I may even make some chestnut flour; for a dense divine Italian style cake. Iv’e spent a fair bit of today admiring, photographing, peeling and cracking, this is my kind of fun.
JUST PICKED OR STORE BOUGHT CHESTNUTS…Contain the chestnuts in a bag that breathes and place them in the fridge for up to six weeks. When you are ready to use them pierce the flat side with a small sharp knife and make a slit. Place on a roasting tray and roast at 200˚C until the skin splits and they are soft. Wrap in a cloth to allow them to steam and both skins to soften, peel and eat whilst warm. Or place on embers and turn frequently until cooked through, then do the cloth trick and peel. If you want the flesh intact to cook with, place the chestnuts in cold water and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove to cool water and peel the outer skin off whilst they are still warm. return to the water and simmer 5-8 minutes and then peel the inner pellicle (brown inner skin) from the nut, which will leave you a wrinkly, crinkly chestnut; to use as you will. I like to cook these a bit more, add a little fat (duck fat or coconut fat work well, depends on your taste) then squash the chestnuts into mush and squish them into little balls, I then roll them in chopped roasted almonds, these are a treat after dinner or in the lunchbox of someone you adore- could be you?
If you are buying chestnuts from the markets or a shop look for deep, rich colour with lots of lustre, they should be heavy for their size and hard when lovingly squeezed.
JUST PICKED WALNUTS….spread them out in the sun or in a dry spot to air for a few days, the idea is to dry them out enough that they keep well for a few months. If you contain them damp you will end up with mouldering blacked nuts, these wont taste or do you any good; an old nut or mouldy nut is never a good nut. When your ready crack the nuts and remove the walnut halves. You could skip the drying, crack the lot and store them in a bag in the freezer, that works well. A fresh nut is unlike anything you can buy, they are clean tasting and crisp as anything try a few this way. Due to being hard to digest its a great idea to soak all nuts overnight in salted filtered water, next day rinse well and drain. These can either be used as is or you can dry them out at under 42˚C until they are very crisp, this will help retain their active enzymes and you can treat them as ‘raw’ food. Once dried store in an airtight glass jar, in the fridge. That recipe, the one I’m making as I type, has evolved, no brown rice at home so its become Millet and chestnut instead, the texture of millet gently toasted before boiling in chicken broth should go fabulously, well see….recipe coming later, once I’ve cooked and eaten it.
I recommend buying nuts in small amounts frequently and buying from a supplier who does a roaring trade. The organic food network supply excellent organic nuts in Brookvale and Nobby’s is a conventional supplier with a massive turnover, in Ramsgate I think. Consume them whilst they are fresh, rancid nuts will taste awful and be deleterious to your health.
Chestnuts and Walnuts resemble the brain, in macrobiotic philosophy a food that has a likeness to an organ is said to feed that organ, here’s hoping…
Autumn means it’s time for sweet fresh chestnuts and crisp white walnuts. These go with many seasonal delights including, new seasons apples, sweetcorn, pumpkin, tender pink ginger, purple garlic and on…. I adore chestnuts and don’t mind the work that they are when they are only around and at their best for a few weeks of the year. Picked now and kept in the bottom of the fridge, you will have six weeks to discover how many things they are good for. Fresh walnuts need to be spread out and sun dried; so they do not moulder and spoil. Slow cooked brown rice and chestnuts with walnuts is delicious and paired with some sticky roasted pumpkin, ginger, parsnip and garlic and lots of green beans it makes a fantastic, seasonal meal.
Yesterday, whilst India baked for a party, I sought an adventure of my own, it is best that a mother leaves her daughter alone when she is in charge of the kitchen. I headed 150k’s west to Kookootonga Nut Farm at Mount Irvine in the Blue Mountains. Here chestnuts and walnuts can be collected from beneath hundreds of their gorgeous trees and bought for a mere $8 a kilo, what a treat I thought. The weather could not have been more perfect and I had so much fun all morning foraging and taking in the beauty of the parklike setting while I gathered up shiny chestnuts and damp, heavy walnuts. Kookootonga is owned and operated by the two current generations of the Scrivener family; who have lived on this property since settlement at Mount Irvine in the 1890’s. Buckets and gloves are supplied, I wore a cloth pair but when next I visit I will be sure to take a thick leather pair; for protection from the chestnut spikes and the spiders there. My trip was rather more eventful than planned and involved a high speed ambulance ride to Lithgow Hospital! A female funnel web or perhaps trap door spider grabbed my index finger, left two red welts and gave me the fright of a lifetime. I have only the highest praise for the Scriveners and Mark and our kind and attentive emergency services. I give great thanks for the end result being a false alarm as apparently no poison was injected. All I suffered was a nasty case of shock and ambulance sickness. Today my heart has returned to a more normal rate and all is well. This is a day I will truly ‘never’ forget, I will use it to remind myself of my great fortune and gratitude for life. Mark tells me this is the first ever such incident and so I think it safe to say do go, take a picnic, it’s a fabulous outing for all the family-with leather gloves on! Recipe to come…