Category: Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training
This is the kind of ‘a little something’ that I needed on a cold and wintery Sydney day recently.. pure comfort food. And I did indeed need a bit of comfort. I was exhausted after doing the shoot for my new book (out next year), and staying with my good friend (and fellow Whole and Natural Foods Chef) Holly Davis, who helped me, the word we used was ‘shattered’. We were completely shattered, and requiring said comfort food (plus, it was cold). It also seems that rice pudding is back in (mind you it has never really gone away in our house) – I noticed it has made an appearance in this months Delicious magazine, so it seems, we are on trend :) I actually don’t use a recipe, just throw it all in and judge from look, but the all important thing in making a rice pudding is getting the consistency right (not too runny, not too thick) so I’m giving you a recipe. It’s originally from this book (I’ve tweaked it a little) … a truly brilliant book that mum has had for years, it’s well worn and stained, and truly, has all the Australian classics – it’s well worth tracking down.
But whilst carrying on about how exhausted we were, it was a wonderful time. I call it the ‘seeing the view from the mountain’ time. That time, when you’ve worked so hard (over years and years), taken the enormous risks that you take, putting it all out there – and you finally get the chance to see the beauty of it all. To see this book, that in the beginning (and for quite some time over the past year) I couldn’t see at all where it was leading me, but I kept on following a jungle path – finally I got to see that it was beautiful, and that the whole was so much more than the sum of it’s parts. That takes one talented photographer (Cath Muscat) and stylist (Michelle Noriento), and of course a publishing team who are there for you (Murdoch Books). BUT, it also takes a friend. I’ve had a lot of lessons about what makes a true friendship this year – easy for some to talk the talk, but not walk the walk. Thank goodness, that I count Holly as a true friend. Thank goodness she knows how to make a cup of tea because we really needed it. The photo below is a screen shot of the teapot from Cath’s instagram account. It also took another hand in the kitchen, and we were loved sharing more time with Trudie Fenwick – a graduate from the 2013 Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program. We also had the opportunity to catch up with another graduate (2010) Belinda Pooley (Wholefood Canteen), another true friend and we got to meet her gorgeous new bub.
A shoot goes like this: you organise what you are going to shoot (we had 40 shots of food + chapter openers + incidentals+ pictures of me) – in 5 days. You organise the shopping list (that was Holly’s job, and no mean feat). You watch in awe as box after box of props are unloaded. You cook your ass off, because that’s a lot of shots you are doing each day. I also keep an eye on the shot so it represents me. No blue plates I say, no twine around everything I say – and in the end, there was blue, and a bit of twine, but I loved it. Loved it to bits. I love who I see this book becoming, I love that whilst I couldn’t see always what it wanted to be, my spirit did and kept me on the path. I think you will like it too. That’s Michelle s hands down there, getting the shot into shape, and below it, is the gorgeous Smeg fridge we used for a shot. Look at the colour – Panna Cotta – it says it all. I literally can’t wait for my new home and cooking studio to be built (that’s another story), but already I have my Smeg oven sorted. I’ll tell you more about that at a later date.
Before I leave and get to the recipe, I will be putting together a class program next week for August, September, October and November for Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. It will post on the website, FB and newsletter. I’d so love to meet you and I hope you can come along. In the meantime, try this out this winter weekend… serve it with any baked or stewed fruit as desired. Eat it for morning tea, snack or afternoon tea or dessert… it doesn’t matter :)
Where to start ? A thank you to you all for emailing me and saying how much you enjoy the blog when I have posted so rarely in 2013? A thank you for continuing to send me photo’s of your children smeared with food – giggling and laughing with their favourite recipe from Wholefood for Children? A thank you for the friendship and privilege that comes from knowing you trust me and have me in your homes? A thank you for welcoming the new book WHOLEFOOD BAKING with open arms? How about we just start with it all and go from there. I start each year with the best intentions of keeping a regular blog, and I didn’t do too badly until the WHOLE AND NATURAL FOODS CHEF TRAINING PROGRAM which started in August- lots of things went by the wayside! When it stopped, I stopped and have had very little desire to take any responsibility for my life whatsoever since then!! I couldn’t have made a decision if my life depended upon it !! But a little bit of going very slowly after Christmas and up to right now, has done wonders. Lets catch up shall we? And I’ve also got a really simple, delicious gluten free cornbread for you later on.
2014 was a full and wonderful year – my fourth book Wholefood Baking was released and I’m incredibly excited to share that it has just been announced as one of the Australian winners of the GOURMAND BOOK AWARDS. Oh my goodness, that hasn’t quite sunk in yet. The best part of this book though was travelling Australia with afternoon tea launches, meeting so many wonderful people (including you) and seeing the community of people returning to real food that is being built. It was wonderful also travelling Australia for Wholefood Cooking classes with THERMOMIX, a good collaboration I think :)
In August we began the 3rd intake of the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program, and this was quite the special group. Amazing, gutsy people in this group that I know are going to go on and make a difference. It’s not an easy course – it’s intense and pushes you to your limits – but, it’s there at the limits that we often discover who we really are or get to eyeball the things (most often our minds) that stop us from being all we can be. There are some photo’s I’d like to share with you from the course:
The course does not happen with the legend and wise woman that is Holly Davis. I chose this picture as I think it expresses us best – me, exhausted and unable to keep it together, Holly who as soon as I loose it is not far behind. I also have to include this photo below – seriously not the best photo of either myself or Holly (she will probably kill me for putting it up – seriously we look old and haggard). This is us completely loosing it during taste testing of final practical exams – something tasted unbelievably terrible, and Holly and I were profoundly unprofessional and just couldn’t stop laughing – every time I look at it I just crack up again.
I’ve made many speeches this year and turned 60 in November and one thing stands out for me – we are never an island, and when we become who we want to be, it is always because we are loved and supported. Interestingly I was listening to a interview with Catriona Rowntree yesterday, and she was saying that to be unconditionally loved is the most empowering thing in life (for her, it was her Nanna). I have long wanted to be the person I am now (no not the achievements, but how I feel each day – empowered, trusting, joyful, aware of this gift that is life, alive and on purpose) and for me, those that have enabled that are varied – the most important thing and person in my life (my daughter, Nessie) would at the head of the line, but family, my cousin Fran, best friend Nene, and Holly is not far behind. I think my higher self has pushed me to my limits and it’s there I found who I really am – I love most that I’ve got to this place with compromising my principles – I it’s a deeply organic sense of self worth.
Over summer I’ve had had some wonderful people to breakfast in my kitchen – for once
the eastern states are coming west – here I am with Jo Whitton
And here with Jane Grover
And, for the life of me – with my technological skills (poor) I can’t get the photo of Alexx Stuart and her son Benjamin on here.. but you can see that wonderful woman on my Instagram feed. It was such a treat to have time with these inspiring women and hear their stories.
Which brings me to Instagram – I’ve used it more than Facebook towards the end of the year because it was so easy – hence the lack of lots of photo’s on FB !!
So for this year, it’s a whole new website (should be up about March) and there will be lots of goodies for you there. I’m working on a new book, so it will be head down, not too much travel and very few CLASSES. I do have a NOURISHING WISDOM INTENSIVE happening for Perth (this one comes with a pantry pack of grains, legumes, sea vegetables and other treats). It’s a 4 day rather than a 3 day, as this is it – we have extra time to do some of the things you would like to do. You can find information for that here.
As a final note, in case you are looking for some reading? Whilst I actually didn’t end up reading a lot last year (which is a tragedy as I love reading, but was too busy most of the time) my favourites were:
- Deep Nutrition: Why your Genes Need Traditional Foods Catherine Shanahan MD and Luke Shanahan
- Cooked by Michael Pollan
The books I’ve just bought / am really looking forward to buying or being published this year:
- The Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (love her stories)
- Whole -Grain Mornings – New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons Megan Gordon
- Emma’s book – www.mydarlinglemonthyme.com
- Michelles book – www.hugoandelsa.com
I wish you the most joyous and wonderful 2014 – may you be unconditionally loved, nourished, inspired and delighted often. I look forward to sharing more with you over the coming year – and if that is with a cup of tea and we happen to find ourselves having breakfast, morning or afternoon tea, all the better.
Eating is an Agricultural Act (the words of Wendell Berry) and we put it into action
After 10 very intense weeks, the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program for 2012 is coming to a close. It’s been a deeply rewarding experience for me as I see the students blossom and begin to piece everything together. As much as I teach them (as does Holly Davis and Jean Martinez and all who come into our kitchen) they teach me daily. It’s quite a blessing. But, time is short, the night is getting on and I wanted to get this up. Tomorrow is the Student Group Dinner which we are repeating on Wednesday evening also. We are booked out with friends, farmers and public coming to enjoy the dinner – an opportunity for the students to put into practice what they know and have learnt, and to experience doing so.
The photos are a mix of our trip down south to the town of Balingup, hosted by Katrina Lane from Taste of Balingup. Katrina is a woman that walks her talk and works to connect and support local farmers. Which, at the end of it all is why we go to visit the farmer, because this is what it’s all about – our weeks in the kitchen, learning what we learn all comes together at the farm. It is here it is produced – and how thankful we are for farmers that nourish the soil and provide us with real food. How thankful we are for farmers that care about the vegetable and the animal, and raise both with integrity and a view to sustainability. In the wholefood kitchen, this is where it all starts and the food choices we make support this kind of farming and nourishment.
BUILD A GOOD FOUNDATION
So, what fundamentally is wholefood? What makes food healthy? Is it the latest superfood (the must have goji berries or cacao), the latest dietary paradigm (currently raw or paleo) or is it more than that?These are the questions (and so many more) that I ask of the students in the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program, and that I base my entire work around. My answers to these questions reflect the understandings I now have of food over my 20 + years in the “healthy” food industry and many influences over 58 odd years of living.
First of these influences was growing up in an inner suburban life in the late 50’s and early 60’s – fruit was eaten in season and was limited to what grew locally, nuts were from the almond tree in the backyard, as were figs (we survived without imported Brazil nuts). Stocks, Soups, Stews, Meat, eggs and simple seasonal vegetables were on the menu as was wheat. Chicken was rare. Everything was cooked from scratch, as there was no other option, fish and seafood were plentiful from the ocean and river. We ate a lot of cooked foods, with salads the year around. We had white sugar and white flour cakes and desserts. We grew up happy and healthy as did the previous generation. We played and adventured outside, we had BBQ in summer and picnics in winter, we ate as a family and often extended family. My mum is an exceptional cook.
My second influence was Macrobiotics, as most people of my age that have been in this industry as long as I have started here – there was no other place to start. From Macrobiotics I have been gifted my love of traditionally brewed soy sauces, rice wines such as mirin, sea vegetables and an understanding of balancing the energetic properties of food (and the universe). Later Ayurveda entered my life – this is the ancient 5000 year old wisdoms of a whole and healthy life from the Sanskrit and much of Chinese Medicine, Five Phase/Element Theory (and ultimately Macrobiotics) is taken from this. Finally, the work of Weston A Price, the American dentist who documented happy, healthy cultures thriving on a wide range of foods. There have been many other dalliances, but it is these that have influenced me most and formed my views on food that I now hold, and see working.
And, what I see is this – that humans thrive eating a wide range of foods (and I don’t mean daily) generally that the environment in which they live provides. Certainly Weston A Price documented happy, healthy cultures thriving on blood, offal and milk, whilst others thrived on the rye grains and spring butter, whilst others on fish and seafood. Many thrived without 3 fruit and 5 veg a day. They thrived without following a raw food or paleo diet and they ate what they had available. They didn’t call it a traditional diet – they called it food; they didn’t freak out eating grain in the places that it grew – but rather understood and respected it (whole and appropriately prepared) and gave thanks for it. That we are all individuals, and what might work for one may not suit another – a basic principle of Ayurveda – which is the paradigm I see working more consistently than just about anything else.
So, to the answers:
- Wholefood is that which is closest to it’s natural state with as little that is edible removed and as little that is inedible (additives etc) added to it. It is an understanding that the whole is always far, far greater than simply the sum of nutrient parts.
- That it is good enough to eat: that is, synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides are not compatible with any part of a human system, but are designed to interrupt and kill living systems. You are a living system.
- That it should be real: that is the human body is evolved to eat a real strawberry, not a strawberry flavour made from chemicals. The body is a real thing and it does not compute with fake things.
- That it should match you – not your naturopath, dr or someone else: This is a fundamental Ayurvedic premise. Some will be fine with cold, raw food in winter others will suffer. Some do best with cooked vegetables, some with grain, some with no grain.
- That it should be delicious. Deliciousness, in ways i do not understand but absolutely know exist, allows food to be taken in and properly digested, absorbed and utilised by the body. Deliciousness is a nutrient in it’s own right. Deliciousness also includes not being so stressed out (from a too busy life), that you are unable to experience deliciousness in other walks of life.
- That the food you choose should be prepared appropriately to ensure compatibility with the human body: that is low fat milk, pasteurised milk, refined oils, fractionalised foods are not understood by the body. Some foods (such as beans or grains) require special preparation methods to ensure they are understood (digestible).
- That the human body requires fuel – the nutrients found in the food nature provides. On the whole you might get away with a little white flour and white sugar (also in it’s other guises – pasta, etc) – if you have enough of the other good stuff. But, better to have less refined (more whole) flours and sweeteners.
- That sweetness is not a dirty word: that is, a bit of wholesome sweetness, cake or dessert in a whole and balanced diet is not going to kill you. Eating a lot of shallow, nutrient deficient, refined, additive laden food will.
This is how you create your wholefood kitchen. To build a good foundation we have started in WNCTP with ghee and chicken (or animal bone) stock, but a vegetarian stock is still a powerful thing. Ghee is considered to be the most ‘satvic’ food by Ayurveda – the holiest in the sense that it “delivers enlightenment to the soul”. We can understand this knowledge now in it’s more scientific speak, as it is the fat that ensures all the vitamins and minerals are delivered and able to be utilised by the cell. Ghee will make anything taste better and add huge nourishment. In that butterfat lies the valuable fat soluble vitamins A, D and the X factor (now thought to be vitamin K2) – Weston A Price referred to these vitamins as activators because without them, minerals (no matter how many may be in those leafy green vegetables from the 5 vegetables serves a day) cannot be used by the body. I could write a whole lot here about your bones, teeth, nervous system, reproductive health, but it’s simple really – you need minerals for just about everything your body does – they are a part of the complex, miraculous thing that is your body. If you have not made ghee, please give it a try – you will love it.
Ghee is pure butterfat, with all the milk protein removed. Many people that find they cannot tolerate milk solids, are fine with ghee – this is a far more nourishing option than a margarine (which is not a food and has no place in your cupboard or fridge – even if it sounds lovely and has pictures of sunflower and other seeds all over it). All butter has a percentage of water and milk solids – when making ghee, you are evaporating off the water, and removing the milk solids, leaving pure butterfat.
There are many ways to make it, and I’ve been lucky enough this week for Rupinder to show me how she does hers – she does not skim the milk solids off as she goes, but leaves them to dry out on top until the end. Ghee will keep very well at room temperature – it is a saturated (thus stable to light, heat and oxygen) fat.
250 gm butter – I prefer unsalted
Stage 1: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat – you will clearly see what I describe as a ‘river’ of white flowing through the yellow fat. This is the water and milk solids.
Stage 2: Once melted, increase the heat to a gentle simmer. As the water evaporates, it will gurgle and spit a bit, and the top will be covered with a white foam. Take care not to have the heat too high. After some time you will notice that the water has evaporated off – it now looks more like yellow fat, with bits in it – these are the milk solids and they are also in the foam that gathers at the top of the butterfat. The time it takes for the water to evaporate off will be different – generally, commercial butters have a lot more water in them than organic ones. I skim the foam off the top as I go, but Rupinder showed me to just move it gently so you see how it’s going underneath the foam and leave it on top. As the water evaporates, the foam will look more dry.
Stage 3: Once I see the foam on top reducing and I have removed most of it (or it’s becoming more dry as in Rupinders method), check to see if any milk solids in the pot remain – some will have dropped to the bottom of the pan and be lightly browned. Remove from the top of stove and leave to cool. Skim off any remaining foam (if you haven’t already) and pour through muslin into a clean jar.
TAKE CARE TO DO THIS OVER A SLOW, GENTLE HEAT – IT SHOULD SMELL OF CARAMEL (which is really simply butter, sugar and cream) AND NOT TOO NUTTY.
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