Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fresh from the Snowy

Snowy Mountains Fresh

During the period when the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme was being built, an engineer identified that the base of the Blowering Dam would be an excellent site for a trout farm.  As the ice from the Snowy Mountains melts over summer, the dam releases huge volumes of water which are released into nearby trout farms.  

The water is pristine, clear and clean.  The key with excellent trout is the quality of the water: if the water is excellent, so are the trout. 

James from Snowy Mountains Fresh is a man from Snowy River himself.  Many members of his family, including the uncle he was named after, worked on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, so he has spent a lot of quality time in the area sourcing the very best trout. His trout is from a trout farm in Tumut and is hot wood smoked, the traditional way - which means that it is a subtle smoked flavour which keeps the fish incredibly moist.

If you haven't yet tried his smoked trout products - two words: YOU MUST!  His smoked trout dip, tomato based pasta sauce, whole smoked trout and deboned fillets are off the hook.  They're so good in fact that he keeps selling out at the markets, so get in early!

Snowy Moutains Fresh comes to the Bondi Junction Village Markets every Thursday 9am-1.30pm; and the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets every Sunday, 9am-1.30pm.

[Image source]

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

George Bush Snr was wrong

Before you change channels, the only political thing about this blog post will be contained in the statement that George Bush Snr did a massive disservice to humble broccoli.

He doesn't like it.  And proudly announced to the world media many years ago that he doesn't like it, he wouldn't eat it and that was that.

Millions of kids probably cheered around the world. And parents, nutritionists and vegetable-lovers were deflated.

Most of us were fairly confident of broccoli's super-health powers, however recent research published in the American Journal of Hypertension has added even more punch to broccoli's clout.

A compound produced in broccoli (and some other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, rocket and horseradish) called sulforaphane significantly improves blood pressure and kidney function.  This compound is highest in broccoli sprouts!

Sulphoraphane has also been shown to have antidiabetic and antimicrobial properties. But most impressive and perhaps even awe-inspiring, is that it kills cancer stem cells and slows tumour growth. Researchers believe that eliminating cancer stem cells may be the key to controlling cancer. 

How cool is that?  More evidence to suggest that a diet high in green veggies will help protect you from many Western diseases.  Hippocrates wasn't wrong when he said "Let food by thy medicine and medicine your food." At least one world leader had it right!

Rita's Farm Produce sells broccoli and broccolini (when in season) at Bondi Junction Village Markets every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and at Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets every Sunday.

Sorbello Tomatoes also sell seasonal broccolini at the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets every Sunday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Raw vegan chocolate

Okay I'm going to say it. Twitter is great, when you make it work for you.

I can't remember how I first stumbled on this raw, vegan chocolate recipe, or that such a beast even existed, but the ultimate result is that after following some fabulous raw foodies on Twitter, I found myself ogling this raw, vegan chocolate recipe and busting to try it.

Now: a note to self (that is, yourself): this might take you several attempts to perfect the recipe.  I think I'm up to version #10, but I've finally found a recipe that works for me that I'm happy with. Let me tell you, trialling 10 batches of chocolate is tough work, but someone's gotta do it :-)

The issue in perfecting this chocolate really lies in the type of sweetener you use and how much you use of it.  What I found is that as soon as the sweetener is added, the mixture thickens considerably, sometimes making it hard to work with and a bit too stiff to easily pour into the moulds.  And when you pop the set chocolates out of the moulds when they're set, they're not shiny happy chockies either.

I am sure there is a lot of science around chocolate making. In fact, I KNOW there is a lot of science around chocolate: there is tampering and working it and blah blah blah.  This recipe is not designed for the serious chocolate aficionado.  This is just for someone like me with a sweet tooth that wants to eat the healthier version of a wicked treat.

So how is it healthier, I hear you ask?  Raw cacao is the least processed version of cocoa and therefore still retains all of its lovely nutrients.  Recent studies have shown that raw cacao contain very high levels of antioxidants, magnesium and Vitamin C.  

Coconut oil is one of my favourite all time foods/remedies on the planet and could have its own blog post, hell it could have it's own book, it's so good.  I lather it all over my body.  I make home-made deodorant with it (yes, its true and most of the time I smell like lemon cheescake and I feel like licking my armpits).  But I digress.  Coconut oil improves heart health, increases metabolism and boosts the immune system.

These 2 ingredient alone are reason enough to eat chocolate. But we all know that raw cacao or cocoa aren't sweet, so we need to sweeten the mixture. This is where the health benefits get tricky, because if you chow down on too many of these chocolates, you'll still be consuming a lot of sugar. The trick is to just have one or two a day.  The good news is that this chocolate is quite rich, so you may find it more difficult to pig out and eat the whole batch in one go (and if you do: sheesh..... slow down!)

So let's talk about stevia, a natural sugar replacement that doesn't spike insulin levels.  I don't like it. Not one little bit.  When I added it to my lovely, chocolatey, velvety liquid it turned it all  thick and gritty and made me pull at cat's bum face.   There is no room for a cat's bum face where my cooking is concerned. But if you like it, go crazy and add it.  I decided on a half-half addition of raw organic agave and raw organic coconut syrup (which will give the chocolate a slight chewy consistency).

The original recipe made only half the amount of chocolate, but my family (ahem, me) all devour it so quickly that I always double the recipe. Sometimes I use half the mixture for chocolate in moulds and pour the other half over goji berries and organic dessicated coconut on a metal tray. Mmmm.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1 1/3 cup raw cacao, sifted
3-4 tablespoons organic dark agave syrup
3-4 tablespoons organic coconut syrup
Peppermint oil/orange oil if you like

Gently melt coconut oil over a low heat until just melted and turn off heat immediately. Stir in sifted cacao and mix well.  Add sweeteners and stir. The mixture will thicken but should still be liquid enough to pour into the silicon moulds with a couple of teaspoons.

Pour into silicon chocolate moulds. 

Freeze for around 20 minutes.  Pop out of moulds whilst still frozen and return to freezer or fridge.

And here is the chocolate with goji berries and coconut:

Make sure you keep it in the fridge because in warm weather the coconut oil will become just that: oil and your chocolate will be a mere puddle of its former self. Enjoy - and if you find any excellent natural sweeteners in your travels, let me know.

Oh, and yey for Twitter, the internet, blogs and all that stuff.

[P.S. I forgot to mention the reason this chocolate is "raw" is because the raw vegan community regards raw food as that which has not been heated beyond 46 degrees celcius (115F). As the coconut oil is only gently melted this doesn't take it over 46 degrees.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mushie for mushies

Mushroom madness

[Margin's Mushrooms growing in their disused cool room]

Mushrooms are fungi and are made up of 90% water and are virtually calorie-free.  They're also full of lean protein and fibre, so your body burns fat just breaking them down.  So magic mushies help to aid in fat loss. How good is that?

The vitamins C, B6 and B12 found in mushrooms assist in boosting your immune system and energy levels.  
Marvellous mushrooms are also high in Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, protein, magnesium, iron, potassium and many other important minerals.  And we reckon they taste ah-may-zing.

When storing, place in a paper bag and keep refrigerated to keep them at prime freshness. DON’T STORE IN PLASTIC BAGS because they sweat and go slimy.

Did you know, when fully open the Swiss Browns are also known as Portobello Mushrooms? Swiss Brown Mushrooms are graded into 3 sizes: buttons (babies):

caps (half open):

and Portobello (fully open):

We love them on home made pizza and in pasta sauces with a little organic cream, parmesan and continental parsley and oven roasted with taleggio (a soft cheese).

Baked Mushrooms with fresh herbs & taleggio  
  • 200g taleggio cheese, sliced, rind removed (replace with another soft cheese if you can't find taleggio)
  • 75g butter (softened)
  • 8 large Portabello mushrooms
  • bunch (10g) fresh herbs of your choice
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

Chop the herbs. In a bowl, mix together the herbs and butter.

Place the mushrooms onto a baking tray lined with foil or baking paper and divide the butter between the mushrooms, so that it sits in the open cups. 
Grind some black pepper onto the mushrooms.

Bake for about 15 minutes at 200 degrees C and baste the mushrooms halfway through with butter.

Once baked, place the sliced taleggio onto the mushrooms and bake for another 10-15 minutes until starting to brown.

Delicious served on some toasted Brasserie Bread.

Margins Mushrooms sell both white mushrooms and Swiss Browns and Rita's Farm Produce sells small amounts of Swiss Brown mushrooms at the Lane Cove Food & Farmers' Markets every Sunday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

[Image Source: Lifeonthebalcony]

Does this sound familiar? You watch a gardening show on TV. You feel a rush of inspiration to create your own living sanctuary and within days you find yourself at your nearest nursery procuring some seeds and plant them in the garden or on your balcony in pots.

And then......

Those of us with 'black thumbs' remember to check the new garden when we need some coriander for that Thai curry for dinner, only to discover a wasteland where once a herb garden once stood.  

If you're keen to start a garden, learn from the mistakes of others (like me) try these tips for growing a successful herb garden or balcony garden:
  • Start with a site assessment. Is it sunny? What do you want to grow: Herbs? Tomatoes? Flowers? Do some thinking before you start digging or buying seeds or seedlings.
  • Work with what you've got - enhance what you love or hide what you don't like. Ugly fence? Use bamboo  fencing. It's cheap and hides things well.  Bamboo in pots also hides ugly unattractive walls or neighbours' windows and provides a lovely "green screen"
  • Keep it simple.  Don't try to grow every vegetable you love. Do a bit of research on what grows well in your area/soil/terrain and work with what you have. If you have a shady area and you live in Sydney, your tropical frangipani tree probably won't be very happy.
  • If you're unsure of how things will grow, try planting hardy herbs such as Thai coriander, garlic chives etc.
  • If you have a balcony, think about the weight of lots of heavy pots. Use plastic instead but make sure you have good drainage.
  • Use mulch!  It keeps moisture in. Or one canny trick we've seen is to use pebble tiles attached to mesh. Pop them on top of your pots to 
  • And don't forget to water, especially if your plants are in pots.  They dry out really quickly and need TLC especially as the weather warms up.
  • Use your vertical space. Fences, balcony walls are all waiting for some living things on it. Use shelves, hooks etc to make things grow upwards.  Unless you've just spent $100k on a sandstone fence or travertine tiled wall, in which case you should just make time to stare at it. A lot.
Here are some blogs and articles which contain some tips on growing a balcony garden (and many tips apply to a normal garden too)

Plants Forever will be starting at the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets on Sunday 16 September where you can buy seedlings and other potted delights.
[Image Source:]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Macadamias are back

Joel from Hand N Hoe Organic Macadamia's will be back this week at the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets selling his organic macadamia's, choc covered macs, nut butters and macadamia nut oil.

Did you know that macadamia nut oil has one of the highest smoke points of any oil (210 C) so is excellent to cook with because it won't change the structure of the oil? So ditch the extra virgin olive oil (which shouldn't go above 160 C) and use some extra virgin, organic macadamia nut oil instead. It's also great for your skin, just use a small amount after a shower or bath when the skins is still a little wet. 

Or use a tiny amount, rub into your hands and run your fingers through your hair. It really is a wonder-oil!

Hand N Hoe Organic Macadamias come to the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets every two weeks, and will be at the markets this Sunday 9 September and every fortnight thereafter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spring time means..... strawberries!

Did you know.... that strawberries are part of the rose family?  That would explain the heady sensation and sudden rush of romance associated with eating strawberries. No? Well perhaps its the anthocyanins doing their zesty work inside your body. 


Anthocyanins are water soluble pigments that give strawberries their lusty red colouring. Not only do they make strawberries look oh-so-good to eat, but these funky colours also perform an impressive double-act as free-radical fighting antioxidants, which means they're awesome at preventing cancer, aging, inflammation and neurological diseases.

The humble strawberry also contains a truckload of vitamin C, which we all know keeps our immune system in tip-top shape and helps to combat colds, flus and scurvy ;-)

And these luscious lip-smackers also contain potassium (good for a steady heart rate and blood pressure), fluoride (for skin, bones and teeth), copper (needed for red blood cells production and iron (blood cell formation). Ker-pow!

But the best thing about strawberries?  They taste ah-mayzing!! In a juice (try it), fruit salad, with cream, in many a dessert or just on their Pat Malone, strawberries are one of the true delights of spring time.  Even better, they're very low in calories too, so you can pretty much feast on them at any time of day with a clear conscience. And possibly clear skin too.

Camilleri Berries are at the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets every Sunday and sell strawberries and other berries (such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) when in season.

Rita's Farm Produce also sells a limited amount of strawberries at the Bondi Junction Village Markets when in season.

Magic (disappearing) mushrooms

Paul from The Fungi will be on holidays for a few weeks from 16 September so if you're a mushroom fan, stop by and see him this Sunday 9 September at the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets before he disappears....

Talk to a farmer

Yuri Hulak, from Orange, apple grower

We're going to declare September "talk to a farmer" month and challenge all our readers to talk to the farmers at our markets and learn one new thing.  We'd be interested in what you learn!

One of the best things about shopping at a farmers' market is not only buying the freshest produce, but talking to the person who grew or reared the food.  Through one simple conversation you might find that last Saturday morning the farms experienced incredible frost, unlike any beginning to spring that they'd seen....  

Or that heirloom green tomatoes actually are sweet and juicy, not unripe (which is how they look to an untrained, non-heirloom tomato buying set of eyes like mine) and just PERFECTION in a salad... 

Or that Monsanto are buying up all the seed companies and often sell their seeds for $1.50 each. $1.50 for one seed??????????

Or that chickens LOVE eating pumpkin and go a bit crazy for the stuff....

Or that if apples get frost on them their sugar is concentrated in the frosted areas and they're actually sweeter....

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  We'd love to hear your stories, tips, tricks, recipes or tid-bits of information that you learned by talking to a farmer, that you otherwise wouldn't have known.

Got any gems to share?

Break out of your culinary comfort zone

It's lunchtime, you drag out your white bread Vegemite sandwich, or you lash out and buy your lunch, one you always have - a sausage roll or some sushi. Blah....

You're feeling uninspired and IN A RUT.  Well folks, turn around and give yourself a little kick in the bee-hind, because spring has sprung and its time for a little lunchtime renewal.

Yes, it's time to try something different. Its time to play the "what if" game. Like "what if I stop playing it safe and seek some adventure?"

We promise, you won't die from the experience.  You might even discover a whole new world of lunchtime lusciousness.

If you're going to join us and play the "what if" game, we recommend A Taste of Ethiopia.  The delightful Haile has been coming to the Bondi Junction Village Markets for 2 years now and has a very loyal following of customers who, at some stage of their lunching careers, parachuted out of their culinary comfort zone and gave Ethiopian food a try.
Lentil wat

Haile cooks a selection of curries or wats (pronounced wots) which feature either lentils, chicken or beef. These aromatic dishes are then paired with a traditional Ethiopian sourdough flat bread known as injera, which is made from a fermented type of flour called teff.  The bread is quite sour but is perfect with the spiciness of the wats.  If sourdough isn't your thing, you can request rice as your accompaniment.


This is about as unprocessed as you get. Fermented bread, curries made from scratch full of lentils and veggies or protein like chicken or beef = a midday taste sensation.  There is a reason Haile has eager lunchtime groupies queueing for his tasty food.  

You can even drop by at the end of each market day. Haile's hearty food is also perfect for dinner.  Try it. You won't be disappointed and it will give that Vegemite sandwich a run for its money.

A Taste of Ethiopia comes to the Bondi Junction Village Markets every Thursday, 9am-5pm.