Food security is a pretty big issue world wide these days and regular readers will know of my ongoing support for OzHarvest, the Australian food rescue organisation that does such a brilliant job of keeping fresh food out of land-fill and placing it in the bellies of those who need it.
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Are you still out there, dear, gentle reader? I know I’ve been neglectful over the last couple of weeks, but typing has been very difficult for me. I have a sad and sorry tale about that and I’ll tell all further down on the page, but first let me share a little of our time in gorgeous Florence with you.
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I’m trying something a little different today and introducing you to a couple of ladies who share my interests in good food, easily prepared, with maximum impact – both in taste and nutrition. Nutritionist Kathryn Elliot and her friend, photographer and recipe developer Lucinda Dodds, combine their skills and talents in An Honest Kitchen, a blog and e-magazine which focuses on fresh, simple, seasonal food. The three of us are so on the same page when it comes to food that when Kathryn approached me with the idea of doing a guest post I simply couldn’t resist – and who doesn’t love a roast? I’m thrilled to be able to share the knowledge and passion of these ladies with my own readers so, without any further ado – take it away, girls!
Amanda has very kindly let me, Lucy, take over her blog today to talk to you guys, her lovely readers, about the next issue of An Honest Kitchen, an e-publication that nutritionist Kathryn Elliott and I work on. It’s about cooking in an honest, healthy way with real, no fuss ingredients.
When Kathryn and I were challenged by a reader to makeover some classic recipes, to give the An Honest Kitchen treatment to some favourite family meals, we jumped at the opportunity. What a fun idea, one with a practical and healthy outcome. Our Makeovers issue was born.
A lot of traditional recipes call for very specific ingredients, but what to do if your recipe calls, say, for tomatoes and it’s not tomato season? For starters, you can rethink the recipe – is a fresh tomato sauce really an appropriate meal in the depths of winter? Maybe some roasted pumpkin, or some beetroot could take the place of those tomatoes and bring it into the moment.
Kathryn and I go on about seasonality for all the obvious, much-touted reasons – sustainability, supporting your local economy, reducing the energy required to get food to your plate – but the overwhelming reason to do so is summed up best by our favourite cook, Nigel Slater, in his Kitchen Diaries: “Right food, right place, right time…this is the food of the moment – something eaten at a time when it is most appropriate, when the ingredients are at the peak of their perfection, when the food, the cook and the time of year are at one with each other.”
Keeping in tune with the seasons will make your cooking infinitely better.
Roasts are a real favourite for many people. The traditional roast centres on a big joint of meat with hearty sides of potatoes, pools of gravy and all the extra trimmings. It’s a heavy, stodgy meal. If you’re trying to eat healthy meals, then avoiding the family roast may seem like a good idea, but we’ve gathered some tips to help you make it fresh, lighter and an altogether healthier option.
How to makeover a traditional roast dinner
In the course of our makeovers we developed a few guidelines which you can use to revamp your own favourite roast dinners:
Use less meat: Rather than cooking a huge joint of meat, choose a smaller cut with a bone in it. This will cook in a fraction of the normal time, but you’ll still end up with a juicy and flavour-filled dinner. In our recipe below we’ve used lamb shanks which speeds up the cooking time, but also gives you an idea of how much protein you should be eating. It’s all too easy to eat far more protein with a roast than you actually need.
Don’t avoid potatoes: Roast potatoes are an integral part of the traditional roast and while they have a seemingly poor nutritional profile, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of potato. It’s all about the size of the portion you eat and what else you plate them with. Try to make the potato no more than ¼ of the space on your plate.
Make sure you add LOTS of seasonal vegetables: Roasting is one of the best ways to cook vegetables. They are simply delicious and you can easily pack a variety of vegetables into the meal. In the recipe below, we use beetroot and carrots for a warming, wintry roast, but you could make it summery by using loads of big, juicy tomatoes, some chopped peppers and eggplant in season, adding some olives and a few big handfuls of basil, stirred through just before serving, instead of the beetroot leaves. Basically, play!
Add flavour: Don’t be afraid to add unusual and strong flavours to your roast, the results can be spectacular. In the following recipe, a fresh burst of lemon juice and oregano adds a lot of flavour.
So. What does a Makeover recipe look like? Like this!
Oregano Roast Lamb with Vegetables
A Greek-inspired roast lamb, where the meat and vegetables are cooked together – so you’re only dirtying one pan – and the whole meal is served with natural yoghurt instead of gravy. To make sure all your veggies cook evenly within the time frame, try to cut them into similar-sized pieces, about 3cm. Serves 2
1 bunch beetroot – roots and leaves
400 – 450g potatoes
2 sticks celery
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
600g Frenched (well-trimmed) lamb shanks – 1 large, or 2 smaller
1/3 cup natural yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Prepare most of the vegetables: Trim the ends off the onions and peel away the papery skin. Cut each into 6 wedges. Cut the leaves off the beetroots and put these to one side. Scrub the beetroots, carrots, potatoes and celery – don’t worry about peeling unless they’re very grubby and marked. Cut into chunks, roughly 3 cm – this is important as you want the vegetables to cook evenly. Place all the vegetables in a large baking tray. Pour over the olive oil and gently turn the vegetables over, until they are covered in oil.
Flavour the lamb: Juice the lemon, pouring the juice into a shallow bowl and putting the leftover lemon shells in with the vegetables. Add the oregano to the lemon juice and then season with salt and pepper. Put the lamb shanks in the lemon and oregano marinade and rub the mixture into the flesh.
Cook the roast: Place the shanks on top of the vegetables, in the baking tray and pour any leftover marinade over the top. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. At the end of this time, remove the tray and gently turn over the vegetables and lamb. Return to the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes.
Prepare the greens: While the roast is cooking give the beetroot greens a good wash. You may need to do this in two changes of water. Roughly chop into thick strips.
Rest the lamb and cook the greens: At the end of the 30 minute cooking time, take the baking tray out of the oven. Remove the lamb to a plate, cover with tin foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Add the chopped greens to the tray and quickly toss them in the juices at the bottom of the pan. Place back in the oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until the greens are wilted.
To serve: Once the vegetables are cooked, serve the lamb shanks and vegetables with the natural yoghurt on the side.
For more ideas on making over the meals you love take a look at our publication An Honest Kitchen: Makeovers. An Honest Kitchen is a regular publication all about real food that’s good for you. Each issue is full of simple recipes, practical cooking information and healthy eating advice. Our latest edition, Makeovers, in which we revamp popular meals is available in e-format from 11 June.
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I’m very aware of the fact that the majority of people do not think too hard about where their food comes from. There are lots of reasons for that – life can be a pretty distracting business for many and they just don’t need another thing on their plate (pardon my pun) to cause anxiety and emotional or financial stress. What concerns me, though, is that those who find their way to my site and others like it and choose to consider their food options do so from a well-informed foundation. To that end I always endeavour to make sure I am as well informed as possible about a subject before I start “blowing off “about it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a carnivore and a (very) small-scale Angus beef producer, so have a direct interest in how beef is produced in this country. My cattle live a very pleasant life indeed and their end is relatively quick and clean, but for some time now I’ve been curious about what happens to other cattle. While it would be nice if all livestock could avoid the industrial food system, this is unlikely to happen any time soon and I wanted to try to understand how the general beef production model works. These days we hear much that is negative in relation to US feedlots so I’ve been interested in learning about the conditions on Australian feedlots and comparing our system with the the US model. Recently, I have had several requests for information regarding the perceived difficulties of sourcing grass fed beef and a query regarding Australian commitment to corn crops and government subsidies of them, so clearly I’m not the only one who needs to become a little more well-informed on this subject.
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Those of my readers who follow me on Facebook or Twitter might have seen me mention Target 100 once or twice in the last week or so. An admirable new initiative by Meat & Livestock Australia, Target 100 aims to deliver sustainable cattle and sheep farming in Australia by 2020. Sustainability is no recent thing for the Australian meat industry which has been investing in environmental research and development for many years. By implementing a selection of 100 individual research, development and extension initiatives which will be funded through the various meat industry organisations, the industry intends to focus this and reduce the resources it uses, thus reducing it’s footprint, improve it’s efficiency and provide a a focal point for environmental, social and ethical farming action to ensure a sustainable food source.
Target 100 is clearly an initiative which has taken some time to put together, as even the most cursory look at the list of 100 separate projects will show. The projects vary in scope and size from small initiatives such as the publication of producer guides for the various aspects of biodiversity on farms or a a comprehensive collation of best practice modern grazing enterprises in southern Australia, to major projects like research into ways to reduce the costs and length of time it takes to create biogas from solid wastes. Not simply focusing on the agricultural aspect of the Australian meat industry, Target 100 projects also include social goals to aid in sustaining regional communities and ethical goals to promote and improve the welfare of livestock.
Importantly,the media tools used to promote this project will attempt to address the perceived disconnect between city-based consumers and our rural producers. Taking advantage of the magic of technology and the internet, Target 100 will have regular live online forum sessions, beginning this weekend at 5 pm (EST) on Sunday April 1 with renowned environmentalist, former Australian of the Year and Chief Commissioner for the Climate Commission, Professor Tim Flannery. There is also a Twitter stream at @Target100AUS which you can join to become part of the conversation, interact with producers and the industry generally become an active part of Target 100.
I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of this exciting new initiative in Sydney earlier this week, where we enjoyed an exceptional meal prepared by noted Sydney chef Justin North and his staff, using some of our prime meat products. Justin spoke, as part of the launch, about his commitment to using as much of each beast as was humanly possible and his desire to educate the Australian consumer about some of the lesser-known cuts of meat and, to that end, served us a meltingly delicious slow-cooked beef brisket as part of the main course. I listened to Professor Flannery talk about the positive impact that this kind of initiative will have on our environment and also to a young Queensland farmer speak with sincere passion and commitment about the projects he and his family are employing on their property as part of Target 100.
As both a consumer and small-time primary producer I believe I have a foot in both camps here and I can only feel excited at the possibilities which a project like this can open up. There is currently a distinct and growing interest in ethically and sustainably produced meat and if you are one of those who care about good quality meat, where it comes from and how it gets to you then I hope you will join in the conversation at Target 100.
You can view the full list of 100 industry initiatives, their timing and current status here.
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I’ve been thinking about food traditions and celebratory eating habits of late. My youngest is off in the wilds of Canada (well, really just Vancouver if I’m to be completely honest) on her student exchange and her host family took her with them to celebrate Thanksgiving with family in Oregon in the USA. She has returned to Canada singing the praises of pumpkin pie, which in turn led my brain to turn to thoughts of turkey dinners and other celebratory meats. Many of us are in the process of planning our Christmas meals here in Australia and for quite a few of us, this is the one time of the year when we will contemplate the roasting of those over-sized, foolish fowls. Of course they are the cornerstone of North American Thanksgiving meals and I, for one, always assumed turkey was the traditional dish because they were native to the region, plentiful and what the pilgrim fathers would have dined on to commemorate their thankfulness. It turns out I am quite wrong about this and it is actually a habit that evolved much later. In colonial times turkeys were eaten year-round and thus considered commonplace, whereas November was the time of the year when the pigs were slaughtered, making the ribs a treat that was not often to be found outside of that period.