Every Aussie foodie – and more than a few International ones, too – have heard of Stephanie Alexander, who is something of a living National treasure. Her latest, and perhaps most ambitious, contribution is the The Kitchen Garden Foundation which aims to put both a vegetable garden and a working, multi-station kitchen in Australian schools and to make pleasurable food education a part of the primary school curriculum. Here in Adelaide, in recognition of the fact that there will be a percentage of schools for whom this dream will not be manageable, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens Foundation has supported the development of a Kitchen Garden within the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, with hopes for an educational kitchen in the future. The garden flourishes with seasonal produce and at this stage most of that generally goes to the kitchen of the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. This garden is planned to be an teaching resource for not only children and schools, but also an aid for immigrants so they can see and learn about the food plants which grow in their new home and as an inspiration for any potential veggie gardeners – and I guess that is all of us!
The project was launched during “Tasting Australia”, in April, at the splendid “Home Grown Gala Dinner”, cooked by Simon Bryant, with guests that included Peter Cundall, Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander. Some of the fresh produce used at that wonderful dinner came out of the Kitchen Garden and last week I was invited to a “Botanic Gardens Harvest to Plate” cookoff in the Botanic Gardens to show off the last of the current crops in the garden. The Foundation enjoys a close relationship with the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market Kid’s Club and our chef last Tuesday, again the wonderful Simon Bryant, employed a handful of these enthusiastic novice chefs to help him out with the prep work for lunch.
On a very chilly, but gloriously sunny day with the beautiful gardens as a backdrop, Simon and his apprentices cooked up a delicious lunch for their guests using freshly harvested leeks, herbs, vibrant chard and rhubarb. Simon is a passionate advocate for local growers and producers, using their products wherever possible. He is one chef who obviously takes the time to get to know his producers and takes care to fill his audience in on the merits of using top quality produce whenever you can.
Donning their scaled down chefs kit, the children were clearly keen to get into the spirit of things and it wasn’t too long before little fingers were cracking eggs, chopping leeks, mixing, beating and generally making things happen – with a little bit of experienced guidance where necessary!
Again, it wasn’t too long before we were enjoying a fabulous lunch of Leek and Feta Tart, a gorgeous winter salad and fresh rhubarb crumble. Not a bad way to spend an hour or so!
Now, my precious perusers, do any of you have a favourite local producer that you would like to crow about? Feel free to share with us all and give someone you like a free plug – no matter where you are!
- 1 tart shell (the recipe says 6″, but you may get away with a slightly larger one)
- 1 leek, sliced
- 20 gms butter
- 10 ml olive oil
- 2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
- 30 gms fresh grated parmesan
- 200 gms feta, cubed (Simon used Alexandrian Fleurieu Feta)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 fresh aby leaf
- 200 mls cream
- 3 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Melt butter and oil in pan, add leeks and saute until just beginning to soften. Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme. Cook until potatoes are tender, set aside.
- Mix cream and eggs together in a bowl and season to taste.
- Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs from leek mix and spread vegetables in tart case. Pour cream and egg mix over, drop in the cubes of feta and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes (slightly longer if using larger tart case) until just set in the middle.
- Serve with a green salad.