Autumn Harvest

Autumn is a busy time for those who love to do their own food gathering, foraging and harvesting. Once you have amassed your booty of chestnuts, wild mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes there is then work to be done in the kitchen. This week I was given a big bag of chestnuts, collected up in Bright, which were a breeze to peel as they turned out to be either just the right age in the chestnut season (mid April  to August) or possibly an easy peel variety, like De Coppi Marone. This is the first time that I was able to slip the chestnuts out from their outer husk and fibrous inner membrane in one go. I made a small cut on one side of each nut and then placed a handful at a time in simmering water for 2 to 3 minutes before peeling them with a small knife while just cool enough to handle. In less than an hour I had filled two containers with peeled chestnuts  for the freezer so they will be ready for those tasty winter meals like chestnut soup and chicken or guineafowl with a rich chestnut stuffing.

Autumn is also the time for wild mushrooms. Pine mushrooms and slippery jacks can be gathered early in the morning in Victoria’s pine forests if you know where to look  or can be bought at farmers markets and quite a few green grocers and specialty food shop now. It is turning out to be a great wild mushroom season. Again you can clean and freeze thick slices of these mushrooms for later use. Pines can be blanched in boiling water to clean them but the softer slippery jacks are best wiped with damp kitchen paper. They both go well in a ragu, stew, risotto, stuffing or simply sauteed and served on toast.

slippery jacks

My other Autumn harvesting task this week was dealing with a large bag of Jerusalem artichokes  from a friend’s garden. They were a super, big-bulbed variety, so I thought they would be easier to peel than the usual gnarly sort I see at markets. After some internet research and choosing a reliable source, I boiled them for 15 minutes, after which the skins were supposed to slip off.  Sorry Mr Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but this didn’t work at all, not in the Southern hemisphere at any rate. Seems whatever approach you adopt (potato peeler on raw bulbs or boiling first) there’s loads of wastage. Now if I was just going to roast them in the oven with garlic I would have only scrubbed these lovely looking ones but as I intended to make a velvety artichoke soup, peeling was necessary. The great tip I got from my friend and the www is that cooking Jerusalem artichokes for a long time coverts the flatulence-causing inulin to a more comfortable fructose.  So, if you love the flavour of Jerusalem artichokes but not the consequences, I suggest making the soup in a slow cooker (high setting at a temperature around 95-100ºC) for about 4 or so hours. Saute a chopped onion and garlic then pop the roughly peeled and sliced bulbs (about 1 kg) in with some bay leaves and thyme, cover with chicken stock and water and walk away. To finish the soup, remove the herbs, blend with a stick blender until super smooth (suggest a final pass through a sieve so there are no lumps) and then add milk or cream and seasoning. Serve garnished with snipped chives or crushed hazelnuts and a drizzle of hazelnut oil. You can of course freeze some of your puree for a later (flatulence-free) date.

Jerusalem Artichokes In Slow Cooker

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Ben Shewry’s love letter to Melbourne

Good Food guest editor Ben Shewry of Melbourne’s Attica restaurant writes a love letter to his adopted home.

When I came here from New Zealand 15 years ago with my wife Natalia, and $500 in our pockets, I had never visited Melbourne before. What I knew was that I wanted to expand my knowledge of cooking and find a home.

Read More of Ben Shewry’s love letter to Melbourne


Source: The Age Good Food

Tomatoes And The Genetics Of Flavour

Flavour in all food is something we detect using both our sense of taste and smell. When we are sick or are aging we can lose these senses and as a result find eating less enjoyable than it should be.  But in the case of modern commercial varieties of tomatoes you don’t have to be sick or in your dotage to know that something is not right in the flavour department. Like any living thing the genetic makeup of the tomato contributes to the flavour profile. Genes code for the acid and sugar content and for the volatile compounds that activate our olfactory receptors. Modern tomato varieties have arisen from selective breeding for yield, size, disease resistance and firmness: all factors essential from a commercial perspective but emphasised at the expense of taste. But what are the components of flavour that we have lost in the modern tomato? Research published in the January issue of the journal, Science, has identified volatile compounds as the major source of flavour and consumer taste preference by analysis of 398 modern, heirloom and wild varieties. Volatile compounds are present in minuscule amounts, so are not amenable to standard lab tests and quantification. This has meant they have been inadvertently lost or diluted through selective breeding of tomatoes for those other traits. The researchers studied the flavour-associated chemical composition of 48 modern cultivars against 236 heirloom and wild varieties. While refrigeration, handling and storage can affect the taste of tomatoes, even when harvested fully ripe and consumed immediately, the modern cultivars were just not comparable in flavour to heirloom varieties. How the genetic loci are linked is all important in trying to get all the desirable factors into one tomato. It seems the loss of these volatile compounds was random and not linked to the traits selected against in the modern tomato, so by making a genetic map of these volatile compounds it may now be possible to address flavour loss by selecting for these flavour genes.  In addition, this study identified the genetic loci linked to sugar content and, lo and behold, what they found was that the larger the size of the tomato the lower the sugar content. Now there is scientific proof for what we all kind of knew from experience and why we all reach for the cherry tomatoes when we want some sweet flavour. The upshot is that if increased sugars are wanted then fruit size has to come down. In contrast, increasing some flavour-associated volatiles will not affect tomato size and yield and some can even increase our perception of sugar, so we can look towards more flavoursome commercial varieties sometime in the future. That still leaves handling, shipping and storage impacting tomato flavour.

Reference: Tieman, D et al (2017) A chemical genetic roadmap to improved flavor. Science 355 (6323), 391-394.

10 commandments of the real Mediterranean diet

A traditional Mediterranean diet has been shown to have significant health benefits. But can you follow it if you live nowhere near a Greek island?

Read More: 10 commandments of the real Mediterranean diet

Source: ABC Health & Wellbeing By Cathy Johnson

Agriculture hub planned for Melbourne’s West

A region in Melbourne’s outer western perimeter near Melton is set to become home to one of Australia’s most exciting developments in peri-urban agribusiness. In mid-2016, China’s Fucheng Investment group purchased the last available section of the Baillieu family’s Woodhouse Station in Melbourne’s outer west for AUD $100 million.

Fucheng Investment has now announced the land will be used to create an “agribusiness city”.

Source: Australian Food News