02 April 2013

Homegrown - whole foods, Theatre of Ideas at Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and sausage making.

I've become really conscious about what I eat. I haven't become a diet fad bore, cutting out total food groups, but I am keen to cook and eat whole foods where I can. I love the simplicity of fresh produce - it's so tasty and I really do feel better for eating it. I also really love knowing where my food comes from. I get excited talking about food, especially when I find out people have grown their own. One of the managers at my day job brought in the blue chicken eggs, below. They were laid by Lavender Araucana chickens. The camera didn't pick up the true colour of the eggs, but imagine a pale Tiffany blue.

Earlier in March I was a guest at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's Theatre of Ideas. Hosted by chef-journalist Jill Dupleix, the Theatre of Ideas featured three farmer-chefs talking about their passion for sustainable food, small scale production, mindful eating and powering the body and brain with wholefoods. In summary, they discussed the journey from earth to table, highlighting the change we need to make to our producing, sourcing and eating habits.

Canadian Michael Stadtlander talked at length about his farm, restaurant and bakery (read a great article about him here). Michael owns and operates Eigensinn Farm and Hasai Bakery. The Theatre of Ideas showcased Michael's restaurant sculpture projects. As well as raising and growing the produce on his farm, he creates thematic sculptural gardens and kitchen areas for dining and food preparation. He and his team created hand potted plates, a treehouse and a giant wine dispenser made of recycled wine bottles. His ideas are lavish, a little outlandish, but very interesting. He believes heaven is on earth and demonstrates this through his food practices.

Next up was Matthew Evans, former food critic turned Gourmet Farmer, based in Tasmania. He hopes there is a shift in conscience in how we source food, and encourages the average person to "have a crack" at growing their own produce. He moved from Sydney to Tasmania, on a 12 hectare farm with a garden, pigs, a house cow and sheep. He now also has Fat Pig Farm - an industrial farm with 40 pigs, 16 cows and 12 sheep, plus a mobile food caravan which he takes to food events. He believes farming is an art, and said it is important to showcase Indigenous people, the older generation and real farmers on TV because they understand the complexities of the earth and food producing. It was interesting to hear him speak about his passion for fresh produce and flavours - he said "if you can source good produce, cooking is really easy."

Both Michael and Matthew spoke about death being the hardest thing about farming. "I had no idea how many animals die for us to have commercially grown food", Matthew said. "Death is grim. It makes me feel like a failure when baby animals die", he said, noting that he is against hunting as a blood sport. Jill Dupleix assured him that being sad about death on a farm is healthy for a mindful farmer to feel.

Swedish Chef Magnus Nilson spoke last - he spoke about the unsustainability of meat production. I had to leave part way through his talk for the Rickshaw Run.

I met Matthew over a glass of champagne in the media room - I spoke to him briefly about my love for fresh produce and learning about the food journey.

A few bloggers were in attendance, including Bern Morley, Heidi Apples and Gourmet Girlfriend (you have to check out her bread challenge on her blog and Instagram (follow the hashtag #ggbreadrevolution - it warms my heart that she's encouraging people to make their own bread!).

I came away from Theatre of Ideas feeling inspired to eat fresher, more mindfully and to go to more food lectures.

I thank the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for sending me along to this event.


Over the past two weeks I've been making smoothies for breakfast - green (or orange) and fruit/dairy ones. Some of the great combinations have been spinach, pineapple, celery, grapes, lemon juice and mint, and an awesome pumpkin pie smoothie, inspired by this recipe. I cooked some pumpkin and a carrot in the microwave, chilled it overnight, and added cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, maple syrup, a couple of dates, nut butter, chia seeds, a frozen banana and rice milk. It was so delicious!

This long weekend I went home to my parents' house in country NSW. It was blissfully relaxing - spent reading (Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller - engrossing, heartbreaking and beautifully written), napping and cooking and eating. We went to the farmer's market - smells of bacon and egg rolls and hot coffee and children's laughter filled the air, and we bumped into old friends. I bought some brioche (beautiful toasted with butter and eaten for breakfast with a berry and peach smoothie) and boutique cordial made my former paediatrician's wife, and a hand-potted bowl from the adjacent art gallery.

In the afternoon, my parents and I made sausages. So much fun! Mum and Dad recently went to a sausage making class, and although they had previously made sausages in their old Breville mixer, they learnt some tricks of the trade such as ensuring the air pressure is ok and professionally twisting and looping the sausages. Dad's really big on buying things on eBay, and he bought a sausage making machine last week. It's a simple contraption - a heavy metal body, barrel to hold the mince, a handle to feed the barrel across the body, and a number of nozzles for different sized sausages. (Photos courtesy of my Dad.)

Mum prepared the mince the night before to maximise flavour - fresh local pork amd suet - minced up in the food processor, roasted herbs and spices - soaked in wine. The sausage skins are natural, and there are no preservatives.

When I was young, I didn't appreciate the process of making (not cooking) food. My parents bottled homegrown fruit, grew rows and rows of vegetables, collected eggs from the chicken coop, made sausages, and raised chickens and sheep for meat. I just thought we should buy food ready to eat from the supermarket, as often the hard work made my parents swear, and tending to the garden and animals in the dry heat of summer was arduous for them. But now I see the pleasure in the homegrown. Making our own food tastes better. The ingredients are known and often grown with care. And it brings us together. It's fun! I enjoyed making sausages as a family - we laughed, taught each other and were proud of our efforts.

I had fun feeding the sausage out of the nozzle, ensuring it was a consistent thickness.

My completed sausage was around 1.5 metres, almost as tall as me! Mum showed me how to twist the sausages in alternate directions so they'll hold when cut.
And last night I had some of the sausages for dinner, with roast vegetables and steamed greens, followed by a tart filled with pears in vanilla, maple and ginger sauce. All made fresh from scratch - thanks to Mum for the pastry, and to Camille's sister Rachael for the herbs.

Plated up! Really tasty.

Honey, I baked! The tart had sweetness and zing, and I served a piece of it with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
For me, cooking is a way of life. I feel better for knowing what's in my food. I ate a burger from McDonalds on the bus trip back to Melbourne. It tasted strange - artificial - and I regretted it. Eating whole foods feels so much better.


  1. Your eats are inspiring, Carly! Love seeing what you & your family get up to in the kitchen :)
    Heidi xo

  2. I can't wait till I have a plot of land bigger than a postage stamp because I will be growing everything I can. Right now with a tiny patch and some pots I manage to do my herbs, tomatoes, and the odd other thing (zucchini this year). I totally agree about the love of making things from scratch. In my time poor world it doesn't always happen but it makes me so happy when it does.

    P.S. Those sausages look amazing!

  3. The Theatre of Ideas sounds wonderful. I cook as much as I can from whole foods. I got a thermomix so it has made it quite a bit easier to do some things. My next experiment is to mill my own flour using it. I also grow as much as I can in my small gardens and am planning a new no dig bed.


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