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Food

Jamie Oliver - cooking up a revolution

Jamie Oliver admits he questions reality when he is centre stage at places like the World Health Assembly giving a speech on global nutrition or in the inner sanctum of British Parliament planning the obesity strategy with the Prime Minister.

“It’s absolutely nuts,” he tells me down the phoneline from the UK. “To make it even worse, everyone listens, but I still feel like the naked chef."

It is admirable, but why him? Why has Jamie felt the need to change the way we eat? Why has he became the flag bearer for the food revolution? Responsibility and right place, right time is only part of it.

Happily married, he and wife Jools have recently welcomed their fifth child, River, into their lives. “It is brilliant and amazing and we are very thankful,” he says of his newborn son. “Sunday, I looked around the table and everyone was around it and I just went, ‘Bloody hell, how did this happen?’ I know how it happened...but you know…”

And there’s the answer. Every parent knows, as does any responsible adult. For Jamie, it's about giving children the nutrition they need to be the best they can be. All this starts with education. Kids, adults, governments; everyone.

Life Changes to Eating

Australia and Britain are up there with the USA in adult obesity rates. How has this happened in just three short decades? “People always find a way to shortcut,” reasons Jamie. “And the minute they find a way to make time on a job, they fill it up with other stuff. Technology has really added to that. Everyone is juggling more things, more money and more responsibilities – life has just changed. “The reality of it is 56% of Aussies are overweight or obese and health problems are shooting through the roof because of it. And this is at the same time we have more knowledge and beautiful produce. But it comes down to two things: knowing how to cook and access to good food.”

Jamie’s plethora of cookbooks and cooking shows is helping solve the first issue. But he’s gone above that, setting up initiatives such as The Ministry of Food, a hands-on community cooking school, The Kitchen Garden Project to introduce growing food and cooking into schools, as well as being part of The Obesity Strategy, Sugar Smart UK, and the list goes on.

Look at What you Serve

The second part of the solution – access to good food – is getting people to look at the produce they eat. In short, it’s about more fruit, veg, nuts, seeds and beans. “I just spent two years going around the world to where people live the longest,” says Jamie. “These places are not rich, they are not scientists or nutritionists – they just happen to be good at cooking food that is delicious and really good for you. And it is pretty much vegetarian. They eat meat and fish, but really only twice a week. “Take Korea, for instance. I sat down at a table where there were 10 plates of noodles, heaps of veg – steamed, stir-fried, pickled, fermented – colour everywhere, and then a plate of meat. By default, that is super balanced, super healthy.”

The thing is, Jamie knows his stuff. Alongside over two decades of cooking, he has been studying nutrition for the past four years. A full diploma. As a consequence, each recipe in his most recent cookbooks has nutritional information such as calories, fats, protein and carbs, plus special sections offering healthy tips and ways to balance your meals. “Nutrition can be very technical, very scientific,” says Jamie. “So I have tried hard to build bridges between science and understanding it in the real world.”

Still the Same Guy

All of this seems far removed from the knockabout chef that burst onto our TV screens all those years ago.“I often think the Naked Chef did well in Aussie because, back in the day, my attitude was all about having a laugh and using food to make cool memories and I think that’s very Australian. To a certain degree, nothing has changed. I am inspired by the same things. The food that made me tick, still makes me tick.

“But I have always been driven by what people want and these days people ask, what is balance? What does ‘good food’ look like? So the point of books like Super Food Family Classics is to create something where every choice is a good choice.

“It isn’t about getting it right all the time. Personally, I try to eat to the principles of the book, Monday to Friday lunch. That’s how I do it. And then, guess what? Friday night, I don’t even think about it – the whisky is out, I am planning the weekend, I am getting amongst it. Everyone will find their own pattern, but that generally puts me in a good place.”

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Seasonal Salad
Words by Libby Travers on 3 Sep 2018
Ignore the importance of salad leaves at your peril. They’ve been known to make or break many a meal.   I prefer to eat my salad as the French do, that is, after the main course, before the cheese, with my fingers. There is something entirely visceral about picking up the delicate leaves one by one, in appreciation of the careful attention that has come before. The metallic tines of a fork appear to me the quickest way to erode that joy. With such simple pleasures, it is always a game of the finest details. Your choice first hangs on their freshness, as there is nothing more depressing than a bowl of wilting leaves. Once you have sought out the best-looking specimens at the market, you can start making more exciting decisions: are you looking for crunch or delicacy; bitterness, citrus or peppery notes; a creamy sauce or simple vinaigrette?  Remember, these leaves are often the vehicle for other flavours and, just as it is with wine, this is a game of matching weight for weight, in this case leaves to the dressing. The crisp form of cos and iceberg will hold up against a creamy sauce; while more delicate leaves and fresh herbs will make better friends with a gentle vinaigrette, something agrodolce with a balance of sweet and sharp; leaves from the chicory family (endive and radicchio) have an innate bitterness and pair well with an anchoïade or even blue cheese and nuts; while peppery rocket loves the salty bite of a little parmesan. Once home, your leaves need a gentle touch – this is a task for a lover, not a warrior. Salad leaves must be diligently picked, carefully washed (and dried), and dressed at the very last minute, with just enough dressing to kiss the leaves, not drown them. It is only then you’ll have a salad worth its own place at the table! Beyond the salad bowl, there is a bounty of beautiful leaves that love a little time in the frying pan. Cos, braised with the sweet spring peas and bacon is a favourite served with chicken; while endive can be cut in half and allowed to caramelise in a hot pan with a little butter and lemon juice, the cooking will help mellow the bitterness – it is brilliant with game.  Wilted greens can also take a starring role in a meal. All along the Mediterranean, the tradition of seeking the wild leaves and herbs that grow in the hills and quickly cooking them has led to beautiful pastas, egg dishes and pies. We have our very own, largely underrated, native spinach found in the sandy soil along the coastline known as warrigal greens. These leaves require blanching or light cooking to remove a poisonous compound (only dangerous in large quantities, but best avoided!). Once blanched, they have a delicate flavour and texture, and can be used in a wild weed pie or omelette to great success.  In a restaurant kitchen, working through the large boxes of leaves is often a task assigned to the apprentices. They must carefully check each leaf for damage and bugs before thoroughly washing them. It must be done each day and can take hours. I recall pointing out to a friend of mine, the head chef at one such kitchen, that this must become a little tiresome. He (correctly) chastised me, explaining that while the leaves may not seem exciting, one bruised leaf would show they didn’t care, one bug would ruin an entire meal, one grain of dirt would ruin the mouthful. The lesson is in the detail, as is the reward. Select and store Seek out beautiful, fresh salad leaves. Pick through them carefully before washing them in cold water – a little soak will also help to revive tired leaves. A salad spinner is an important friend here, as moisture will repel oil. An alternative is to lay the leaves out on a dry tea-towel and pat them dry. Salad leaves love Extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, onion, cream, cheese, nuts, honey, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon, herbs, radish, egg. Great salad recipes to try by Lyndey Milan: 
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Frank Fawkner - A New EXP.erience
Words by Mark Hughes on 20 Mar 2017
Frank Fawkner is one of the bold young chefs leading a new guard of culinary delights in the Hunter Valley. In the tranquil surrounds of Oakvale Winery, just off Broke Road in Pokolbin’s Hunter Valley, a group of diners sit down at a nondescript sawn-log table. Moments later, a chef brings out a mortar with thick clouds billowing over the sides like a rushing steam train. Inside is a selection of freshly picked herbs, frozen to minus 82ºC by liquid nitrogen. He gives the guests a pestle and instructs them to start crushing the herbs because they are to make their own starter – herb butter to be spread upon a house-made sourdough. They readily accept the challenge, taking to the task with glee. Welcome to EXP. “EXP. is short for experience, experimenting, expertise, exposure – all of these ideas in one and it really is the backbone to the restaurant,” explains EXP. head chef and owner, Frank Fawkner. Frank is part of a new guard of chefs who are creating a culinary buzz in the Hunter Valley. THE ROAD TO EXP.ERIENCE
Frank Fawkner, 28, has been immersed in the Hunter Valley food scene since leaving his home on the NSW North Coast and starting an apprenticeship at a small café in the upper Hunter. Stints at the Crowne Plaza and an enlightening 18 months slaving away in a London restaurant set him on an upward trajectory in the culinary world. His career really ignited when he joined the team at Troy Rhoades-Brown’s acclaimed Muse Restaurant in Pokolbin. Working his way through the ranks, Frank became head chef and helped steer Muse to two hat status in the  Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide. THANKFUL EXP.OSURE The accolades may have been enough for many chefs, but Frank has always been ambitious. Two years ago, he heard Oakvale wanted to open a restaurant. He and his wife Emma took the plunge and opened  EXP . It has become one of the most talked about venues in the Hunter. For this, Frank gives a lot of the credit to the mentorship he received at Muse. “I spent four great years with Megan and Troy. They are great bosses and what they’ve done with their business is amazing,” says Frank. “To be there as it grew and flourished was great. “I was always open with them about wanting to open my own restaurant. And they helped me. When I was looking for a venue, Troy was there for advice. He also helped me with the lease and wages – all the things you don’t get taught as a chef, but need to know when trying to transition to a restaurateur.” A NEW EXP.ERIMENT
While Frank echoes the mantra of great chefs of ‘designing dishes around fresh, local, seasonal produce’, what he feels sets EXP. apart is the dining experience. “It’s meant to be fun and energetic, while at the same time exhibit the quality of the top fine dining restaurants,” explains Frank. “The chefs will serve every course rather than the wait staff. Because the chefs are in the kitchen all day working with the food, we should get out there and explain each dish. And it really works with creating something special. People really feel that ‘food’ connection. “At the end of the night we give every guest a little gift – a choc chip cookie made with a chocolate ganache that has been infused with my own black garlic.” CULINARY EXP.LORATION It is this black garlic that has seen the latest career progression for Frank – food producer. He has just launched Fawk Foods. His first product: Black Garlic. “It’s pretty much caramelised aged garlic that has three times the amount of sugar than you have in usual garlic,” says Frank. “So you can use it in sweet dishes, and because of its unique umami kind of flavour, you can use it with anything you’d normally use garlic – chicken, fish, beef, it even makes great mayonnaise.” With such an amazing culinary pedigree, it is a wonder a rich restaurateur hasn’t tried to lure Frank to the big smoke. Not that he’d go. “I’ve never wanted a restaurant anywhere else than the Hunter,” he says. “It’s the perfect spot. We’ve got amazing produce, great wine and a really creative food scene. We have a lot to give now and, I think, even more in the future.” Frank Fawkner's Wagyu Scotch Fillet with Black Garlic Emulsion Recipe
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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