Alastair McLeod has called the Moreton Bay Region home for eight years but reckons he has only just scratched the surface, when it comes to unearthing the diversity of produce grown and farmed here.
He is thoroughly enjoying the culinary treasure hunting experience and is looking forward to sharing what he has discovered so far during the Tastes of Moreton Bay Program.
Alastair is hosting the sold-out Samford Harvest dinner in the barn on the farm at Loop Growers, Draper, next month, but will also take the stage at the Moreton Bay Food + Wine Festival.
The event is on July 31 and August 1 at Apex Park, Woody Point. He will be appearing on August 1 at 12.30pm
“I am not surprised by it but when you do scratch the surface, there is a prodigious panoply of produce available in our own backyard,” he says.
“It comes from the whole notion, the whole idea that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
“The heart of good cooking is the ingredients, so it makes sense to inform yourself. That has to be the narrative of our cooking, to know where our produce has come from.
“It will taste better, we will have tread a little bit lighter on this earth and because you know the producer you’re less likely to waste. Statistics say we throw away a third of everything we buy. If I know the person who’s grown the mushrooms, I feel a sense of duty, of obligation not to waste.”
Alastair cites Nick and Brydie Holliday at Belvedere Farm, Cedarton; Jacki Hinchey at Blue Dog Farm, Mt Mee; Madi Leicester at Samford Valley Mushrooms as examples of passionate local producers with a focus on high quality.
“There is more than enough to keep this cook happy. If you’re buying from people who are growing from a regenerative, restorative, organic and biodynamic way, you will eat well and that is so important,” he says.
“The spirit of our age is not cooking dishes with 11 different elements – there’s no correlation between how tricky something is and how delicious something is.
“This generation knows that what they are putting in their body directly affects their health. I don’t know if my generation knew that, but the young kids of today are really in tune with that, so in that sense the future looks bright.”
Alastair says there is a growing desire to understand ‘the rhythms of the seasons’ and when different types of local produce were in plentiful supply.
So, what does he like to cook in winter?
“At this time of the year, it’s brassica season so I would love to take things like silverbeet, cavalonero, leafy greens and I would braise them down with some onions, garlic, anchovies and a little bit of chicken stock and cook them down and you get this flavour bomb and nutritional powerhouse,” he explains.
“The days of allowing ourselves to have a 200g piece of protein for lunch and then for dinner is a luxury we can’t afford anymore. The heart of your plate, the majority of your plate, should be plants. This cook doesn’t seek to impress, this cook seeks to delight and cook food that has a postcode.”
He says events such as the Tastes of Moreton Bay program and Moreton Bay Food + Wine Festival were vital in raising awareness and ensuring there was a next generation of farmer.
“There are confronting statistics like the average age of a farmer, just over 100 years ago, was 21. The average age of a farmer in Australia today is in the mid-60s. So, there’s a whole raft of ethical and moral reasons why we need to use it or we’ll lose it,” he says.
FIND OUT MORE
For more information about the Tastes of Moreton Bay program, visit tastesofmoretonbay.com.au