Food and cooking both tie in well as passions within my profession as a dietitian, I spend almost every working day talking about food with my patients. For me, cooking is something I love doing and sharing with other people, particularly my family and friends. When I’m able to teach others just how easy it can be to make delicious, healthy home made food that's cheaper than eating out, it’s rewarding.
So, buying and cooking seasonal is something that has the capability to make healthy eating, which mostly includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, much more affordable. I teach people that basing a weekly shop around what’s currently in season is the easiest way to have a healthy balanced diet that won’t break the budget. For example, in season spinach could cost you $1 a bunch, rockmelon for $1 at the markets, or pears at the right time of year $3/kg. It may mean that you have slightly less variety, however you’re guaranteed fresh Australian produce for a much cheaper price. A guide to what seasonal produce is on offer throughout the year can be found on the Sydney Markets website.
Through experience, I’ve found that using good produce is important in getting the best flavour from dishes. This doesn’t mean buying expensive produce from the finest boutique grocers and providores in Sydney, but being selective in choosing ingredients that are in season and most likely going to be at their best. Seasonal produce is the best for 2 reasons:
1) Fresh produce is cheapest when in peak season.
2) Fresh produce is freshest in peak season (of the local country).
Through travelling, I’ve been lucky enough to experience fresh produce from all around the world as I’ve made it a goal to visit fresh food markets wherever I can, including places like Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Singapore, Vietnam and most recently Cambodia. The way that people in these places rely so heavily on local markets and seasonal produce to buy daily and cook fresh is so impressive, and what makes the cuisines from each of these places so flavoursome.
When I’m at home I try and follow this trend and visit local fresh produce markets, especially in summer, to buy up on the best seasonal produce for the week. My favourite market to visit has to be Sydney Markets in Flemington, which has a huge variety of fresh produce to choose from, ranging from eggs, seafood, herbs, fruits and vegetables, to nuts and spices. But the best time to visit Flemington is in summer when the mangoes are in full season, and go for as little as $20 a tray. We eat them freshly cut, in smoothies, with muesli for breakfast, and sometimes in desserts like mango cheesecake.
When I can’t get to the markets, the next best place is my smaller local grocer – Homebush Fruit Bowl. These guys have outstanding fresh produce, always of the highest quality. The reason, is that they are supplied directly from the markets, compared with the larger supermarket chains for which the produce has to be transported long distances and potentially kept in cold storage for a period of time. Homebush Fruit Bowl has been a family owned business for a number of years, supplying the local residents with the best seasonal fresh produce as well as other home made items like pasta, quiche, salads and yoghurts. They make eating healthy so accessible to people, there’s often a line up of workers around lunch time on their break coming to pick up ready to go, freshly prepared healthy meals straight from the fridge.
In Australia, having access to some of the best produce in the world, particularly from large fresh produce markets like Sydney Markets, and from local fresh greengrocers definitely makes cooking much easier and more flavoursome. I love sharing stories and recipes with my patients of homemade foods, and seeing what dishes they come up with and are enjoying. Teaching people about nutrition and tying it into my love of cooking (and eating) is certainly an enjoyable career.