The city

The city

By
Lyndey Milan
Contains
17 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742707846
Photographer
Stuart Scott

Sydney is Australia’s biggest city with a population of just under 5 million. It’s my hometown and holds a special place in my heart. There’s no better place to be introduced to this city than on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb with its incomparable view of the Opera House, the city, the coastline, the harbour and the network of waterways going inland. Completed in 1932 the bridge is still the largest single-span arch bridge in the world.

There are any number of beaches, parks and public spaces in Sydney, ideal for picnics or for cooking with one of the most dynamic chefs in the world, Neil Perry. With seven restaurants – in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – it made a pleasant change to get him out of the kitchen and down by the harbour. Neil is especially proud of his long-term consultancy with the Australian flagship airline Qantas on their food offering for both their inflight and lounge menus. As Neil says, ‘Qantas is a major buyer of Australian raw ingredients ... for wine, it’s the third-biggest purchaser behind the two supermarkets. But we’re a shop window – we’re serving it to people and letting people see great Australian wine brands. It’s so important to small food producers and wine producers.’

Neil works closely with suppliers like Vic’s Meat, which also has an amazing retail shop in Woollahra, where consumers can experience the same high-quality product. Dating from 1876, this is the oldest continually run butcher shop in Australia. Victor Churchill, named in honour of the founding Churchill family and master butcher Victor Puharich, is now run with Vic’s son Anthony, a fifth-generation butcher. Its breathtaking design pays homage to traditional Parisian butcher shops but with a glass-fronted ageing room with Himalayan rock salt walls, a revolving rack of meat, butchers working on handcrafted timber butchers’ blocks, mosaic-like marble tiles and cow-hide walls. Suppliers like these work closely with both the chefs and their own suppliers, the farmers, always striving for sustainable, ethical and great tasting product. The shop is also a charcuterie and traiteur, complete with rotisserie, which gives off the enticing aroma of roast chicken. Anthony himself has become quite a star with his own TV series and popular app, Ask the Butcher.

When most of us are still tucked up in bed, Sydney’s Flemington wholesale markets, the horticultural gateway to Australia, is a hive of activity. Every night 500 trucks and forklifts haul in a stack of fruit, vegetables and flowers with the voices of traders bargaining and bantering. It’s a massive operation and equates to 2.2 million tonnes (2.4 million tons) to feed nearly a third of Australia. Its sister retail market, Paddy’s Markets, in the heart of Chinatown, has its own specialties to offer. My dear friend Jennice Kersh first visited these markets in a pram with her mother Edna, after whom she and her brother Ray named their restaurant and now their catering business, Edna’s Table. Jennice believes the heart and soul of any city is its market and she showed me her favourite stalls.

I’m more at home with food than the catwalk, but Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia is always fun and, like anything, inevitably involves food and wine. A fabulous design duo making waves, Aje, are sponsored by hip wine label Tempus Two, so an after-show dinner gives me a chance to meet the designers – and comment on the food and wine matching.

Every year the country comes to the city at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, Australia’s largest event, which attracts around 900,000 visitors each year. This 14-day extravaganza celebrates excellence in Australian agriculture via competition, display and education. Sure, there is a fun fair element and showbags too but, for me, the highlights are always the wood-chopping, the District Exhibits of 50,000 pieces of fresh produce from different competing areas of New South Wales and southeast Queensland, and the Grand Parade in the main arena – the largest choreographed animal parade in the world, showcasing prize-winning cattle, horses, dogs, sheep, goats and pigs. I am very proud to be the first female Vice-President of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, which runs this amazing event, and was thrilled to bring it to life on screen, wood-chopping with 1000-time world champion David Foster, learning the secrets of the Country Women’s Association scones and participating in the pumpkin bowling under the District Exhibits.

Australia also has a world-class coffee culture, thanks to successive waves of Italian migrants, especially after the Second World War. Vittoria imported a coffee-roasting machine as early as 1958 to roast coffee, fresh in Australia. However, Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is the coffee capital. Here Italians opened cafés in the ’50s, with one of the earliest being Pellegrini’s, which opened in 1954. With Italian accents and food, it still feels like a little part of Italy. Alternatively, the Melbourne laneways, with the coming together of music, art, eclectic shops, coffee and friends, create vibrant meeting places.

Melbourne takes its food pretty seriously, too, and one of its home-grown heroes is celebrity chef Pete Evans. While we worked together as co-hosts of the TV show Fresh on the 9 Network for several years, his move to Channel 7 and My Kitchen Rules has launched him into the stratosphere. As a regular visitor to the US, he has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and cooked for the gang at NBC’s Today show. But he is never one to forget old mates and his philosophy is to cook with love and laughter. Recently he’s become an ambassador for the Australian Organic Schools Program and suggested we hook up at the Sophia Mundi Steiner School in suburban Abbotsford. Here the kids care for the garden and learn how to grow, harvest and cook organic vegies. Their joyful voices and enthusiasm show how much they thrive on this. The kids were enthralled, too, to watch me learn about a completely different, organic, way of growing things.

Adelaide is the charming capital of South Australia, with a population of just over a million. Much as it is the gateway to some of Australia’s most accessible wine regions, it is also home to a very different type of agriculture. Nick Femia, from South Australian Mushrooms, showed me the light by taking me into the dark, behind the scenes at his farm in Waterloo Corner. What an incredible sight were the sprawling rows of white buttons, Swiss browns and portobellos growing on racks in sheds! Once the mushroom spore grows through the pasteurised compost, the mushrooms grow at an amazing millimetre an hour, doubling every 24 hours. Although there are no weather challenges, the growing rooms need to be constantly monitored for temperature, compost temperature, relative humidity and the CO2. Nick’s enthusiasm and passion for these fleshy fungi is contagious and a highlight of my visit was again with children, seeing the looks on the faces as a regular tour for schoolkids came through.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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