Beyond price

Kefir is a fermenting organism that you probably can’t buy.  You can discover it with Dani and me https://youtu.be/RutzBskV9hY in Melbourne, Australia.

Not only is she a published food writer and author www.danivalent.com specialising in recipes with the Thermamix, Dani seeks out the food specialities of the diverse multi-cultural inhabitants of Melbourne.

She described kefir grains to me as like “little pieces of cauliflower”.  They are added to milk to create those fermented drinks that are so popular now.  Dani, of course, went one better and fermented cream which, with her ubiquitous machine, was churned in to butter to serve with her homemade bread and fig jam.

She told me tales of how the grains are brought in to the country by migrants and refugees so that they can continue their food cultures and heritage – often secretly fermenting under beds or sinks.  Rather than money changing hands, getting hold of this precious ingredient may depend more on seeking out and befriending someone who counts kefir as part of their culinary identity.  And it probably helps to have an equally precious ingredient or cooking secret to share in return.

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Accessibility designed out

If you like cooking, have you heard of Thermamix?  I made bread https://youtu.be/n01siF8Lp9o with one of these machines in Melbourne, Australia, with food writer and author, Dani Valent www.danivalent.com.

Thermamix machines combine weighing scales, food processing,  heating etc –like a soup-maker on steroids.  They are pricey large pieces of electrical kitchen kit that many people in Australia and world-wide swear by.

 

Dani invited me to use either the sleek modern digital plastic version with carrying handle, touch-screen and more or the old metal TM31 with tactile buttons, knobs  and dials.  No choice: the new version is wholly inaccessible for a blind  cook whereas I learned the trusty and satisfyingly sturdy old one in a matter of minutes.  All the TM31 needs is an audio chip to speak the digital display and it would be the perfect cooking aid for anyone with visual impairment.  Meanwhile, those smug designers have excluded us from the market and   consigned us to find second-hand old TM31s.

 

But how did it make the bread?  Just excellent: two minutes stirring and warming the yeast before the flour was added for a 2 minute knead.  Then the dough was out of the machine, shaped and baked in under 20 minutes!    No excuse for running out of bread ever again.  The rolls were perfectly fluffy and light with a crisp crust – no wonder people like this machine so much!

Next time, Dani is talking about her Thermamix cook book and an ingredient that you can’t even buy!

 

 

 

Chefs and cooks champion diversity.

I set out to use cooking to change attitudes towards blindness and other disabilities – and China showed me how well this works.  Last week with aboriginal Fred, simply cooking a fish together was a bridge between our very different cultures.  This week, gastronomically diverse Melbourne showed that great cooks and chefs aren’t constrained by issues of race, nationality, ethnicity, disability, gender or other false barriers: food is all about generosity, sharing, learning from each other, crossing culinary borders and using the best ideas and ingredients, whatever their source.   The Greek “Euro Bites” eatery was a prime example (www.eurobites.com.au).

It was a special treat to encounter new ingredients and equipment:  gastronome Charlene (https://www.facebook.com/charlene.trist)  used smoked fresh eggs in both the pasta and the filling of her ravioli dish – these eggs have long shelf-life and would be ideal in a savoury soufflé, kedgeree and much more.  The Chef’s Hat emporium (www.chefshat.com.au) offered every sort of cooking equipment.  Food writer Dani (www.danivalent.com) introduced me to the widely popular Thermomix to produce fluffily delicious bread rolls in under an hour.    I’d been rather sceptical about the prospect of just filling an éclair until I spent time with Dre, an amazingly entrepreneurial pastry chef who is already expanding her patisserie and restaurant empire (www.bibelot.com.au).  Maribel, who is also blind (www.maribelsteel.com), was utterly inspirational: already a published writer and travel blogger, she is a wonderful cook, singer and champion for visually impaired people – you can hear her and partner Harry (www.springstudio.com.au) on the Melbourne video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were hosted by the Bostock family: another link to the Royal Navy and James Holman (after whom the prize that is funding me is named).  Former Royal Navy Commander Colin also arranged for me to spend a morning with the Australian Defence Force catering and hospitality trainees at Holmesglen college (www.holmesglen.edu.au) – another military reminder.  The Bostocks were unstinting in their generosity and friendship while daughter Sarah shared her knowledge on indigenous culture.

Following that trail, we moved on to Perth to meet up with Lynda, a former Women’s Royal Naval Service officer, who took us to the Maalinup aboriginal art gallery and bush tucker garden (www.www.maalinup.com.au) to meet artist PhilNarkle (www.philnarkle.com.au).  Now we have some small authentic artefacts to share with those who can only follow our adventures from afar.

And great news on the Australian equality agenda: a strong turn-out has just voted Yes to same-sex marriage: the people have spoken!

All of this is part of my adventure cooking around six continents funded by the international Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind.  You can see the short composite videos we post at the end of each visit and, when we have had a chance to edit all the material back in the UK, we will be posting all the cooking sessions and recipes in the New Year.

Malawi next – if South African Airways can find an aircraft that works (we have a 24 hour delay in Perth)

Penny