Q: What is the oldest recipe collection in the world?

 It seems that wherever you turn at the moment, Europe is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Whether it's the Euro versus the dollar, the babushkas performance at Eurovision or the early morning Euro 2012 matches - European Culture is well and truly on the agenda in Australia. So without further ado, this week we're featuring traditional dishes from the hot contenders at the Euro 2012’s competition and celebrating the fresh produce that makes them odds on favourites.


Red Cabbage:


Availability: all year, best Mar – May
Appearance: compact head of smooth red-purple leaves with small white veins
Selection: choose heads that are heavy for size, with crisp, bright leaves
Prep: when cooking add lemon or vinegar to water to protect colour, beware of colour bleeding into other ingredients

Traditional dish: ROTKOHL (sweet & sour red cabbage) - often served with winter dishes such as beef in buttermilk

Modern inspiration: Mustard and sage pork cutlets with red wine cabbage and lentils



Tomatoes (Heirloom):

Photo: SG&S

Availability: all year, fluctuates
Appearance: compact head of smooth red-purple leaves with small white veins
Selection: choose heads that are heavy for size, with crisp, bright leaves
Prep: when cooking add lemon or vinegar to water to protect colour, beware of colour bleeding into other ingredients

Traditional dish: GAZPACHOraw vegetable soup served cold

Modern inspiration: Hand-pounded Gazpacho



Aubergine: aka eggplant

Image: freepik

Availability: all year, best Jan - Jul
Appearance: smooth purple fruit- pear shaped with glossy skin
Selection: look for firm, glossy, bright, skin. Should feel heavy for size.
Prep: highly versatile, can be sauteed, baked, roasted, fried, stuffed, stir fried, steamed or grilled

Traditional dish: RATATOUILLEvegetable dish often used as a side

Modern inspiration: Yotam Ottolenghi's Indian ratatouille recipe





Availability: all year, best Jun - Dec
Appearance: look likes red celery
Selection: choose stalks that are crisp, firm, glossy and bright
Prep: once leaves are removed, cook and add to pies, crumbles or even slice finely and add to a salad

Traditional dish: RHUBARB & CUSTARD

Modern inspiration: Rhubarb semifreddo and pistachio cream with a honey madeleine



Tuscan Cabbage: aka Black Cabbage or Cavalo Nero



Availability: all year
Appearance: sold in bunches of long dark green leaves. The leaves are heavily bubbled with a thick, white vein from stem to tip
Selection: look for firm, plump stalks and bright, fresh leaves
Prep: traditionally used in soups and pastas or steamed, also a fantastic stir-fry vegetable

Traditional dish: RIBOLITTA: Tuscan Cabbage bread soup

Modern inspiration: Ditalini, borlotti bean and cavolo nero soup





Availability: all year, best during cooler months
Appearance: bright red – deep purple tuber (often has white streaks)
Selection: choose beets that are crisp, firm, glossy and bright- fresh leaves are a good indicator
Prep: rinse in cold water, cook in boiling water, then remove skin

Traditional dish: BORSCHT

Modern Inspiration: Beetroot Soup with fetta


A: While many chefs have heard of ‘De re coquinaria’ (The Art of Cooking by Apicius) there is actually a much older recipe book in the Yale University Collection. The recipes are carved into ancient tablets dating back to approximately 1700BC. Originally believed to be pharmaceutical/medicinal in nature, it was only when successfully deciphered in the mid 80s that they were identified as recipes. Jean Bottero who translated the tablets describes the food as "a cuisine of striking richness, refinement, sophistication and artistry, which is surprising from such an early period. Previously we would not have dared to think a cuisine 4,000 years old was so advanced."



Q: How long is the rain likely to last?  

Summer is officially gone and with it go the luscious stonefruits, berries and tomatoes that characterise Sydney’s summer menus. So what can we expect from Autumn 2012?

Sydney’s tropical (read: rainy) summer has taken its toll on local produce (especially ground grown crops- herbs, asian vegetables, tomatoes) however consistent supply from interstate has managed to keep the markets relatively stable. Unfortunately, we are now starting to see poor weather impact interstate products and if the rain continues we can expect to see quality and price issues across the board.

On a positive note all this wet weather has brought the elusive Pine Mushrooms to the markets early,  not to mention apple, pears, exotic fruits , cabbage lines and root veg are all looking relatively consistent and are good eating.



New season apples, pears and quince are abundant in Autumn with almost all varieties of apple and pear available over the course of the season.

Supply: Expected to be consistent bar a significant storms or hail in the growing regions

Inspiration: Vogue Entertaining + Travel’s Spiced Quince and Pears with baked custard

Image Source:



Beans are a staple of Autumn, with Borlotti, Butter, French, Green, Roman and Snake making an appearance.

Supply: With the rains in QLD/Nth QLD this week the market for beans has turned dramatically with supply very tight and price jumping significantly. With supply directly influenced by the weather we hope to see supply and price improve as the weather clears.

Inspiration: Teage Ezard’s Barbecued ox tongue with southern gold potatoes, snake beans and sticky mustard dressing recipe

Image source:



Hitting the markets earlier than usual, cabbage lines – chinese wombok, red cabbage, Tuscan cabbage – fill the gap left by the slowing lettuce lines.

Supply: Hardier than other ground grown crops, supply should remain consistent. However excessive rain or flooding may cause splitting and as a result supply issues

Inspiration: Jacques Reymond’s Spatchcock & Buttered Cabbage with verjus

Image Source:



Filling the void of the lush mangoes and berries come the passionfruit, custard apples, breadfruit, persimmon, guava and pomegranates & tamarillos

Supply: Some issues with guava supply at the moment but otherwise looking steady for the season ahead

Inspiration: Kim Woodward’s Butter roasted halibut, lobster salad, coriander pasta and passion fruit sauce

Image Source:



Autumn also sees the return of the fresh nuts- with Australian grown pistachios (NOW), almonds (Feb-Mar), Hazelnuts (Feb-Apr), Peanuts (Feb-June) and Chestnuts (Apr- Jul) on the scene!

Supply: When they hit the markets, they hit in force- though they finish all too quickly

Inspiration: Peter Gilmore’s Caramelised Vanilla Brioche French toast

Image source:



I recently read a quote that said there were four seasons, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin and Winter. With all lines including Butternut on offer in Autumn, who can blame them.

Supply: Sourced locally, pumpkins are traditionally abundant and great eating for the whole season

Inspiration: Rick Stein’s Pumpkin ravioli with sage butter

Image source:



Autumn sees the root veg come into their own with sweet potatoes, horseradish, turnip, parsnip and spud varieties (Royal Blue, Ruby Lou, Pontiac, Desiree, Burbank, Purple Congo) all coming into their own.

Supply: While supply should remain consistent, root veg are susceptible to splitting and rot with too much rain – so lets hope for some clear skies.

Inspiration: Bar H’s Sashimi of striped trumpeter with mushrooms and ginger, horseradish and soy dressing

Image source:


More produce highlights for Autumn: Pine Mushrooms, Celeriac, Fennel, Leeks, Spinach and Silverbeet


A: Unfortunately it may last a while yet. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a wetter autumn than average for NSW and SA and a slightly drier season for VIC and TAS. There is a silver lining however, with the BOM describing their outlook model as having ‘low skill over South East NSW’ at this time of year! So you never know, blue skies could be just around the corner.