jamie oliver + ministry of food perth launch

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In culinary terms, I pretty much grew up with Jamie Oliver. My first memories of Jamie and his ‘brand’ were as a child of sixteen, when his first television show (The Naked Chef, circa 1999) appeared on Australian television screens. On first impressions, I thought he was rather young and… well, incessantly energetic. Too young to be teaching me culinary skills, anyway (I was raised on Rick Stein and no-nonsense ‘Saint‘ Delia).

However, despite his use of the word ‘pukka’ (which apparently he even finds annoying) I eventually came to like the lad from country Essex. His shaggy hair and honest approach to cooking was both warm and approachable and over time, he won both my heart and a great portion of my bookshelf.

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It seems I wasn’t the only one. Fast-forward to 2016 and it would be fair to say that Jamie Oliver is a global household name. His ‘brand’ adorns everything from basil pesto to Tefal frypans but somehow he’s managed to maintain both his ‘cheeky’ demeanour and a strong sense of personal integrity.

One could argue that the latter is inextricably linked to his ‘social activism’ which began in 2002 with the establishment of Jamie’s Kitchen (a chef apprenticeship program for disadvantaged youths which later transformed into the Fifteen Apprentice Program). Soon afterwards, he established the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation which now oversees (non-profit community programs) Jamie’s Ministry of Food, a Kitchen Garden Project and the accompanying Food Revolution Campaign. He was most recently seen in the media doing a spontaneous ‘sugar tax dance‘ after the British Government declared its levy on the soft drinks industry this Wednesday.

Cheeky, but authentic. It works. It’s very Jamie.

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So let’s talk about Jamie’s Ministry of Food. Since it’s inception in 2008 (in Rotherham, South Yorkshire) these community-led kitchen centres have attracted thousands of participants per year, all of whom have signed up for 7-10 weeks of practical food education, budgeting tips and Jamie’s own home-cooking shortcuts. Over the past eight years, the program has expanded to four locations across the United Kingdom and, since 2011, three centres in suburban Australia (under Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia).

That brings me to the point of today’s post: the establishment of Jamie’s cooking school in my home state of Western Australia. Since the first Australian centre was established in Ipswich, Queensland, the program has expanded to include three more fixed-location cooking centres alongside fully-equipped mobile kitchens in Queensland and, as of last week, Western Australia.

It’s an exciting progression for a state in which 66.6% of adults are overweight or obese with only one in every ten Western Australian residents eating their recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables. There has been recent media emphasis on the prediction that this generation of Australian teenagers may be the first to die at a younger age than their parents (Dr Lyn Roberts, National Heart Foundation of Australia). A frightening thought, indeed.

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The Western Australian mobile kitchen program is a partnership between Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia,  The Good Foundation and Edith Cowan University (ECU) with sponsorship through Woolworths Australia and The Good Guys. I was privileged to attend the media launch last Wednesday with a recorded message from ‘the big man himself’ (watch it below) alongside introductions from Elise Bennetts (Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia and The Good Foundation) and Professor Steve Chapman (CBE, Vice-Chancellor of ECU).

The event was held in and around the working mobile kitchen, with canapés and drinks provided by the Ministry of Food’s qualified Food Trainers. In typical Jamie style, presentation was fresh, healthy and rustic, served off simple wooden boards with warm enthusiasm.

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In contrast to previously established Ministry of Food centres, the Western Australian program will operate alongside ECU’s School of Health Science (nutrition and dietetics) with internship and research opportunities for students and staff. The kitchen classroom will initially be situated at ECU’s Joondalup campus (for the next fourteen weeks) before shifting to other ECU campuses in Mount Lawley and Western Australia’s South West (additional locations to be announced).

With adequate consultation, there also plans for specific work with rural Aboriginal communities, focusing on diet-related disease and improved health outcomes.

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From Tuesday 29th March 2016, the Western Australian Mobile Kitchen program is set to run two series of seven week cooking courses, comprising of one 90-minute cooking class per week. Each class can take up to 12 participants aged over 12 years (the oldest participant so far being a ’96 year old widower’ from Eastern Australia).

Program coordinator Marie Fitzpatrick states that each class will focus on using Jamie’s own recipes and techniques, with emphasis on ‘simplicity’ and ‘transferable skills to take back home’. As per other suburban centres, the Western Australian program will incorporate emphasis on specific community demographics, family budgets and entrenched ‘fears’ of cooking from scratch.  Basic principles will be covered (such as ‘how to boil an egg’) using everyday, cheap ingredients (eggs, chicken, rice and tinned beans) and common kitchen implements (domestic-sized pots, ovens and kitchen prep areas). All classes aim to incorporate simple skills and food knowledge that will ’empower’ individuals and local communities.

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According to comprehensive studies by Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia has already made a positive impact in Eastern Australia. Participant evaluations report strong evidence of increased confidence in key skill areas required for cooking and daily food preparation, with increased cooking confidence and daily vegetable consumption (increase by 0.52 serves).

Behavioural changes were sustained for at least six months after conclusion of the cooking course, with flow-on benefits such as increased frequency of communal eating (families eating together) and reduction in takeaway meal consumption.

Pretty good for a ‘cheeky’ Chef and his team, methinks.

paperNow, I’ve read a fair amount of critique surrounding the Ministry of Food, most of which labels Jamie a ‘hypocrite‘ who doesn’t understand poverty. Whilst I’m the first to admit that Jamie Oliver’s cooking school can’t solve every nutritional or social problem (but heck, what can?) he’s started a practical community dialogue about cooking and general health, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Furthermore, even academics concede that Jamie’s ‘brand identity’ has in itself provided an ‘edge’ to his social projects that most other food and nutrition programs don’t have: corporate sponsorship, public accountability and actual community enthusiasm (the last point being of utmost importance). He seems genuinely committed (to the point of personal exhaustion), his manifesto rings true and his local team in Perth appear both impassioned and aware of local issues.

So that said, I’m excited to see the impact of Jamie’s Ministry of Food in Western Australian communities, families and suburban kitchens. It’ll be pukka, you’ll see.

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Jamie’s Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen

The Western Australian Mobile Kitchen will be running two initial seven week courses which include one 90-minute class per week. Classes will run six days per week, including weeknights.

First release: Tuesday 29th March – Monday 16th May 2016

Second release: Tuesday 17th May –  Monday 4th July 2016.

Location: Edith Cowan University – Joondalup Campus
Car park 14, between building 21 & 22
Access from Deakin Rd via Lakeside Drive
Joondalup, WA 6027

Book here.

and so this is (almost) christmas

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It’s just clocked past midnight on Tuesday, December 23, 2014. I’ve spent this evening buying groceries, wrapping presents, detangling my dog from a length of red-and-white string and… well, mostly just wondering where this year has gone.

It’s exactly two days until Christmas; nine until the dawn of two thousand and fifteen. Rather strange, considering that it’s now half-of-my-life-past-the-millennium. Man, I’m old (and my school uniform is still in one of mum’s cupboards. Oh dear. But I digress).

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CHRISTMAS. Ah, Christmas. As per many other blogging friends, I’ve spent most of the month intending to write more holiday-specific posts and accomplishing very little. I blame work, accumulated stress and residual lethargy from a persistent cold.

But mostly? It’s procrastination. Long summer nights lead to a very laid back attitude, sticky skin and consequential reluctance to turn on the hot gas oven.

“Maybe tomorrow night,” she says, whilst sipping water from an ice-filled glass. Tomorrow is inevitably hot. The pattern continues.

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Anyway, as you may be aware, this month hasn’t been entirely wasted. I’ve baked a beautiful glazed ham as well as some mince pies from a few years back (recipe here, please excuse the non-DSLR photos).

I’ve also eaten many homemade pizzas (and some AMAZING cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers made by my friend Erin) and sipped beer by the glow of a hot barrel fire.

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I also spent part of sunday watching Jamie Oliver season his free-range turkey (the original Jamie’s Christmas is from 2005, what!) whilst eating seasonal fruit and drinking herbal G&T’s.

Oh summer, you are grand.

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But back to Christmas (dis)organization.

I’m sorry to admit that we still have no Christmas tree. I failed dismally on the ‘international Christmas card’ front, too (sorry everyone, I do love you) and my box of stamps is losing stickiness by the month. Good thing I can cook or I might have been scratched off some Christmas lists by now.

Buuuut… summer barbecues need salads and I’m kinda good at them (whoever said that you don’t make friends with salad was wrong. Just saying).

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Anyway, this post wasn’t intended as a page-long whinge about my poor Christmas planning skills (or Christmas itself; I do love this time of year and the ability to appreciate our families and the immeasurable gift of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world).

Rather, I wanted to wish you (my amazing followers, collaborators, family, friends and readers – most of you are combinations of these!) a wonderful festive season and a peaceful start to the new year.

Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and downs of travel, homesickness, sporadic recipe posting and commenting for another year. Your friendship, critique, humour and encouragement means more than you’ll ever know.

I’m praying for blessings, peace, creative inspiration and strength as one year ends and another begins.

MERRY CHRISTMAS + a HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Laura, Aaron and Loki x

fresh egg noodles with coriander, chilli and toasted peanuts. with hippy vic

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It’s been a while since my last joint post with my beautiful friend Vicky (otherwise known as Hippy Vic). Four long months, to be exact. In a simple recollection I would’ve guessed it as being weeks, not months; however we’ve just celebrated Christmas and in a few days, we’ll be rolling over to 2014. Time flies.

Last Sunday, Aaron and I had the privilege of spending a sunny afternoon with Vicky, her husband Mark and their two children. We drank Peroni near the pool, sharing tales from the week-that-was as the sun slowly dropped below the horizon.

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In the cool evening air, Vicky took me on a tour of her flourishing edible garden. Fat heirloom tomatoes hid amongst sprawling vines, dappled with the last of the weekend sun. Tiny strawberries sat nestled against blackened earth, dotted with seeds and awaiting their splash of crimson. We picked tiny peaches and fragrant herbs, eagerly discussing the intricacies of pie as sticky juice flowed down our chins.

heirloomtoms strawberries4Mark decided to make fresh pasta for dinner; after a quick flip through Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals he decided upon fresh egg noodles with coriander, chilli, sesame oil and soy from a ‘meal set’ including satay chicken and fruit in mint sugar (for the uninitiated, 30 Minute Meals is a recipe book that is divided into ‘meal sets’ containing main, side and dessert).

One hour later, we were sitting on Mark and Vicky’s verandah eating piles of fragrant noodles topped with crunchy toasted peanuts and soft coriander. We washed it down with Mango beer from Matso’s Broome Brewery; a perfect summer combination for a balmy night in Western Australia.

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We ended the night with a game of street tennis (on bikes, nonetheless) and a collaborative fresh peach pie made from the freshly harvested peaches.

Just think cinnamon-encrusted shortcrust pastry, piles of soft, fragrant fruit, drizzled caramel and crunchy toasted almonds. You’ll get the recipe, eventually. It was definitely good enough to share.

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The recipe below has been adapted from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (refer to page 112 if you have a hard copy, or follow this link if you don’t). We’ve made a couple of minor changes, exchanging peanuts for the specified cashews and fresh egg noodles for dried. Vicky and I also doused our noodles with a squeeze of fresh lime for extra tang.

If you’d like to make this recipe more substantial, feel free to add 200g sliced chicken thighs, pork fillet or prawns (double the chilli paste, marinate the meat in half of it for 20-30 minutes. Drain then fry in hot peanut oil whilst your egg noodles cook. Toss with the noodles and the rest of the chilli paste just before serving; top with fresh coriander, toasted nuts and some fried Asian shallots of you have some handy).

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Fresh Egg Noodles with Coriander, Chilli and Toasted Peanuts

Adapted from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals

Serves 4 as a light meal, 6 as a side dish

  • 400g fresh egg noodles (or 300g dried medium egg noodles; one nest per person)
  • 1/2 a medium-sized red Spanish onion
  • 1-2 fresh long red chillies (to taste)
  • a small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • peanut or olive oil, for frying
  • 100g toasted unsalted peanuts or cashews, crushed
  • fried Asian shallots, extra sliced chilli and sriracha to serve, if desired

For ingredients and instructions on how to make fresh egg noodles, follow this link (you can make the noodles by hand with a rolling pin, however we used Mark and Vicky’s pasta machine for convenience).

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If using dried noodles, place them in a large bowl and submerge in boiling water. Cover the dish with an upturned plate, then leave to soak for 6 minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh briefly under cold water, drain again and toss in some peanut or olive oil. Set aside.

To make the curry paste: peel and roughly chop the red onion. Place it into the food processor with the chilli (roughly chopped, stalk removed) and the roots and stalks from the coriander.

herbsPulse until finely chopped. Add in the soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, honey and the juice of one lime. Taste and adjust flavourings as necessary.

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Heat a small splash of peanut oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Toss in the noodles and chilli paste. Fry gently until fragrant, then add in half of the toasted peanuts and another squeeze of fresh lime.

Divide between four bowls, top with the rest of the toasted peanuts, coriander leaves and extra fresh chilli and lime, if desired. Enjoy with an ice cold beer and summer sunshine.

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I hope that you all enjoyed a peaceful and merry festive season, filled with food, generosity, laughter and other good things.

Thanks to every one of you for your friendship, humour, inspiration and support over the past twelve months. Here’s to a wonderful start to 2014!

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