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ChefsTable Lesley Russell

CHEF’S TABLE proudly sponsored by McGrath Orange

Lesley Russell – Cook food, not recipes

The Orange Farmers Markets asks us to shop differently. Instead of making firm plans about what we are going to cook then setting out to source the necessary ingredients, we need to shop in reverse. Stroll through the market and buy what is best on the day then decide what to cook based on what you’ve bought.

Buy what looks good on the day, buy real food, the dirty stuff, the ugly stuff and the produce that is ready now and embrace new things. Ask the producers about their produce and their story; get to know where your food comes from and how best to enjoy it.

The concept of ‘cook food, not recipes’ is easier said than done, but with a little practice we can all do it. It is the approach I took at the market when I participated in the Chef’s Table. Admittedly I had a few ideas up my sleeve but I adapted those ideas based on what was available on the day.

This is what I did:

Quark with Onion Relish and Caraway bread

Quark from Second Mouse Cheese, Onion Relish from Milnes and bread by Richard Hosl.

Quark is a German fresh cheese that sits somewhere between sour cream, ricotta and yoghurt. It is unsalted and unsweetened and therefore lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes. Being quite sour quark pairs beautifully with the sweet onion relish and the robust flavour of the bread compliments both.

I spread a little quark on a slice of bread and added a small lettuce leaf, a healthy dollop of the relish then and a scattering of snipped chives. Delicious as a snack or a pre-dinner appetiser.

Asparagus, spring herbs and hazelnuts

Asparagus from Limberlost, hazelnuts from Fourjay Farms, Apples Cider vinegar by Orange Mountain Wines, Olive Oil by Tawarri Grove, Citrus Salt by Saltbird.

Asparagus is in season right now, eat as much of as possible before it finishes. I trim the ends of the asparagus spears then I peel the bottom section for about 5cm; it makes them more tender to eat and it also looks good. Cook the spears in boiling water. Place a few baby spinach leaves on a plate then place the hot asparagus directly on top of them. Scatter with a few soft herbs (oregano, mint, parsley) and a good scattering of crushed hazelnuts. Finish with a few drops of vinegar here and there, then follow with extra virgin olive oil. Season with citrus salt.

Pork sausages and apples

Sausages from Trunkey Creek, apples grown by Mastronardi’s, dressing by Paling Yards, honey by Beekeepers Inn.

Pork and apples are good friends. Cook the sausages in a frying pan. In a separate pan, cook slices of Granny Smith apples in a little olive oil and butter until cooked through and nicely browned. Season them with salt and pepper. Smear a little dressing on a plate and rest the sausages on top. Serve the apples alongside topped with a spoonful of honey. Scatter some large leaves of flat leaf parsley over everything.

CHEF’S TABLE – 10am – Orange Farmers Market, second Saturday of every month