Pimp Your Produce
Written by Sarah Rees, foodService Magazine
Don’t get stuck using the same ingredients – a world of interesting and versatile produce is waiting for you!
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to buying produce; sticking to the same, tried-and-tested ingredients. The monotonous approach might make your operations smoother, but staying within your comfort zone could translate into mundane food that is swiftly outstripped by competitors pushing the boundaries.
Inviting new produce onto your menu can also earn you some gold stars with customers who are increasingly interested in the provenance of the food on their plate. A lesser-spotted ingredient can become a talking point, impressing the regulars and even attracting some new faces.
Here are five ingredients to consider next time you place an order:
- Cime de rappe
This leafy green has a name that translates as ‘turnip tops’ and a fiery flavour that performs as a super base ingredient for a bold pesto or a dazzling addition to a pasta dish. Don’t overlook the simple approach either – the Italians par boil this lovely leaf and toss with olive oil, garlic and chilli. In Australia, cime de rappe is grown in the Sydney basin and available from April to September.
The ‘stinging’ nettle may have a demeaning moniker, but it can be a tasty alternative to spinach, losing its sting after about 30 seconds in boiling water. The nettle can be foraged from the neighbourhood if you are keen on the great outdoors, where it grows healthily during the autumn and winter. Try this versatile ingredient in risotto, frittata, or as a component of a soup.
- Buddha’s hand
The slightly alarming appearance of this vibrant yellow ‘hand’ may distract you from the usability of what is one of the oldest members of the citrus family. Unlike its fellows the lemon and lime, the Buddha’s Hand is all rind and no pulp, but it’s zest is fabulous when added to dressings, grated onto fish or even used to infuse beverages. There is only one variety available in Australia – sarcodactylis – and is available from May to July.
With root vegetables becoming all the rage, it’s time to get to know salsify. There are two varieties available in Australia; black salsify, and white or true salsify, with the latter’s larger size the only major difference between the two. Treat this vegetable as you would a parsnip but be gentle: it oxidises swiftly when peeled and turns to mush quickly when boiled. The salsify is grown in Tasmania and on the east coast, and is available between May and November.
- Palm heart
Swap the tinned variety for freshly harvested palm heart grown in Queensland and enjoy the benefits of one of the only white coloured foods that retains its colour when cooked. Resembling an asparagus but tasting like an artichoke, the palm heart can be used in antipasti (as per the Italians) or stir fried and curried as in Southeast Asian cooking.
Details from Murdoch Produce.