Richard Learmonth is the head chef at Sister's Rock Restaurant and will be writing a food column for the Central Western Daily every second Saturday.
There's something about frosty mornings, cool blue days, and log-fire warmed evenings that evoke feelings of cosiness, contentment and nostalgia.
As winter tightens its grip and settles in for the coming months it's natural that we reach for the warming embrace of comfort foods.
Hearty soups, slow cooked meats, and cheese laden pasta dishes make winter a season to really sink your teeth into.
Orange is fortunate to enjoy all four seasons and the abundance of great produce in the region reflects that true seasonality.
Staple root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and fennel are well supplemented by celeriac, swedes and salsify.
Rich basalt soils around the region produce a great variety of outstanding potatoes while more exotic tubers such as jerusalem artichokes are coming into their own.
Pumpkins are still abundant in all shapes and sizes.
Brassicas such as cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower are terrific throughout winter, ensuring we have plenty of options for satisfyingly healthy and delicious meals.
This is however, an important time to consider the farmers and growers that provide us with these winter warmers.
It's been a brutal few years for the region's agriculture sector. Drought has decimated crop yields.
Dust storms have blown away nutrient-rich topsoil. Bushfire smoke subdued bees when they should have been busy pollinating.
Then the COVID crisis shut down nearly the entire restaurant and cafe industry for a couple of months.
Some welcome rain has come at last, and restaurants are now gradually reopening, but still our farmers need all of the support they can get.
We can do our bit by avoiding the produce aisles at the supermarket duopoly and buying from local growers whenever possible.
Not only can we help those who grow the food our region is famous for, we'll actually eat better too.
A lot of supermarket produce is grown in a rush and picked well before optimal ripeness so that it is more transportable and has a longer shelf life.
By buying local we can enjoy food with better flavour, higher nutrition, and also ease a few food miles off the environment.
Some of my favourite spots for filling the fridge and pantry with local goodies are places like The Agrestic Grocer on Molong Road, or the Block 11 Organics at block11organics.com.au.
There's also Country Fruit Distributors, the Hillside Harvest on 1209 The Escort way, Borenore and Huntley Berry Farm at 105 Huntley Road.
While on the second Saturday of each month the Orange Farmers Markets provides a great option for the community to stock up on local produce.
Then there's great community initiatives such as "Made in Orange by local foodies" are another great way of connecting with our local artisans and gourmet producers.
Amongst their line of products are world class handcrafted sausages made by Orange chef and charcuterie master Chris Tudor.
Richard Learmonth is the head chef at Sister's Rock Restaurant and will be writing a food column for the Central Western Daily every second Saturday. On alternate Saturdays, David Collins' ON THE GRAPEVINE wine column will feature.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Made in Orange Cumberland Sausages with Blue Lentils, Cavalo Nero and Mustard Butter Sauce
- 4 x Cumberland sausages
- 200g blue lentils, rinsed and strained
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 x onion, small dice, carrot, small dice, leek, small dice, bay leaf
- 1/2 bunch x cavalo nero (aka Tuscan kale), chopped 2cm across
- 1/2 tsp x thyme leaves
- 80g x butter
- 3 Tb x dijon mustard
- 2 Tb x chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium sized pot cook the onion, carrot, leek, bayleaf in olive oil on medium heat until onion becomes soft and translucent, 5 to 10 mins.
- Add the cavalo nero and thyme, stir for 1 more minute before adding the lentils.
- Cover with water by 1 inch and bring to the boil before turning down to simmer for approx 20 mins.
- In the meantime cook sausages on gentle heat in frying pan, turning as they colour, about 3 to 4 minutes each side. Rest on a plate when done.
- The lentils will be ready once they're no longer hard to bite, but not yet mushy. At that time add the butter and mustard, stirring well to emulsify.
- Add any juices that have leaked out of the resting sausages to the lentils, season with salt and pepper and mix through the chopped parsley.
- Spoon the lentil mix onto a bowl plate, place the sausages on top and enjoy with a glass of cool climate red wine.
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