LOV­ING LO­CAL Belinda Jef­fery’s cook­ing classes

Belinda Jef­fery is shar­ing her love of lo­cal, sea­sonal pro­duce at her Fed­eral cook­ing classes

Northern Rivers Style - - CONTENTS -

SIX­TEEN years ago, chef, TV pre­sen­ter, magazine food writer and cook­book au­thor Belinda Jef­fery left be­hind her fast paced ca­reer in Syd­ney and started a new life on the North­ern Rivers. Pas­sion­ate about lo­cal, sea­sonal food and a loyal sup­porter of the lo­cal farm­ers mar­kets, her most re­cent cook­book, The Salad Book, was in­spired by the bounty of pro­duce grown in the re­gion. Belinda’s lat­est ven­ture – a cook­ing school in the tiny vil­lage of Fed­eral – was re­cently named one of the top five cook­ing schools in Aus­tralia by De­li­cious on Sun­day magazine.

What in­flu­ence has this re­gion had on your cook­ing?

The farm­ers mar­kets have had a huge in­flu­ence on what I cook. We are just so lucky to have four farm­ers mar­kets within spit­ting dis­tance (well, in coun­try terms!) of home, and each week I find my­self at one, two, or de­pend­ing what’s on, even three of those mar­kets. They pro­vide a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion for what I cook, as I try to only use sea­sonal pro­duce.

Last year you started your cook­ing classes at the old Fed­eral Vil­lage Hall, what was the im­pe­tus be­hind that?

For many years I’ve trav­elled away to teach both within Aus­tralia and over­seas, how­ever wher­ever I go I al­ways greatly missed us­ing the beau­ti­ful lo­cal pro­duce we have here. So a year ago, I de­cided to cre­ate a per­ma­nent home for my classes here so I could make the most of the bounty we have, and hav­ing cooked in and known well the lovely old kitchen at Jasper’s Cor­ner in Fed­eral, I knew it would be just per­fect for what I wanted.

What is in­volved in a typ­i­cal day at one of your cook­ing classes and what do you hope peo­ple will take from it?

We do two dif­fer­ent styles of class – hands-on for eight peo­ple and demon­stra­tion classes for 12. On ar­rival for both classes, we sit out­side with a cup of tea or cof­fee and home-made cake to talk about the class ahead. For the hands-on class, we then cook for the next three hours or so. As you can imag­ine, there’s lots of chat and laugh­ter as we all cook to­gether to cre­ate a fab­u­lous lunch. Around 2pm we sit down for a wel­come glass of wine and to feast on the dishes that we’ve made – this part can go on for quite a while! At the end of the day ev­ery­one de­parts with the recipes

we’ve made, and a goodie bag of home-made jam or mar­malade and some lo­cal treats.

The demon­stra­tion classes are shorter, and I tend to do spe­cialised top­ics, for ex­am­ple, a pas­try mas­ter­class, where I do the cook­ing and ev­ery­one watches and takes notes. There are lots of tast­ings in th­ese classes, and as they’re so in­ti­mate, the chance to give a more in-depth look at what­ever I’m teach­ing.

My great­est hope is that peo­ple leave both classes hav­ing learnt a lot and feel­ing more con­fi­dent and in­spired to cook sea­son­ally.

Can you tell us a lit­tle about the in­spi­ra­tion for your most re­cent cook­book, The Salad Book?

I guess I should start at the begin­ning; and the begin­ning is our home. As I said ear­lier I feel in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate to live in such a glo­ri­ous part of ru­ral Aus­tralia, and to have ac­cess all year round to beau­ti­ful lo­cal pro­duce. I de­light in ev­ery­thing about the farm­ers mar­kets here – the just-picked beauty and vivid flavours of the pro­duce; the grow­ers and pro­duc­ers them­selves, who are there ev­ery week, rain or shine, with a wel­com­ing smile, a story, a recipe, a laugh to be had and, more of­ten than not, a treat to be savoured. And it’s not just farm­ers bring­ing their cor­nu­copia of veg­eta­bles, fruits and nuts – there are also pro­duc­ers of honey, cof­fee and olives; mak­ers of cheese and tofu; pick­lers and fer­menters of veg­eta­bles; butch­ers, bak­ers, and yes, you guessed it... there re­ally is a can­dle­stick maker too! We have known many of th­ese hard-work­ing peo­ple for over 15 years now, and it has been so spe­cial to have them in our lives and to see their farms and busi­nesses flour­ish, so to write a book based on this edi­ble bounty seemed the most nat­u­ral thing in the world to do.

■ Find out more at www.be­lin­da­j­ef­fery.com.au or fol­low Belinda on in­sta­gram @be­lin­da­j­ef­fer­y­food

PHOTO: ROD­NEY WEIDLAND

LEFT: Belinda Jef­fery, a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for lo­cal pro­duce.

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