When you’re invited to morning tea with cooking legend Stephanie Alexander and chef-with-the-mostest Curtis Stone, you say ‘Yes!’ Or I did anyway, when I was asked to participate in the launch of a three-year partnership between Coles and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. The supermarket’s support includes donating a portion of proceeds from bagged salad sales to assist in the mission of encouraging kids to grow, prepare and enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables.
We met at Collingwood College, site of the very first kitchen garden established by Stephanie’s foundation. Here, primary school kids tend to and harvest from a rampant garden with towering corn plants, a laden quince tree, proud silverbeet and runaway herbs, then take them to a well-equipped kitchen to turn them into delicious meals to share.
Stephanie Alexander and plastic bags of supermarket salad mix didn’t strike me as an obvious combination but it did remind me that without Stephanie’s love of leaves, Australians may still be stuck in the age of iceberg lettuce.
In 1976, when Stephanie Alexander opened her eponymous game-changing restaurant in Melbourne’s Hawthorn, fresh herbs were rare and good green salads weren’t part of our dining culture. It was iceberg, iceberg, iceberg and curly parsley if you were being fancy. Stephanie determined to serve a French-style green salad, with a variety of leaves. She sourced seeds and worked with open-minded growers such as Daniel Romaneix in Boneo on the nearby Mornington Peninsula to source the produce that fitted her Francophilic vision of salad. Her success is a win for all of us – next time you eat radicchio, frisee, butter lettuce or any of the other varieties we now take for granted, doff your imaginary cap to Stephanie Alexander, leader of this leafy revolution!
Stephanie passed on salad rules to every chef she encountered, including Neil Perry, who embedded the lore into his bones. “One of the first things I learnt with Stephanie Alexander was to wash, pick and dry a salad properly,” he told me. “Everyone should have a salad spinner. There’s nothing nice about limp leaves and water dilutes the dressing and therefore the flavour.”
After morning tea, I grabbed Curtis and Stephanie for a chat about healthy and diverse eating. I hope you enjoy my little video above! One of my main takeaways is that good cooking doesn’t need to be complicated, and it’s fine to rely on great ingredients to make a meal satisfying. I plundered my own recipe archives to find some recipes that reinforce these messages.
Healthy, Simple, Veg-Focused Meals for the Whole Family
- Lazy Tomato Spaghetti – no chopping, no hassle, just a one-ingredient spaghetti sauce.
- Green Beans with Ricotta Salata – easy with beans, and also possible with broccoli, spinach, silverbeet or even carrots.
- Beef Noodles – a fast and easy stir-fry that is definitely quicker than home delivery!
- Japanese Curry Cubes – once you’ve made the cubes, an easy what’s-in-the-fridge dinner is 20 minutes away.
- Tortilla – such a flexible recipe that can incorporate a variety of veg, cheese and meat.
- Basic Cake – seasonal fruit is the star in this basic and beautiful cake.
Too much Curtis is never enough :)