The year on a plate

 ❏MELBOURNE chef Stephanie Alexander has shown no signs of slowing down in her pursuit to encourage kids to grow and eat vegies.

Alexander, who set up the non-profit Kitchen Garden Foundation in 2004 to tackle poor eating habits, even travelled to Italy to speak about her project at the international Slow Food conference.

‘‘It’s all about education – teaching children the difference between good and bad food,’’  Alexander said.

Her program, active in 265  schools, gets children aged eight to 11 involved in growing seasonal food in school allotments, then preparing it in special training kitchens and sharing it with their classmates.

It has been such a hit that the government has invested $20million in the project, which currently influences about 30,000 children, a number set to double soon.

❏CAFE life is alive and thriving around the country. Apart from creating strong, friendly communities, cafes are keeping Australians caffeined to the brim.

Coffee has overtaken the humble cup of tea as Australia’s hot beverage of choice.

The BIS Foodservices Coffee and Beverages 2012 report found Aussies have purchased more units of coffee despite price rises over the past two years.

The number of cups of coffee purchased has increased from 1.8billion in 2010 to 2.1billion in 2012 – a jump of 19.5per cent.

❏CUTE, pretty-coloured macarons are still the rage. 

The petite French delicacy, made famous in Australia by Adrian Zumbo, can be found in an ever-growing assortment of shades and flavours.

The main ingredients include almond meal, egg white and sugar and then flavours that can range from liquorice and pistachio to a new whisky-infused macaron, which Zumbo created using Johnnie Walker.

Add to that the opening in Sydney of world-famous French patisser Laduree, which already boasts shops in London, New York and Monaco among other international destinations, and it’s evident the macaron craze has a while to run.

❏TELEVISION viewers are still getting plenty of helpings of food shows on the box. 

The year started with My Kitchen Rules on the Seven Network, which introduced us to characters including Dr Evil and The Princess.

Fighting to the end were childhood mates Nic and Rocco and florist Jennifer and Princess Leigh, all from South Australia – the girls were crowned the champions, and MKR did well in the ratings, whetting the palate for plenty more TV shows.

Channel Ten dished up its fourth season of MasterChef where a bro-mance blossomed between Ben and Andy, and Tregan became the Queen of Dude Food.

Andy, the boy from Maitland, snagged the title for 2012.

ABC and SBS offered cultural cooking voyages with Maeve O’Meara’s Food Safari, Peter Kuruvita in Sri Lanka, Luke Nguyen heading along the Mekong and even former MasterChef winner Adam Liaw preferring the SBS formula for his Destination Flavour.

Sprinkling some pepper and salt into politics, Annabel Crabb headed into the homes of politicians in her show, Kitchen Cabinet. Politicians of all persuasions cooked her a meal in their own homes – and she brought the dessert.

❏FARM to fork is as important as ever, as more Aussie consumers want to understand the journey their food has taken.  

Whether it’s a bunch of bananas or a hamburger, we want to understand where food comes from, how it’s made and whether the flavour is natural or manufactured.

Following along the same line, more consumers are tiring of the domination of the major supermarkets in Australia – Coles and Woolworths.

Food stalwart Maggie Beer is the latest celebrity chef and food producer to accuse the major supermarkets of failing to support Australian food growers and manufacturers.

‘‘If we don’t support our farmers, we will not continue to enjoy the freshness and the diversity of the produce we have now,’’ Beer warned.

The popularity of farmers’ markets has exploded as foodies prefer to meet the growers and support their local industry.

❏PORK belly is still on menus everywhere, but restaurateurs won’t be complaining – it’s a nice little mark-up for them.

While we salivate over the belly there are plenty of other cuts of the pig that are far tastier, though.

The guys at SchuAm Berkshire Pork in South Australia say the neck is one of the best cuts and we should give it a try. SchuAm co-owner Damien Amery says the neck is underrated.

‘‘It’s tasty, it’s got flavour, it retains its moisture. I just recommend to people if you’re going to go and buy either lamb or pork, for that matter, go for those neck chops or a neck roast or something like that.

‘‘It’s just a delicious piece of meat.’’ 

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