A MEAL should always begin in the garden.
That’s the philosophy of gardening guru Phil Dudman and cooking extraordinaire Julia Ray.
The dynamic duo serves up a flavoursome feast using ingredients that have been grown with love and plucked straight from the garden as part of their garden2kitchen live performance.
The presentation aims to educate and inspire people to get out into the garden and grow their own food as well as get into the kitchen and create their own meals.
“Reconnecting with where food comes from really improves the experience of eating,” Phil said.
Speaking of the difference between using home-grown food that bought in the supermarket, Julie added, “It’s worlds apart.
“There’s the whole emotional side of it as well, that I’ve done this myself and can pat myself on the back.”
Phil has always had a natural affinity with the garden. While his family wasn’t made up of mad- keen gardeners, an appreciation of nature was passed down.
“I thought it was a natural thing – I was drawn out into the garden and fascinated by nature,” he said.
“But it wasn’t until I was 30 that I realised I had a burning passion for surrounding myself with plants.
“It’s the process and joy of watching things grow.”
Phil and his wife and two teenage boys live on a typical suburban block but he has transformed that into an edible paradise.
Pride of place is his vege garden which is built up almost like a stage. He grows everything from citrus to lettuce, to Asian greens and herbs.
“Basically, every meal begins in the garden,” he said.
“I’ll go and think, ‘I’ve got this in the garden, what meal can I cook?’”
During his collaboration with Julie, he has picked up a few tips in the kitchen, too.
“My cooking is definitely better,” he said.
“I’ve always cooked from the garden and always liked playing with flavours. But I’ve stepped it up a notch and my family is really impressed with my cooking.”
And since meeting Phil, Julie’s home garden has expanded.
“Phil’s kicked me in the butt,” she said with a laugh.
Julie has always loved cooking.
During high school, she would spend her money on delicious and exotic things from the deli to share with her friends.
But like Phil, she didn’t realise it had career potential until after the birth of her two sons. After working in fashion, she decided to become a chef and freelance food writer and she hasn’t looked back.
“I’m just doing my dream job,” she said.
Julie is passionate about encouraging kids to get out in the garden and rediscover where food actually comes from. One thing she wishes would come back in to the kitchen is pods of peas.
“Kids these days have probably never podded a pea or even know that’s where it comes from. But it’s lovely to be in the kitchen talking and podding peas,” she said.
Julie’s cooking style is about cooking easy, simple food that is fresh, flavoursome, good for you and can come straight from the garden to the plate.
Phil’s advice for beginner gardeners is to start small with things that grow easily. Get a few pots and grow some herbs and once you succeed with that, tackle something bigger.
“If you start too big and don’t have success, that can be disheartening,” he said.
“Start small and grow from there. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. I’ve had all those mistakes and disasters. You learn from them and it makes you a better gardener.”
The two will inspire home gardeners and cooks at the Queensland Garden Expo where they will present their Garden2Kitchen performance and offer tips and tricks on how to get the most out of what you eat.
Watch Phil and Julie serve up a feast at the expo, from next Friday until Sunday, July 8-10, at the Nambour Showgrounds. Visit www.qldgardenexpo.com.au.
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