Chefs cooking up a pulse celebration
Renowned Australian chefs Simon Bryant and Ragini Dey plan to get pulses racing at the inaugural Pulse Breeding Australia National Pulse Conference in October.
Simon, from ABC TV’s The Cook and the Chef, and Ragini, from Adelaide restaurant Dhaba at the Spice Kitchen, have conceived a ‘passion for pulses’ conference and dinner menu to showcase the end uses of pulses to conference delegates.
Food visionaries, Simon and Ragini concur that good food is all about the product and the producer, the chef being simply “a vehicle to get their hard work on the plate”. But they accept chefs play an important role in driving food trends and inspiring home cooks.
This is significant in Australia, where the pulse consumption rate is one of the lowest in the world and below the recommended dietary intake. Simon says given the high nutritional profile of pulses, and their capacity to fix soil nitrogen and reduce reliance on chemical inputs, pulses should be delivering triple-bottom-line gains across the community.
He says ignorance of the health benefits and lack of understanding of their cooking simplicity are barriers to pulse consumption. But he believes change is nigh. “Today you would be hard-pressed to find a modern Australian restaurant without lentils on the menu.”
Ragini adds that, unlike in India, pulses are foreign to most Australians, who have never had pulses presented to them “in a nice way” with many experiences often limited to flavourless vegetarian dishes.
Formerly the executive chef at Hilton Adelaide, Simon is a pulse enthusiast: “Pulses are one of the few high-protein foods that don’t require a cold chain,” he says. “They are a cheap, nutritious, easy-to-prepare and very palatable wholefood, and an ideal alternative to meat.”
The conference dinner at Adelaide Zoo on 22 October will reflect the influence of different cultures and highlight the finest Australian produce.
Simon and Ragini have prepared a colourful menu featuring pakora (fried vegetable fritters tossed in chickpea flour), a germinated-chickpea hommus, and rasam (a red lentil seafood broth including Mulloway, South Australian prawns and mussels).
The mains selection will feature a chicken tagine with kabuli chickpeas, rosewater salad and peashoots, and a French braised duck cassoulet with green lentils. A lupin flour and oat crumble will be served for dessert, followed by halwa (a sweet Indian delicacy). Guests will leave with a ‘sweet bag’ of dry roasted broadbeans and besan barfi chickpea flour fudge.
The conference will be held from 20 to 23 October in SA. It will include a field day at Tarlee and two days of research presentations in Adelaide at the Sebel Playford Hotel.
Dhaba at the Spice Kitchen
GRDC Project Code GCS10362
Region National, South, North, West