‘The Cook and the Chef’ put the pulse into aged care

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Image of Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant

‘The Cook and the Chef’, aka Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant, extol the benefits of pulses during the ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ aged-care education program in the Barossa Valley, SA.

PHOTO: Tony Trevoret

Australian food doyenne Maggie Beer has taken her commitment to the ageing population – and Australia’s pulse industry – one step further with a pilot education program for aged-care food professionals.

Thirty chefs, cooks, catering managers and hospitality managers from Victorian aged-care facilities descended on the Barossa Valley in South Australia in June for the inaugural ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ program – an initiative of the Maggie Beer Foundation.

The education program is a central plank of the foundation’s vision to change the ‘budget-comes-first’mentality that governs the kitchens of many aged-care facilities. It aimed to inspire participants and teach new ways to prepare healthy, tasty meals.

Disturbing figures released in 2014 by the Lantern Project Australia, a dietitian-led initiative, showed that between 50 and 80 per cent of aged-care residents in Australia are malnourished and at higher risk of pressure wounds, falls and mental health issues.

The findings present a challenge for the aged-care sector, which participants in the ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ program said was often compromised by tight budgets, restrictive food-safety regulations and time constraints.

During the three-day intensive masterclass they learnt that pulses – a versatile and affordable source of dietary fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals with a low food-safety risk – can be part of the answer.

Program participants heard from industry experts including HammondCare’s chief executive Stephen Judd and executive chef, food ambassador and author Peter Morgan-Jones, who says the suitability of pulses for purees and thickening soups and sauces satisfies both practical aged-care requirements and criteria for fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce.

Pulses dominated the menu during the program’s final day, when Maggie and chef Simon Bryant revived their renowned partnership from ABC TV’s The Cook and the Chef preparing dishes including red lentil kifta, chickpea fritters with minted labneh, masoor dal and Boston baked beans.

Maggie told Ground Cover that although “pulses are stars in the nutritional world”, they have an identity issue in aged care. Her observation is backed by global figures that show Australians are low pulse consumers per capita.

“That is gradually changing as people are becoming more aware of the health benefits, but a lot of people in aged care are very conservative so we have to introduce pulses carefully through food that is familiar and inviting, which takes ingenuity,” she says.

The former Senior Australian of the Year says her ‘term in office’ exposed her to the best and worst of Australia’s aged-care sector and motivated a desire to help influence government policy on food-related funding and health regulations.

In addition to addressing the challenges, Maggie says the ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ program encouraged participants to exchange ideas and her foundation has already received reports of change in some aged-care workplaces, including use of more fresh produce and a bigger emphasis on on-site meal preparation.

Maggie says the program was an important step towards realising the foundation’s goal to develop an improved food framework for the aged-care sector.

Image of lentil dal

PHOTO: Simon Bryant

Simon Bryant’s Masoor Dal (serves 4)

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cost: $2.17 per portion (based on retail prices)
Compared with a cup of potato, leek and bacon soup, a serving of this dal
provides double the energy and protein and 6.5 grams more fibre.


  • 200 grams (1 cup) split and hulled red lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic, skin on, lightly bashed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3-centimetre piece of ginger, sliced into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 80 millilitres (½ cup) ghee or natural oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons chilli powder
  • 2½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt flakes
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Coriander leaves to garnish


  1. Place lentils in saucepan with 1 litre of cold water, the whole garlic cloves and ginger chunks. Cook approximately 25 minutes or until soft. Discard garlic and ginger. Set lentils aside.
  2. Heat ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds and gently heat for a few seconds, stirring until you can smell the cumin. Fold in the onion and fry for approximately 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned. Add minced garlic and ginger. Stir for 30 seconds.
  3. Add chilli powder, ground coriander, turmeric and salt. Fry for approximately 5 minutes then add lentils to the pan. Add a little water to achieve desired consistency. Leave to simmer 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat, add lemon juice and stir.
  5. Garnish with coriander and serve with roti.

SOURCE: Maggie Beer Foundation 'Creating an Appetite for Life Program'


More information:

Maggie Beer Foundation


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