With every shift in the seasons comes a change in the way we live, dress and, most importantly, eat. For Stefano Manfredi, the kitchen garden at his Killcare restaurant Manfredi at Bells provides not just the produce for his chefs but also the inspiration for the season’s menu. Here’s a taste of what’s to come this season.
In the dying weeks of winter, asparagus spears began to burst through the soil, preparing to keep the kitchen well stocked for the season ahead. The 2013 crop is a bumper one. Not only is the asparagus at Manfredi at Bells growing thicker with each passing year—a sign of the plant’s maturity—but the supply has been non-stop since the first spears appeared.
Chef Cameron Cansdell and his team have been busy plucking fresh beans from the Killcare garden for several weeks now and it’s not going to let up any time soon. Beanstalks are at their most plentiful right through until autumn, a great crop to feast from for many months.
Patiently growing beneath the soil, it is now time for the bulbs to bloom and make their way into the kitchen for spring. Stefano is particularly pleased with this year’s crop of onions and shallots, both an indispensible addition to his favourite Italian sauces and salads.
One of the first signs of spring is the sight of greens such as nettle, mustard cress and sorrel sprouting in the garden. As the garden ages, certain plants self-seed and this year borage is flourishing. Head chef Cameron is using the leaves of this Mediterranean herb as a filling in Ravioli and infused in sauces. Being sweet to the taste, the pretty violet starflower is great for desserts. Cime di rapa, with its bitter taste, is also thriving.
There is a real versatility to that makes root vegetables so fantastic. Roast them, mash them, grill them, braise them—the possibilities are almost endless. As are the varieties available: carrots, beetroot and radishes are all coming through beautifully at the moment. Potatoes are a staple, of course, and Manfredi has Nicola and Spunta varieties bringing goodness to the menu.
The impact of the drier weather this year is being seen across Australia, in stark contrast to the excessively wet conditions seen in 2012. Tomatoes in particular welcome the change in conditions. Being a chef-hatted Italian restaurant, Manfredi at Bells looks to Tuscany for the right tomatoes, growing Costoluti Fiorentini, a tasty ribbed variety from the region.
Other spring favourites…
Keep an eye out at the markets for other spring produce suited to the season including broccoli, fennel, celery, cucumbers and zucchini.