Parks and recreation

Healthy cooking with the seasons October 2012

Spring Fruit of the month: Pineapple

Pineapple contains a good source of Vitamin C, dietary fibre and potassium,  To prepare, cut the bottom and top off so that it sits flat and upright on a chopping board.  Cut the skin off length ways, then cut across in thick slices.  You can remove the core with a knife or apple corer.

Select a pineapple that looks plump with fresh looking skin and leaves.  It should have a sweet and pleasant smell. Once pineapples are picked, they do not ripen however they will become juicer (but not sweeter).  Store in a cool place.  After you have cut pineapple, cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

  • Try:  on its own as a snack, freezing pieces on paddle pop sticks, on breakfast cereal, adding to a fruit salad, make pineapple jam, topping for a classic Hawaiian pizza, add to cakes and muffins, grill on the BBQ, add to fried rice, put in smoothies, make a salsa for seafood, classic pineapple-upside down cake. 
  • Goes with: prawns, fish, basil, mint, coconut milk, coconut, yoghurt, tropical fruits such as strawberries and melon, ham, chicken, capsicum, chocolate.
  • Tip: There is an enzyme in pineapple that breaks down protein so if used in a marinade it can tenderise meat. 

Vegetable of the month: Broad Beans 

Broad beans (also called fava beans) have ben used for over 5000 years!  They are high in iron, Vitamin A and K and potassium.  Broad beans are best eaten when they are small, sweet and just cooked (the large ones can sometimes be bitter).  As they have the shortest season of all beans, you can also buy them frozen and dried.  When buying fresh, make sure they're firm and brightly coloured.  The skin of the beans can have blemishes but should not have dark spots.  Store for a few days in the refrigerator.

Blanching is often the best cooking technique for these beans.  After podding, plunge the beans in boiling water briefly, then rinse off with cold water.  This stops the cooking process and gives a vibrant colour to the beans after you second pod them.  This pale green second pod should remove easily after this process.   Very small broad beans can be boiled briefly without removing the second pod but most of the time it's best to double pod.  You can also bag them and freeze after blanching.

  • Try:  with small shaped pasta, add to soups and stews, make felafel, smash them to serve on crostini, make a dip, add them to a potato salad, replace them for other beans in meals, puree and serve with meat, make a side dish with broad beans and chopped bacon or pancetta, add to r
  • Goes with: Middle Eastern food, chicken, duck, prosciutto, bacon, cooked prawns, grilled fish, rocket, roast tomato, garlic, basil, lemon, mint, marjoram, thyme, parsley, butter, extra virgin olive oil, cream, aged cheeses, goats chees, haloumi cheese.
  • Tip:  if you are using dried beans, only use half the amount you need as they will double in size.

Herb of the month: Basil

Basil is pungent herb with a slightly sweet flavour.  There are many varieties of basil with Genoese basil being one of the most popular.  Although it's often eaten in small quantities, it's an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C.  It's best to tear basil leaves rather than cut them with a knife due to its delicate nature.  Sometimes cut edges can turn black and lose their flavour.

  • Try:  making basil pesto, infuse with olive oil to drizzle on soups, add to pizzas and pastas, make basil ice-cream for something different, add to mayonnaise, add to salads, add to tomato sauce.
  • Goes with:  any Italian food, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, pasta, lemon, poultry, fish, most vegetables especially zucchini, olive oil, butter, balsamic vinegar, cheeses such as mozzarella, fetta and parmensan.
  • Tip:  Always add basil to the end of the cooking process so you don't evaporate its delicate oils and beautiful taste.

If you are after more information on healthy eating check out The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.  The guide includes information about the type of foods and quantities you need each day to ensure good health and wellbeing.

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