Monday, February 18, 2013

Melbourne - Pop Up Patch


I'm presenting at the Sustainability Festival at Melbourne's Federation Square. It's a filthy hot day but before my talk I want to visit a new community garden that's been installed on the Federation roof top car park.

This 7 year old slab of unused concrete has been converted into a thriving veggie patch by the blokes from The Little Veggie Patch Company.

After much bureaucratic wrangling, they have the space for 12 months for 140 do-it-yourself veggie boxes.

Members of the public can rent or buy boxes for the year ....

... and can choose from a seasonal mix of seeds to plant.

And experts are on hand throughout the week to give you advice about what and how to plant.

 There's also an array of planting systems if you want to set up your own veggie patch but are squeezed for space.

All the restaurants and cafes at Federation Square have their own box so they can grow ingredients for their daily menus.

Inspirational, huh? For more details contact The Little Veggie Patch.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hong Kong - Upper House Hotel

'Your mission - should you accept - is to live like James Bond for a day.'
'Live like James Bond for a day, you say?' Doesn't sound too difficult.
You said live 'like' James Bond - not 'with' James Bond. After watching 'Skyfall' I rather fancy Daniel Craig. That back of his....hmmmm...'
'Please try to focus on the mission at hand 008. I said live 'like' 007. Not 'with' him.You'll be his decoy while he is in Hong Kong.'
'Decoy you say? Just for one day? OK. I accept.'
'Good. Let me take you through the accommodation we've selected for you.
 We've got you a suite at the Upper House. It's where all the well-heeled hipsters stay and dine. So try to blend in and don't wear those cowboy boots of yours.'
'Hey! What's wrong with these boots? They're hand-made you know... from real rhino hide. I had to drag that rhino through the Botswana jungle.'
'Look. Just try to be inconspicuous - is that too much to ask 008? You are a spy afterall.'

'OK.. come this way. We've already checked you in as Ms Indira Naidoo. She's an Australian journalist and broadcaster who's meant to be reviewing this hotel so it won't raise any suspicions if you're seen taking photos and asking pesky questions.'

'Do I have to be an Australian? You know I can't tolerate that accent. Everything is 'gday this' and 'ow ya going mate that'. It's so grating. Can I be that Swiss gymnast again? Please?'

'Not after all the weight you've stacked on. Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately.'

'It's just a couple of kilos....

'008 can we just get on with it?

'This is your room. As you can see it's extremely spacious with views across Hong Kong harbour.'

'Geez......007 really does get the royal treatment doesn't he? You usually put me up in a Mecure. Look at these fabrics and furnishings, and potted orchids. No expense has been spared.'

.... I love phaelanopsises....

'OK, 008 that's enough horticultural observations... let me take you through to the bedroom..

'Wow.... that bed looks dreamy..... what's the thread count on these sheets? Looks like Egyptian cotton..

'Don't get any ideas 008. You know the rules. No sleepovers while on duty.'

' But 007 always ...

' I don't care what 007 does. No visitors. Period.'

'Here are your suitcases...

'... and the closet...'
'... and the bathroom..'
'That's some tub. Nice a deep. Looking forward to a long soak. And there's a TV as well... want to
  see the finale of American Idol. Love Keith Urban.'
'There won't be time for that 008. After you unpack I want to take you to the outside deck where you'll receive further instructions from your contact.. '

'Oh. He doesn't seem to be out here. Let's wait for him in the hotel's award-winning restaurant Cafe Gray.'

"Nice views.'
'I took the liberty of pe-ordering for us both.
I'm having the gnocchi...'
'...And how's the organic heirloom beetroot salad?'
'Not bad. I'll be able to squeeze back into that leotard in no time.'
'I could get use to pretending to be 007.'
'Don't get any ideas 008.'
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Upper House.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recipe: Quick Chicken Hot Pot

QUICK CHICKEN HOT POT - takes 1 1/2 hours to prepare and cook


Set the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Make a herb, lemon rind and garlic butter and gently stuff under  breast skin of whole organic chicken. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Cover breast meat with prosciutto and place lemon halves inside cavity. Place in a Dutch oven, add 3 halved potatoes, 3 carrots and 2 cups of white wine and bake for one hour. Add a handful of green beans at the end and let them steam for a five minutes. Finish with lid off under the grill to crisp up the prosciutto.

Hong Kong - Developers eye organic farms

Hong Kong produces just 7% of its own food.

The rest needs to be trucked or flown in -  mostly from China.

But after a spate of food contamination scandals on the mainland, shoppers are growing wary of food marked ‘Product of China’.
The scandals have boosted demand for produce grown chemically-free in Hong Kong, and organic farms are thriving in the New Territories area along the Chinese border.
But with space at a premium in Hong Kong, these fledgling enterprises are being eyed off by developers.

The Mapopo village farm in the New Territories is in the firing line.

Developers want to bulldoze a third of this rich fertile farmland and put up more of these high-rise apartments.

Becky Au from the 'Save Mapopo Community Farm Action Group' says “If the government goes ahead and approves this project it will be devastating for the local community.
''We need to save this farm so we can save our food in Hong Kong.’’
Becky says everything grown on the farm is organic.

The villagers of Ma Shi Po make their own chemical-free compost and fertilisers and sell their produce at a weekly farmers market.
“We grow lettuces, tomatoes, and pumpkins ... and in summer there are melons and cucumbers,' says Becky. 'Village life is good.'

The villagers are fighting to save their farm and their livelihood but it seems the development plan is almost certain to be approved by the Hong Kong government.

It’s a story repeated often wherever developers meet farmers.

Joey Ng who runs the Zen Organic Farm in the ​​Ta Kwu Ling area in the northern New Territories says she has no intention to sell to developers.

‘Once we started this farm, many people asked us to sell but we love this farm and this life,' says Joey

Joey’s 250,000 square feet farm of greenhouses supplies Hong Kong’s top restaurants with organic produce.

'We grow heirloom tomatoes, figs, strawberries, eggplants,  papayas to order so chefs have exactly what they need,' says Joey.
I think they are more conscious about what is in food because they want to have another choice and I think they like organic farm food’.

In a country with development fever, becoming an organic farmer has been an unexpected spiritual journey for Joey.

I love the lifestyle because you get close to nature, you get a rhythm from nature.. it makes you more humble.
The Mapopo Farm will know next year whether they can continue their unique sustainable village life or whether more farmers will be forced off their land.
 Saucy Onion travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board