The information below will help you better understand our philosophy when it comes to the recipes on the following pages.
At Redgum our diet includes lots of fresh vegetables, wholegrains and legumes, without relying on meat as the main ingredient for each meal.
We use fresh herbs grown in our garden, and as time allows us to extend our gardens, more of our vegetables are grown on the property each season.
Wherever possible we buy locally grown foods and shop at locally owned stores. Remember that each time you shop at stores whose primary purpose is mass distribution, money will leave your community.
By comparison, locally grown food that hasn't travelled long distances will be fresher, will taste better, and hasn't required so much energy input. This helps to contribute to a more sustainable society.
Choosing the best quality ingredients will result in better tasting and more nutritious meals - making it less difficult to justify the time spent on cooking and preparation.
I used to be afraid to cook with yeast but it's really just a matter of respecting how it behaves. Breadmaking is a little like soapmaking - it takes a little practice until you develop a feel for it.
There's nothing quite like homebaked bread, and you don't need a breadmaking machine to do so. A food processor will cut the kneading time if you have one; otherwise you can make fantastic tasting bread completely by hand.
If you want an excellent breadmaking book, don't go past "The Beginner's Book of Breadmaking" by Diana Dasey (ISBN 0 86417 767 4). It contains foolproof recipes for all kinds of bread including bagels, brioche and international breads.
Over the past few years, fat content in the diet has been maligned. As a consequence many people have adopted low fat diets, sometimes eliminating fat to a dangerous level.
Fat is an important part of the diet, and it can affect health adversely if it's eliminated completely.
We've tried to include recipes where the fat content comprises monounsaturated fat rather than polyunsaturated or saturated fats. So it's not a question of how much fat is used, but the type of fat.
People who live in Mediterranean countries have the lowest incidence of heart disease in the world - and their diet includes plenty of olive oil but few animal fats, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes and the occasional glass of red wine!
Most recipes in Vicki's Kitchen use olive oil rather than butter wherever possible. If butter is specified, it's because the recipe works best this way.
Olive oil can successfully be substituted for butter in most recipes. Simply substitute 3/4 of the required butter weight in olive oil.
I very rarely even bake cakes using butter these days and use olive oil instead. I even make my Christmas puddings with olive oil.
However, olive oil will still contribute to weight gain, so you'll still need to bear that in mind if you're trying to lose weight!
I haven't abandoned dairy foods altogether, but I do eat them in moderation. For cooking I often use soy milk and I avoid most recipes that are overloaded with cheese. Even our pizzas use a scant amount of parmesan cheese rather than lashings of mozzarella.
Butter is still my preferred choice for sandwich spreads, but I eat so little other saturated fats in my diet I feel I can eat butter in these small amounts without feeling that I'm compromising my health.
Yoghurt is a wonderful food, even for people who want to avoid including too much dairy food in their diet.
I sometimes use yoghurt on desserts where ice cream or cream is normally used. You'll be surprised at how good yoghurt tastes with most sweet dishes, once you've acquired a taste for it. It also means you can eat desserts that seem rich, but don't leave a "heavy" feeling in the digestive system.
Salt has become out of favour over the past decade or two, and many diets now recommend low salt intake.
When you think about your diet you need to think about it wholistically.
At Redgum, we eat very little processed food (often very high in added salt), so for the most part, the salt we eat is what I use in cooking.
The recipes here can be made successfully without added salt. If you use salt, we recommend sea salt which is rich in minerals (often lacking in Australian soils). Alternatively, rock salt can be used if you prefer.
Table salt can contain chemicals such as anticaking agents, so we recommend against using it.
Most of my recipes use far less sugar than is normally specified, even for cakes and sweet dishes.
You can successfully reduce the amount of sugar specified in a recipe by about 30-50% in most cases, without affecting the flavour of the dish.
I never use sugar in pastry, even for sweet pies because usually the filling will provide enough sweetness.
Desserts rich in fresh fruit will contain natural sugars anyway, so there's less need for as much added sugar.
But I almost always add sugar when cooking tomatoes, as a small amount brings out the flavour wonderfully.
flour & grains
Wherever possible I use wholemeal flours and avoid overusing bleached, white flour.
If you're accustomed to eating only white flour, try using half wholemeal flour with white flour, until your taste buds have become used to eating food made with wholemeal flour.
I prefer to use unbleached, organic spelt flour because it's so versatile and can be used for baking cakes, pastry and breads.
It also means I can buy it in bulk, and not have to buy smaller, separate flours for cakes and breadmaking because normally breadmaking requires a "stronger" flour than cakes.
Our local whole food store supplies flour as well as non commercial baking powder.
Commercial self raising flour and baking powder is likely to contain aluminium and other anti caking agents.
Herbs & Spices
Always use fresh herbs where possible. The flavour of dried herbs can't be compared with fresh ones and it makes an enormous difference in the overall taste.
Buy only small quantities of (whole) spices and grind them as you need them. Large quanitities of ground spices will lose flavour and deteriorate rapidly.
When using spices, place the amount specified in your recipe in a small cast iron frypan over a low heat and warm just until you can smell the aroma (this releases the flavour).
Then grind them before adding them to your dish (I use a mortar and pestle to grind my spices).