Veg out with Food Safari's Maeve O'Meara
THE humble vegetable gets the star treatment in the new season of Food Safari.
The second instalment of the food show's elements series focuses on everything that comes from the earth.
After indulging in dozens of barbecues and char-grilled delights for last year's popular Fire series, host Maeve O'Meara was more than happy to sing the praises of vegies.
"They're sexy, they're delicious and they're always cheap," she tells The Guide.
"In a food sense it's a really interesting move away from meat. Vegetables give you a range and versatility perhaps beyond the meat world. You can do so much tapping into how different cuisines have been clever with vegetables. As they say, it's what you do with it, love."
In the 13-part series Maeve explores everything from staples like potatoes and grains to herbs and spices, exotic fruits, legumes, fermented foods and even flowers.
"When you watch a Food Safari show it's hopefully going to inspire you," she says.
"Instead of thinking that eating vegetables leaves you missing something, you're actually gaining something.
"I have a home garden and I get that joy of things growing and harvesting. Then there's the taste benefit of growing your own food. It's a personal joy."
Each episode features dishes cooked by authentic home cooks who have migrated from Ethiopia, Syria, Turkey, Indonesia and Sri Lanka as well as chefs like Peter Gilmore, Guy Grossi and Tetsuya Wakuda.
"A lot of the people in this are old friends. They're not necessarily the best known food faces of Australia but what they bring is real and it's true and it's really delicious," Maeve says.
"We also visit those top chefs in their home gardens, which they are really inspired by. Something comes up out of the earth, you dust it off and then you get to taste it."
There were even a few firsts for the well-travelled, food savvy Maeve.
"In the spring episode my friend makes mulberry syrup," she says. "She puts them (the berries) in a muslin cloth, squeezes them like hell and this dark, crimson juice comes out. Mulberries have so many minerals I never knew about.
"We meet someone making cider vinegar from an ancient German recipe and there are my friends who have a kimchi factory.
"We also look at pumpkin leaves, which are just bursting with vitamins and minerals. Who knew? I just love those light bulb moments."
Even the humble banana could be given a new lease on life if Aussies adopt a favourite of Latin America: plantains.
"They are sliced with the skin on, put straight in water with lemon juice and then fried. They make these beautiful, sculptural chips," Maeve says.
"They look fantastic and they're delicious. I'd never seen plantains used like that before."
Food Safari Earth premieres tonight at 8pm on SBS.