This year, Sydney chef Matt Moran celebrates 20 years of his celebrated harbourfront restaurant Aria. The diner, with its incredible views of the Opera House and the harbour beyond, has become a byword for sophisticated modern-Australian dining – Moran grew up on a farm and is dedicated to using seasonal Australian-grown ingredients. He and his chefs grow fresh herbs at his Woollahra restaurant Chiswick, and his family farm in the NSW Central Tablelands supplies beef and lamb to his restaurants. He tells Broadsheet his kitchen hack is simple: freezing fresh herbs in ice trays.
“I am a huge advocate for seasonal and local produce, but this kitchen hack means that I have a herb garden all year round while also minimising waste,” he says.
“Fresh herbs help tell the narrative of a dish and bring another dimension to its flavours. We have used or experimented with countless different herbs and spices over the past 20 years at Aria. For the home cook, however, you’re not always cooking at the same rate as a chef and it’s easy for fresh herbs to wilt or die before you get a chance to use them.”
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Moran encourages people to use newly harvested herbs where possible for maximum flavour, but he says that herbs frozen at their peak are the next best thing. All you need to do is wash and remove the stems from your herbs, place them in an ice-tray, cover them with water and put them in the freezer.
“You can freeze them in whole bunches if you prefer, but doing it in ice-cube trays means you have perfectly portioned serves so you can defrost as many or as few as a recipe needs,” he says. “The colour may fade – so best to use them in hot dishes where their appearance isn’t important – but they’ll retain their flavour.
“Knowing first-hand how tough our Aussie farmers are doing it, it’s more important than ever to make the most of fresh fruit, veg and herbs, and getting everything we can out of the produce we buy instead of letting it go to waste.”
Moran says that any surplus produce in his restaurants goes into staff meals and that we all need to have a sustainable approach to our food, whether we’re farmers, chefs or everyday people cooking at home. “Food is not a luxury item and we need to support each other and make actionable change,” he says.
He recommends visiting farmers markets for fresh, seasonal produce, and to let that produce create the menu for you. “Educate yourself about what’s in season and don’t be afraid to trial new recipes or mix up your favourites with something slightly different.
“The menu at Aria updates every autumn, winter, summer and spring and is carefully curated by what’s in season and where our chefs can source quality ingredients from. If it’s not in season, it’s not on the menu.”
More of Broadsheet’s Kitchen Hacks here.