Learn from A MasterChef This Christmas With The Food For Families Appeal

MELBOURNE |  Now in it’s 24th year, the Wesley Mission Victoria ‘Food for Families’ appeal is once again looking for support to help vulnerable families in Melbourne by the collecting of non-perishable foods for distribution in their crisis centres.

To lend a hand this year, they have enlisted 2015 MasterChef finalist Sara Oteri to create some easy recipes using non-perishable foods that could be of benefit to everyone. We got in touch with Sara to discuss, and she also gave us her Soulful Mushroom Soup recipe to share with you.

sara oteri food for families

It seems like every MasterChef finalist has a taken a different path after the show, why did you choose to get involved with Wesley Mission Victoria?

The show is a very unique experience that plays a big part in shaping who you are as a cook and as a person. Although I’ve changed a lot, charity work has always been a focus in my life both before and after the show. When asked to be the ambassador for the Food for Families appeal I jumped at the opportunity. It’s not often you can do what you love while helping those in need. It’s the least I can do for such a worthy cause.

When we think of non-perishable foods, we tend to think of the dried pasta at the back of the cupboard. Could you tell readers what foodstuffs are considered to be non-perishable?

Think of it like this, everything between the fresh fruit area and the freezer isle is non-perishable. That’s a lot of food! Not to mention a bunch of other non-perishable items Wesley Mission need. At first you think of pasta, but then your mind wanders to legumes, then tinned fruit, dried fruit, spices, pickled vegetables, sauces, oats and noodles. But not any noodles. Are they vermicelli, udon, egg noodles, instant, soba? Suddenly that packet of pasta at the back of the cupboard seems pretty first thought.

What are some meals can people make from non-perishable foods?

Anything!! We’ve all come home and opened the fridge to find zilch, nada, nothing. Then we open the pantry and put together some random dish with what’s lying around that, let’s be honest, you would never think to make. Often working with non-perishable foods frees you to be a bit inventive. You can make corn fritters using a couple of ingredients, icecreams with condensed milk and coffee, vegetable lasagne, even vegan hamburger patties.

You’re used to working with some quite complex recipes and unlimited options for ingredients, what challenges did you face in creating these recipes?

To be honest creating recipes for this cause was a bit challenging, but then again I love a challenge! A simple example is the lack of eggs. Eggs allow you to bind ingredients, add moisture, help things rise etc, so I had to say goodbye to a few recipes and techniques. At the beginning of this project I set myself a challenge to create healthy dishes that appealed to those giving and receiving donations. They needed to be attainable but inspiring as well, I really hope my dishes make people look twice at tinned food.

What non-perishable ingredient proved to be the most versatile and why?

Spices and minced garlic/ginger. Often the thing that brings many dishes to life are aromas, so I was keen to give my recipes a bit more punch and pizazz with paprika, cumin, minced ginger and cinnamon. Whilst a teaspoon of cumin won’t feed anyone, it certainly makes a meal a little more special.

What sort of skill level is required to cook from your non-perishable recipes?

If you can open a can of beans or tear open a packet of sesame seed, you can cook my recipes.

For those who want to help, what non-perishable foodstuffs should people be looking to donate?

Great question! Look for items that are healthy and substantial. Wesley Mission Victoria particularly need more:

  • Ready meals
  • Canned spaghetti
  • Baby food
  • Noodles in a cup
  • Stir-fry sauces
  • Herbs and spices
  • Vegemite
  • Jars of cream cheese and cheese products that don’t need refrigeration

Also don’t forget that Wesley Mission also need non-perishable items such as shampoo, women’s toiletries and baby formula to name a few. They are simple items we take for granted but make life more comfortable for those in crisis.

souful mushroom soup

Christmas can a time of excess, but not everyone can be quite so lucky. With an extra strain on  budgets and senses, families can often struggle to provide for their loved ones. The City Lane is proud to support the Wesley Mission Victoria’s Food for Families appeal.

To contribute non-perishable foods, or to make a donation, head to www.wesley.org.au for all the details.

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Chris
Chris
Chris is an editor, writer, and occasional novelist who in a former life published online magazines for a living while working out of obscure coffee shops. He has travelled extensively and has eaten and enjoyed exotic delights ranging from instant ‘just add water’ potatoes while on a Russian train to snails and Brie from a tiny Montreal kitchen. Chris is a great lover of the experiences around and associated with food and believes the culture of a venue, as quirky or strange as it might be, is just as important as the food it sells. He is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast dedicated to the lighter side of craft beer.

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