Cooking with Hetty McKinnon: A Morning at Arthur Street Kitchen

To celebrate the launch of her new cookbook ‘Community’, Arthur Street Kitchen’s Hetty McKinnon invited Vogue Living to spend a morning cooking with her at home. Scroll down for the full recipe.

Hetty McKinnon is the type of person who feels the need to cook for whoever walks through her door. Deeply passionate about what she does, she has been preparing lunches for her local community for the past two and a half years as the cook and owner of inner-Sydney catering service Arthur Street Kitchen.

McKinnon’s stylish Surry Hills home is flagged by the community garden she has cultivated along with her fellow neighbours, which grows green and lush outside her door. It is from this secluded little idyll that McKinnon makes the lunches for Arthur Street Kitchen, and from where she sets off on what she calls her “ubiquitous white bike” to deliver them around her local area every Thursday and Friday.

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Sourced from the garden or the market, all recipes start with one vegetable and develop from there. “None of us is a professional gardener, we just muddle along,” she explains while chopping up some raw root ginger on the giant slab of blackbutt timber that makes up her kitchen island, “and a lot of the plants are donated.”

It’s clear that McKinnon cooks the sort of food she loves to eat. Much of the recipes in her new cookbook, Community, are reinterpretations of the food she ate growing up with two Chinese parents, transformed into salads. “I didn’t grow up with salads, except for jellyfish salad, which has the texture of rubber bands!”

The salad we make uses the sauce from the Hainan chicken she ate as a child, redeveloped into a dressing to toss through noodles and sliced raw vegetables. “I never liked the chicken,” says McKinnon, who cooks primarily vegetarian food, “I only ever liked the sauce, poured over rice.”
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The salad is heady with the umami depth of green shallots and the clean, peppery bite of fresh ginger. Smooth, elastic soba noodles contrast with the fresh crunch of raw cabbage and julienned purple heirloom carrots. Despite McKinnon’s seemingly throwing it all together, the salad’s flavours are well balanced.

Before we leave Arthur Street Kitchen, McKinnon boxes up any leftovers for us to take away in one of the recycled sugarcane lunchboxes she uses to package her salads weekly. “I’m a mother hen,” she chuckles while walking us to the door onto her quiet street, dappled with sunlight, “I just love to cook for people.”

Soba noodles with shredded vegetables and ginger shallot sauce

Serves 4-6

500g soba noodles
5 medium (500g) carrots, peeled
500g purple (or white) cabbage
½ cup Chinese shallots, finely chopped
½ cup sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and black pepper

Ginger & shallot dressing (makes 4 cups)

150g ginger, peeled
150g Chinese shallots, finely sliced
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup rice bran oil (or other neutral oil such as grapeseed)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce

To make the dressing, mince the ginger. If you prefer the ginger very fine, simply run the root over a Microplane. If you prefer the ginger slightly chunkier (which is how I’ve always eaten it), chop with a knife.

Combine the ginger, shallots, salt, vinegar and soy in a bowl. Heat the oil over a medium heat until it starts to boil. Take off the heat immediately and add it to the ginger shallot mix, taking care not to burn yourself, as the oil will spit when it makes contact with the ginger and shallot mix. Allow to cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the soba noodles and cook for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Using a mandolin, food processor or knife, shred the cabbage finely and grate the carrot into long strips. Add the vegetables to the soba noodles and pour over 1 cup (or more) of ginger shallot sauce. Toss to combine well. Transfer the salad to a large platter and sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds.

For McKinnon’s five fresh summer salad ideas, see our gallery here.

Words: Freya Herring
Photography: Luisa Brimble

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