Before chef Almay Jordaan, and her business partners, opened Melbourne’s Neighbourhood Wine in 2013, she struggled to find the produce she was looking for in a local context.
“So much was imported, like pulses and grains and you didn’t know how fresh they were,” she says. But by the time they swung the doors open on the North Fitzroy venue she had discovered Mount Zero, “and we’ve used them ever since…”
It’s this relationship that has us thrilled to announced that Almay Jordaan is our current Mount Zero Hero.
“Mount Zero is the only company that provides the produce that they do with an ethical story behind it. This ethos sits with how I see produce,” she says, “there’s not a lot of other suppliers who can give you that guarantee.”
Almay utilises Mount Zero’s pulses; sorghum, lentils, and millet as well as olive oils and verjus.
“I use the verjus extensively, it’s local and I like the grape they use. It ticks all the boxes and the fact that I can access the new season's oils, that’s very special.”
She is a big fan of our Arbequina extra virgin olive oil and says that the Mount Zero Black Beluga lentils are a staple in the kitchens, “I love them al dente and often serve with salads, there’s a real integrity to the pulse, in its structure.”
Mount Zero’s red lentils find themselves in more blended elements of Almay’s menu. “Anything that’s more dahl-like or in other soups, the red lentils are great for thickening,” says Almay and she utilises some interesting Mount Zero produce in the recipes she is sharing with us this month as our Mount Zero Hero.
The recipe for roasted crushed faba beans with cumin, lime, brocolini, and labne takes a little time - drying the beans overnight and cooking them in a slow oven - but is a delicious snack or topping on vegetables or fish. “Use it like a bit of a crumble,” she says.
In her second recipe, she uses Mount Zero millet to make a fruit and nut breakfast bar, “I use millet in these muesli bars which I think is an underused grain. It’s a good sub for the other kind of grains in muesli. It’s used a lot in Africa [Almay grew up in South Africa] where it’s cooked until it’s like a porridge. It’s super-high in protein.”
The last year with the pandemic has brought more change to both restaurants.
“We introduced takeaway strategies and jumped on to lots of work online, building platforms to make things super-accessible,” Almay says.
In order to keep themselves relevant, they built an online wine store. “We were selling wine online and delivering it ourselves during both lockdowns. We have now established Bahama Gold, an online drinks site.”
She says they were lucky during lockdown as Neighbourhood Wine was already well-known and, “we were still riding on some press of Old Palm Liquor. The positive for us is that people who lived in the area and had to work from home would take their regular walks and discovered places like us, that was very helpful too and now, they keep coming back.”