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Jason Trifiro a Wanderer at heart

Jason Trifiro epitomises the heart and soul of Western Sydney Wanderers - born and raised in Winston Hills, and now on the verge of signing his first professional contract with the A-League newcomers ahead of tonight's trial match against Blacktown Spartans.
Nanjing Night Net

Trifiro, 24, fell in love with football at an early age, carrying a ball everywhere he went, even practising in the house when his father's back was turned. His parents were so sick of him smashing vases and windows in their small property that they bought a house behind Valentine Park - the heart of NSW youth football development.

"We were living in a small backyard and mum and dad got so sick of us digging it up that they bought the house behind Parklea because it made it easier for us - we would just jump the fence and would be able to train," he said.

Trifiro would spend countless hours at the park with brother Glen, mastering the latest tricks in an attempt to mirror his football idol Maradona. So superb and advanced were his skills at a young age that he was quickly appointed the nickname 'Tricky' by his coaches and teammates. Although he represented Australia in the under 17s, Trifiro admits that at some point in time, he fell off the radar of the A-League.

"From Joeys I just was floating around in the state leagues," he said. "There was probably a period when no one really knew of me."

Sadly, it is an all too familiar story in Australian football.

A promising young junior slips through the cracks of the selection process because, despite his undeniable technique and skill, he is not 'tall enough, strong enough or fast enough.'

Trifiro has heard it all.

"There were times when I though that maybe it wouldn't happen," he said. "I have heard all those things - that I wasn't the tallest or fastest guy. But I stayed focused and maintained belief in myself. Football was first and I just knew that I always wanted to keep playing."

Western Sydney may have produced some of Australia's greatest players such as Brett Emerton, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill, but the heartland has at times become a wasteland of lost and neglected young talent. It is football Darwinism at its finest.

But Trifiro's inspiring story restores some faith - a reminder that it doesn't matter how old you are or where you came from, if you are willing to work hard selectors will eventually have to pick you.

Prior to his breakthrough with the Wanderers, Trifiro drifted through the NSW Premier League with Marconi Stallions, Sutherland Sharks and South Coast Wolves before, two years ago, packing up his bags and heading to Melbourne to play with Northcote City in search of an elusive A-League contract.

Far from despondent, the passionate footballer persisted with the game he loved, confident that the landscape of Australian football would eventually progress to suit his style of play.

"Football evolves - and it is slowly changing in this country'," said Trifiro. "Look what Barcelona have done; they are not the tallest players. Now coaches here are now starting to take notice and choose that smaller, more technical player. It is definitely for the better."

Jason and Glen Trifiro were so passionate about the increasing importance of technique and skill in Australian football, that they have established their own football academy 'Futboltec'. It is no surprise that Glen is the first to shout his brother's praises when he heard the news about Western Sydney.

"For Jason this is just the beginning, it's his opportunity and he knows how important it is to make the most of it," said Glen Trifiro."Jason is the biggest inspiration to me because I'm well aware of his journey; every step he has taken, every setback he has had, and every successful moment he has experienced. As young players growing up in the west we travelled a further distance to Westfields sports high to attend the football program. We would catch trains and buses. Jason didn't attend his formal because he had training, he didn't go out on Friday nights because game day was on Saturday. These are just a few examples of his commitment to football."

Trifiro certainly realises the magnitude of his achievement, and will be proud to wear the colours of his hometown.

"To be looking for a professional deal, then to come home and play for the area where your grew up in - it would be a very incredible moment," he said.

Meanwhile Western Sydney have launched their membership drive with prices starting from $195 for Adults, $95 for concessions and $390 for a family. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that members will be able to vote for two seats on the inaugural board.

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Endangered species: Film Critics

Everyone's a critic .... "there is a world of difference between an opinion and a review, though: between being critical and providing criticism."The invitation to join a panel asking "What is a film critic in this day and age?" has left me pondering the role.
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What's not to like? You watch films before they're released, for free, and get to tell other people what you thought of them. A lucky few even get paid to do it. Except that the combined effects of piracy and the internet mean that nearly anyone so inclined can do the former, and that those lucky few are becoming fewer by the day.

Is a tweet as good as a review?

By the above, overly simple definition, once a film is released anywhere in the world, in the age of social media everyone is a film critic. Before the credits have rolled, 140 characters praising or panning any film will be tapped out and disseminated by that new collective noun, a cinema of critics.

There is a world of difference between an opinion and a review, though; between being critical and providing criticism. A rant, no matter how long, loud or widely read, is still a rant.

What do critics have to offer in a digital age?

What is missing from a digital audience-byte? It's not writing style or quality. For many that already exists or comes with time. Nor length, a blog or tweet extending apps will let any audience member with a smart phone write as much as they like.

Rather it is perspective and explanation that are the key qualities of a film critic.

The latter is that vital, rare quality in an excellent film critic, those not just brave enough to declare a film objectively good or bad, but with the capacity to explain why, such that someone who hasn't seen it can understand. A good film reviewer, on the other hand - to draw a personal distinction - goes one step further. He or she uses perspective to assess, regardless of objective quality and without patronising or lecturing (as I am now), what sort of audience might like a film; whether the target audience will approve.

Do critics write for the audience or the film maker?

The audience is key for film critics. They are more informed and aware. In fact, those who want to find out about a film online can drown themselves in content - interviews, trailers, behind-the-scenes featurettes and, yes, reviews from around the world - to the point where they can almost recite a film the first time they see it. Then afterwards they can discuss it with countless others online.

Yet audiences also know that if they don't want to know the plot going in, they can't trust trailers. Studios gave up any pretence of withholding key plot points. Film critics must take up that baton, forgoing the lazy review style of recounting story to assist in analysis. A spoiler-free, well-argued and audience-focused criticism is harder to find now among the noise.

Will critics have a role in the future?

There is a counter-culture, those seeking a surprising cinema experience, wanting to take in a film untainted by spoilers and hype. They go into Facebook lockdown and #TwitterOff for days before a big film release. For those audiences, one good reviewer is worth a thousand tweets and may well be the one outlet they will check before deciding to spend money. A trusted critic is a sacred friend.

Is there still a role for film critics in the digital age? Do you read reviews? Do you have a favourite critic? What are film critics doing wrong?

The panel discussion ''Where and what is a film critic in this day and age?'' is at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Moore Park, today at 6.30pm, free.

"New Bond revealed"? What's with the headlines on SMH these days? This is a mild case to be fair, but I'm becoming more and more suspcious that the Editors at Fairfax are masters at troll headlines.

This is an article about a new Bond movie, not about the next actor to play Bond. This curiosity is what caused me to click on this article, and now I'm feeling like I was deceived.

Fair enough if it wasn't intentional, but with all the sensational and downright false headlines creeping into Fairfax, combined with new Fairfax editors being installed recently, makes me more and more suspicious. And that's why I come here, because I trust Fairfax (at least I did). I do not like the new Fairfax at all.

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Bikes building a head of steam

Growing click ... a new found fondness for riding is opening doors for bicycle lovers.If you live anywhere near an urban area, it's impossible to miss the burgeoning popularity of bicycles.
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It seems everywhere you look there's either a peloton of MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra) on their expensive carbon-fibre machines, or a bunch of hipsters on their fixies. And there'll be a new bike boutique on every corner, ready to serve them a macchiato.

Bikes are suddenly big business, a $1 billion-a-year industry. According to Bureau of Statistics figures, for the 10th year in succession Australians have bought more bicycles than cars. Since 2000, more than 11 million bikes have been sold nationwide, a number is expected to explode with the introduction of new rules allowing the sale of electric models powered up to 250 watts.

According to industry data, in the first quarter of this year we imported 171,783 bicycles, which suggests there's not a lot of employment in Australia when it comes to building our own bikes — although a few specialised frame makers remain locally.

But you don't have to know how to weld to land a job with bikes: the Australian bicycle industry employs up to 10,000 people and generates $139 million in income tax revenue. If you have a passion for cycling and want to turn it into a career, there are plenty of opportunities out there.

"Many start their career in the industry volunteering for work experience at the local bike shop," the general manager of Bicycle Industries Australia, Peter Bourke, says. "This can lead to specialising in either sales or servicing, and eventually to managing the workshop or even an entire store.

"As for training, Bourke says most of it is on the job, although he believes a retail course in customer management will help if your main focus is on the sales floor. Some store managers and shop owners also have business degrees.

Becoming a bicycle mechanic is another option, with big-city "wrenchmen" earning about $50,000 a year. Most of the training is done on the job, although some formal certificate study is available through TAFE courses.

The Bicycle Industries Association in Victoria has recently been disappointed by a state government decision to cut funding for bicycle mechanics training by 40 per cent.

"The result of this is that there won't be any accredited training available at all," Bourke says.

"Our industry employs 1000 mechanics in Victoria and we are already struggling to recruit qualified staff."

There are also many employment options available outside the world of the bike shop.

Mechanics, for instance, can work for a local cycle team, move up to a national squad and, finally, graduate as highly paid wrenchmen with a professional team.

Bourke says another option is bicycle-related tourism."This is an area that is expanding rapidly," he says. "We're seeing operators leading people on tours around wineries or even across to the Tour de France.

"As the need for integrated, sustainable transport grows, cycling departments are filling an important role in city councils, too. "More and more of these positions are becoming available at both a city and state level," says the manager of cycling strategy at the City of Sydney council, Fiona Campbell. "I came to my role with a background in IT but I had been a bicycle advocate for a decade," she says.

Bourke is the first to admit a career in the bicycle industry is unlikely to make you a millionaire, but says the lifestyle is good and you interact with passionate riders.

New Start

Atelier de Velo is one of the new breed of urban cycle shops — a one-stop destination for bicycle addicts. It's a hip space in the inner city where you can get your bike serviced, buy a new jersey or a treadly, and sit in the cafe drinking Mecca Espresso, eating sour-cherry raisin toast and reading a cycle magazine.

Owners Chris Herron and Mike Shaw have been messing about with bikes since they could walk.

Both worked in management at the renowned Clarence Street Cycles until they were retrenched last year when the company downsized.

"It was always my dream to open a store of my own, so I said to Chris, 'Let's do it'," Shaw says.

Atelier de Velo now employs six staff, including three mechanics, two baristas, and Shaw's wife, Narissa, who is in charge of the cafe.

Shaw has pedalled a typical career path in the industry.His advice to people wanting to get into the trade?

"Train on the job and find your niche interest, whether it be sales, management or mechanics," he says. "And find a bike store that fits your personality."

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Gym fined for pumping up carbon tax claims

A fitness gym has become the first company to be fined for making false claims about the impact of the carbon tax.
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Genesis Fitness Club Berwick, in Melbourne, has paid an infringement notice of $6600 relating to claims made about the cost of membership fees, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has confirmed.

Genesis has gyms all around Australia and describes itself as "one of Australia's premier fitness organisations".

In April, the Berwick club sent a letter to more than 2100 members promoting a "rate freeze". The letter offered a range of contract extensions at current or reduced rates, suggesting that by taking up this offer, members could avoid a fee increase of 9-15 per cent due to the carbon price.

It is understood that more than 200 people took up the offer and extended their gym contracts.

Today, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said that the ACCC believed GFC Berwick did not have a reasonable basis for their carbon tax claim.

"We are concerned that the false claims about the carbon price may have encouraged these people to sign lengthy contract extensions they otherwise would not have."

Mr Sims said that businesses were free to set their prices as they saw fit, but said carbon tax claims needed to be truthful and "have a reasonable basis".

The company that manages the GFC franchise network has already written to affected members and offered to break their contract extensions at no cost.

Last month, the parent company of the Brumby's Bakery franchise apologised for "foolish and ill-considered" advice that encouraged bakeries to put up prices and "let the carbon tax take the blame".

The consumer watchdog looked into Brumby's about potentially misleading claims about the tax – but then accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Retail Food Group, owner of Brumby's, that it would not engage in similar conduct in the future.

If the ACCC finds there has been wrongdoing, it can issue warning letters, infringement notices of $6600, or take court action with fines up to $1.1 million.

Before it was implemented on July 1, the government warned businesses not to make misleading claims about the carbon tax.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

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Gold medal? No thanks, we’re British

Great Britain's grand Olympic dreams of a 70-medal haul are off to a shaky start — and the desperation is setting in on Fleet Street as the media and the fans look for the team's first victory.
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Yet to claim a gold medal, the British effort flies in the face of London mayor Boris Johnson's motivational message to athletes before the Games. "Can we beat Australia? Yes, I think we can."

British coxless four team member Pete Reed went so far as to tell the Daily Mail that Johnson's attempt at a pep talk fired him up.

"It really hit home with me personally. This will be the biggest race of our lives and we have a big job to do against Australia," he said.

Reed's contest with Australia is likely on Saturday, London time, but the hordes of reporters in Fleet Street have already grown impatient.

Great Britain's effort thus far puts it 21st on the medal tally — behind Australia in 12th, as well as Romania, Hungary, Brazil, Holland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Georgia and Lithuania, and just ahead of Colombia, Mexico and Indonesia.

Johnson told Australia's SBS today that "natural British restraint and good manners” was behind the nation's lack of gold.

"It would not be right for us as host nation to be monopolising that medals table, and we're allowing others to score a few in the knowledge that we're lulling them into a false sense of security,” Johnson said, tongue in cheek.

“Even if – which I don't for one moment believe – even if we didn't win a single additional medal it would still be a fantastic thing to have put on a great Olympic Games, plus last night Team GB got their first ever medal in gymnastics for 100 years and that is a stunning thing to do.”

The dearth of a British gold medallist, and the disappointment surrounding hot favourites who have failed to take the top prize, is a frustration to the host nation's papers. Tabloid The Sun's front page today screams: "Wanted. Gold Medal" and carries the plea: "Historic bronze for our brilliant gymnasts but please, can we have just one gold. Any sport. We're not bothered. As soon as possible. Please. COME ON TEAM GB."

The Daily Mail is attempting to assuage the disappointment of the nation by suggesting that "a gold rush will come ... as early as today". The newspaper says the nation has six strong medal contenders in rowing, cycling and swimming finals, including Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.

The Telegraph is more conciliatory its athletes who finish back in the pack than Australia — it has described British gymnasts who finished sixth as "brave".

The Guardian says British sport executives are considering lowering their expectations of the medal haul, from 70 to 60.

"I'm comfortable with where we are, absolutely. We need to be patient and we'll see that the medals and gold medals will follow," the British Olympic Association chairman, Lord Colin Moynihan, reportedly said. "When you look at the rowing finals, the cyclists and the sailors, we'll begin to have that core delivery of success. We're beginning to see, as we forecast, more medals in more sports – we delivered on the gymnastics."

Britons expect to do well in events where medals have not yet been won, discussions in online forums suggest.

"Some in OZ and US are saying we will be the first country to do WORSE at a home games ! Classic," wrote late8 on the UK Digital Spy forums. Others on Yahoo! Answers suggest that biding time is the best option.

Others suggested that the media over-hyped cyclist Mark Cavendish and Britain's position was as expected.

Given that there was success for Great Britain at London's previous hosting turns in 1908 in events no longer part of the program, 2012 organisers could have given thought to re-introducing polo, tug-of-war (in which Great Britain won all the medals), jeu de paume (tennis, not to be confused with the lawn tennis event of the same Olympiad), lacrosse, rugby union and water motorsports.

In its most recent home Olympics in 1948, Great Britain won three gold, 14 silver and six bronze to Australia's two gold, six silver and five bronze and in 1908, swept the pool with 56 gold, 51 silver and 39 bronze to Australasia's one gold, two silver and one bronze.

More recently, after four days of competition in 2008 in Beijing, Britain had claimed two gold medals to Australia's three and at Athens in 2004, the score was six to zero Australia's way.

But it's not as though Australia's effort this year is all that stunning. Our women's swimming relay gold remains our only victory. There's three silver and two bronze for a miserly six medals, behind Japan's 13 (one gold, four silver, eight bronze) and South Africa, which has just two medals — but they are both gold.

Australia is also behind North Korea (three gold and one bronze), Kazakhstan (three gold), Germany (two gold, three silver and one bronze) and Russia (two gold, two silver and four bronze).

In 2008, then-sports minister Kate Ellis lost a bet with her British counterpart Gerry Sutcliffe that Australia's medal tally would be bigger than Britain's. Ms Ellis then suffered the ignominy of wearing a team Great Britain shirt to the Paralympic Games. Great Britain took home 19 gold to Australia's 14 in Beijing.

But her predecessor, Liberal Senator Rod Kemp, warned of such a travesty two years earlier. In a speech in Melbourne in 2006, he said that "the British are getting their sporting act together" and that "the Australian success on the sporting field is under a great challenge".

New Zealand has just one bronze medal, from equestrian, so all is not for lost Australia yet. But after four days of competition, our athletes are running out of time to better our final medal totals in Atlanta, 1996 (nine gold, nine silver, 23 bronze), Barcelona, 1992 (seven gold, nine silver, 11 bronze) or Seoul, 1988 (three gold, six silver, five bronze).

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Thunder want Michael Clarke for Big Bash

Thunder target ... Michael Clarke.Michael Clarke could be a shock signing for Big Bash League franchise Sydney Thunder.
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The Herald can reveal that the Thunder have targeted the Australian Test captain as a marquee signing should they miss out on slashing opener David Warner.

The addition of Australian Test captain Clarke to an already impressive batting line-up would be a coup for the Thunder. The 31-year-old would be a perfect fit for the Western Sydney team - he grew up in Liverpool, played grade cricket for Western Suburbs and has gone to great lengths to promote the game in the area.

Clarke retired from Australian Twenty20 duties to concentrate on the longer formats of the international game. But after skipping the initial Indian Premier League seasons for family reasons, he made his debut for the Pune Warriors this year.

Clarke, who sat out the inaugural BBL season, would be a massive drawcard to the tournament. He would also bolster a Thunder batting line-up which includes West Indian opener Chris Gayle, renowned hitter Mark Cosgrove and Shahid Afridi. As revealed in The Sun-Herald, the Thunder are also in talks with English superstar Kevin Pietersen, who could be subbed in for Afridi when the Pakistani all-rounder departs midway through the domestic season. English keeper-batsman Matt Prior is also a possibility of filling the vacant import spot.

Should either Clarke or Warner commit, there won't be a ground capable of holding the Thunder batsmen. Their busy international schedules mean they will only be available for cameo appearances, but either signature would be a marketing and promotional boon. Clarke has spoken passionately about promoting the game throughout the Sydney's west and earlier this year won the Wests Ashfield Leagues Club's Magpie Award for outstanding sporting achievement in the district.

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Exploding DVD player leaves three-year-old with severe burns

Scarred ... Ava Lyons suffered severe burns to her hand and face after a portable DVD player caught fire while she was travelling in the family car.A Bendigo mother has spoken of the horror of learning her three-year-old daughter had suffered severe burns when a portable DVD player exploded in her lap in the family car.
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"It kills me that I couldn't be there when she needed me," Amber Lyons told the Bendigo Advertiser.

"It's every parent's nightmare, first to be told that it had happened, but secondly, to have witnessed it."

Mrs Lyons' husband, Heath, and their daughter, Ava, were travelling towards Rochester on July 21 when he noticed a burning smell in the car.

Mr Lyons pulled to the side of the road to investigate, suspecting the smell had come from the car bonnet.

Suddenly, he witnessed a flash inside the car and ran to the door to find his daughter screaming with some of her clothing on fire.

Mr Lyons quickly pulled his daughter from the car and used her apple drink to extinguish the flames.

He said the explosion, which originated from the sealed battery compartment of the device, left Ava's padded seatbelt covers smouldering, as well as a soft toy she had sitting with her.

Ava, who was flown from Rochester to the Royal Children's Hospital, suffered partial thickness burns to her right hand, as well as superficial burns to her cheeks, lips, nose, eye lids and eyebrows.

"At this stage Heath is quite shaken by the event and is understandably experiencing some stress and anxiety at witnessing his daughter sustain such horrendous injuries," Mrs Lyons said.

"No one wants to see their kid on fire."

Since the incident, Ava has travelled to the Royal Children's Hospital once a week to visit a cosmetic surgeon and burns specialist to undergo routine assessment and, according to mum, is on the mend.

But the scars go beyond those skin deep.

"During the day, she's great but during the night she will have nightmares, dreaming she is on fire and thrash around," Mrs Lyons said.

"She will come to me and ask, 'Mummy, will the fire get me again?'"

Mrs Lyons is now calling for parents to think twice about allowing children to use the portable devices.

A recall notice was issued on the Dick Smith branded DVD player at the weekend, stating "fears its internal battery could overheat, ignite and burn users".

"Almost everyone we know with children owns these devices to keep the kids occupied in the car – we had no idea the batteries were so volatile," Mrs Lyons said.

"It's too early at this stage to determine how Ava's injuries, both physical and emotional, will heal."

- Bendigo Advertiser

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Tuber plays sweet notes

Fresh ideas ... Restaurant Atelier chef Darren Templeman's venison with yacon.It tastes sugary, but it's a vegetable. It resembles a sweet potato, but is related to Jerusalem artichokes and sunflowers. It hails from the Andes, but was little-known outside South America until it gained popularity in Japan.
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Yacon is a tuber that resembles a jicama cross-bred with a water chestnut and it has started to appear in diverse dishes at Sydney restaurants and cafes.

Rhys Hart, of Jack of Harts & Jude at Engadine, serves a salad of peeled yacon ribbons with fresh guava, walnuts, goat's cheese and prosciutto. ''My customers love it,'' he says, comparing the taste to fresh sugar cane.

At Marrickville's Cornersmith cafe, Alex Elliott-Howery has experimented with pickling yacon, making yacon syrup and serving it thinly shaved in a salad with radish, poached pear and pomegranate.

''It keeps its crunch, which is what we like about it,'' she says.

This season is only the second yacon harvest for NSW growers such as Field to Feast in Campbelltown and Going Organic in Towrang, near Goulburn, and the first time local produce has been sold commercially. It's still only grown in small amounts.

The chef at Restaurant Atelier in Glebe, Darren Templeman, first spotted yacon on Field to Feast's order sheet late last year. ''I was like, what is this? Then I thought: OK, I'll just give it a go,'' he says.

Researching online, he saw he could reduce yacon juice into a heavy syrup, which he first used in desserts. Now he creates a dark yacon caramel with butter and white-wine vinegar that goes into a savoury eschalot tatin. ''It lets the eschalot shine instead of being overpowered by a conventional sugar caramel,'' Templeman says.

He also makes a sous vide confit of yacon, which he uses in a sweet and sour salad with turnip and baby radishes, and has created a dish of cocoa-roasted venison loin with yacon, carrot puree and warrigal greens.

''Yacon is very versatile,'' Templeman says. ''It's amazing how it's not been utilised more by chefs.''

For Jessica Aissou of Going Organic, yacon was a surprise crop - it grew from an unidentified rhizome she received from a supplier. Research and tastings convinced her of its potential, and her entire second harvest was snapped up this year by the chef and owner of Wafu in Surry Hills, Yukako Ichikawa.

Though Ichikawa intends to close the restaurant, she will stay open during August and serve her dish of yacon slices with sesame seeds and a white miso, brown-rice vinegar and agave syrup dressing.

The root was introduced to Japan in the 1980s; the country now grows one of the largest crops outside South America. A mistake many people make when cooking with yacon for the first time is treating it like a potato, Ichikawa says. It is more similar in taste and texture to a nashi pear. Rather than boiling, mashing or roasting it, in Japan the root is fried in tempura batter or used in stir-fries. Ichikawa also brews the leaves into a medicinal tea.

Yacon has a reputation as a health food. In Japan, it is used to treat hypoglycaemia - it contains a low-GI form of fructose that doesn't get absorbed by the body, so it doesn't cause sugar-level spikes. Yacon syrup is used as an alternative natural sweetener for diabetics, as well as being a honey substitute for vegans.

Catherine Fiefia at Field to Feast says she and her husband, Hapi, began growing yacon ''on a whim'' two years ago, starting with six plantings.

They now grow a much bigger crop and sell it to organic restaurants and health-food stores, as well as to customers at markets around Sydney, including The Sydney Morning Herald Growers' Market. For those unsure of how to approach yacon, Fiefa offers advice on its many facets, including the foliage. ''Apparently, you can use the leaves in cooking, like a banana leaf,'' she says.

The Sydney Morning Herald Growers' Market, Pyrmont Bay Park, Pyrmont (opposite The Star) is on Saturday, 7-11am.

For Cornersmith's radish, pear and yacon salad recipe, see cuisine南京夜网.au.Follow Cuisine on Twitter

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What’s in season – July 31 round-up

Mouth puckeringly tart ... cumquats. Tart ... cumquats are excellent for making marmalade.
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Cumquats

Most cumquats grown in Australian home gardens are the calamondins variety. The fruit is round, can grow to the size of a golf ball and is mouth-puckeringly tart. Commercial growers grow nagami cumquats instead. This variety has small, oval fruit with an inside-out flavour profile: the juice is sour but the skin is sweet - well, sweetish. The whole package popped in the mouth is very refreshing. They are eaten fresh or sliced and added to desserts or salads, but the usual use for nagamis is marmalade. They make marmalade so good it's a challenge not to just skip the toast and eat it by the spoonful. Jam makers should keep an eye out for bargain boxes.

WAYS WITH CUMQUATS For a tangy salad, slice cumquats horizontally and remove the seeds. Toss the slices with torn butter lettuce, cubes of avocado, a few leaves of shredded radicchio and de-seeded dried black olives. Dress with a white wine and olive oil-based dressing.

Sand whiting This fish is found all along the eastern seaboard and is in peak supply in winter. Most sand whiting available in Sydney is caught in southern Queensland and northern NSW. The fish have a habit of hanging around in dense shoals in sandy shallows, which partly explains why the species is one of the most affordable locals lined up on the ice at the fishmongers. The ubiquity of the sand whiting may also explain why it's not more fashionable. Its South Australian cousin, the King George whiting, is prized as one of the country's best-eating fish. Yet the common sandy's flavour is good - so good that many Japanese chefs prefer it for sashimi. Sand whiting also earns a tick from the Australian Marine Conservation Society. It's usually sold as thin fillets backed by its slightly speckled silvery skin, though it can also be found as whole fish. The fish is quite low in oil, so gentle, speedy cooking methods are best: pan frying, steaming or grilling.

Eschalots The sweet, mild flavour of these little onions means they are a favourite in sauces, dressings and salads. They also add a nutty, sweet crunch when deep-fried slices are scattered over anything with a south-east Asian bent. But cooks may curse when they are on an ingredients list because they can be the devil to peel. The tight, shiny, slippery skin on fresh eschalots is frustratingly resistant to fingers keen to remove it quickly. Soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes softens the skins and makes them easier to peel once drained and cooled. A rustic alternative to wrestling with the eschalot skin is simply to roast them whole, skin-on, with the root end cut off to avoid explosive accidents. Such tactics won't do for an eschalot tarte tatin or for eschalots braised in red wine, but with a roast chook, this alternative is just fine.

WHAT TO BUY

Asian greens Still growing fast, despite the cold.

Bananas The grey-tinged skin disguises really tasty fruit.

Brussels sprouts Choose a size to suit, from baby to big.

Capsicum Prices are coming down as fruit arrives from Bowen.

Jerusalem artichokes Add to the roasting dish.

Kumara Huge ones are cheap and tasty.

Onions Browns are at bargain prices.

Oranges Blood oranges are at their best.

Pears Red Anjou is a pretty pick.

Passionfruit Buy unwrinkled fruit.

Rhubarb Look for bunches of firm stems.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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More homes coming but ‘nowhere near enough’

Building approvals for Perth homes are on the rise again but still not enough to keep up with WA's booming population.WA home building approvals have returned to normal levels two months after almost halving but the industry is warning they remain 30 per cent below what is required to house the state's booming population.
Nanjing Night Net

A gap of about 500 dwellings each month was accruing, adding pressure on the rental market and eventually the home building sector, Master Builders Australia WA director Michael McLean said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday showed Perth's outer fringes recorded the fastest and largest population growth in the decade to June 2011, with some areas growing more rapidly than anywhere else in the country.

At June last year there were 2.35 million people living in WA, a 24 per cent increase in the past decade, compared to the national average of 15 per cent.

Between 2001 and 2011, Greater Perth increased by 380,100 people, or 26 per cent.

However, a separate ABS report also released yesterday shows the number of new homes built in the past year declined 13 per cent, following an 18 per cent fall in 2009-10.

BIS Shrapnel last year forecast that the state would build 3500-6000 fewer homes than what was needed each year between 2011-12 and 2015-16.

Mr McLean said the state needed about 2000 new dwellings each month to accommodate the rapid population growth. The state has averaged about 1500 in the past 12 months.

At the same time, rentals have escalated, while the vacancy rate has fallen below 2 per cent.

"Anything less than [2000 new homes each month] highlights the under-building in terms of new dwellings," Mr McLean said.

"At the end of the day that tends to catch up with you so that when the tide comes in it can be a bit of a tsunami, overwhelming people who want to get into the market."

Residential building approvals increased 28 per cent in June, compared to May, which also increased 25 per cent in the month.

However, the figures come off the back of a dramatic 47 per cent decline in April following the introduction of the new Building Act, which led the state government to convene emergency meetings to fix the flawed system.

The number of approvals in June was of a similar level to February and greater than each month between November and January. It remains 11 per cent below March levels.

Housing Industry Association WA director John Dastlik said a significant proportion of the increase in June was in units and apartments after months of lagging behind detached houses.

He expected the total number of approvals to have increased again during July and to continue to climb for the rest of the year.

"We're not quite back to where we should be ... based on finance approvals and sales data coming through," Mr Dastlik said.

Which suburbs grew fastest?

Perth's sprawling population saw some outer suburbs grow by four, five and six times their size in 2001, ABS data released yesterday shows.

Ellenbrook in the city's north-east recorded the largest growth, increasing by 258 per cent to 17,700 people.

Canning Vale attracted the second largest number of new residents, 15,600 or 263 per cent. That was followed by Madeley-Darch-Landsdale (up 15 300 or 323 per cent), Butler-Merriwa-Ridgewood (14,900 or 283 per cent) and Baldivis (13,900 or 412 per cent).

The fastest growth was in Bertram-Wellard, which sextupled its population.

Tapping - Ashby - Sinagra grew by a whopping 572 per cent, followed by  Forrestdale-Harrisdale-Piara Waters (up 478 per cent), Baldivis (412 per cent) and Success-Hammond Park (up 367 per cent).

Outside of Perth, the Pilbara recorded the largest and fastest population increase (23,300 people or 59 per cent).

Bunbury increased 19,000, while Augusta-Margaret River-Busselton was the second fastest growing population (31 per cent).Follow WAtoday on TwitterComment at WAtoday

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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