Posts Tagged Cooking in Tasmania

Slow Food Hobart Tour de Tasman

Now we are living in Tasmania permanently we have finally had a chance (last month) to join the Slow Food Hobart Convivium on a field trip – it was to the southern region known as the Forestier Peninsula. John and I have been members for many years and in Brisbane where I was a co-founder of Slow Food. Some encouragement was offered by Australian food legend Maggie Beer. Maggie said to me that I should start-up a Slow Food Convivium when I complained we did not have a branch in Queensland.IMG_3183

Here are some photos of the day that began at 9am on a chartered bus from Hobart with about 48 other people. A special tour guide assisted with a commentary on what to expect, how to behave and generally took us to task if our Tasmanian history was rusty. At first when I spotted our guide I was concerned that we would slip back into our ‘ten year old’ attention deficit personalities but our chef who was moonlighting from his ‘real’ job as a member of the Blue Cow Theatre Group kept our attention.

IMG_2887First stop was the Bream Creek Farmers Market where we all dispersed and bought up big, the bus opening its luggage compartment to fit in the produce. Once tasted we had to have a bottle of Honk mustard.IMG_2885

Sea Eagle Seafoods had good array of seafood products, but we could not buy this day as we did not have our ice packs with us but these products are available elsewhere.IMG_2886

Then it was on to the picturesque Marion Bay to visit the Daly family potato farm. Tasmanians are leaders in potato growing and this large farm and its processing shed made potatoes more interesting than usual.IMG_2879

Back at the market, we could not resist the Tasmanian grown walnuts.IMG_2880

A pie maker – these pasties were beautiful but knowing we had a special lunch ahead we decided on one of their pork pies for later consumption.IMG_2881

We then headed off to the historic property Bangor.  Its owner Matt Dunbabin greeted us at the relatively new vineyard he has put in and our surprise treat was that his friend and fellow farmer Tom Gray who has oyster lease No 170 nearby brought oysters to eat in the vineyard. In the near future a tasting room will be built here and both Tom’s oysters and Matt’s wine will be on offer in the same location.IMG_2898

Matt hopped into the bus with us and as we drove around his large farm he gave us some information on the long history of Bangor. He selected a place to stop on his property just by the water and we had our lunch. A special picnic lunch made for us by the Dunalley Primary P & F  along with local producers; Little Quoin and Eloise Emmett. Little Quoin and Eloise Emmett .

Lots of  cool climate wines were generously poured and we tucked into quiches, heirloom tomatoes, potato salad, baked ham and salmon, followed by summer puddings and the best Tasmanian creams, thick and clotted.IMG_2902

By now you should be wishing you were there. Should you wish to join SF Hobart here is the contact:  slowfoodtas@yahoo.com.au

or visit the Slow Food organisation’s website for more information.

 

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La trouchia a French way with Chard

IMG_9228My generous neighbours gave me some freshly picked chard and I decided to use it two ways. I decided on La trouchia, a Provencal recipe using the leaves and the stalks for an au gratin dish. In Nice you can buy slices in the streets as a snack. It is pronounced ‘troo-sha’.

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This is how thick the chard mixture looks in the pan, a very thick mix

It is a flat green omelette using chard from the southern area of Provence, a close cousin of  the Italian frittata. I found a good version of La trouchia in Robert Carrier’s Feasts of Provence.

I stripped the leaves and washed it well, then finely sliced and drained it well. Then I added a big bunch of chopped parsley, also another gift from our neighbours, basil from my garden. I whisked up 8 whole eggs stirred in 50g grated parmesan cheese, a generous pinch of cayenne pepper (you can detect it in the background so don’t leave out, a ground of white pepper and sea salt. I heated 4 tablespoons olive oil in my large frypan  and added all the mixture at once.

Slid onto flat plate

Cooked one side and slid onto flat plate

At first it looks like there is too much chard but you just keep pressing it down with a slotted spatula and the egg begins to come through to the top. I put a lid on top whilst cooking so it would not dry out.

first cooked side up

Back in the pan and the first cooked side up

When it was cooked on one side I slid it carefully on to a flat cake serving plate and then flipped it back in the pan to cook the reverse side. If you have made a Spanish potato omelette it is very similiar technique.

IMG_9237Turned out on the cake plate before going back in the pan.IMG_9238

Finally returned to the cake plate and served a slice or two.

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We had it as a light dinner and the rest went into the fridge for lunch. My suggestion is to serve it with Nicoise olives.  This could be wonderful in a lunch box for children and adults. I gave a piece to my tiler and he could easily eat it in between slathering cement gunk on the back of tiles.

IMG_9244This is the chard au gratin I cooked with the stems.

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Could not resist ending with my lovely kitchen view.

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Mr Stein’s Stuffed Squid, a keeper

Two squid the line, too clever

My first squid on the line made me squeal, not so much with excitement but with horror when I was squirted with its brown sludge, it is the squid’s revenge. A couple of hours later I had the final say when it went into the cooking pot.

Rick Stein has a recipe for stuffed squid in his Seafood Odyssey book and I followed it to the letter, although I first time round I did make my own sweet chilli sauce.

Entree version

I did a seafood course in Rick Stein’s cooking school in Padstow last year and he is now the first reference when I am looking for new seafood recipes. I have over a thousand books to refer to but I know Rick’s are well tested and he does have an unquestionable palate.

Ready for the steamer

The squid are stuffed. You could do this ahead of time, place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap until you are ready to cook.

Asian steamer's top tray and lid sits nicely on my wok

Squid warning! –  don’t overfill as the filling does swell during cooking.

Steamed and ready to slice and serve

As a main we served it on a bed of rice.

The first version we served as a main after entree of local oysters. We are blessed living close to two oyster leases.

Hot and not too sweet sauce

I perfected removing the squid's two wing flaps in one piece

I had guests staying who are of Malaysian heritage and thought twice about serving something with an Asian influence, specially as I had not made it before but Rick Stein came up trumps, why wouldn’t he, whirling around the world all the time, running restaurants, writing cookbooks and best of all he spends a lot of time in Australia where there is no shortage of Asian ingredients.

Rob and Jan are my fishing partners, but Jan isn’t keen on the cleaning part so Rob and I got stuck in. He removed the heads and all the entrails and I worked on the wing flaps and the rest.  The official name for our catch is ‘Nototodarus Gouldi’ Gould’s squid or simply arrow squid.

The boat slip in Binalong Bay has this handy fish cleaning table that was supplied by local St Helen’s stainless steel fabricators ‘Fish Quip’. We just wash it down at the end and give all the scraps to the always hungry pelicans and seagulls.

My enthusiasm for squid had my husband heading into the East Lines fishing shop in nearby St Helens to look for some squid jigs, he could not be sure which ones to buy so I now have two.

I will remember to take off the orange plastic keeper

I had leftover stuffing so I steamed it in a flattish dish, and next day I used it as a filling in a sandwich for Rob pictured above.  The only thing I would change in the recipe is to add a little egg white to bind the filling a little better.  All good cooks cannot help tweaking each other’s recipes, I am sure Rick won’t mind.

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My minimalist kitchen

My new ‘minimalist kitchen’ is complete. Yet a kitchen that boasts minimalism seems such a contradiction to its function, an oxymoron for certain. It is impossible to use and enjoy cooking food in a kitchen that looks like a show home but after a lifetime of having a kitchen that says a cook lives here, I have finally opted for an uncluttered kitchen. But I have a secret to share, I have a small pantry/kitchen hidden away behind sliding doors. Years of experience told me it is impossible to cook in a perfect kitchen.

I kept the main kitchen area as uncluttered as possible since it looks into the living and dining area but most of all my working area faces a beautiful view. I dislike overhead cupboards and I have banished handles, the white two pack surface of the cupboards and drawers are very easy to clean.

Kitchen bench tops get a battering and so I chose stainless steel as a surface for the business end. Stainless steel stands up to all who are clumsy in the kitchen and also if you drop something on steel it is more forgiving than stone. I did opt for reconstituted quartz stone on the servery bench facing the living area. The stone backsplash and bench is essentially white but it is randomly flecked with glitter. I had to have some glamour.

Together I have three ovens and I am still busy testing each one. Since I fitted out my last kitchen, some 16 years ago,  ovens have come a long way and now are finely tuned to do the thinking for you. One oven has an option of appointing myself the experienced cook or inexperienced. If using the latter, it senses the weight and even tells you which rack to place the dish on and voila, it cooks the chosen dish. If you choose the ‘expert mode’ that is me……then I just carry on as usual setting my own temperatures and deciding where to place the food.  There is a little computer in there that asks me if I want to save my personal favourite settings. I suppose if you haven’t cooked much and obtain one of these it would be like driving an automatic car from the day you get your licence and never ever driving a manual.

At last I have a rotisserie, actually two rotisseries just to show off a little, as two of the ovens have this feature. I haven’t tired of watching chickens rotating around and follow their progress as they turn golden.  If you are like me, some of the eating is done with my eyes then it definitely sets the mood to appreciate the meal before it is even on the table.

I also have a steam function in the oven you see here.  For my friends who know me as the owner of a former cookery school where I had Zanussi commercial equipment, I have bought from the De Dietrich range. De Dietrich is a French company who have begun to infiltrate the market here competing with Miele and Gaggenau.

I always said I would buy commercial ovens again as I am still using the ones I bought 16 years ago for the Brisbane house and they are still going strong but I was completely taken with these new domestic options. Also as I rent this house out when not here I thought commercial cooking tops and ovens may be daunting for people renting on a short term basis.

Yet the big departure from commercial equipment is not the new smart ovens but using an induction cooktop in place of gas.  I hate electric cooktops but this is induction and I thought it time to catch up with chefs who have converted. Not only is it quicker than gas, yes that is true, it is not messy, and at the end of each cooking session, needs a mere wipe. I don’t have to be a slave to cleaning a gas top, removing all the parts, soaking them and scrubbing with scourers.  I am not going to waste time spruiking about its energy efficiency, one of its redeeming features, I am just enjoying the intelligence of the cooktop as it heats the pots up or down as quickly as my mind works.

So if the principles of minimalism are to bring about a feeling of well being and energy, then I hope the holiday renters who come here next year  leave with the same feeling of exhilaration and refreshment as I will.

My next project the new front garden.

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Binalong Bay Fisherwoman

I have made a female friend here in Binalong Bay who loves to fish, every day if possible and I am now joining her regularly. Today she told other fisher-people that I will eat anything, well not quite I ventured to add.

Only a mother would love him

Many shells in the sea contain edible inhabitants but I decided after taking this one home and subjecting it to closer inspection that I would decline to eat it.  The eyes extend and its open large mouth was quite off-putting. You see the cooked version here and it still looks alive!  I had boiled the shell in water then when it cooled, coaxed it out.  The greyish oval shape in the bowl is the protective flat shell that shelters its head.

I did eat periwinkles I picked up off the beach, they are not so visually menacing. I soaked them in fresh water for a few hours then boiled them in a little salted water for a few minutes. After removing the protective shell on top, sliced and fried the meat in a little garlic, lemongrass and butter – utterly delicious. The official name of the Blue Periwinkle is Nodilittorina Unifasciata, how wonderfully Italian that sounds to me.

Local Periwinkle

My other experiment has been with Gummy Shark but it cannot be too experimental as according to one of my informers, the local restaurant Angasi has had it on the menu. It is sitting in the freezer as was advised by ‘veterans’ to keep it frozen for a week or so before using. I will give you an update when I cook it.

Abalone eating is not so experimental, Haliotis Rubra is Blacklip Abalone, once again a member of the sea-snail family, a gastropod mollusk. It is abundant around these parts but not being a diver I had to wait until a friendly and generous diver gave me some.

I removed them from the shell with a knife, next gave it a bash to tenderise the meat, some people have a cricket bat handy for the purpose, I only had a wooden rolling-pin. I washed the surface and used a brush to scrub the lips (edges) to remove the black that gives it its common name.

Inside and out Blacklip Abalone

The cooking part – I sliced it thinly and exposed it to the hot frying pan for only seconds. I chose to use simple asian style flavourings – see my mise en place ready so there is no delay when cooking the abalone as quickly as possible.

Mise en place

Steaming fish

I invested in a three tiered steamer and also have a new wok with its own steam tray so steaming has become very popular in my kitchen lately as it locks in all the flavours and not a bit of the fish is ever wasted. I am loving my new life fishing and cooking the results of my catch and our good friends generous donations to the cooking pot. Roz

Steamed Jackass Morwong

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Forage for veg in Avoca, Tasmania

On our way home after a day’s shopping trip to Launceston we stopped in Avoca, it is a small village that we normally drive straight through. We had slowed down as you must in towns, and noticed a small blackboard on the side of the road that advertised fresh vegetables and flowers. Even though it was late we figured the sign was still out so we took a detour.

Annie's cauliflower

At the gate, the owner Steve escorted us to the garden where his other half, Annie was still working. Annie asked us what we would like and immediately cut or pulled out the vegetables as we chose them.

Annie's garden

AvocaThe town of Avoca was known as Camp Hill and St Paul’s Plains.  It is very small yet described by Tasmanians’ as a principal town in the Fingal Valley – on the Esk Highway that runs across Tasmania to the east. It is  27 ks in from the Midlands Highway and serves the communities of Royal George and Rossarden, places we are yet to discover.

In 1833 John Wedge, surveyor and explorer, named the town, having been inspired by the Thomas More poem ‘The Sweet Vale of Avoca’. Avoca’s namesake is in County Wicklow in Ireland.

There are a number historic colonial buildings including the Parish Hall, the Union Hotel. Our new friends in Avoca are living in the handsome Marlborough House, built in 1845, that is thought to have been designed by James Blackburn, the architect who built St Thomas’ Anglican Church designed in a Romanesque Revival style directly opposite theirs, and the church at Port Arthur. Steve has almost finished restoring Marlborough House inside.

Marlborough House cat

Heirloom carrots on 'heirloom' white glass dish bought at St Helen's Saturday market

Whilst I am always anxious to immediately cook fresh picked garden vegetables, Annie’s carrots are grown from heirloom seeds ‘Lubyana’ (Daucas carota var. sativa) that did not end up in a cooking pot for a few days but then I suppose the ones we buy in the shops are ancient, but not ancient in the romantic meaning of the word. When I cooked the carrots I served them simply with Tasmanian Kennebec potatoes and tiny French style lentils grown in Australia.  If anyone is growing lentils in Tasmania let me know! The lentils I bought are distributed by Raw Materials who also sell on-line.

I had purchased the ‘Puy’ Lentils in Launceston’s enticing food and wine store Alps & Amici 52 Abbott St, East Launceston TAS 7250  (03) 6331 1777 (no website to refer you to).

Annie and Steve have just gained permission to open a cafe in the adjoining school house building so watch this space for more info on Marlborough House Garden Cafe in Blenheim Street Avoca. Roz


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Jellyfish inspire moulds

For the past few weeks jellyfish have appeared in the waters here in plague proportions, and today just below our house I found dozens of different sized jellyfish washed ashore. They were all fantastic in formation, size, colour and shape. There are many varieties of jellyfish in the ocean but in my opinion these ones, if they had vocal chords, would claim to have been the inspiration for early cooks in the creation of edible jelly.

Port Wine flavour?

Some of the jellyfish arrived in the same shade as the ‘Port Wine’ jelly that our parents favoured back in the 50’s.

Trying to avoid being stranded

Since 1995 there has been an unprecedented influx of jellyfish on the coastlines of Tasmania and I doubt from the evidence I have collected in these photos that it has abated.

Here are some important facts about the jellyfish – according to the experts, Dr Lisa Gershwin, QVMAG’s natural science curator and Dr Lisa Gershwin, QVMAG’s natural science curator ‘Cyanea capillata is a large medusoid jellyfish capable of inflicting painful stings to bathers. Its disc complex can be over half a metre in diameter and when alive it ranges in colour from bright pink to purple. Dead or dying specimens observed at or near the tideline are usually a light khaki brown. This sizeable invertebrate is, in many respects, a mysterious animal. Because its habitat is usually oceanic not a lot is known about its normal behaviour or life cycle. It seems likely that the El Nino influence on Pacific Ocean water temperatures is a significant factor in its local appearances.

Perfection of form

This primitive animal is virtually a large mouth, surrounded by many folds of prehensile tentacles suspended from the lower side of its broad disc. Additionally, eight bunches of long, translucent, spaghetti-like stinging tentacles hang, at regular intervals, from the disc’s periphery. There is a rudimentary nervous system which permits response to touch and taste, and also enables the animal to balance and swim. The stinging cells of C. capillata are called cnidoblasts and are unique in the Animal Kingdom. While it is possible to be stung by direct unwitting contact, the usual scenario is for swimmers to emerge from apparently clear water and experience a moderate to severe ‘nettle rash’ shortly afterwards. The reason is that stinging cells, detached from dead and dying jellyfish macerated by the surf, or attached to microscopic larval stages similarly distributed, remain potent for several days. Any exposed part of the body is susceptible, particularly the neck, chest and armpits. Cotton skivvies or rubber wet suits afford some protection. Stings on the face, especially the eyes, can be most unpleasant and often necessitate medical treatment. It is important not to rub the site of irritation which, in most adults, regresses after about an hour. If pain persists, a warm shower followed by swabbing the sting sites with household vinegar is usually quite effective. A degree of acclimatisation to C. capillata stings also occurs.’

I don’t think I will be able to eat jelly made from sugar crystals again without thinking of the battalion that were defeated on the shores today. Roz

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