Friday, 28 October 2011

All Beefed Up at the Agrarian Kitchen

Apologies for the late post -- I've been a little distracted with travel, but finally, here's my full post of the very first "All Beefed Up" class at the Agrarian Kitchen.

The class was held at the end of August and I again, I was kindly invited back to photograph the event.  Just like the "Whole Hog" class, it was held over two days where we learnt we were shown all the cuts and their uses.  The beef in this class was the Robbins Island Wagyu, grown locally on an island north west of Tasmania.  John Hammond from Hammonds Farms joined us on the first day and we able to speak to the farmer himself about how these cattle were raised.

The farm is located in one of the cleanest environment in the world, afterall, the north west of Tasmania has a baseline air quality station run by Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.  Measurements taken from this site to compare against air quality around the world and acts as a yardstick for pollution.  Beef grown in this environment, roaming from island to island has got to be extraordinary.

And it was.

Marcus from Vermey's Butcher was back to demonstrate how the cuts were made, again with same precision and speed as I saw in the last class.  Due the the size of the cattle, it was broken into three sections before the class had started, but it was still a lot of work to break it all down into cuts.  Just to give you an idea on the sheer quantity of beef we had, there was 18kg of sausage mince.

The beef was simply beautiful:

The class got to work quickly, cutting, sawing and gathering ingredients for our dishes.  We had 14 dishes on the menu over the next two days, so there was a lot of work to do!

To start off the day, slices of beef that were flattened for the carpaccio.  For some reason, they ended up looking like a map of Australia.  It was eaten with much pride.

The beef was so soft and full of flavour, and was amazing with the crispy polenta squares and chilli oil.  Every now and then, there's a hit of saltiness from salt flakes.  Who would have thought beef could be so refreshing?  It was a fabulous start to lunch.

Unfortunately, I had to take off earlier that day, so didn't manage to photograph the other dishes.  Don't worry, lunch the next day's lunch had many dishes and photographed in full.

We returned to the kitchen for breakfast.  It was a beef short-rib soup that was prepared from the day before.  It was an Asian inspired soup with a lightly spiced clear broth served with rice noodles.  The beef was tender from the hours it had spent in the pot and had gently flavoured the soup.  It had reminded me of mum's soups.

The class got straight back into the kitchen after the filling and nourishing breakfast to make continue yesterday's cooking for what was to be, a very, very long lunch.

Our first course was the mini beef burger, inspired by Rockpool's menu.  Everything apart from the cheese was made in-house: brioche bun, tomato sauce, marinated beetroot, and lettuce from the garden and freshly made shoestring fries.  It's going to be difficult to find burgers that could be half as good as this.

We then made some fresh pasta for the Ragu all a Bolognaise.  The beef was slow cooked, shredded and then cooked again before adding to the pasta.  It was comfort food at its best -- silky pasta with a robust beef sauce.  

We then had the confit of beef tongue that slow cooked in fat in a slow oven.  It was served cooled with some mustard and baby radishes from the garden.  The texture was surprisingly soft due to the slow cooking and had its own unique flavour.  It was thoroughly enjoyable and not something I usually eat.

I'll end this rather long post with some of the delicious dishes we've made:  beef with chilli jam, wagyu sausages, stuffed beef cheeks and beef shin agrodolce, beef pie and yes, a dessert!  It was the apple and suet pudding with caramel sauce.

Thank you again to Severine and Rodney for inviting me back to the kitchen.  The classes are great as always, and I even as an observer, I constantly come away with new knowledge and appreciation for food.  

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Truffle Lunch at Garagistes with 121BC

A few weeks ago, I was asked to photograph a special truffle lunch at Garagistes.  It was a lunch featuring cuisine and wine from Piedmont, home to Giorgio De Maria of 121BC.  It was great to see Peter from Perigord Truffles again, and taste some of his delicious truffles grown right here in Tasmania. 

The lunch was one of the best meals I've ever had, and I have trouble picking out my favourite dish.  It could be the risotto, or the agnolotti.  Oh, but real pannacotta is just so good, and who can forget about the bagna caoda?  The matching wines was brilliant, they complemented and added so much to each course.  Some of the wines hadn't been opened for 20 years!  It was a revelation.

It was great fun to photograph the event at Garagistes.  The restaurant had lovely soft light coming through the top, and I love the wooden tables with the black walls.  The kitchen is right next to the dining area, and we could see the whole team working.  You can't help but be excited by the energy that's coming from the other side of the bench.  Plating up risotto has never been more fun to watch.

My friend Stephen Escourt from Reminiscence of a Food Tragic will be writing up a detailed account of the lunch very soon.

In the meantime, here's just a few more photos from the day:

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Whole Hog at the Agrarian Kitchen

I am truly the luckiest person in the world :)  I was back in the Agrarian Kitchen last week to take photos and attend the Whole Hog class.  It was taken by one of the best butcher in Hobart, Marcus Vermey, of Vermey's Quality Meats in Sandy Bay.  What followed was two whole days of pork heaven, using everything from nose to tail, turning the hog into 13 dishes.  

The day began with Marcus and Rodney hanging one large pig from the ceiling.  These pigs are of a rare bred, the Wessex Saddleback, and you can read more about them here.  They have just been added to the Ark of Taste!  The animal was a lot bigger than I had imagined and looked like it was hard work to lift it up.  It had a good life.

With the hog secured to the ceiling, we were introduced to Marcus.  Marcus is from a family of butchers from Holland.  What I didn't know was that Marcus was trained in a supermarket, back in the days when they had real butchers and meat wasn't wrapped in plastic trays.  He has won the Work Skills Australia competition in 92/93 and have worked overseas before settling back in Tasmania to take over his father's business in Sandy Bay.  What an amazing teacher we have for the class.

It was time to get to the meat of the class (!)  Marcus began working on the body, and wow, what an eye opener.  All too soon, it was cut into three main sections, head, torso, back legs.  His knife sliced across the body with little effort, using precise and certain cuts with the blade.  Familiar cuts quickly emerged: ribs, loins and bellies.  He was so quick, I had a hard time keeping up.  It was a real treat to see a such a skilled butcher.  There was pride in his work and admiration for the animal.  It was the perfect way to honour the pig.

Each of us were set to a task, separating the ribs, shaving the ears, cutting up the fat.  No part of the pig was spared -- any fat remaining would go into the lard pot, organs were cut up to put into the crepetine, and anything else, including the head, tail and trotter went into the stock pot.  All skin was put onto a baking tray and baked as crackling.  While we were busy, Rodney made the amazing rolled stuffed pork.  The kitchen was in full swing!

We worked through the morning and soon, the pork feast began: crepetine, rolled pork stuffed with prunes and crackling, fresh salad and roasted veggies and a fresh garden salad.  While we were ate in the dining room, Marcus cooked the chops on the open fireplace.  The grill got pretty hot!

The busy morning and one many pieces of crackling got the better of me.  I wanted a siesta.  But there's more dishes to get ready for the next day, and after much persuasion from Rodney, we headed back to the kitchen.  We made a start on the bacon, the sausages meat was minced and seasoned, and we made baked beans that was to be cooked in the woodfire oven overnight.

This is what we had waiting for us for breakfast the next morning.  Needless to say, it was a tasty start to another day at the Agrarian Kitchen. 

We made so many dishes the next day: sausages, ribs, tacos, pie and pigs ear salads and lardy cake.  Here's a few photographs from day 2:

The day ended with a very very very long lunch with a never-ending parade of pork dishes.  It was a complete celebration of the hog.  Only the nose bone and tail remain untouched. 

Dear Mr. August, thank you for the life you have given.  It was very much appreciated.