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.