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.  

Friday, 21 October 2011

Final days on the Camino

Not great photos, but really want to show you gorgeous Galicia, the last region we pass through the Camino.  Galicia sits behind a mountain and faces the Atlantic.  It's wet and cold in winter and the weather is unpredictable.  The effort was definitely worth it and saw sunrise above the valley, with hills that stretches as far as the eye could see.  The sun was burning red, caused by the recent bushfire in region.

We scaled the mountain from Villafranca early in the morning, and climbed for a few hours to see the valley below us.  We walked through lush forests that seems to go on forever and the floor was filled with chestnuts.  Oh, autumn is definitely the time to walk the Camino.

I think, this is my favourite region of the entire Camino.  Perhaps, passing through Eucalyptus forests on the last day reminded me of home, the cooler weather, the green forests, the fog, happy cows and calda gallego.  Oh, I have found a new love -- walking through the forest early in the morning, in silence, under the moon and stars.  No wonder the Camino such is a spiritual journey.

On the eve of the final day of the Camino, I can't but be sad that this journey is coming to an end. It's been challenging (horrendous weather, lead-like legs, bed bugs to just name a few), but it's been fun and have met some fantastic people.  Everyone has a reason to be on the Camino, and am lucky enough that a few have shared their stories with me.

I am yet to understand what had just happened and certainly need time for reflection.  To be honest, I still can't quite believe that the Camino is over, and that I have walked nearly 800km from one end of the country to another.  There's been nothing else quite like it.

I am planning on my next Camino already, and all I want to do is to keep walking...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Camino de Santiago. Week 3/4

Not many photos from the last week or so, as we've spent most of the time walking through roads through industrial towns.  It's hard to muster the will, or the inspiration to take photographs after kilometres and kilometres of urbanisation.

Thankfully, we got out of the city and back into the mountains and forests yesterday and here´s a few captures from today´s walk.

A cross not far from the end of Foncebadon.

Then the sunrise, soon after the cross.

Walking up to the cross on top of the hill, possibly my favourite photo from this trip thus far.  The backpack and the walker, leaving his mark on the dusty road.  Many people leave small tokens on this hill, a rock, a shirt, trinkets.  I left a little necklace that was given to me by Catherine at the first albergue at SJPP.  It had two charms on it: a key for opening doors and a Maria for protection.  It had served me well, and I felt it was appropriate to leave it there now.

Sunrise through the woods.  We turned around after leaving our momento on the cross and saw this amazing light.  What a day.

202.5km to Santiago. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Camino de Santiago, more from week 2

At the cross upon a small hill, just after Atapuerca.

The Meseta, the soulless plateaus.  There was miles and miles and miles of farmland, and this was the first tree I had seem for hours.

Dinner by candle light at Saint Nicholas, a restored 13th century church decked out with 12 bunk beds.  We've had 13 guests that night, Rico from Germany walked in late in the afternoon, and Mariam offered to sleep on the floor instead.  That sums up the Camino for me :)  Generous, helpful people all the way.

Leaving Saint Nicholas the next morning, guided by a lamp lit by the doorsteps.  We had a lovely send off with both of our hosts.  One last look over the hill we´ve passed yesterday:

And then, it´s walk, walk and more walk.  Another day on the Camino.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Camino de Santiago. Week 2

Not too many words, but would like to share some photos of the trip so far.

Grand Catedral at Pamplona, despite its finery and golden altarpieces, you can still find is a simple cross.

Sunrise, leaving wine country of Rioja.

Shoes, shoes and more shoes.  Choose your stink!  This is a little volunteer run albergue run completely and restored by volunteers around 15 years ago.  They have not only provided a place for us to sleep, but also dinner, and breakfast as well.  Donation is accepted if you can afford it, but you can also take money out from the donation box too.  It's great system, and fosters trust and love.  I hope to volunteer there when I am in Spain next.

Sunset at Atapuerca, site of some of the earliest human remains, and a UNESCO heritage site.  We sat at the hills over looking the peaceful lake, with great gusty wind against our faces.  You can see a wind farm poking tat the hill just over the horizon.  Such modernisation juxtaposed against such a historic site.  It was a special moment.

More to come, but lights out in 15 minutes!