Once I’d finished my epic 12 km walk on Saturday, it was time to start preparing my feast for the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge. This was Week 4’s mini-challenge: to have a dinner party where all the food is from Tasmania.
I’ll put my confessions up front. The butter we had in the fridge wasn’t Tasmanian, and I forgot to buy some of the Tassie butter. I didn’t buy Tasmanian olive oil. And I’m pretty sure sugar and coconuts don’t grow here. I also used salt, which I didn’t think could be obtained from Tasmania either. (But I later found Spice Tasmania, which does produce a salt blend locally – but from the information on the website, it looks like it’s a blend designed for cooking with fish, not as a general table/cooking salt.)
Now that’s out of the way, I can get on with the post!
“Dinner party” implies more people than just us, so I invited Lil Sis, Mr Tall and their friend Mr Not-as-Tall. Two of these people have worked as chefs, so there was no pressure. None at all.
I decided on my menu earlier in the week:
Course 1 – Dips and vegetables
Course 2 – Pumpkin soup and bread
Course 3 – Slow roast beef from Two Metre Tall with roasted pumpkin, beetroot and baby spinach salad
Course 4 – Apple crumble with Valhalla Ice Cream
I bought the ingredients during the week, making sure I was only shopping at Tasmanian businesses (from my previous post) and I was only buying Tasmanian products.
My main problem was getting hold of Tasmanian pumpkin – there didn’t seem to be a lot of it around. I’m not sure if it’s a bit too early in the season, but I was almost at the point of changing the menu to carrot soup, when I finally found some at Eumarrah. Day saved!
I made myself a running sheet so I knew what I had to be doing when. If you’re doing a multi-course dinner I would highly recommend doing this so you don’t forget anything and everything’s ready at the right time.
And here’s how it happened . . .
After I got back from my walk, I put the beef bones (souced from Two Metre Tall quite some time ago) into the oven to roast for the beef stock. I’d never done roasted beef bone stock before, but it’s a great way to do it and the stock I ended up with was fantastic.
While they were roasting, we headed off to the local market for some veggies and some take-home laksa for lunch, because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do anything for lunch.
When we got home, it was time to put the bones and vegetables into the stock pot. It simmered away all day and I took out the stock as I needed it.
At midday I got the beef (a 2.3 kg piece of chuck steak we’d picked up from Two Metre Tall on Friday) ready for the slow cooker.
I seasoned it with salt and pepper, seared it all over and put it in the pot with vegetables, some of the Tasmanian mountain pepper berries that I bought in Week 1, and a cooking liquid that used some of the stock and might have included some of this.
At the same time I roasted the beetroot and garlic in the oven for the beetroot dip.
Once I’d made the two dips (tzatziki and beetroot – using Elgaar yogurt), I had a bit of a break so I could do some housework (yay) and get the dining room ready for guests.
The cooking-in-earnest phase began at 4.00, when I cut up the pumpkins for the soup and salad, the beetroots and the apples. If you ever have to cut up a lot of pumpkin, I suggest allowing about an hour for this task.
The soup cooked away nicely, the salad veggies roasted very well, the apples stewed, the dips were ready for a 6.00 start and I was ready to do this.
The rest of the evening was busy, making sure everything was ready with the other things it was meant to be ready with. You know, things like cider.
I used the Tasmainan mountain pepper in the soup. I served it with woodfired bread from Redlands Estate that we got from the market and cream from Elgaar – and chives from Lil Sis’ garden.
The beef roast was divine. I think it’s the best beef roast I’ve ever done and I’ll definitely do this again. Especially as it needs a bottle of wine to be opened.
I loved the beetroot and pumpkin salad that went with it – the highlight of this was the Tasmanian walnuts from Tamar Valley Organic, (that I got from City Organics). They were cracked open and scattered over the top straight away. Fresh, unopened walnuts are infinitely superior to the opened ones that you can buy in the shops. I always thought I didn’t like walnuts, but now I know I don’t like pre-opened ones. These were wonderful.
The accompanying wine for the main course was another Derwent Estate. This time a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, which we love, and managed to get the last 5 bottles from the cellar door a couple of years ago. A worthy wine for this dinner!
I found a very strange recipe for apple crumble online, and the topping reminded me more of an ANZAC biscuit than a crumble topping. It worked pretty well, although I think I could have done with 3 or 4 more apples because they weren’t very big.
We finished off the evening with some Pyengana cheddar cheese and the black garlic I bought in Week 1. It had an interesting flavour and I think it complemented the cheese (and wine) very well.
And that was it. A huge day of cooking. Done. I survived and everyone seemed to be happy.
I really don’t like cooking very much. The only time I enjoy it is when it’s something I can do over a few hours, have a glass (or two) of wine while I’m doing it and get totally immersed in it. This ticked all those boxes, and the fact that it was so close to being completely Tasmanian made me very happy (I’m still annoyed I forgot about the butter though).
I might do it again one day.