Tassievore eat local challenge – feast day 1

A few weeks ago Sustainable Living Tasmania launched the Living Local Feast challenge. Having been a keen participant in Tassievore Eat Local Challenge in 2014, which culminated in an actual dinner party, I toyed with signing up again this year. Lil Sis strongly encouraged me asked me if I was going to do it and, motivated by the chance to win a Tassievore gift pack if I was one of the first 20 to register, I decided to give it another go.

As in 2014, my challenge is to “invite your nearest and dearest around to your house for a meal cooked with mostly Tasmanian produce”. It struck me that it might be more difficult to do this than it had been in March 2014 because we are moving into winter and there might not be as much locally grown vegetables around.

I was very excited when Lissa from Sustainable Living Tasmania emailed to tell me I was one of the lucky 20 to win a Tassievore gift pack.

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Now I had no excuses!

I contacted my family and arranged a date when everyone was free, and started menu planning. Being somewhat conservative, despite my motto of colouring outside the lines, I ended up with a menu not too far departed from my 2014 menu. But there’s enough new stuff to keep me on my toes.

Today was devoted to sourcing my local produce so that I don’t have to rely on our weekly grocery shop tomorrow for Tassie-grown vegetables.

I started my day at Huon Valley Meats in Goulburn Street, where I picked up my main course and some condiments.

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My next stop was Eumarrah in Barrack Street, which I had sussed out earlier in the week and knew they would have most of the vegetables and some of the dairy I needed. I only had a minor panic when I couldn’t see the Tasmanian pumpkins, which are a key ingredient in two of my dishes. But I found them eventually, once I turned around and looked in the corner. *huge sigh of relief*

I had a great time carrying seven kilos of meat and vegetables into work. (I actually didn’t enjoy this. Who would have thought.)

At lunchtime, I went to Salamanca Fresh to pick up most of the rest of the ingredients I needed. All I have left now are a couple of minor things that, if I don’t get them, I can work around.

I ended up with an impressive haul for the day.

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Today’s tasks were:

1. To start off some sourdough bread – the challenge here being to use Tasmanian flour rather than the (not Tasmanian) flour that was recommended on the course I recently attended.

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The dough is now proving so that I can bake it some time tomorrow morning.

2. Make crackers using the recipe from Tassievore. It wasn’t until I re-read the recipe I realised butter wasn’t part of it.

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Also I am not 100% sure that South Cape is Tasmanian, but the address on the label said Burnie, and I couldn’t find any Ashgrove or Elgaar parmesan, so it’s the best I can do. I think 2 teaspoons of cheese is OK.

Here’s how the crackers turned out.

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3. Make beef stock.

Here we have beef bones from my lovely friends at Two Metre Tall roasted in the oven for a couple of hours and transferred to the slow cooker, where they will simmer overnight and give me a beautiful rich beef stock tomorrow.

So my dough is proving, my stock is cooking, and I have a lot of things to do tomorrow before my guests arrive.

I’ll be Instagramming my preparation until things get crazy busy, and using the hashtag #tassivorefeast there (@straightlinesgirl) and on Twitter (@straitlinesgirl) if you want to follow the fun.

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Tassievore Eat Local Challange – Week 4: Tassievore Dinner Party

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

Course 5 – Pyengana cheese and the black garlic I bought in Week 1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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At the same time I roasted the beetroot and garlic in the oven for the beetroot dip.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge: Week 2: Support local business

I started to write a post that summarised what I’ve done this week for the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge and quickly realised it was going to be pretty much all about one local business. So for the first part of Week 2, I’m writing about we did on Saturday night.

We went to the Two Metre Tall Annual Beer-Fed Brisket Dinner, held at the Two Metre Tall Brewery in Hayes.

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Two Metre Tall hosts several themed dinners during the year and this was our fourth one – last year we went to the Brisket dinner, the Spring Lamb dinner, and the Christmas dinner.

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It’s local eating at its best – the beef is raised organically on Two Metre Tall’s farm (“beer fed” on spent grains from the brewery) and the vegetables were also locally sourced.

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(These were some of the vegetables served with the first course – the white vegetable is a salad turnip, which I’ve never heard of and am now on the look out for.)

It was, as always, a fantastic night, and the food was just amazing. The photos don’t do it justice. (I only had my iPhone, which doesn’t perform well in a candle-lit brewery shed.)

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I love everything about Two Metre Tall.

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(It’s OK, it’s raspberry cordial.)

Two Metre Tall’s vision statement (if that’s the right term) sums up everything I love:

Fiercely independent, we seek flavour, sustainability & truth of origin in the food we grow & make.

If you’ve ever heard Ashley speak about large food and beverage businesses, you’ll know that the term “fiercely independent” describes Two Metre Tall perfectly.

If you aren’t familiar with Two Metre Tall, then you probably don’t know me, because it’s one of my favourite places to go.

Briefly – Ashley and Jane came to Tasmania about 10 years ago to start a winery and ended up building a brewery. Ashley has pointed out more than once that the Derwent Valley is a major hop-growing region, yet there wasn’t a brewery here.

So they started brewing beers, with a view to sourcing everything locally – either from the farm or from local suppliers. The names of some of their original ales reflect their region of origin – Derwent, Huon and Forester (which has Pride of Ringwood hops from the last working hop farm in the Forester River area of North East Tasmania).

The Huon is an interesting ale. It’s a dark ale that includes 20% apple juice from Huon Valley apples. I really like it. I might be* drinking it now while I’m writing this.

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From ales, Two Metre Tall moved into apple and pear cider. The apples are an old cider variety called Sturmer Pippin, which are grown in the Huon Valley and the pears are from the Tasman Peninsula.

Two Metre Tall’s ciders are real ciders in that they are just fermented fruit – unlike many mass-produced “ciders”, they aren’t made from fruit concentrate.

Ashley has also been developing a range of soured ales, which he has gradually unleashed on his customers, to our great excitement. So far we’ve had the “original” soured ale, sour cherry, sour wild plum, oh and a sour cherry cider.

Recently we’ve been treated to the one-off “Respect Your Elder” ale, which was one of the ales (Derwent I think) with elderflowers added, and another one with mulberries.

None of this is anything like commercial beer production. It’s real, it has flavour and complexity (do I sound like a wine expert now? Probably not.) and each brew is slightly different to the previous one, just like each wine vintage is different. It’s a living, breathing beverage. (Maybe not breathing. That would be weird.)

It’s one of the things I love – the experimentation and Ashley’s willingness to admit that everything he does is a learning process and his openness about what he does and why.

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Ashley was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2012 and spent a month last year touring breweries in the UK, Belgium and the USA to find out more about sour and natural fermentation and about traditional brewing methods. His report is on Two Metre Tall’s website and it’s a very interesting read.

After visiting more than 30 breweries and looking at what they do, he concluded that the approach taken by Two Metre Tall is unique.

His report touched a nerve with me with his comments about how too much of what happens in the Australian market has become dominated by large interests, and about the loss of old skills that are no longer required by large industry.  He talks about how this ends up with everything being homogenous, instead of food and beverages displaying a natural variety and seasonality.

“. . . whilst it may be true that a consumer can purchase many more different types of vegetable from a country supermarket than they could many years ago, the truth is that these often plastically uniform, industrial, largely flavourless, gassed ripe, energy- guzzling cross continentally distributed imitations of the real thing present a mirage of choice and a very poor substitute for the very fresh, highly nutritious, harvested at peak ripeness and flavour, but slightly more limited numerically offerings of yesteryear.”

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The way I see it, the result of this is also a disconnect between consumer and producer – and I suppose tightening those connections is part of what the Tassievore challenge is all about.

And it’s one of the things that’s so great about Two Metre Tall. We can see the beer as it’s being brewed. We can see the beef wandering around the hills and then hanging in the cold room. We can talk to Jane and Ashley and find out exactly where everything comes from, what’s in it and how old it is.

We can come to a Friday night or Sunday afternoon Farm Bar and cook the best tasting beef I’ve ever had on a wood fired BBQ, accompanied by ales that are unique and full of flavour.

It’s a model for keeping food real and keeping it local, and is truly inspiring.

Thank you for a wonderful evening Ashley and Jane – and thank you for doing what you do.

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