Category Archives: dinner

A threesome of vegetables

Thing 2 of my 21 from 2021 list is to choose a different vegetable every week from the book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable. Some of these cooking adventures have been long enough to make a whole post about them rather than talk about them in my regular weekly 21 for 2021 posts.

This was definitely the case with last week (week 14).

 I had planned to cook two recipes on Tuesday. Originally, I was going to cook the One-pot Whole-roasted Cauliflower (page 84) but I didn’t know what to serve it with so I thought the Not Mushroom for Error Pie with Duck Fat Pastry (page 318) would be a nice side dish. It’s not really a side dish. It’s a main course that you serve with a side dish like, say, salad leaves. Not an entire roasted cauliflower.

I’m glad I read the recipe earlier in the day so that I knew to start the duck fat pastry in the afternoon. It is by no means true that I picked this recipe simply so I could have some duck fat at home to cook potatoes in at some point down the track. Besides, you don’t have to use duck fat. You could use extra butter, or you could totally cheat and buy a shortcrust pastry. Not for me, I love smearing my hands with duck fat. Really. Gross. I think this is the first time I’ve ever cooked with duck fat. So many firsts with this book!

Duck fat pastry

I had a combination of button, swiss brown, shiitake and oyster mushrooms for the dish, as well as dried porcini mushrooms, which I decided to soak and throw into the mix rather than grind up to have porcini powder, which is the actual ingredient in the recipe.

Mushroom-a-rama
Mushrooms cooking

At the same time as I was doing this, I was getting the cauliflower ready for roasting. I had a similar dish at the Agrarian Kitchen a few years ago. It was the first time I’d ever been served an entire cauliflower and, after that, wanted to make it myself. It’s really not difficult. The recipe calls for par-boiling the stem and base for 10-15 minutes so that you can cook it for less time in the oven and not overcook the top, which is a problem I always have with things like cauliflower and broccoli.

Undercooked stems or overcooked tops. What’s worse?

Mushrooms continuing to cook with onions

The main thing I hadn’t planned for was that the cauli needed 30 minutes at 240 degrees and the pie needed 45 minutes at 200 degrees. 

Oops.

Left-over pastry mushrooms. Sort of.

I ended up setting the oven at 220 degrees and cooking the lot for 45 minutes, which cooked the pie nicely (though I had forgotten to allow for pastry shrinkage), and then I cranked it up to 250 for a few minutes to try and get some more heat into the cauliflower. The leaves were beautifully charred, as was some of the top, but it probably would have benefited from the higher heat for the whole time.

Pie goes in
Pie comes out

Next time, I’ll make this with something else that doesn’t need an oven and do it properly. And I’ll probably make a salad to go with the mushroom pie.

Roasted cauliflower

On Saturday, I made Seventies Dinner Party Sprouts using Brussels sprouts (page 440). Alice says that this dish is highly unlikely to have ever featured at a 70s dinner party, since back in those days, green stuff was “boiled into oblivion”. I despise the vile things. Probably a hangover from my 70s upbringing and the aforementioned boiling. Kramstable, on the other hand, loves them (I blame Andy Griffiths), and so there are dinner nights when everyone else gets broccoli and he gets sprouts. At least he knows no one is going to steal them, and he can have them all to himself.

I never thought I’d ever cook these

This recipe involves a marinade that Alice says is genuinely handed down from the 70s as a lamb marinade, so I decided to make a lamb dish to go with the sprouts. In this case, a lamb shank shepherd’s pie from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life book, which involves slow cooking lamb shanks all day and then making up the pie, topped with puréed roast sweet potato, to go in the oven just before dinner time.

Soaking in the marinade

The sprout recipe was easy. Make the marinade, trim and halve the sprouts and drop the into the marinade, then roast them for about ten minutes until the outer leaves are a bit charred.

Cooked!

I still don’t like sprouts but these were much nicer than any other way I’ve had them.

Classy plating

21 for 2021: week 7

Week 7/2021: week of 15 February 2021

21 for 2021 updateThis was my first “normal” week for about a month. “Normal” as in school was back and I was at work all week. None of those annoying public holidays to muck up my routine. Ha.

My first thing this week is the Change Journal, where I’ve been marking off two habits in chapter 7 since January —the pre-work routine (thing 20), which I have now completed for 32/66 days, and my yoga stretches, which I have done every day since 10 January. I’ve been thinking I need to make a start on the other chapters in the book or I won’t make my way through the book by the end of the year.

This week, I decided to start with chapter 2, Thanks, which asks you to note down something you’re grateful for every day for a week. I actually already do this. Every morning I note down three things I’m grateful for, and every evening I write down something I’ve been grateful for during the day in my Some Lines A Day journal. But I don’t really think about them and what they mean to me so sometimes it feels more like a chore than a meaningful practice. The Change Journal takes this a step further and asks you to write down how the thing (or the person) you’re grateful for enriches your life and what your life your life would be like without it (or them). So it goes a bit deeper.

I did that every day this week and concluded that it’s a good practice to maintain as it makes my current practice more meaningful, so I’ve added my version of this into my daily gratitude journalling.

Vegetable of the week

Thing 2 is to choose a different vegetable every week from the book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable.

This week, I wanted to try Alice’s Sesame Cucumber Whack Salad (page 384), but I didn’t know what to have with it. I thought some fish might be a good accompaniment, and there was a fish recipe in the lemongrass section of the book, Lemongrass Fish Pops with Green Mango Salad (page 110). Obviously, it has a salad with it, which includes ingredients I have never heard of and/or don’t like and/or have never cooked with, including pomelo, green mango and banana shallots.

I figured I could make the fish dish (lemongrass check) and have it with the cucumber salad (cucumber check) instead of the salad that was supposed to go with it. Slabs had other ideas. He convinced me to at least try the green mango salad (I HATE mango!), and proceeded to purchase a mango (not green), a ruby grapefruit (not a pomelo but apparently close to it) and, well, normal shallots because what in hell are banana shallots anyway?

So I ended up making the fish pops (which is mashed fish with some curry paste and spices grilled on skewers of lemongrass), with the (not-)green mango salad and the cucumber salad. It was a lot of work, and a lot of food, and I didn’t need the cucumber salad in the end.

Mashed fish squooshed onto lemongrass skewers

My verdict: This is the first recipe from the book I haven’t liked. I liked the idea of it but I didn’t really like the way the fish turned out and I didn’t like the salad. I suppose that’s to be expected if you don’t like mango or citrus. Slabs, on the other hand, said he really enjoyed it so it wasn’t a complete fail.

The final dish

The cucumber salad was really yum though, and I’ll be doing that one again, maybe as an accompaniment to a curry or, as Alice suggests, with some soba noodles and some steamed fish, so the cook wasn’t a complete wipeout.

Cucumber salad

In a rather more epic fail, I decided to make the Ultimate Cheesy Garlic Bread Bake on page 38 on Sunday night, without having noticed that the recipe notes say “Begin this recipe one day ahead”. So Kramstable and I did not have garlic bread on Sunday.

If I ever write a cookbook (ha), I am going to make sure that in the header of every recipe that requires advance preparation is a large clock symbol.

Regular projects

There are several things on my list that I have made a regular commitment to doing in the hope that this will be more likely to make me do them. I worked on these ones this week.

  • Thing 5: Spend an hour a week working through my annoying undone things list. One hour on Saturday morning. I finished the last collage for 2020, printed it and stuck it in the book. That is now complete.
  • Thing 8: Spend an hour a week working on Kramstable’s videos. I did this on Sunday.
  • Thing 9: Write my mother’s life story. I normally go to see my mum on Thursdays but this week she had some personal issues that meant it wasn’t possible to talk to her about her story. I got her to identify herself in some photos and did a bit of internet research into some of her family members.
  • Thing 11: Complete the Compelling Frame course. I don’t have a specific time set aside for this (because schedules, who needs them), but I spent a couple of hours on Tuesday working through the third lesson, and I started the fourth lesson on the weekend.
  • Thing 17: Brainsparker gym*. I did the first lesson of Module 3 and learned about Fishbone diagrams

21 for 2021 summary for week 7

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 1 (1)
  • Things I progressed: 8 (2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 17, 20)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 3 (6, 13, 18)
  • Things not started: 9 (3, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 19, 21)

Blast from the past

Following on from my 10-year review of my blog, here’s one of my favourite posts from 7 March 2011. It’s actually the prequel to the flashback post I posted last week and the one I meant to post last week. Here is the correct link to “Pushing Papers (AKA on art and writing part 1)“.

When did I listen and what did I learn this week?

I’ve been reading the book Hollow Places: An Unusual History of Land and Legend by Christopher Hadley, which is about the author’s attempt to track down the story behind a legendary dragon slayer and the belief that there had been a dragon lair underneath an old yew tree in England. In the book, he refers to the practice of “grangerising”, which is when you take a book apart and rebind it with photos and pictures from elsewhere, including from other books, resulting in a much bigger book, or even additional volumes of the book. In one case, Christopher refers to a grangerised Bible, which ended up being 60 volumes. I kind of love the idea of making a book your own like this but, on the other hand, am horrified that people would destroy other books in order to do this.

The practice was made popular by (and named after) fans of the late-18th century print collector and author, James Granger, who, according to Christopher, didn’t actually engage in the practice himself. But the many “grangerites” did it to enough copies of his Biographical History, that I imagine the name stuck. One copy was grangerised to expand the original three volumes into 36.

And I think I don’t have enough book cases!

What did I do for the Earth this week?

I’ve been reading doom and gloom stories, feeling like nothing I do will make a difference and falling further into a “nothing will stop this” mindset, which isn’t helpful and isn’t achieving anything.

What I’m reading this week

  • Personality Hacker by Joel Mark Witt & Antonia Dodge
  • Burning Out by Katherine May
  • Hollow Places: An Unusual History of Land and Legend by Christopher Hadley

Habit tracker

  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 5): 5
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 4
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days): 5
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7): 5
  • Days I shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7): 7

21 for 2021: week 1

Week 1/2021: week of 4 January 2021
My 21 for 2021 list

This was my first week back at work so I decided it was as good a time as any to get back into the pre-work planning routine from the LifeHack program (thing 20). The video suggests following the exact routine for 66 days to cement it as a habit loop in your brain. I am struggling with that, not least because I’m not in the same place every day. It also feels very weird to try and work through a structured checklist like this. However, I will persist. 

Coincidentally, there is a chapter in the Change Journal (thing 4) about forming new habits, which also suggests trying new habits for 66 days. It gives you space to track seven new habits, presumably staring a new one every day for a week consistent with the way the rest of the book is structured to allow you to follow a new idea each week. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to try and introduce a new habit every day for a week, so I’m going to use this section of the book to track seven new habits over the course of the year. Unsurprisingly, the first one I’m going to try and follow for 66 (work) days is the pre-work planning routine.

I worked through the first module of the Brainsparker gym* (thing 17) and learned something really interesting. Well, as a contact lens wearer, I found it interesting. I learned that the modern contact lens was invented by a Czech chemist called Dr Otto Wichterle and his colleague Drahoslav Lím. Dr Wichterle had to leave the Institute of Chemical Technology after a political purge by the institute’s Communist leadership in 1958. He was appointed as leader of a new institute but, as it didn’t have a building at the time, he continued his research at his house. In 1961, he succeeded in producing the first four hydrogel contact lenses on his kitchen table with a machine he had made himself from a children’s building set, a dynamo from his son’s bike and a bell transformer.

The lesson from this: Keep going, even if the circumstances aren’t perfect. Use what you have and keep going.

Vegetable of the week

Thing 2 is to choose a different vegetable every week from Alice Zaslavky’s book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable. This week I chose radicchio, which is another vegetable I’ve never cooked with (and, like okra, wasn’t exactly sure what to do with). I picked the radicchio and sausage pasta recipe.

Radicchio & sausage pasta ingredients

It uses pork and fennel sausages that you take out of the casing and smash up. Alice says to use the “fancy” ones, not ones that are packed full of fillers. It seemed a little sacrilegious to me to destroy the butcher’s work in putting these things together, and I wondered if using pork mince and fennel seeds might work as well. Perhaps I’ll try it one day. The recipe includes fennel, which is another vegetable I’d also never cooked, so I got two for the price of one with this dish!

Smashed sausages. Sorry, Meatgrrl.
Radicchio. Right.
Raddichio chopped.

It worked out well and everyone had seconds. So maybe it was worth destroying the sausages for. And I learned a very cool tip for adding zucchini to pasta rather than cutting it up and adding it to the sauce: use a spiraliser (I have one of those. I think I’ve used it once. I never forgave it after I cut myself on it). You put the spiralised zucchini in the colander before you drain the pasta and then let the pasta water soften it a bit.

Spiralised zucchini, yeah!
The finished product.,

Regular projects

There are several things on my list that are going to work best if I make a regular commitment to doing them. Consistency is the key. Brainsparker gym* is one (an hour a week) and the pre-work routine is obviously another one. So are these ones.

  • Thing 3: Complete the 30-day voice training course. I haven’t allocated time for this yet.
  • Thing 5: Spend an hour a week working through my annoying undone things list. One hour on Saturday morning. I didn’t do it this week because we went out most of the day, but I did work on a couple of the things on the list another time.
  • Thing 6: Grow some vegetables in the garden bed. One hour on Sunday afternoon for garden projects. I pulled out all the weeds and cleared space around it. I’m a little concerned that the cover for this garden bed is plastic that is rapidly deteriorating and I’m not sure what to do about that. No matter what I do, the plastic is still going to be somewhere, whether I throw it out or leave it. 
  • Thing 7: Clear out the area at the side of the house and make a space to sit. One hour on Sunday afternoon for garden projects.
  • Thing 8: Spend an hour a week working on Kramstable’s videos. One hour on Sunday afternoon. I started the next video on my list. 
  • Thing 9: Write my mother’s life story. This week, I arranged with my mother to visit once a week to talk through this project and capture her memories.
  • Thing 10: Complete the ImageWork course. I haven’t allocated time for this yet.
  • Thing 11: Complete the Photoshop Classroom in a Book activities. I haven’t allocated time for this yet.

Yeah, I know I don‘t do well in sticking to a plan, but I have had some success in fixing regular times to do things in my week and making them habits so I’m hoping this will work for these things too.

Nice afternoon for a walk

What else did I achieve this week?

My regular check in: I finished the final collage for my 2020 photojournal and I now have all of them printed so I just need to stick them into the book to finish that off. It’s one of my annoying undone things.

I didn’t work on my Hobart Street Corners project on Thursday, which is the night I usually work on those photos, because my computer was playing up and it took two hours to even get any photos off my phone, much less edit anything. I finished off my backlog of 2020 photos on Sunday morning instead.

Last year I had some questions that I asked myself every week that would set me up for the new week, about what didn’t got so well that week and what I might do better next week. Most of the time my answer was that I was scrolling through my phone too much, and I never really kicked that habit, which I’m sure made for boring reading. It also made me realise that this approach wasn’t working so it was time to try something different. I have a bunch of questions for myself related to areas where I want to do better, not all of which I might be able to answer every week, so I thought I would answer just one or two of them on the blog each week rather than run through the entire list every week.

What did I do for the Earth this week?

There is so much going through my head. So many things I could do and so many things I should have been doing for years. Part of me wonders why bother? I can take all the small steps in the world to reduce my footprint but it won’t make a lick of difference if world leaders don’t make some hard decisions. We have to stop using fossil fuels and overfishing the seas and destroying rainforests and all the things we do that make our lives easier. We can’t sustain what we’re doing, we just can’t.

It all seems too overwhelming so, rather than give up because I don’t know what to do, I need to start somewhere and keep learning and making changes.

There are a couple of things that are extremely low-hanging fruit and I have no excuses not to do them.

The first one is the kettle. I had a habit of filling it up every time I use it, which is, I learned (and if I think about it, actually knew) a massive waste of energy I couldn’t find any exact numbers for Australia, but suffice to say boiling a kettle with 1.7 litres of water when I only need 500 ml is very inefficient and I don’t do it any more.

What was the best thing about this week?

Getting my new glasses so I can see again!

My blog also celebrated its tenth birthday, so I will be posting some more on that in the coming weeks.

Getting out for a lunchtime walk

Summary for the week

What I’m reading this week: A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough.

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 0
  • Things I progressed: 7 (2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 17, 20)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 0
  • Things not started: 14 (1, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21)

Habit tracker

  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 5): 5
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 3
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 2
  • Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days): 5
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7): 6
  • Days I shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7): 7

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.

20170512 Tassievore Feast Pack IG

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.

20170602 Tassievore 02 Huon Valley Meats

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.

20170602 Tassievore 07 Today's haul IG

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.

20170602 Tassievore 01 Sourdough Starter IG

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.

20170602 Tassievore 08 Crackers

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.

20170602 Tassievore 09 Crackers

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.

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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