It’s no secret that I’m heavily into eating and cooking, and our recent trip to Tasmania was largely scheduled around a day of both at the Agrarian Kitchen, a farm-to-table cooking school run by former chef Rodney Dunne and his wife Séverine, on their beautiful property deep in the Derwent Valley. It’s a 45-minute drive from Hobart to the small village of Lachlan, where the property spans 5 acres lovingly tilled land, as well as a lovely old school house which now operates as the class kitchen.
Arriving at the farm was really rather breathtaking, and almost like walking into a painting – beautiful lawns and an abundance of trees and native shrubs, dotted with patches of jonquils and daffodils, all set against a striking mountain backdrop. After a quick morning tea and nosey around the hundreds-of-volumes-strong cookbook library, Rodney briefed us on the day’s menu and got us all stuck in to making dough for the first dish – a loaf of ciabatta each – which we were to cook in the kitchen’s pizza oven later that afternoon (and feast on with loads of Lachlan-made cheese over the next few days).
Armed with baskets and garden shears, we then headed outdoors to tour the farm and forage for the rest of the day’s ingredients, stopping frequently to touch, smell and taste the likes of fresh asparagus, horseradish, and mustard greens. The extensive vegetable patches grow everything from pumpkin and parsnip, to celeriac and salsify, while the mini-orchard was packed with plum, pear, apple and feijoa trees, all full blossom and thick with bumble bees. We also got a peek inside Rod’s outdoor smoker and his chartecurie room (where copious salamis and prosciuttos were drying and ageing), and met the farm’s many animals, including the rare-breed Wessex Saddleback and Berkshire pigs, Dutch Barnevelder chickens, milking goats, geese, and honey bees. It’s the real paddock-to-plate deal (… and you can draw your own dots between the pigs and the chartecurie room…)
I was super inspired by Rod’s amazing polytunnels, two fabulous structures that house all manner of herbs, vegetables, and grains (he grows quinoa for crying out loud!) as well as loads of trays of seedlings getting ready to sprout the next season of crops. It really hit home here how much time and effort Rod and Séverine have put into this whole venture, how deep their passion for sustainable living runs, and how generous of them it is to share it all with like-minded food enthusiasts.
Baskets laden with the freshest of fresh ingredients, we headed back to the kitchen to divvy up the menu, and get cooking under Rod’s watchful and patient eye. We made twice-cooked soufflé with truffled silverbeet and kale; locally caught “Bastard Trumpeter” (delivered by Rod’s fish guy that morning) cooked en papillote and served with fennel, horseradish and Meyer lemon; roasted root veggies with honey mustard and crunchy baked buckwheat; roast pumpkin rubbed with home-made chermoula and served with steamed quinoa, olives and yoghurt; and finally, individual Meyer lemon meringue tarts with lavender ice cream. We served up our our dishes and had an enormous feast in the dining room, each course accompanied by a beautiful local wine. It’s a true farm-to-table experience, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Our next stop was Mt Field National Park – stay tuned for next week’s post!