Happy as pigs in mud. A story of rare breed pigs at Mount Gnomon, Tasmania

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

The little piglet squeaked and squirmed before eventually falling asleep in our arms, wrapped in her knitted blanket.

Lily is the poster pig for Mt Gnomon Farm, a runt of the litter rescued by owners Guy and Eliza. She now sleeps in their bed and demands food at 2am. And she was part of the welcoming committee when we arrived on the fourth day of our Electrolux Appetite for Excellence produce tour.

It’s all about the pigs at Mt Gnomon Farm and specifically, rare heritage breeds such as Wessex Saddleback. Once a common foraging breed in England, they are now extinct in their homeland but thriving in niche Australian farms. They are placid, easy going animals that produce rich, marbled and intensely flavoursome meat.

“Wessex Saddlebacks is an older breed of pig that are slower growing and mature earlier than commercial breeds”, says Guy. “We’ve started crossing them with Duroc and Hampshire boars. The plan is to breed bigger animals and get better value with every pig”.

Guy and Eliza are a young, energetic couple who are passionate about ethical, sustainable farming. They also have a herd of Traditional Dairy Shorthorn, Scottish Highland and Belted Galloway cows, 60 Shropshire ewes, and a handful of goats and ducks.

“We’ve been smoking our own ham and bacon and making our own chorizo and sausages for six months. With our new facilities here we’re planning to experiment with different breeds, smokes and cures”, says Guy.

They envision long table lunches in summer on the outside deck and cooking classes in the kitchen. Last winter, they planted an orchard of 1000 heritage apples, pears and quinces trees. In three years’ time, they can make traditional cider.

Farm tourism is growing in popularity, particularly in England and Europe where Eliza visited last year on a Churchill Fellowship.

Next it was time to see the farm for ourselves. And to feed 400-odd hungry pigs. We donned our gumboots and tramped through the thick mud up to the pigs’ paddocks.

EAFE 2014 Story_pork_MtGnomon Farm_2

The pigs are fed once a day, spending the rest of the day foraging. The rich red soil here is high in aluminium and iron oxide and planted with turnip, rape, oats and natural grasses for the pigs to eat. Foraging increases muscle content and a varied diet gives the meat more flavour. Guy also wants to add some saturated fat to their diet, such as whey, eventually by milking their own Dairy Shorthorns.

While Guy distracted the increasingly vocal pigs, we slipped inside the pens and tipped big sacks of grain and bags of chestnuts into their troughs.

“There’s about a quarter of a tonne of feed daily. When it’s really wet and muddy, it can take 2½ hours. Feeding free range pigs is really labour intensive”, says Eliza.

Snuffling away at the troughs, they were as happy as pigs in mud. Literally.

We left them to it and squelched onto higher ground to see the cows. The shaggy-haired, big horned Scottish Highlands were impressive and we kept a safe distance.

Finally, we returned to the centre invigorated by the cold brisk air and ravenous for Eliza’s home-cooked lunch. We feasted on homemade bacon, chorizo and lentil stew, followed by pulled pork fajitas with spicy chutney, and their juicy, chunky sausages with whole fennel seeds and smoked paprika.

George Tomlin is a chef at The Town Mouse in Melbourne. For him, interacting with the pigs and seeing how they live was the most rewarding part of the day. “I think as a chef it’s really important to see where your produce is coming from. How the animals are bred and brought up, and today we got to see that”.

After lunch, we had a final cuddle with Lily, wrapped snuggly in a stripy knitted blanket and looking very much at home.

EAFE 2014 Story_pork_MtGnomon Farm_3

Contact Guy & Eliza at Mt Gnomon Farm; Penguin, Tasmania
mountgnomonfarm@activ8.net.au

What’s New at the Market

Murdoch Market Update

  • PRICE ALERT – Tomatoes are very expensive
  • Parsnips are very scarce & expensive
  • Radicchio white has finished

Murdoch Produce has created a full Market Update for a great insight to what’s in this week

Spotlight….Beetroot

Healthy Fact
Dubbed as a “superfood” by many health experts, beetroots are bursting with important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium and silica. Research has also shown that the daily consumption of beetroot juice may assist in significantly reducing blood pressure. Containing good amounts of soluble fibre, beetroot may help reduce cholesterol levels.

Did You Know?
In 1975, during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, cosmonauts from the USSR’s Soyuz 19 welcomed the Apollo 18 astronauts. It was a joke among the Apollo crew that the Russians would have a Vodka toast in space. In orbit they had a tube with Vodka written on the side. It was really a Russian soup, called borscht. They had a good sense of humor.
courtesy of NASA

George Tomlin – eat & drink insider knowledge

see where else to eat & drink around the country:
ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA

YOUNG CHEF / VIC

George Tomlin is our Australian young chef 2014 and sous chef at The Town Mouse in Melbourne. Find out where in Melbourne George goes to hang out and what his favourite restaurants and bars are.


favourite coffee spots

Market Lane Coffee, Melbourne
They use great beans to make possibly one of my favourite flat whites in the city. The staff are really friendly

Vincent the dog, Carlton
Really good local cafe, really knowledgeable staff that use different techniques to create a beautiful coffee

Cup of Truth, Melbourne
Out of a tiny ‘hole in the wall’ coffee shop underground on the way to flinders train station, these guys kill it, incredible quick coffee


favourite casual eateries

Brothl by Joost, Melbourne
This eatery reflects a lot of what I deem important in running a successful restaurant. Their ethos with sustainability and no waste is brilliant. Using something most people see as a by-product to create a tasty meal in a great environment is why I choose brothl

Blue bonnet BBQ, Collingwood
The head chef trained in Texas, he learned how to smoke meat properly and it’s insanely good. He isn’t just jumping on another food trend this is what he is passionate about and it shows. Juicy smokey tender meat with good booze

Belles Hot Chicken, Fitzroy
I guess this should be classified as a restaurant but I had to include it. The tastiest crispiest juiciest fried chicken matched with natural wines! I have a massive interest in the world of natural wine so this place ticks many boxes


favourite restaurants

Piqueos, Carlton North
Really tasty food in a casual environment. I really love Latin American cuisines and piqueos who mainly focus on Peruvian do it so well. Delicious, well cooked, unpretentious cooking

The Commoner, Fitzroy
Let’s face it the staff are great! The venue is amazing and relaxed. The food is tasty and extremely well thought out

Rockwell and Sons, Collingwood
I love the casualness of this place. The really tasty down to earth cooking and incredibly good burgers. Their beer list always features rare and really tasty craft beers which is another of my passions


favourite bars

The Beaufort, Carlton
Dive bar-esque the beaufort makes you feel as it’s your home away from home, by far my favourite place to drink in Melbourne. It combines tasty food with great alcohol which always ends in a great night. The staff I have to say though are the absolute best!

The Black Pearl, Fitzroy
Late night local cocktail bar. I like the pearl because of their extremely knowledgable and friendly staff. The bar is also a regular Hospo hangout which makes it great for catching up

Lilly Blacks, Melbourne
Awesome late night cocktail bar. Great Hospo hangout with really talented staff. Their range of bitters, even as a chef inspires me. They have such an incredible range of alcohol


favourite markets

Queen Victoria Markets, Melbourne CBD
This is the only market that i use, the selection is great! As a chef being able to walk around something so vast and seeing what is in season and what people are buying inspires me in my career


favourite interstate restaurants

Garagistes, Hobart
Having only had the chance to eat here briefly i was so impressed by the food, service and wine. Everything is so well thought out and done with such expertise. Having written Garagistes down as one of my most wanted stages within Australia, eating there totally re-afirmmed that

Ethos Eat Drink, Hobart
Eating at Ethos as part of the EAFE produce tour was amazing, such an incredible end to an amazing trip! Their philosophy with their food and how they work their menu, i found as a young chef, was hugely inspirational

The Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Sydney
The Bentley is easily in my top 3 dining experiences ever. Such incredible, well thought out cooking. The service is immaculate yet fun, the wine was sensational. But seriously, the food is next level good!


What’s New at The Market

Murdoch Market Update

  • Oranges & juicing fruits are excellent at the moment
  • Cucumbers; Lebanese and telegraph are both high in price
  • Cumquats have popped up

Murdoch Produce has created a full Market Update for a great insight to what’s in this week

Spotlight….Avocado

Fact
Currently Avocado orchards are found in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. Avocados are a perennial fruit and Australian premium produce is available all year round because of the widespread and climatically diverse growing regions. The highest volume of fruit is available between March and November.

Avocados are known to have existed from as far back as 291 BC. They originally took root in the highlands of Central America and Mexico and the lowlands of Columbia in South America, where they grew wild.

Did You Know?
Avocados were first discovered by the Aztecs around 300BC where they grew wild in Mexico?

It’s a Sheep’s Life… at Cloudy Bay Lamb Tasmania

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

We peered over the fence and 50 pairs of eyes peered unblinkingly back at us. Long white noses and alert ears protruded from fat, fluffy, well-rounded bodies. Baaa. It was a herd of extremely photogenic Coopworth sheep (see below) at Cloudy Bay Homestead.

These sheep were nicely rounded not because they were headed to market but because in a few weeks, they will be mothers. Owners Kim and Jason Evans had rounded them up for us to observe up close and personal.

It was day two of our Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Tassie produce tour and we had taken the ferry to beautiful Bruny Island.

If you were a sheep here – and an ewe at that for the females are mostly kept for breeding – it would be a pretty good life. Cloudy Bay Homestead is a small, 220-hectare free-range farm that borders South Bruny National Park and the Southern Ocean. The sheep forage on two to three different types of native grasses, clover and herbs, and they change paddocks every 7-10 days.

“The type of forage is really important”, says Kim. “We liken it to a human diet; a variety is good for us and it’s good for our sheep too”.

Kim is a former teacher with a Masters in environmental management and Jason, who grew up on a farm, is also an abalone fisherman. They are both very keen to preserve the environmental heritage and biodiversity of their land. They have re-vegetated wetland corridors on the property, fencing them off from the sheep, and propagated seed from native trees.

“We’re here for the sheep but we appreciate our environment and we want to do the right thing by both”, says Kim.

“The health of the sheep comes from the soil and we’re in that chain”, says Jason. “What’s happening in the soil affects us too”. That’s why they don’t use chemical fertilisers, sprays or toxins on the soil, even in their ‘fattening paddock’ where the lambs spend a few weeks before market.

“In the fattening paddock we use a liquid fertiliser of seaweed kelp, chicken poo and different types of rock dust to manage the mineral content in the soil”, says Jason. “We keep it natural”.

Cloudy Bay Homestead has over 1000 head of sheep. There are 500 breeders with one ram to 100 ewes. “At breeding time, the rams and ewes have 4-6 weeks together and then after a 153-day (five-month) gestation, the lambs are born in a 4-6 week period.

All the young females are kept for breeding and the males go to market. The older ewes go to mutton. They use a local abattoir less than two hours away that practices low stress and old-fashioned butchery.

We moved inside the shearing shed where sheep are shorn of 4-5kg of coarse wool each year to “give them a haircut for summer”. Again, no chemical treatments are used on the wool that is pressed into 200kg bags and sold.

Next door, four edgy rams buck inside a wooden pen. Jason shows us how he inspects them for market. He is cross breeding their Coopworths with black Suffolks. This is a common, more compact breed with shorter legs that is preferred in retail markets.

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Jason runs the rams through a wooden passage and onto a weighing scale. At 40-45kg the sheep are heavy enough for market but a stint in the fattening paddock will round their rumps. He opens the gate and they dash down the ramp and outside again.

Visiting Cloudy Bay Homestead has been great experience for our group. “I’ve never been to a farm like this before”, said Emma Barnes, a chef from Clarke’s of North Beach in Perth. “It was great to learn the process of sorting out the sheep and weighing them”.

Australians are becoming increasingly more discerning in their meat purchases and there’s a growing demand for organic and natural produce. So too, people want to know that farmers are raising healthy, happy animals in a chemical-free environment.

On that front, Cloudy Bay Homestead ticks all the boxes.

About the Breed:
The Coopworth breed was established in the 1960’s from Southern New Zealand, and originally stems from a cross between a Romney ewe and a Border Leicester ram. Cloudy Bay chose Coopworth because of their excellent fertility rates, high lamb survival rates, and that the mothers are renowned for being highly attentive and protective. Another big plus is that as South Bruny receives one of the highest rainfalls in Tasmania the characteristic hard, black hooves of the Coopworth breed are a great match for the island’s wetter conditions.

About the farm:
Our vision is to improve the environmental integrity of the farm using methods that require minimal chemical inputs, and that promote good soil and animal health. Our sheep are hormone free and we only use organic based fertilisers.

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SHUCKING AWESOME…CAMERON’S OYSTERS OF TASMANIA

Written by Lilani Goonesena

Ben Cameron holds up a big metal pot with a layer of brownish sand at the bottom. We peer at it curiously.

“That’s about 250,000 baby oysters”, he says.

The group is momentarily speechless. It’s understandably a mouthful – or more – to take in.

This is how baby oysters start off in the world. And at least half of all oysters produced in Australia come from Cameron’s Oysters, one of only two commercial hatcheries in Australia.

camerons oysters

Ben Cameron is a 3rd generation oyster farmer and general manager of the company. His grandfather started the company in 1971 and opened the hatchery eight years later. It was a shrewd move. Today the company’s ‘vertical integration’ means they can breed, grow and process oysters in the one company, on a scale unmatched in Australia.

We are lucky enough to see Cameron’s operation for ourselves on the first day of our Electrolux Appetite for Excellence produce tour in Tasmania. It’s a cold, crisp afternoon out at Dunalley, about an hour east of Hobart.

Cameron’s processing plant handles five million oysters a year. Out the back a metal pulley system loudly clanks a circuit around the plant. It was converted from an old iron ore engineering structure to move large units on the farm. It pulls several crates at a time up from the river and into the plant where they are ‘rumbled’, washed and cleaned. This makes it easier for the oysters to feed. The system is operated manually to minimise stress on the animal, before being returned to the water.

These oysters are 18 months old. They are processed for market at two and a half years. They will have been through the rumble and wash process twice during maturation to help harden their shells and fatten the meat.

The fat content dictates its flavour while the food in the oyster’s stomach determines bitterness or earthiness. “Oysters taste like what they eat”, explains Ben, “because you eat the whole animal, including its stomach”.

The flavour is affected by rainfall, the type of algae in the water, and also by region. “NSW oysters grown in freshwater rivers have an earth taste due to mud and sediment, while South Australian oysters are always the saltiest because of the high salt content in the water.”

Given our group is made up of chefs and waiters, hearing Ben talk about the oyster’s flavour and texture was one of the most interesting parts of the afternoon. Lauren Spyrou from the Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne summed it up well: “As I sell oysters on a daily basis in my job, being here at the roots of it all means I’ll able to talk from experience and be more informed with my customers.”

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Cameron’s is known not only for its excellent oysters – and we all agree when we get to sample them freshly shucked – but its innovation as a company.

Unlike most farms where oysters are exposed to high and low tides, Cameron’s oysters are submerged in deep water all the time. “Being under water 24 hours a day means they can feed and grow 24 hours a day,” says Ben. This equates to more oysters, more quickly.

It’s certainly an advantage of farming in the unspoiled Tasmanian waters where there is no nearby agricultural or industry run-off. Cameron’s can market their oysters as being completely natural. “Out here in the wild, there are no inputs and it’s 100 per cent completely organic. Nothing is added to the water; it’s literally whatever Mother Nature chucks in there”, says Ben.

This also means that in lean years, they lose a lot of oysters. “There’s nothing we can or would do about that. Our market is built on being 100 per cent fertiliser- and chemical-free”, Ben explains.

Cameron’s insists on quality over quantity. “We’re very, very, very low density oyster farmers”, says Ben. “Many farms would grow 2-3 million oyster per hectare, here we put that many over 60 hectares”. More intensive farming would mean a compromise on quality.

“That’s why Tasmania has such a great name for oysters”.

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Shanteh Wong – eat & drink Insider Knowledge

see where else to eat & drink around the country:
ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA

YOUNG WAITER / NSW

Shanteh Wong is one of our Australian young waiter national finalists 2014 and waiter at Quay Restaurant in Sydney. See where Shantehs’ favourite hang outs are;


favourite coffee spots

Wicks Park Cafe, Marrickville
Best coffee in the state, they roast their own beans and always deliver friendly service

Atlas Cafe, Bondi Beach
For their delicious burgers and breakfast and a quick stop for a great coffee on the way to the beach

2042 Cafe, Newtown
This is a great meeting place with a wonderful menu and fantastic charcuterie and cheese tasting plate


favourite casual eateries

Marrickville Pork Roll, Marrickville
Makes a good vietnamese pork roll, they are my favourite lunch time sandwich

Chat Thai, Haymarket
Superb Thai street food at any hour

Wicks Park Cafe, Marrickville
A piccolo and rocket salad never go astray


favourite restaurants

Ume, Surry Hills
Inventive and unique Japanese food thoughtfully presented by chef Kerby Craig and wife Hiroko in the front of house. Always an outstanding dining experience

Bodega, Surry Hills
For some of the best tapas and always a lively atmosphere

Quay Restaurant, The Rocks
Ok yes I’m biased but for me it’s the most unique and exquisite dining experience partnered with the best view Sydney has to offer. Hard to beat.

favourite bars

Baxter Inn, CBD Sydney
I’m a whiskey girl at heart and love getting there just on opening before the crowds arrive

The Crossing
, Bondi Beach
This place is a little gem and I probably should have kept that to myself!

Bloodwood, Newtown
For a thoughtful wine list and killer cocktails

favourite markets

Bondi Markets, Bondi Beach
For a morning coffee and picking up fresh flowers

La Macelleria Butcher, Bondi Beach
Exceptional product knowledge and best service

Eveleigh Markets, Eveleigh
For that true farmers market experience

favourite interstate restaurants

Movida, Melbourne
It’s just a adventure from walking down the street till the moment you leave plus the tapas is to die for

Biota Dining, Bowral
Worth the drive!!

Margan, Hunter Valley
For a stunning lunch overlooking the vineyards


Young talent recognised in Awards Evening

Its been a great year for young talented waiters, chefs and restaurateurs in Australia for 2014. Tonight the industry is coming together to celebrate these amazing young people at the annual Awards Evening being held at Stokehouse City in the heart of Melbourne.

Since having to write their applications earlier this year to multiple rounds of cook offs and wait offs, interviews, photography shoots and of course the Produce Tour to Tasmania our next generation industry leaders have learnt so much. Having the opportunity to connect with producers at the core of agriculture opens up a much wider understanding of the industry, just like being able to connect with like-minded driven young hospitality professionals.
The results for this year are as follows:

Electrolux Young Waiter of the Year 2014

YW_winners

Electrolux Young Chef of the Year 2014

YC_winners

Electrolux Young Restaurateur of the Year 2014

YR_winner

Black….the cocktail!

Not only is Andrew Cameron, mixologist… he is also a micro biologist and has an innate understanding of why flavours work so well together. He specialises in food & cocktail innovation, creating two original cocktails for our awards night incorporating Sanpellegrino juices and Vermut Negre. Check out what he and his partner in ‘cocktail creation’ Kat Whitcroft produced, recipe included

Black – served short (or in coupette if available)

deccreatives.8600..Copy

  • 45mls x Four Pillars Gin
  • 45mls x Casa Mariol Vermut Negre (Spanish sweet vermouth)
  • 60mlsx Sanpellegrino’s Chinotto
  • 5mls x balsamic Vinegar
  • Pinch of black volcanic salt
  • thyme
  • skewer

Method
Build cocktail in a tumbler over ice, garnish with orange peel & thyme. Burn off the thyme at the end for smoke effect.