The Agrar­ian Kitchen

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - ELAINE REEVES

THE AGRAR­IAN KITCHEN

By Rod­ney Dunn Pen­guin Aus­tralia RRP $ 59.99

ROD­NEY Dunn can fi­nally add his own work to his col­lec­tion of more than 700 cook­books. Rod­ney, his wife Sev­er­ine and their four- month- old son Tris­tan moved from Syd­ney to a run- down 1887 farm house at Lach­lan, in the Der­went Val­ley, in the win­ter of 2007.

They spent their evenings “hud­dled around the open fire, our toes be­ing blasted by Antarc­tic winds that whis­tled through the floor­boards”, eat­ing into their sav­ings and writ­ing a sub­mis­sion for a tourism grant to help set up a cooking school.

When the grant came through there was a nine- month sprint to ren­o­vate, in­stall a wood- fired brick oven in a com­mer­cial kitchen and get the gar­den started. And that, though they have been very busy, was prob­a­bly the last time they rushed.

The con­tent of classes at the school and the preparation of the book have mo­seyed along with the sea­sons.

Dur­ing the last year of his chef ap­pren­tice­ship at Tet­suya’s in Syd­ney, Rod­ney met fel­low ap­pren­tice Luke Burgess, now chef and co- owner of Garag­istes and also a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher.

Luke has done all the pho­tog­ra­phy for his friend’s book.

Rod­ney said nei­ther he nor Luke had “big chunks of time” to work on the book, so the con­tent was as­sem­bled slowly.

All the recipes were made with in­gre­di­ents grown at the Agrar­ian Kitchen or from very close by.

Over five years, pigs, milk­ing goats, guinea fowl, ducks, geese, bees and chooks were in­tro­duced to the small 2.2ha farm.

And in the gar­den they’ve grown 15 va­ri­eties of gar­lic, more than 20 dif­fer­ent pota­toes and about 200 va­ri­eties of tomato.

But in the book, Rod­ney takes into ac­count few have the bounty at their back door that he has.

He loves us­ing weeds in his cooking, call­ing it “the ul­ti­mate gar­dener’s re­venge”.

The first place to look for net­tles is around the chook shed or sheep pen, he says, but baby spinach will do and you could sub­sti­tute cel­ery leaves for lo­vage when char- grilling quail.

Hops grow in the Der­went Val­ley, but you can also buy them at a home­brew shop for the hop cus­tard to go with honey- poached ap­ple and jam pud­ding.

For each sea­son there is a photo es­say, a beach cook- up on a fish­ing trip, the fe­cund gar­den that makes pre­serv­ing “a nec­es­sary plea­sure”, for­ag­ing for mush­rooms and cooking in the em­bers of a big bon­fire.

Rod­ney says all the recipes are prac­ti­cal and use­able, and if they are long it is be­cause they are ex­cep­tional.

The recipes range from lob­ster cooked in seawa­ter, to sur­pris­ing deep- fried cherry pies, and also in­clude a re­fresh­ing riff on coleslaw and tra­di­tions such as mak­ing ri­cotta or ren­der­ing lard.

There’s also ap­ple and plum crum­ble, or sausages and mash – but in this ver­sion the sausages and mash are laced with truf­fles.

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