A love of River Cottage and tiredness from the limitations of city-life saw former food editor Rodney Dunn and his wife Severine pack up and start anew at a 19th century schoolhouse in Lachlan, Tasmania. Rodney chats to us about winter on his sustainable farm based cooking house, The Agrarian Kitchen.
“I grew up in the country, so I kind of knew what to expect,” says Dunn of his city to country sea change, after wrapping up class for a day. “But for Severine – who hadn’t grown up in the country – she fitted in fine too. We’ve been so busy, we haven’t had much time to dwell on it. We’ve only been here seven years but if feels like home – we’ve got so many friends now thanks to the classes.”
Cooking with Truffles, Winter Braising and The Whole Hog are some of the classes available to participants who can enjoy the full Paddock to Plate experience with Dunn and his extended “family” of farm animals.
“We have pigs, goats, and I’ve got some sheep now too. Pigs were the first big animal we got. Growing up in Griffith on the NSW Riverina with Italians, we were making all our own salami back then. It’s been great being able to have all that meat for our classes too. We also get delicious eggs from our geese, chickens and guineafowl.
“Having the animals really cements the connectivity for our students; we physically squeeze milk out from the goats and then come into the class and cook something with it – it really spins people out.”
For Rodney, Severine and their staff of six, farm work never ceases, each season bringing with it a new job list.
“Winter is about preparing again for spring. You can’t really plant anything new in winter, you have to have planned winter back in autumn. The ground acts like a fridge: it keeps all the wonderful root vegetables crisp – the brussels sprouts, turnips and cabbage. People are always amazed by the intensity of flavour you get from all those root vegetables having frost on them. The cabbages are so sweet, we’ve been thinly shaving them and eating them raw.”
Cheese and yoghurt making are both popular pastimes at The Agrarian Kitchen. Dunn shares his foolproof tips for making ricotta at home.
“Ricotta is simply milk heated to 90 degrees, then you add an acid – either vinegar or lemon juice. The best tip I can give you is not to add too much or you’ll end up with rubber. For two litres of milk, add a tablespoon of acid, then a little bit more as you go if needed.”
Visit www.theagrariankitchen.com for class details.