Matthew Evans used to write restaurant reviews for me when I was editor of Good Living 12 years ago. I went to Hong Kong to have babies, he went to Tasmania to go farming. His adventures have been well documented in the SBS series, The Gourmet Farmer.
It was such a thrill to go last weekend to visit Matthew and his wife Sadie on their Fat Pig Farm in a verdant valley of apple trees and grape vines about an hour south of Hobart.
We sat by a tranquil reed-rimmed dam on hay bales covered with sacks for extra comfort and ate ham, cured and smoked from his parcel pigs that he feeds with apple skins, and cheese from a local goat herd. On a make-shift campfire he flipped herbed cevaps (see recipe) which we ate with yoghurt made with the milk, which he or Sadie coax out of their two guernsey cows each afternoon, on grilled bread. For us Sydney city folk, it was the Platonic dream of lunch in the country. It was less idealistic for Matthew who was worried about the fate of two sheep which had busted out of their paddock and were now freely roaming the Huon Valley.
Matthew, Sadie and their son Hedley have just moved to a home on Fat Pig Farm (though they have been farming the land for several years). Boxes still need unpacking but a more pressing project, visible from the lounge-room window, is pre-occupying them.
A restaurant. At the moment it is a staked out patch of land covered in gravel. But by June next year they hope it will be a cooking school and restaurant open on weekends, drawing people from all over Australia to come, don gumboots and pluck vegies from his garden then learn how to butcher a pig and cook delicious country fare followed by lunch and wine; lots of local wine.
"I must be crazy to be taking on this project at 50," he says. But since moving to Tasmania, it has been his constant dream. And at last it is taking shape. In the meantime, he will be travelling Australia promoting his latest cookbook, Summer on Fat Pig Farm (and he is appearing at the SMH Growers' Market on November 7).
Making sausages at home is often hindered by the lack of a machine or the lack of skins. Or both. Here is a very simple mix, inspired by Balkan sausages called cevapcici (which are often shortened to cevaps in that particular Australian way) that you can knock up as easily as you would a few patties. Be sure to keep things chilled for best results and if you want to alter the ratios of each type of meat to what you've got, feel free.
500g (1lb 2oz) minced beef
500g (1lb 2oz) minced pork
500g (1lb 2oz) minced lamb
1 tbsp salt
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tsp ground dried thyme
3 tsp ground dried mint
3 tsp ground dried oregano
1/2 tsp freshly milled black pepper
Yoghurt Flatbread, for serving
natural yoghurt, for serving
coriander (cilantro) or mint leaves, for serving
1. Mix all of the ingredients well together with your hands, just until the mixture becomes sticky. Refrigerate for half an hour after making the mix. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes to prevent them from burning during cooking.
2. Shape the mix by hand into sausage-like shapes, on skewers if using, then chargrill or barbecue on medium heat for a few minutes each side to cook through.
3. Serve with yoghurt flatbread, a dollop or two of natural yoghurt and some freshly torn coriander or mint leaves.
I've been disappointed by so many bought flatbreads that I tried making my own. This one gets a lovely crisp, flaky texture from the yoghurt, and is pretty nice brushed with garlic-scented olive oil and nothing more.
7g (1/4 oz/1 sachet) dried yeast
1 tbsp tepid water (body temperature)
1 tsp sugar
200g natural yoghurt
about 230g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
vegetable oil, for greasing
melted butter or olive oil, for serving
1. Mix the yeast, water and sugar in a big bowl. Whisk in the yoghurt, then stir in the flour and salt. Knead on a well-floured board for 10 minutes, cover and allow to rise for two hours or so. Punch down, knead for five minutes and divide into four pieces.
2. Very gently pull the dough to form 12 centimetre rounds.
3. Cook under a super-hot griller – I used a lightly oiled pan – or in a wood-fired oven until brown on each side, turning over to cook evenly. Brush with a little butter or olive oil and serve, ideally while still warm. You can also cook this on a chargrill on a barbecue, or even on a ridged pan. Lightly oil each side before cooking.
Yoghurt & raspberry cake with elderflower syrup
This is a variation on a Greek-inspired yoghurt cake I've been making for some years. The raspberries tend to sink into the batter a bit as the cake rises, which is just perfect.
125g butter, softened
200g castor (superfine) sugar
finely grated zest and strained juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp juice and 1/2 tsp zest)
200g self-raising flour
200g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp elderflower cordial (concentrate)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20-centimetre round cake tin and line the base and side with baking paper.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. It may look a bit curdled but don't worry, we'll fix that. Gently fold in the lemon zest and flour and then fold in the yoghurt too. Use a spatula to scrape into the cake tin, making the centre a little lower compared to the edges. Dot the raspberries over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
3. While the cake cooks, heat the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. When the cake is cooked, take it from the oven, but leave it in the tin. Poke a fine skewer into the cake about 30 times all over. Remove the syrup from the heat and add the elderflower cordial, then spoon the syrup over the top of the cake. Try to spoon it so it soaks into the holes evenly rather than all soaking into the edges around the tin. Allow to cool, then serve on a picnic rug, in dappled shade, in summer, or spring, or winter, or autumn.
Recipes and images from Summer on Fat Pig Farm by Matthew Evans (Murdoch Books) $49.99.