What is it?
Originally a British farm worker's packed lunch - crumbly, cloth-bound cheddar, strong pickles and tough bread - the ploughman's was promoted as a quick, easy pub meal in the late 1950s as part of a campaign to get Britons to eat more cheese. With the rise of casual eating, shared platters and craft beer - its ideal companion - the ploughman's is being put to work once again.
Where is it?
In Melbourne, the ploughman's is on the summer courtyard menu at The Commoner in Fitzroy, laden with house-made terrine, bresaola, wood-smoked ham, bread-and-butter pickles and toasted potato sourdough bread. "We call it cupboard love," says co-owner Jo Corrigan.
"It takes a lot of time and dedication to prepare and yet it's ready in a moment."
At the Middle Park Hotel, head chef Andrew Beddoes maintains a ploughman's platter counter meal that involves house-made pork pie, piccalilli, Isle of Mull cheddar, leg ham, apple, salad cream and toast. "It's honest, it has a lot of different flavours, and people love it," says Beddoes.
In Sydney, the ploughman's platter for two at Manly's new Rubber Duckie Tap House can be matched to any one of the 22 craft beers on offer. "Share food is becoming a big thing," says general manager Piet Flynn.
But Sydney's finest ploughman's could well be at the charming Orto Trading Co in Surry Hills, where it's dubbed ''the Gaffer'' (British slang for the boss), and comes with a salt cod scotch egg, jar of pickled mackerel, rolled pork and rabbit terrine, Wagyu silverside, Maffra cheddar, piccalilli and char-grilled bread for two or more to share. "We chefs are sick of cooking for other chefs," says co-owner and chef Chris Low. "We want to cook what we want to eat."
Why do I care?
It's easy, relaxed, grazing food that goes beautifully with a cold beer, a glass of wine or a cider.
Can I do this at home?
You probably do already.
The Commoner, 122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy 03 9415 6876
The Middle Park Hotel, 102 Canterbury Road, Middle Park 03 9690 1958
Orto Trading Co, 38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills 0431 212 453
Rubber Duckie Tap House, 49 North Steyne, Manly Beach 02 9977 0999
A good farmhouse cheddar (such as Pyengana, Maffra, Isle of Mull) is the heart and soul of a ploughman's. Otherwise, you're just eating antipasto.
300g wedge cloth-bound cheddar
6 thick slices rare roast beef or leg ham
4 pink radishes
4 pickled onions, gherkin, cornichon, etc
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
Sea salt and black pepper
Celery stalks and leaves
Fruit chutney or piccalilli
Just plonk it all on a big wooden sharing board, scatter sea salt and pepper over the eggs, and sit down and eat.
Feel free to add watercress, fresh tomatoes, Branston Pickle, horseradish, hot mustard, Scotch eggs, cultured butter, pastrami, blue cheese, apples.