Sarah Robins established herself as a champion of local food producers care of her former role as media spokesperson for the Victorian Farmers' Markets Association. Robins penned the Locavore column in Epicure as part of this role, encouraging readers to buy seasonal (and local) fruit and vegetables.
Soon Robins will take the next step and actually become a producer herself, joining her partner on an apple orchard in her native New Zealand where the couple plan to produce cider.
But before she crosses the ditch, Robins has given Victorian food producers a final boost by way of a beautiful new book, Seasonal Regional, published by not-for-profit organisation Sustainable Table. The book not only profiles some of our best small-scale farmers and artisan food producers, but taps into their cooking know-how, and that of some of Victoria's highest profile regional chefs, including Age Good Food Guide chef of the year, Michael Ryan (of Provenance, Beechworth) with scores of recipes lavishly photographed by Matt Burke.
Here's a selection from the book.
Chocolate and stout pancakes with cherries
Chloe Wilson's early childhood memories are of running around the cherry orchards in Red Hill. The stout she uses in this recipe is decidedly adult however. Chloe says any cherries can be used in this recipe, although she particularly likes the sour morello cherries Cobradah Orchard grow. PHOTO: Matt Burke.
120g plain flour
1 free-range or organic egg
1 2/3 cups stout or chocolate stout (we use Red Hill Brewery Imperial stout)
1/3 cup milk (we use Schulz organic)
butter for frying
200g fresh cherries, pitted and halved (we use Morellos from Cobradah Orchards)
cream for serving
For the batter
Sift flour and cocoa into a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of the sugar, mix together and make a well in the centre of the bowl.
Crack the egg into the well and pour in 1 cup of the stout and the cup milk. Mix well until a thick batter forms.
Heat a little butter in a frying pan over a low heat.
Pour approximately half a cup of the batter into the pan and angle the pan until the batter forms a thin circle. Keep on low heat and cook on one side until small bubbles appear around the edges.
Flip the pancake and cook the other side until the pancake slides easily in the pan.
Repeat with the remaining batter until desired number of pancakes are made and keep warm in the oven.
For the topping
Place cherry halves in a saucepan and add the remaining cup of stout and 2 tablespoons of sugar and simmer on a medium heat until the stout and sugar become syrupy. The longer you cook and reduce, the thicker the syrup.
Whip cream until peaks form.
Serve pancakes with a dollop of cream and a generous drizzling of cherries and syrup.
Serves 4 (two pancakes each)
Perfect lemon roast chicken with lemon marmalade (and pistachio cous cous)
Chef Paul Cooper is passionate about sustainable, local produce and nose-to-tail eating. Formerly at The Provincial in Fitzroy and O'Connells Hotel in South Melbourne, Paul discovered many Victorian food producers at the Gasworks Farmers' Market in Albert Park and championed them on his menus. Paul has recently moved to Sydney and opened his first eatery, Bishop Sessa in Surry Hills. He created this dish with Russell Mickle of Milawa Free Range Poultry in mind, giving the chicken a home-style feel.
PHOTO: Matt Burke.
* Chicken recipe should be started at least 36 hours prior to serving.
For the brine
3 litres water
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, zest only
2 sprigs lemon thyme or thyme
For the chicken
1 whole free-range or organic chicken, size 16 (we use Milawa free-range)
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
100g lemon marmalade
For pistachio cous cous
400ml free range or organic chicken stock
25ml lemon juice
25ml orange juice
100g sultanas, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, then drained (we use Happy Fruit)
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
400g cous cous
50ml olive oil
100g pistachios, roughly chopped (we use Go Just Nuts)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
For the brine – 2 days prior
Place all ingredients in a pot and warm on a low heat to dissolve the sugar and salt, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container and then refrigerate overnight.
For the chicken – the night before
Rinse chicken to remove excess blood and place in a container tall and narrow enough to allow the brine to completely cover the chicken. Pour the brine over the chicken. Place a weight on top to ensure it stays submerged. Refrigerate for 12 hours, then remove.
On day of eating
Discard the brine and pat chicken dry using paper towels, then refrigerate uncovered for a minimum of 3 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 150C. Using a thin metal skewer pierce the skin of the chicken all over and then season. Rub the softened butter all over the breast and legs.
Heat a large pan over medium heat, add a little oil, and place the chicken on its side into the pan. Keep it on a consistent heat, turning the chicken every 2-3 minutes until it is golden-brown all over, (spend a bit of extra time on the legs if you can) being careful not to break the skin when turning.
Place the chicken onto a baking tray and into the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes. Remove and using the metal skewer, stab the joint between the thigh and drumstick, to see what colour the juices run out. If they are clear and the meat is no longer pink, it is cooked. If not, return to the oven, checking every 10 minutes until done and then rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn the heat up to 200°C. Rub lemon marmalade onto the skin and return chicken to the oven for another 10 mins to crisp up the skin.
Rest for 15 minutes, carve and serve with pistachio cous cous and a leafy green salad.
For pistachio cous cous
Add the chicken stock, lemon juice and orange juice to a pot and bring to the boil.
Combine all other ingredients, except pistachios, in a bowl large enough to be able to comfortably stir, and pour over the hot liquid and olive oil.
Stir with a fork, season, and cover with a lid or cling film, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
Uncover, add pistachios, season to taste and serve.
Serves: chicken (4 people) and cous cous (4-6 people)
The above recipe extracts were provided to Good Food by Sustainable Table.
Seasonal Regional (RRP $60) is out now. Available at stockists including Readings bookshops, Key Ingredients, Dymocks (Melbourne CBD), Shelley Panton pottery studio, Books for Cooks, among other stockists, or available online from www.sustainabletable.org.au. *Also available at website is Sarah Robins' 2013 Seasonal Regional calendar.