Growing, cooking, feasting: Three recipes from Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans

Zucchini tzatziki.
Zucchini tzatziki. Photo: Alan Benson

When food writer-turned-television presenter-and-farmer Matthew Evans moved to a 28-hectare property in Tasmania's Huon Valley, his aim was to grow the best-tasting food possible for his plate. But along the way, he's also fostered a community – a community of microbes, insects, birds and animals, all thriving in his modest farming ecosystem, and a community of people working, contributing and eating at Fat Pig Farm's on-site restaurant.

In his latest book, The Commons, Evans documents a year of learning, growing, cooking and feasting on the farm, capturing the highs and lows of each season, musings about the weather, the joys of keeping chooks and tips for growing potatoes, along with more than 100 recipes.

Zucchini tzatziki

This is a great way to use up leftover roasted or grilled zucchini. A variation on the cucumber and-yoghurt classic from Greece, this has a bit more body and a nice smoky character.

The Commons by Matthew Evans.
The Commons by Matthew Evans. Photo: Hardie Grant Books

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 zucchini, sliced and roasted or chargrilled
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g drained yoghurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2–3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

METHOD

  1. Pulse the zucchini with the olive oil in a food processor until broken down but not completely smooth. Fold into the yoghurt with the garlic, herbs, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
     
  2. Serve with flatbreads, ciabatta, or similar.

Makes 500g

Parmesan grissini

You can use any bread dough, even sourdough if you have it, but the addition of fat and parmesan makes this even better. It's much easier to use a machine to do this, because the fat can make kneading by hand quite messy, as it does with brioche. A tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary leaves, added with the parmesan, is a pretty good thing to add, too.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 7g sachet active dried yeast
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 250g (1⅔ cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting (use bread flour if you can find it)
  • ½ tsp salt, plus extra salt flakes for sprinkling
  • 170ml (⅔ cup) tepid water (body temperature)
  • 2 tbsp pork fat
  • 40g finely grated parmesan

METHOD

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the water.
     
  2. Knead to a dough, smother with the fat, cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Knead again with the parmesan to incorporate all the fat. (A free-standing electric mixer with a dough hook makes this much easier and cleaner, I must say.)
     
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-forced) and cover a baking sheet with either flour or baking paper.
     
  4. Cut the dough into 20 even-sized pieces and roll and stretch it out to make rustic-looking strands about 30 cm (12 in) long and thinner than your little finger. Dust with plenty of flour so they don't stick. Lay them out as you go on the tray, and sprinkle with a little more salt at the end if you like. (I occasionally spray them first with a little water to get the salt to stick if the dough is a touch dry.) I like to bake them pretty quickly after rolling so they are thinner and crisper than if they puff, but it depends on your taste.
     
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and reasonably crisp.

Makes 20 thin grissini

Sour milk and raspberry cake

Soured milk makes this cake so much better than normal milk. If you don't have some that's just turned, use a bit of buttermilk, yoghurt, some kefir, or a good tablespoon of lemon juice to help sour the mix. We use the last of the frozen raspberries, but you can substitute chunks of baked quince or poached pear for the raspberries if you like.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g (1 cup) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 345g (1½ cups) castor sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml (1 cup) sour milk
  • 400g (2⅔ cups) self-raising flour
  • 100g frozen raspberries, plus extra to serve
  • clotted or whipped cream, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). Grease and line a 26cm round springform cake tin.
     
  2. Beat the butter and sugar until light and pale. (When it's cold weather, I sometimes soften the butter in the oven very carefully first, as it makes it easier to beat.) Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla, then the milk and flour in two alternating batches, stirring just until the batter's combined. (I like to add a touch more than the cup of milk.) Stir in the still-frozen raspberries and pour the batter into the prepared tin.
     
  3. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and finish cooling on the rack before serving or storing in an airtight container. The cake is nice with a few extra berries, softened on the stove then poured over, and perhaps clotted or just simple whipped cream for serving.

Serves 12

This is an edited extract from The Commons by Matthew Evans published by Hardie Grant Books $60. Photographer: © Alan Benson 2019