The Ultimate in P2P – an afternoon with James Boag …
Since becoming a farmer’s wife in 2001 and owning my own pair of gumboots, I’ve experienced first hand the trials and tribulations of many of our local farmers and food growers.
Through our own farming endeavours, we’ve experienced everything from Noah’s flood to one of Victoria’s longest droughts. Despite all of these challenges, farming is well and truly in my blood, as is the idea of learning how to live off the land sustainably and ethically and sharing these experiences with others.
Whilst I am realistic about my own culinary ability, I love discovering new ways to combine ingredients, in order to produce delicious outcomes that can often become unforgettable culinary moments. By looking at food as more than just a means to an end, the art of sharing of food with others and finding inspiration through food, can make an everyday meal an occasion for celebration.
Sourcing Food Locally and Ethically
Like so many chefs and artisan growers around Australia, sourcing and growing food ethically and sustainably is the key. Discovering new ingredients and better ways to produce excellence in those ingredients is what drives many to this passion of embracing the concept of paddock to plate.
Food is a gift and using food as a means of connecting with others changes its purpose and dynamic. In a day and age where getting a meal to the table can be an ongoing challenge, it’s always refreshing to enjoy a culinary experience like no other.
With the boots off and hat and heels on, I was fortunate to have one such experience recently, as a special guest of James Boag Australia in their Marquee at Flemington Racecourse. With a group of other like-minded food lovers, we were invited to experience the best of what Tasmania has to offer, through a curated menu prepared by James Viles, head chef and director of Bowral’s two-hatted restaurant, Biota Dining.
Food – Simple and Refined
It was a day of learning about some of the local seasonal produce grown and foraged from the rugged to refined corners of Tasmania, and discovering what this beautiful part of the world really has to offer. Very few can bring together so eloquently such a diverse mix of natural ingredients and flavours quite like James.
The flavours and textures from ingredients, such as dried beef from windy Cape Grim, seaweed and oysters from Freycinet and hand foraged herbs from Cradle Mountain were authentic and refined. The passion in James to turn such ingredients into the hero of a dish was evident, through the sharing of his own personal stories and his culinary displays
James shared his experiences with us about the methods of harvesting such foods, the stories from some of the growers and why they do what they do. Through his dishes, James showed us why Tasmania has some of the best food produce Australia has to offer.
Dishes such as Southern Calamari with wild sea lettuce and toasted grain broth (pictured right), was one of many highlights of the day, as was the Robbins Island Wagyu, the Tongola goats cheese with leek and fried saltbush.
Whilst these ingredients are unique in themselves, it’s the ability to bring these ingredients together that make not only a good chef great, but the ingredients the hero of the dish.
Real Food Doesn’t Need to be Organic
What I loved about the ingredients used was the fact that none of the produce was certified organic, yet it was organically grown. We can get caught up in the need to label our food ‘organic’ in order to justify its quality and goodness, yet growing food organically does not require a label, skill or formal certification.
I have to say one of my favourite foods to try that day was the handmade cultured butter from Tasmanian Butter Co – yes, handmade butter. The butter was exquisite – quite honestly, the best I’ve tasted – and the story behind the creator of this product further enhanced the tasting experience.
If you know the origins of your food and where and how it was sourced, foraged or grown, you are connecting with your food. This enables you to gain a better understanding of its true value. To bring simple ingredients together to produce extraordinary flavours is one of the greatest culinary pleasures that further enhance the joys of working with food.
Connecting with our Food
As an advocate of supporting our local food growers and passionate about embracing paddock to plate, this meal inspired me to explore new foods for us to grow down at Swan Bay Farm. It also reinforced the need to share the simple lessons with others in the importance of learning how to grow food and pass on those skills to the generations that follow.
When we decide to work with Mother Nature and commit to supporting our environment, we realise what the land and sea is capable of producing – the less we interfere with our natural world, the greater the value our world can bring to our table.
(Pictured: Raw Tasmanian honey, almond cream and wild spring flowers)