Mid April is when I was born, this year the date coincided with my first trip to the apple isle alongside my dear friend and collaborator Megan Brown. Where she goes there goes laughter, creativity, rather a lot of swearing, great food and excellent wine choices; making her the perfect companion for this adventure. Why I wondered as we flew in, have I never been to Tassie? Clean air, clear waters, green I am sure, when the drought breaks, awash with adventures and superb produce and happy healthy, friendly foodie folk, heaven. Of course Mona alone is reason enough to go and our trip was a result of their generous invitation or rather Jo Cook’s, she has the extraordinary task of curating the food offerings at the Dark MoFo Winter Feast. Jo has invited us to be guest chefs this year. She was our guide and took us to meet producers, such as James Ashmore of Ashmore Seafoods and Tasmanian harvested seaweeds seen above with Megan and I, Tony Shearer long time organic vegetable and wine producer, who hails from California and who now grows bespoke ingredients for Tassie’s top chefs. We caught up with Mona’s executive Chef Vince Trim seen below left carving a beast. He and Jo were all jokes and smiles to be reunited with Megan, who worked with them in their youth. Jo saw to it that we ate and drank the best of everything. Our three days felt like a month in the sun and the sun did shine and no rain fell! We were so inspired by this visit and since have been hatching a plan and a dish, we think does justice to Tasmania’s beautiful offerings. You will find us beside the fires in Salamanca, cooking for the Dark MoFo Winter Feast June 21-23.©image under text Ben Dearnley from Ferment
Dark Mo Fo means… expect the unexpected – fire, music, performance, arts and fabulous food offerings and mad events for the masses and the brave!
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Tasmania offers stupendous produce and we are very fortunate to be able to source the best of the best for the feast nights. Megan Brown and I are joining forces to design and execute a meal cooked on the whopping great rotating barbeque. Last year it roasted a whole beast as seen below, this year we are adapting it to cook local line caught fish and vegetables direct from the soils in the Derwent Valley, grown for us by the man seen at left below, Tony Shearer. His farm is surrounded by the driest country, his tender care ensures his produce meets the highest standards. A whole lot of labour, water and love go in to producing such results for which we give thanks.
Thanks to Jo our whirlwind 3 day tour included meeting James Ashworth for a fabulously enlightening discussion about the fishing industry and local species, seasonality, seaweed harvesting and the Roaring Forties superb octopus. We ate splendid pies at The Woodfired Bakehouse in Cygnet and discussed bread and fire with Liam who was delighted to show us their fabulous woodfired oven. Then at my special request, we had a meet up, in her delightful home, with food stylist and chef Michelle Crawford, below right, seen in her garden. I have been an instagram follower and admirer of Michelle’s for some years and it was a total delight to sit with tea at her table and wander her wild and wonderful garden. A rose never smelt so sweet. I hope to return there one day soon. Dinner and funky wines at Der Makr’s wine bar Lucinda was a treat one evening, as was breakfast at the Pigeon Hole Bakery. Lunch at The Agrarian Kitchen was a highlight and then a tour of Rodney’s beautiful home, school and gardens, he is seen below with a giant apple from his overladen tree. Fermenter @roughrice, Adam James, was teaching at the Agrarian kitchen school that day, it was so good to meet him; another mad fermenter, he may kindly make some of what we need for our dish.
We are trialling these wild harvested Tasman sea salts gifted to us by Alice and who run the operation. So far I am very impressed, they are beautifully presented in sustainable packaging and the product is delicious with deep mineral flavours not just ‘salty’ and the salt is pretty with it. I am thrilled to find an Australian sea salt from pristine waters, to put to good use. I say though, hold the smoke, we will have plenty of that at the feast, me thinks!