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Tassie on a plate: The Agrarian Kitchen

11:30 AEST Thu Aug 5 2010
"Agrarian — relating to land, land tenure or the division of landed property".

Not a word we use every day, but when Catriona was headed for Tasmania's Derwent Valley to visit The Agrarian Kitchen, we wondered how its name came about.

A visit to The Agrarian Kitchen is like stepping back in time when life was simpler and food was tastier. The sustainable farm-based cooking school has become the pride and joy of Tasmania. It has won all sorts of awards and has inspired cooks and non-cooks to become confident in the kitchen, as well as in the garden.

Owner Rodney Dunn was an apprentice under famed celebrity chef Tetsuya. He and his wife Séverine moved from Sydney to Tasmania in 2007 to transform their 19th century schoolhouse into the state's first hands-on, farm-based cooking school. It was recently named number on a list of Australia's 100 Best Gourmet Experiences.

The weatherboard structure was built in 1887 as a one-teacher school on the valley floor. It is surrounded by English-style gardens. Many of the deciduous trees were planted by schoolchildren more than 100 years ago and are still thriving.

The two-hectare property has an extensive vegetable garden, orchard, berry patch and herb garden, all grown using organic principles. It's also home to Wessex saddleback pigs, Barnevelder chickens, two British Alpine goats and a flock of geese.

Cooking classes are in three formats:

  • The Agrarian Experience — a taste of the agrarian lifestyle;
  • The Agrarian Master Classes — dedicated to artisanal subjects;
  • The Bespoke Agrarian — tailored to guest requests.

The Dunns grow and use heirloom varieties of fruit, vegetables and rare breeds of animals in their cooking classes. Other ingredients are sourced from local farmers, fishermen, gardeners and artisanal producers.

The main aim of the experience is to reconnect the kitchen with the land. You go out and gather the food you cook. Sustainable farming practices ensure the use of as few outside inputs as possible. No chemicals or artificial fertilisers, the way it was before industrial revolution. Farmers used to grow food crops and animals which complemented each other and provided plenty of food for their families and local community. Unadulterated produce means more flavour.

Not known for her culinary skills, Catriona is just the sort of student the Dunns enjoy most. Those with no preconceptions and open for learning is the recipe for success.

Her day began with an introduction to her first purple carrot and meeting Myrtle and Pretty Girl, two of the farm's goats.

Then it was to the 35 square metre kitchen. Once a classroom, it has a large, central working bench, electric ovens, gas cooktops and a wood-fired masonry oven. The masonry oven's fire is created in the same chamber used for cooking after the ashes are removed. This type of oven has been used for millennia, creating a highly efficient heat mass which stays warm for days. It's perfect for cooking things such as braised beef ribs, slow roasted pork belly, biscuits and slow-dried tomatoes.

With everyone gathered in the friendly kitchen, they set about preparing the menu of the day. Ricotta stuffed ravioli with quail eggs. Even the ricotta was home made.

With all the Rodney-instilled confidence and quite possibly to the delight of Catriona's family, her dish was a huge success, tasted delicious and has given her the desire to become adventurous in her own kitchen.

Related: The Agrarian Kitchen on Gourmet Traveller

Location

Lachlan in Tasmania's Derwent Valley.

Cost

Agrarian Kitchen cooking classes range between $295 and $770. They include hands-on class, apron, lunch served with Tasmanian wines and recipes. They run from 9am to 4.30pm. See their website for dates.

Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Hobart from:

  • Melbourne $85
  • Sydney $109
  • Adelaide $139
  • Brisbane $179
  • Perth $289

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at August 5, 2010 and are subject to change.

Prices correct at August 5, 2010.

For more information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 13 6789
www.virginblue.com.au

The Agrarian Kitchen
650 Lachlan Road
Lachlan Tasmania 7140
Ph: (03) 6261 1099
Fax: (03) 6261 1427
www.theagrariankitchen.com
info@theagrariankitchen.com

User comments
I was wanting to find out the Title and composer of the music played in the opening sceens of Catriona's visit to The Agrarian Kitchen. I have always loved hearing it but never been able to find out the name of it. Thanking you for your help. Pam Lockhorst

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