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Best food experience in Tasmania

12:00 AEST Fri Oct 7 2011
Scroll to the bottom of the page for an exclusive ravioli recipe from The Agrarian Kitchen!

Inside The Agrarian Kitchen

"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.


Lachlan in Tasmania's Derwent Valley.


Agrarian Kitchen cooking classes range start at $350. 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.

Mercure Hobart rooms start at $220 a night.

Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Hobart from:

  • Melbourne $79
  • Sydney $105
  • Adelaide $158
  • Brisbane $154
  • Perth $299

The fares are available for a limited time only so log on to for further details.

Prices correct at October 8, 2011.

For more information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 13 6789

The Agrarian Kitchen
650 Lachlan Road
Lachlan Tasmania 7140
Ph: (03) 6261 1099
Fax: (03) 6261 1427

Mercure Hobart
156 Bathurst Street
Hobart 7000
Ph: (03) 6232 6255
Fax: (03) 6234 7884

Agrarian Kitchen Recipe: Quail Egg and Ricotta Ravioli

Take care not to overcook the pasta; the ravioli are most impressive when the yolk in the centre is still runny.

Serves 4

Cooking Time Prep time 40 mins, cook 15 minutes (plus resting)

750 gm firm ricotta, drained
80 gm finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
16 quail eggs

Pasta dough
225 gm (1 and a half cups) plain flour
80 gm (half a cup) coarse semolina
2 eggs

Garlic and marjoram burnt butter
80 gm chilled unsalted butter, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp marjoram leaves

1. For pasta dough, combine flour and semolina in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, add eggs and 2-3 tbsp iced water then stir until mixture just comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (2-3 minutes). Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest (1 hour).

2 Meanwhile, process ricotta, parmesan, garlic and half the beaten egg in a food processor to combine. Season to taste and refrigerate until required.

3. Divide pasta dough into 4, then, using a pasta machine with rollers at widest setting and working with one piece at a time, feed dough through rollers. Fold dough in half lengthways, then feed through rollers again, repeating until smooth and reducing settings notch by notch until dough is translucent and 2-3mm thick. Cover loosely with a dry tea towel topped with a damp tea towel and set aside.

4. Place a sheet of pasta on a work surface and cut into 10cm squares with a fluted pastry wheel. Spoon 2-3 tsp ricotta filling in centre of each square, making an indent in the filling. Separate a quail egg and place yolk onto filling. Brush edges of pasta with eggwhite, place another square of pasta on top and press edges to seal. Repeat with remaining filling, quail eggs and pasta.

5. Cook ravioli in small batches in a large saucepan of simmering salted water until they float to the surface (1-2 minutes), remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to plates.

6. Meanwhile, for garlic and marjoram burnt butter, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add garlic and cook until nut-brown (4-5 minutes), stir through marjoram, season to taste, drizzle over warm ravioli and serve scattered with extra grated parmesan.

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