The Agrarian Kitchen by Rodney DunnA few years ago, when former Australian Gourmet Traveller food editor Rodney Dunn moved from Sydney to Tasmania, he and his wife Severine set about transforming a c19th schoolhouse into a sustainable farm-based cooking school.

Nestled in a misty valley not far outside Hobart, The Agrarian Kitchen struck an instant chord with people seeking respite from fast-paced lives and a meaningful connection with the food we eat and the land that produces it.

Rodney and Severine’s acclaimed classes are about traditional techniques, hand made products and paddock to plate ingredients. Set on five acres, The Agrarian Kitchen is a working farm and incorporates an extensive vegetable garden, orchard, berry patch and herb garden, all grown using organic principles. Also in residence are rare-breed Wessex saddleback and Berkshire pigs, Barnevelder chickens, British Alpine and Toggenburg goats, a flock of geese and honeybees.

The Agrarian Kitchen grows and uses heirloom varieties of fruit, vegetables and rare breed animals in its cooking classes and also sources ingredients from local farmers, fishermen, gardeners and artisanal producers.

This collection of recipes from the phenomenally popular cooking school celebrates the simple pleasures of cooking and eating in tune with the seasons, and the rhythm of a life lived close to the earth.

Strong stunning photography; a blessedly simple real message about food to cook and a ‘lifestyle’ to die for are just a few of the treats in this book.

We love this book, but just don’t take our word for it: Kinokunyia has described it as ‘Cookbook of the Year’ and reviewers around Australia are in love with it, including Melbourne’s own Broadsheet.

To celebrate the launch of The Agrian Kitchen cookbook we’ve asked our dear friends Nicky Reimer and Adam Cash of Union Dining to put together a dinner drawn from the book with matched wines.

Please join us with Rodney & Severine to launch of book, explore the story of The Agrarian Kitchen and celebrate the bounty of paddock-to-plate cooking

Menu: 4 courses, drinks included
Price: $95 per person
When: 7.00pm Monday 25 November
Where: Union Dining 270-272 Swan St Richmond

To book: call Union Dining on (03) 9428 2988

If you are interested in coming, we suggest you book quickly as places are limited and we expect they will sell out fast.

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Chin Chin: the book

Chin Chin: the bookEvery now and then one of our chef customers tells us ‘I’m writing a cookbook!’  We’re always excited for them and the pending arrival of a good book, but when Benjamin Cooper told us he was writing a Chin Chin book we couldn’t help but get really excited.

Chin Chin, if you haven’t been, is one of the ‘it’ restaurants in Melbourne at the moment (and has been for a while and probably will be for quite a while to come).  Housed in an old warehouse building in Flinders Lane, slightly raw, urban and funky, with a noisy buzz  Chin Chin is as far removed as you could imagine from your neighbourhood Thai takeway, or a fine dining restaurant  Bold food that merges Sth East Asian food with a strong Thai backbone complimented by a great cocktail and bar list leaves no-one hungry or thirsty - and the place pumps, often until 1am with a buzz and vibe that is hard to explain.

Although highly regarded for the food, Chin Chin is almost as well known for its egalitarian no-booking policy (you have to wait even if you are Pink or Cadel Evans) its funky post-pop Asian artwork, manga cartoons & design and for its use of social media.

All of these elements shine through in what is a strong contender for self-published book of the year.  The visual elements - manga tells the story of the restaurant; strong photography by Adrian Lander tells the story of the food; clever graphics provide a neat quick guide to the recipes - all accurately tell the story of a visit to Chin Chin.

The recipes, to us, tell an even more fun story.  This is food to cook at home for yourself, for friends, for family, for fun!  Most recipes are accompanied by hints, tips and shortcuts; ‘hacks’ as Benjamin calls them and they are all ‘graded’ for heat on a ‘mild bunny’ to ‘hot bunny’s scale.  The food is broadly Thai/South East Asian.  The flavours are all authentic even if some of the dishes are not traditional in their final form.   Dishes are designed to be shared and accompanied by other dishes but many will work on their own with some plain rice and a beer.

We love the sheer fun and exuberance of this extrovert cookbook and restaurant and highly recommend a trip to your local Asian market for some good ingredients and a slab of beer - after you’ve bought the book of course!!

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Under a Mackerel SkyOne of the titles we are really excited about this month is the release of Rick Stein’s long awaited autobiography ‘Under a Mackerel Sky‘.

Rick Stein is one of our favourite ‘TV chefs’ and over the years we have had several wonderful lunches with him as new books have been published.

Rick will be joining us for dinner on Wednesday 9 October for the Melbourne launch of his new book.

We’ve asked one of our favourite local ‘Poms’ Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan to put together a grand dinner to celebrate the occasion.

Both Matt and Rick are champions of local produce and artisanal food heroes’.  Matt is busy putting together a terrific 4 course menu from his all time favourite Rick Stein recipes; and it promises to be a wonderful evening.

Pope JoanMenu: 4 courses, drinks included

Price: $90 per person

When: 7.30pm Wednesday 9 October

Where: Pope Joan 77-79 Nicholson St Brunswick East

To book: call Pope Joan on (03) 9388 8858

If you are interested in coming, we suggest you book now as places are limited and we expect they will sell out fast.

Signed copies of Under the Mackerel Sky, and a selection of Rick’s other wonderful books, will be available for purchase on the night.  (If you can’t attend but would like signed copies please contact us.)

If you don’t know much about Rick, there is a lot more to him than what you may have seen on television.

Rick Stein’s formative years in the 50s were shaped by the Oxfordshire farm where he was raised and his family’s much loved holiday home in Cornwall.  His parents were charming, intelligent and gregarious; the five children much loved and given the kind of freedom typical of the time.  School was fun; the holidays, as he grew older, filled with loud and lively parties in his parents’ Cornish barn.  There are tales of fishing trips with his father and memories of his mother’s cooking, the taste of which he says he is still trying to recreate today.

Fishing off the rocks we never caught much more than wrasse and pollack.  The wrasse were gorgeously coloured; deep red, orange, yellow and sometimes green or golden-hued, they tasted of nothing. The pollack were always the same colour, a silver belly and brown back and large dark blue eyes. My dad and I would take the fish back to the house where the wrasse were treated with little enthusiasm by my mother. She left them till they were starting to smell, I think to make me feel better about it, then threw them out into the springy cliff grass for the gulls.  The pollack she made into fish cakes, often with mackerel, which were everpresent due to the almost daily boatfishing trips.  All the cooking I’ve ever done since is in some way an attempt to recapture some of the flavours of the cooking at home when I was a boy. Those pollack fish cakes with mashed potatoes, parsley, salt, pepper and dazzlingly fresh mackerel, just put under the grill with a sprig of fennel, are still the best I’ve ever eaten.

But ever-present was the unpredictable mood of his bi-polar father, with Rick frequently the focus of his anger and sadness. His father’s suicide when Rick was 18 precipitated his escape for two years to Australia.

Working in an abattoir and on the railways, he struggled to find his place in the world. but life began to change when, following his graduation from Oxford, he set up first a mobile disco called the Purple Tiger and then a nightclub in Padstow which catered largely for tanked-up, aggressive fishermen.  After one fight too many, the police closed him down but a clerical error meant that their licence to serve food still stood. Success followed hopelessness, and his hugely impressive career as a restaurateur and entrepreneur was followed by those of broadcaster, food champion and writer.

Rick Stein’s passion for using good-quality local produce and his talent for creating delicious flavour combinations in his books and restaurant have won him a host of awards, accolades and fans.  As well as presenting a number of television series, he has published many best-selling cookery books, including Rick Stein’s Seafood, French Odyssey, Coast to Coast, Far Eastern Odyssey, Spain and most recently Rick Stein’s India.

Rick is a firm supporter of sustainable farming and fishing techniques, which he strives to maintain in Padstow, Cornwall where he runs four acclaimed restaurants and a seafood cookery school, as well as a delicatessen and patisserie.

In 2003 Rick was awarded an OBE for services to West Country tourism.  He divides his time between Padstow and Australia (the NSW South coast) where he opened a restaurant, Rick Stein at Bannisters, in 2009.

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