Last Saturday's Farm Kitchen lunch was the perfect wintery day in Orange; it was a brisk five or six degrees outisde and we had rain, hail and then sunshine with our deer conveniently and happily congregated right outside the Farm Kitchen garden, inquisitive for a while then more focussed on munching on the beautiful pasture Tim had been saving up for them to graze on as soon as the weather turned (they use/need so much more energy in the winter).
We'd lit the fire up at the shed at 6am knowing how cold and wet the day was set to be, so by the time everyone arrived, our kitchen was warm and toasty. I'd pillaged the persimmon tree down at the house for table decorations, plucked bulbs from orchard and run a long strip of brown paper down the table instead of a cloth.
So it was a fairly low-key, simple lunch, like all of our events really! For starters we had shared platters of our new venison prosciutto and venison salami with spiced nuts, fennel breadsticks, olives, baked ricotta and a white bean and mint dip.
White bean and mint dipA gentle, mellow-flavoured dip; this is also great as a side-dish for roast venison (poultry and other meats) and of course is a great addition to a little grazing plate as per the above. Makes about 2 cups.
1 cup dried white beans
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sumac
Soak the dried beans overnight in a pot of cold water. Rinse, then return beans to your pot and fill it with fresh water. Add a good pinch of salt then bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium, skim any scum off the surface then cook for about one hour (or until beans are tender). Drain, reserving about 1/2 a cup of the cooking liquid.
Transfer the drained beans to a blender or food processor and add the garlic, herbs, lemon juice and most of the olive oil (reserving some for drizzling at the end). Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid then blitz until nice and smooth (add more liquid if you like, until you have a consistency you're happy with).
Season to taste then serve (at room temperature).
Main course was a couple of beautiful barbecued venison racks served with braised, buttery lentils, roast parsnips and beetroot and a jus sweetened with a little bittersweet chocolate.
Barbecued venison rack with lentils and red wine jusWe don't often have racks available to use in the Farm Kitchen (our restaurants usually snap them up first!) so it was a treat to have two on hand for this lunch. They were served, pink and tender, on a bed of lentils and a drizzle of this red wine jus recipe (given in a recent issue of Delicious magazine and written by Valli Little). Serves 6
For the lentils2 cups green Puy-style lentils
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
Rinse the lentils then place in a pot, fill with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain, leaving a little water in the mix then return to the warm pot. In a separate pan, cook off the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until nice and soft (about five minutes).Just before serving, stir the onion and garlic through your warm lentils, add the butter and parsley and stir until the butter is melted through. Season well and serve warm.
For the venison;1 x Mandagery Creek Venison rack
3 tbsp pink peppercorns
2 tbsp sea salt
Remove the rack from its packaging and let sit for a little while to come up to room temperature. Preheat the barbecue to high. Crush the peppercorns lightly in a mortar and pestle and massage into the rack, with a little olive oil and salt. Place on the barbecue and cook for 10 minutes on each side. Let rest under a tent of foil for 10 minutes before cutting into individual cutlets and serving with the lentils and the rest.
Pip's chocolate mousse
My good friend Pip helps us out often at the farm kitchen and is an invaluable part of our little team here. Last week I was having a minor panic attack about finding the time to prep for this lunch and getting on top of a few other work and family commitments. So when I said I was thinking about doing a mousse for pudding, she replied, 'let me'.
And I countered with, 'yes please, I love you'.
Pip makes a mean chocolate mousse. Her recipe is based on one by Bill Granger but over the years she has changed it a little and it's honestly one of the best desserts I know of. We served these little pots of heaven with thinly sliced poached pears (below), a little bit of cold cream and some crushed praline.
300g good quality dark chocolate
150g good quality milk chocolate
5 egg whites4 egg yolks
300mls cream, whipped
Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water then leave to cool for a couple of minutes. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then add the egg whites, in batches, very carefully folding them in with a large metal spoon. Remember that you want to keep every bubble of air you can as this is what makes the mousse so light and fluffy. Carefully divide mixture into individual ramekins or one large bowl. Cover with plastic and leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
Red-wine poached pears6 firm beurre bosc pears
1 x bottle Merlot
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
Pared zest of one orange
Combine all ingredients except for the pears in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring every now and then. Meanwhile, peel the pears, then carefully lower into the poaching liquid. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pears with a sheet of baking paper and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and leave to cool completely in the syrup.