Tasmanian wanderings


Lured by her siren song, Tasmania has been calling for a long time now. A whispered song at first. Easy to be ignored, turned away for another day, another time. Happy memories of a trip from years before keep the song going. Time moves on and the songs tempo changes. A quickened beat, thoughts of, I wonder…

A fleeting weekend, changes the beat of the song once more. She calls more insistently now. A winter week away beckons…

A week of real winter weather


Long quiet nights of reading

Soft snow falling


Meeting the fabulous people behind the fabulous blogs

And more wonderful food than is rightfully so.

Going back to the Hobart Farmers Markets with the family was like stepping into a familiar pair of comfortable worn shoes. Some of the stalls were different, but some were the same. I was happy to wait while people lined up to make their local food purchases. Gave me a chance to soak it all in. Not as much soaking as I would have liked this time though. The Monkeys were pulling my legs and tweaking at my fingers… as there was cupcakes on the line.

C & C Cupcake Factory make seasonal cupcakes sourcing sustainable and local products. Rhubarb from the garden, quinoa milled from not far away and cupcakes that left us all wishing we weren’t leaving before they were next going to be selling at the markets. I had to reign in the excited puppy within while talking with the lovely Michelle. She had swapped Sydney streets for a slower Tasmanian life years before and I would have happily quizzed her until closing time. I didn’t though, and went and filled my arms with more goodies for meals over the next few days.

I hadn’t got to try any of Rare Food’s piggy treats last time, but this time The Monkeys had put in orders for bacon and what sort of mama would I be if I denied them? Heritage breed, locally bred, locally made products, and I get to talk with the producer. Ticks all the boxes that I’m after. Matthew Evans was also selling his new book just out, which I had heard whispers of.

I wasn’t going to buy it I really wasn’t. I didn’t need a new recipe book, and I had been really happy with the Real Food Companion. But, I did buy it… how could I not?

Winter on the Farm is the kind of book that makes you want to curl up in front of a fire, hot tea by your side, biscuit crumbs on your chest and slowly read your way through. Book marking every second page for further reference. These are the kind of recipes that I like. Recipes that can be easily tweaked, with ingredients that you might have on hand… and the photography is truly, beautiful.

* More Tassie bits to come…

one vanilla slice and a small serving of copyright please…

 The humble vanilla slice is one of those bakery treats that I’ve always found hard to walk past. I’ve written before of my love for all things custard, with the peak of the custard love sitting right in wedged between two lots of pastry.

This recipe had sat for four years in my ‘folder’, awaiting the day when I would finally give it a crack. I know the day I ripped it out of the magazine, as the date is on the bottom. Torn out from The Good Weekend, a magazine insert from the weekend paper The Sydney Morning Herald. Also, it’s a recipe from Matthew Evans. It seems I’ve been unknowingly drawn to his cooking long before I pushed him up on to my gourmet farmer pedestal.

So there the recipe sat. Waiting for the right moment. I had posted about custard biscuits and a reader commented on snot blocks. Snotblocks were otherwise known as the  vanilla slice in certain parts of 70’s Australia. With the mere mention of the snot block, I was drawn back to the torn out folded recipe, wedged between the caramel mudcake and profiterole recipe.

What exactly was holding me back from giving it a go? Right, get cracking girl. So I did. I even followed the recipe to the letter, every little step of it. I didn’t stray, not even a tiny tweak, (well almost). Which was very unlike me.

So did it turn out? Ohhh, yes. Yes it did. It actually exceeded my expectations as the recipe didn’t have an accompanying picture. I just crossed my fingers that it was going to work out, and kept visualising my snot block, I mean vanilla slice.

So I made it, it was delicious, now where’s the recipe?

This was where I came a little undone. I had followed the recipe to the T. No adaptations, no deviations, no tweaking and definitely no hack. There was no evidence of the recipe online, the magazine isn’t even on line, so I couldn’t really give credit where it was due. I didn’t want rip off the magazine I’d been reading for the past 20+ years and I didn’t want to rip off Matthew Evans.

I ended up asking a Good Weekend editor what to do, and some emails were sent back and forth without any conclusion being made. Maybe I was too small of a blog to be bothered with and maybe they just weren’t sure either of what to do? I read David Lebovitz’s post on recipe attribution, then I read it again.

Just when I had decided to let it all go, approval came through. The recipe was given the nod as long as it had all the appropriate acknowledgements.

Vanilla Slice 

from Matthew Evans- Good Weekend December 1st, 2007

2x 25cm square pieces butter puff pastry

80g 2/3 cup cornflour

1 litre milk

40g butter

6 eggs

200g (1 cup) sugar

3 tsp vanilla essence

130g (1 cup) icing sugar

1 tbls extra milk

Oven on to 220C. Pop the pastry on to baking trays and prick all over with a fork. Use something with some weight and it can go on top of the pastry to stop it from rising, just use some baking paper to prevent sticking between it, (I just used a spatula to flatten it half way through cooking). Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.  Cool and trim pastry to fit 22cm square cake tin (or something similar). Line the tin with a strip of baking paper to lift the slice out once it is set. Pop one piece of the pastry in the bottom.

For the custard, add a little of the milk with the cornflour to dissolve. In a pot, heat the remainder of the litre of milk with the butter. While it come to the boil, crack the eggs into the cornflour paste, tip in the sugar and whisk until smoooth. Whisk in the milk, and then return to the heat in a clean pan.

Whisk continuously until the mixture comes to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, then tip the custard into cake tin. Top with the other piece of pastry, turning it over- smooth side up. Press down and allow to cool.

Next either make a barely runny icing with the icing sugar and extra milk or simply dust with icing sugar. Pop in to the fridge until cold. Remove from tin and cut into squares, wiping blade between cuts.

Should make about 16 squares, (unless you do monster sized ones.)


One other little thing I did do differently, was the pastry. Mathew Evans reccommends the Careme butter puff pastry or as second choice Pampas, (likening all others to ear wax). I did get the Careme, but didn’t pay attention to how many grams there were in there, so fell short of the amount of pastry I needed. I baked it as per instructions but then really carefully halved it. Because the pastry was lovely and obliging, it was pretty easy to do, and it was still enough pastry to withhold all the custard.

So what did I learn from all this?

Waiting, and making sure I felt comfortable with the whole re-publishing process definitely paid off. Getting approval to use the recipe on my blog without all the lip biting and frowning that was going on before, felt right.

And I still love vanilla slice.

It’s delicious.


Good Weekend is a weekly magazine insert within the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Matthew Evans is Gourmet Farmer, author of The Real Food Companion and sells via Rare Food.

If you are not sure about posting a recipe, this is a really good place to start.

Vanilla slice sounds much nicer than snot block.

Hobart Farmers’ Market

Second day of my super quick stay in Hobart and I was lucky enough to be staying just a block from the Hobart Farmers’ Market. One of the smallest Farmers Market I have been to for a while, but filled with stalls that I could have happily bought from each and every one. These markets are a little different to my local one, as only the people that actually grow, raise, produce or pick the goodies can sell here. (Got to love that.)

Two stand outs for me were…

Grandvewe Cheeses– a certified organic sheep cheesery located in Birchs Bay. The cheeses truly delicious, but the Vanilla Whey liqueur…ooo la laa! Holy smokes that was tasty. After a little rearranging of my hand luggage, a bottle of this delectable beauty was popped in. I’m a big fan of anything vanilla, but this took vanilla to another level. If you had told me before I had tasted it, I would be grasping a bottle of fermented sheep’s whey, (a by-product from cheese making) infused with vanilla bean… I would probably have cocked an eye brow and looked a little sceptical. Sold by the lovely James and his charming French companion, (whom I rudely forgot to ask his name). A bottle of this stuff would be worthy of either visiting the markets for, or stopping off at The Cheesery door. Great on ice cream, a dash in an espresso or just straight.

My second stand out for the Farmers Markets was meeting and talking with Matthew Evans. *sigh* Yes I got to meet my idol. I managed to not turn in to a puddle of nerves…just, and would have happily grilled him with questions for the whole morning on all things rare breed, slow food, sustainable and Tasmanian living. However, at the risk of looking like a complete crazed stalker… I didn’t. I also didn’t get to taste any of his Rare Food free range piggy products as I had a plane to catch, (but they did look delicious). Looking over the products, reminded me of what bacon was supposed to look like. I can only imagine how it would taste. Matthew and his business partner Ross, use heritage breed pigs for their products, (at the moment Wessex Saddleback and Berkshire) and this week these same pigs would be fed a tasty diet of cherries, to enhance that delectable sweet meat on their ample bodies.

So why am I a Mr Evans fan? Because watching his series, (and reading his blog) Gourmet Farmer gives me hope that one day my family and I can achieve something similar. A city person learning to do things from scratch. Anyone that is willing to swap a city life to one of rare breed rearing, artisan producing and taking a stand for what they believe in regarding what goes on a dinner plate…I have to applaud.

This is the life I aspire to. A life in the stunning Tasmanian countryside, peppered with some of the best food products in the country. Not a life of ease and convenience, but one of taste and ethics. Real food, that is simple, and yet complex and intricate on the palate. Real food that’s produced by that fella down the road or that lady over the hill. All enhanced by like minded people in a community setting that inspires others to strive to do what they feel passionate about.

The fact that Matthew Evans and his fellow food producers seem to be doing this, inspires me.

So for the moment, he will continue to be my ‘pin up’ Gourmet Farmer. As this lets me dream, of a land with hundreds of varieties of heirloom apples and free range heritage breed pigs when I am standing on a busy city intersection, waiting to cross and engulfed in car exhaust fumes.

The real food companion

Finally! In my hot little hands I have the The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans. Now I have been waiting for this book patiently for quite awhile now and finally here it is…sorry did I say patiently?… impatiently for quite awhile now. Matthew Evans, other wise known as Gourmet Farmer, known formerly as Chef, and Food Critic.

Was it worth the wait?

*big sigh*…yes.

This book is really something special. He writes so passionately about what he believes in, I think it would be very hard not to get caught up in that enthusiasm and run with it. It’s a truly wonderful book full of backgrounds, information, ethics and not to mention delicious ‘real’ food recipes. It’s the kind of book that you curl up on the couch and read from beginning to end not wanting to put it down, (if it wasn’t for The Monkeys, so you have to frequently keep putting it down) book marking page after page to go back to.  For me, true escapism into a world that I hold really, really important. Your belly and your soul are left feeling nurtured.

From making your own mascarpone to Tiramisu. The dilemma of what egg to buy, to Lemon Curd and mayonnaise. Heritage breed meats and a Beef, Coconut & Lime leaf Curry (very tasty that one.) At 574 pages, its got a whole lot and then some, in it.

So a new book to be putting under my pillow, Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook move over please…