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The Agrarian Kitchen - Rodney Dunn


Published: 23rd October 2013
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The much-anticipated first book from the founder of The Agrarian Kitchenin Tasmania.

When former Australian Gourmet Traveller food editor Rodney Dunn moved from Sydney to Tasmania, he and his wife Severine set about transforming a nineteenth-century schoolhouse into a sustainable farm-based cooking school.

Nestled in a misty valley outside Hobart, The Agrarian Kitchen struck a chord with people seeking respite from fast-paced lives and a meaningful connection with the food we eat and the land that produces it. 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.

About the Author

Rodney Dunn grew up on a farm in rural New South Wales. During his chef apprenticeship he worked under Tetsuya Wakuda at esteemed Sydney restaurant Tetsuya's, before moving into food media. He has since developed recipes for most of Australia's food magazines and worked as food researcher for the Better Homes and Gardens television program. In 2004 he joined Australian Gourmet Traveller as food editor, and is currently the magazine's contributing food editor.

A natural teacher, Rodney has taught cooking classes for Sydney Seafood School and Simon Johnson, but ultimately his passion for flavour led him back to the land, and in 2007 he moved to Tasmania with his family to establish The Agrarian Kitchen.



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The Agrarian Kitchen


from Perth WA

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    Comments about The Agrarian Kitchen:

    Just love this book there is so many recipes I would love to do. With the beautiful pictures and easy to do recipes a must in every house hold :)

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    If, like me, you are obsessed with food, you will attest to the eternal quest to enrich your life with amazing eating experiences. While I could blame my crazy idea of moving to the country on watching too much of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage television series, or reading the writings of Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli in the Chez Panisse cookbooks, somewhere along the way I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that the majority of the food I was eating in restaurants was days, sometimes weeks or even months old, the product of an industrial farming system that values high yields and amenability to transport and storage above flavour. Remember that as soon as something is harvested, it begins to deteriorate, so I realised that if I wanted to experience a fruit or vegetable at its best, I needed to get as close to that point as possible.

    Ironically, I grew up in the country, but as a teenager all I ever wanted to do was head to the city, because I thought that's where it was all happening – the bright lights, the bustling restaurants – and by then I had my heart set on becoming a chef. I have heard it said that to be a good cook, first you have to be a good eater, and as a young lad it seemed I was always hungry; hollow legs, I think they called it! The other career inkling I had was teaching. However, I felt I could always go back to university if this cooking thing didn't work out. Life has such a funny way of making things happen that one would have never thought possible, such as combining the two.

    After beginning my chef apprenticeship in Griffith in south-east New South Wales, I found my way to the kitchen of Sam Vico at Caffe Bassano. It was here that I learnt to cook Italian food with heart, to cook seasonally and simply, honouring the ingredient. In the last year of my apprenticeship, at the age of twenty, I left for Sydney to work for Tetsuya Wakuda at his restaurant, which was then in the inner-western suburb of Rozelle. At the time, I didn't realise the impact this would have on the rest of my life. We worked long, hard hours in a small kitchen, and faced a whole new level of expectation and discipline – an experience that has held me in good stead ever since. Of course, there was also the opportunity to sample some amazing produce: I will never forget the time a box of white Alba truffles arrived straight from the airport, or the summertime crates of farm-fresh white peaches that drove everyone crazy with their sweet, luscious fragrance.

    In that same kitchen I met one of my best mates, Luke Burgess. Like me, Luke was an apprentice chef, and we bonded on the first day, forging a friendship that has stayed the distance across career paths and states. He even introduced me to the love of my life, Séverine. To this day, Luke still influences the way I cook and is a constant sounding board for advice. He has also taken all the photos for this book, capturing our daily life at The Agrarian Kitchen in a way only he could.

    It was during a two-week break from Tetsuya's that I had the opportunity to spend some time assisting a food photographer. A whole new world opened before my eyes, one in which I could satisfy my two passions, food and books. (Those of you who have visited The Agrarian Kitchen will know that my passion for cookbooks is definitely bordering on obsession!) Over the next seven years I worked on a freelance basis, cooking for photo shoots and television shows, and writing some of my own recipes for food magazines.

    In 2004 Séverine and I got married, and after our honeymoon I started at Australian Gourmet Traveller. For three years I held the enviable position of food editor at the magazine, working with a team of talented people to create recipes for its glossy pages, a job that for many would have been the pinnacle of a career. I, however, was quietly developing the notion of moving to Tasmania, the only slight flaw in the plan being that I had never actually been there . . . Fortuitously, Tourism Tasmania extended an invitation for someone from the magazine to attend their Ten Days on the Island festival, and of course I jumped at the chance. When I got there, I was as wide-eyed as a kid in a candy store: I spoke to chefs who told me stories of abundant wild food foraged from forests and hedgerows, and sampled produce grown and raised in the purest air in the world. If moving to Tasmania had been just a dream up until then, after that brief visit it became a mission.

    It took a few years of on-and-off searching with a few false starts before we found the right place, and we had almost given up hope when the Old Schoolhouse at Lachlan came up. I guess I had an image in my mind of the setting I wanted for our new life, and the closer I got, the more boxes I was ticking off. The village of Lachlan is nestled in a valley, with hills rising up on all sides like an amphitheatre. The property itself is surrounded by mature deciduous trees – elms, oaks and poplars – and, given it was autumn, their leaves painted the ground golden. The house sat in the middle of five acres, somewhat smaller than I was initially after, but I was won over by how perfect the building was. Like all country schools built around that time (Lachlan school dates from 1887), it consisted of two main parts, the school rooms and the headmaster's residence. The old classrooms had been divided by a wall with a large sliding door and the light streamed in through huge banks of windows at either end. My mind was working overtime as I stood and stared out of the kitchen windows to the mountains beyond. Could I imagine people cooking in here? Armed with photos and video footage, I returned to Sydney intent on convincing Séverine that this was the place for us.

    Several months later, we bought the warmest woollen doona we could lay our hands on and set about moving to one of the coldest parts of Australia in the middle of winter. It didn't take us long to understand that heating was a necessity. We burnt through our first tonne of firewood in about a week before we realised we didn't need to keep three fires burning.

    Anyone with an old house will empathise, for they are impossible to keep warm. Our kitchen floor had updrafts that would rival the latest-model air conditioner; as we huddled around the open fi re, our toes were being blasted by Antarctic winds that whistled through the floorboards. For the next two months, apart from keeping warm, Séverine and I spent our evenings putting together a submission for a government-sponsored tourism promotion grant we had found out about. Each night we put our four-month- old son Tristan to bed and beavered away into the wee hours, laying our dream onto paper in order to convince other people this thing had legs – and ourselves that we were not totally crazy.

    By early 2008 we had eaten into most of our savings, and things were looking a little dire as we anxiously awaited the outcome of our submission. When we finally heard that our application had been successful, it felt like winning the lottery! Over the next nine months, the small domestic kitchen was removed, the floorboards were replaced and the classrooms re-painted from top to bottom, then a wood-fired oven and a new commercial kitchen were installed. And that was just the inside. Outside, a car park was constructed and a paddock was transformed into the beginnings of a garden.

    We officially opened in November 2008, and it all went smoothly, even with the haphazard charm that tends to accompany the first day of any new venture. During our first year of operation, it was just the two of us: I would teach the class and Séverine would wash up, in between caring for Tristan. She would put him down for a sleep in time to help serve the meal and pour the wine. If we were lucky, he would sleep through until the end of class . . . and then be wide awake until much later at night, but we figured it was a small price to pay.

    On my arrival here, I was a complete novice when it came to the nitty-gritty of actually growing things. I was, to quote my father, 'green behind the ears'. Well, as it turns out, all I really needed to do was to get the green from behind my ears and into my thumbs. At a time when so many of us yearn for a more meaningful connection with the natural world, I like to think that what we are offering is a taste of the very nourishing experience of tending a garden and raising animals. For me, The Agrarian Kitchen represents the chance to share the simple pleasures of cooking and eating in tune with the seasons, and the rewards of a life lived close to the earth.

    ISBN: 9781921382451
    ISBN-10: 1921382457
    Audience: General
    Format: Hardcover
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 280
    Published: 23rd October 2013
    Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
    Country of Publication: GB
    Dimensions (cm): 29.0 x 22.7  x 2.8
    Weight (kg): 1.37
    Edition Number: 1