Cookbook review: Winter on the Farm

Posted on August 1, 2011


Winter on the farm whisks you away to a chilly winters day in the country. It explores country cooking at it’s best: warming stews, soups, belly filling pasta and chocolate desserts.  After working as Sydney’s most feared food critic, Matthew Evans moved to Bruny Island to focus on producing artisan food products. The book explores the cycle of food production from garden to table. What is most impressive about the recipes are their simplicity, minimal ingredients and maximum flavour. I usually avoid books that focus on a particular season, but when I saw that the book came signed at a discounted rate with my recent Bruny Island Cheese offer, I couldn’t resist.

The book is organised in chapters that explore a full day of eating in the country: breakfast, soups, roasts, pasta, vegetables, desserts and drinks. It is easy to follow, with beautiful pictures which will tantalize any cook. I had an ample supply of washed rind cheese from Bruny Island, so I chose to cook the ‘Buckwheat pasta with Taleggio cheese’ recipe. I also cooked the ‘Pork and black bean stew’ to warm me up on a cold Melbourne night. The pasta dish originated from northern Italy and was simple and easy to make. The pasta is coated with the cheese and a burnt butter and sage sauce. Although I normally prefer pasta with more sauce, I kept coming back for more. The success of the recipe lies in restraint. Good quality products, cooked well. Using the Bruny Island 1792 was also a success, it has quite a strong flavour which I felt suited the pasta, more than a Taleggio.

The pork stew was warming and homely. The stew contained a mixture of pork shoulder, bacon and pork sausage, which contributes to its flavour. However, I added some Juniper berries and Ancho chillies for a more complex taste. I think it would be better served with sour cream, as the tartness of yoghurt overpowered the more subtle flavours.

If these recipes are an indicator of taste, I know in time that the book will have dog eared pages and food stains covering most pages. This book is a sure-fire way to heat yourself up this winter. Pick it up in good bookstores like Readings and Books for Cooks in Fitzroy. Alternatively it is available online at the Book Depository and Booktopia.

I have minimally adapted the recipes to suit ingredients available in my kitchen.

Spelt pasta with potato, washed rind cheese and sage.

Serves 6
 Salt for cooking pasta
Salt & pepper to season
200g waxy potatoes, peeled, cut into 1cm dice
200g Savoy cabbage, cut into bite size pieces
500g spelt pasta
100g washed rind: Taleggio or Pont L’ Eveque. I used Bruny Island 1792
2tbsp grated Grana Padano or parmesan
100g butter
20 Sage leaves
  1. Heat oven to 150C.
  2. Fill a large pot with salted water (2tbsp) and bring to a boil.
  3. Add potato and cabbage and cook for three minutes. Then add pasta and bring to a boil.
  4. Cook the pasta on low till Al dente (it still has bite), for around 10-14 mins.
  5. Drain pasta in a colander and spoon pasta into a casserole dish, sprinkle with washed rind cheese and parmesan cheese evenly.
  6. Put in hot oven till cheese is melted, usually 7-10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small fry-pan over high heat, then add sage. Watch carefully for butter to turn brown.
  8. Remove from heat as soon as butter turns brown. Remove casserole dish from oven. Pour sage butter evenly over pasta.
  9. Serve immediately.

I used Spelt Penne, but Evans recommends using a flat pasta similar to Pappardelle. After cooking with penne, I would recommend Evans tip. There is not enough butter sauce to cover a hollow pasta. Otherwise increase the amount of butter used.

Pork & black bean stew.

Serves 6

500g dried black beans, soaked overnight
3 Onions, 1 peeled and left whole, 2 diced
4 garlic cloves, 2 peeled and left whole, 2 diced
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
2 South American Ancho chillies, use a knife to make small slits- do not substitute for any other type.
1 Birds eye chilli, seeds removed, whole.
2 tbsp lard or40g butter
2 tsp cumin seeds
 500g pork: can use one cut or a mix, I used a mix of:
100g double smoked German black bacon, or any smoked bacon/keiserfleish
300g diced pork shoulder
100g pure pork sausage
  1. Put the black beans in a large saucepan with the whole onion and garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Drain and reserve liquid, remove onion, garlic and herbs. Discard.
  3. Heat the lard in a large saucepan or deep pot, cook all the pork untill brown.
  4. Add onion and garlic and colour, then add chilli and spices and fry for 2 mins.
  5. Add black beans and reserved liquid, it is meant to be a stew, do not put too much water.
  6. Season and simmer for 30-45mins, or untill the stew is creamy.
  7.  Serve on Basmati rice, with a dollop of sour cream on top.

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