Monthly Archives: August 2011

Slow growing Chianina raises the beef stakes

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Chianina on the run at Isola Farm

It takes Daniela Mollica and her husband Ian Walker well over five years to get one of their long-legged chianina cattle from paddock to the plate. So it’s no surprise that they currently can’t meet demand for their exceptionally lean beef. The couple has bred Chianina (pronounced kee-a-nee-na) – an Italian breed – for about five years on their farm in Victoria’s South Gippsland.

Chianina, which take their name from the val di Chiana –  a valley in central Italy, are huge, handsome, lean, white beasts that are very slow to grow.  The couple’s herd is full-bred – not full blood – which means they have been bred up from a crossbreed to a high percentage of Chianina genetics over a number of generations. That takes time. Calves are carried for nine months, and mating doesn’t happen before they’re two years of age. Chianina are also so large they are about two years old before they’re big enough for slaughter.

It’s a slow process. But the couple is in no rush. Mollica co-founded the Melbourne chapter of the Slow Food in 1996 before living and working in Italy for four years, where she was also involved in the Italian arm of the movement, so slow food is part of her make-up. And it’s part of the artisan philosophy behind the farm. Continue reading

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British food with bells on

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Ceiling bells in The Gilbert Scott bar (courtesy Manhattan Loft Corporation)

Some food is very English. Pork pies, piccalilli, and panacalty are three that spring to mind. Marcus Wareing has the first two on the bar menu at The Gilbert Scott – the restaurant and bar in the heritage-listed, lavishly restored St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London’s Kings Cross.

Panacalty – a casserole from the North East of England comprising a tin of corned beef, chopped bacon, sausage, potatoes, and carrots – is nowhere to be seen, thank goodness. It would be a tough one to tart up. But Wareing pulls off the first two with traditional courtesy and contemporary aplomb. Gotta love a bloke who can pull off a poshed up, Brit-smacking pub lunch. Continue reading

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Is salt worth its salt?

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Variety of Salt: Hawaiian Pink Clay Salt, Regular Iodized,Black Sea Salt,Fleur De Sel, Smoked, Grey Sea Salt, Celery Salt, Coarse Sea Salt and Jamaican Blue Rock Salt (iStockphoto)

When I was a child there was only one salt dilemma in the family kitchen: not to mix it up with sugar – and vice versa – when I was cooking. It had been known to happen when I baked unattended on boring Sunday afternoons. The fallout was horrendous. We used regular table salt; I don’t believe there was any choice in the supermarket.

Today the dilemma is much bigger: should I use table salt, river or lake salt, sea salt, rock salt, pink salt, or the myriad other coloured salt on the market? Is it best to use chunky crystals, rough flakes, or fine grains? Why are there four varieties of salt in my pantry? And are gourmet grains worth their salt, or are they a rip-off? Continue reading

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