Tasmania's Table II beautifully captures the Tasmanian culinary scene »
Take a glorious island journey in time, place and table setting
By Kerry Scambler
You probably think a book about the food of Australia’s small island state would be a modest tome in size and weight. In fact you’d be quite wrong … by about 2.5kg and 512 glorious pages.
Put simply, it’s a luscious visual feast that also feeds the mind curious about the bounty of Tasmania – who has grown what and where and what are the inventive ways they’ve presented this to the table?
The completely revised second edition of Tasmania’s Table by Paul County and Nick Osborne added some 112 pages to the first edition with 100 new recipes and a profusion of fascinating insights into the state’s culinary past and present.
Compiled over a single year (an amazing achievement in itself!), author Paul County has described it as a snapshot of the evolving Tasmanian food scene and is “a picture of Tasmania through its own tastebuds”.
As Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans writes in his foreword, Tasmania’s food culture is forged in its isolation. As an island off an island we’ve had to become a resilient and self-reliant bunch.
It may come as no surprise then to learn that more Tasmanians grow their own vegetables than any other state. It’s often the common discourse at BBQ’s, bars and cafes let alone around the farmers markets. And again, back to that island thing, with 4,882km of coastline (twice that of Victoria and three times that of NSW) and most of the major cities and towns all either sitting on a river or the coast, the seafood is right on our doorstep.
All as fresh as you can get – no wonder there’s an influx of visitors and new residents all keen to live amongst this culinary cornucopia.
State of change
Since the first edition of Tasmania’s Table, the state has changed significantly with the opening of MONA and the hugely successful associated winter festival, Dark MOFO which sees hundreds of locals and visitors rug up for food and entertainment on the Hobart waterfront.
The influence of television shows like MasterChef and MKR can’t be underestimated either and Matthew Evans, with friends cheese-maker Nick Haddow and pork farmer Ross O’Meara, in Gourmet Farmer put Tasmanian produce and country life firmly in the national spotlight.
State of the first Australian Cookbook
But the time travel from the last edition isn’t just into the present, Tasmania’s Table II dives back into 1864 and the man who wrote and published Australia’s first cookery book, Edward Abbott, who just happened to live in Tasmania for all his adult life. It too was a weighty tome for its time with 300 pages, 115 chapters and 1500 recipes and is described in this book as “… an epic, ambitious, patriotic, poetic, visionary and quirky encyclopaedia. And it had wombats.”
Entitled The Australian and English Cookery Book: cooking for the many as well as the upper ten thousand, it certainly denies the myth that early settlers dined on lamb and tea alone with recipes for wildlife and extolling the virtues of the native foods. Surprisingly too perhaps this book has recipes from across the globe including Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Brazil and more.
State of seasons and festivals
But back to the present and this fresh new lavish Tasmania’s Table. This island state has seasons and yes sometimes they can be experienced in just one day but generally they are distinctive and all bring on their own bounty of deliciousness. The book’s seasonal chart is a good visual reference for what’s best and when. The Festivals page with its very varied celebrations of garlic, chocolate, wooden boats and writers, great food and wine and more can help you time your trip around the feasting.
State of giants and goddesses
In any town, city or state there are people who come along and change its course and two of those for Tasmania have fitting tributes. The first is Marjorie Bligh, the original domestic goddess and prolific writer of comprehensive and practical household help books (read our review of Marjorie Bligh - Housewife Superstar here).
The second is Geoff Copping who “moved the Tasmanian capital onto the national culinary map” firstly with his involvement with Tasmanian Hospitality Association and then his fine dining restaurant, Dear Friends.
State of food, glorious food
What an amazing treasure trove the state offers with everything from wild caught abalone to amazingly flavoured avocadoes that ripen slowly in Tassie’s temperate climate and long daylight hours to chocolate – where once was just Cadbury’s, there is Cocobean, The Cat’s Tongue, Anvers and others superbly hand-crafting sweet delights. From elderflower and organic quinoa, sea urchins, hazelnuts, horseradish and world class wine, beer, cider and spirits.
Throughout the book there is background information on the produce and producers then glorious, mouth-watering recipes from the restaurants who relish the local produce. There are also profiles on the restaurants themselves and the people who live and breathe the food and presentation of it. It’s well worth noting that these restaurants didn’t pay to be included in Tasmania’s Table. They were carefully selected for “the imaginative use of Tasmanian produce, an awareness of food miles and the restaurant’s cultural and historical significance.”
State of indecision
With over 100 recipes to choose from and being the lucky one living right amongst the produce, I’m not sure where to start but here’s a few dishes that have caught my eye:
- Flatalax – cured flathead from Blue Eye Seafood Restaurant (Hobart)
- Chilli & Chocolate Shredded Beef Tacos from Drift (Devonport)
- Leatherwood Honey Semifreddo With Poached Pears from Restaurant Tasman (Hobart)
- Slow Cooked Leg Of Lamb With Lavender And Rosemary from The Apple Shed (Grove)
- Chocolate and Whisky Cream Pie with Coffee Jelly and Burnt Meringue from Thirty Three Cups (Ulverstone)
- Oysters with Strawberry Sauce from Ethos Eat Drink (Hobart)
But of course, that list will change and I can sense it’s going to be a glorious autumn in the kitchen now!
State of mind
For a lover of things Tasmanian, this magnificent book has it all – the food, the restaurants, the people and the landscapes they joyfully inhabit. It’s also a reminder that all this comes in one small heart-shaped island state that I'm privileged to call my home.
[NB: Paul County says this book captures the culinary year it was compiled in and Robyn and I were part of that. Whilst browsing the section on Rare Foods, there for posterity is a photo of our table at the Rare Foods dinner, part of Savour Tasmania 2014! Love it!]
Tasmania’s Table II by Paul County and Nick Osborne is published by Tas Food Books (Hobart, Tasmania; Dec 2015; Hb; 512 pp). It is available at good bookshops around Tasmania and directly from the publisher www.tasfoodbooks.com.au for $59.95
Read the media release for Tasmania’s Table edition II here »
See links below for other books by Paul County and Tas Food Books.
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