Winter stuff

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We’ve started using Farmer Joe’s Goat (Echuca) again! Always braised overnight, this really remains our best winter braise yet. Comforting, yet not too heavy or fatty, we change the garnish up every few weeks, and have served it with soft polenta & pine mushrooms or bay & black cabbage, adapting the dish as the season courses along.

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Nettle gnocchi! As winter sets in everybody seems to crave a big bowl of carbs, but we have made and sold so much gnocchi over the past few weeks that it’s actually getting a bit of a break from the menu, which is great because I’m sure none of the chefs miss reaching into the Coolroom and brushing the large bunches of nettles! (Or the kitchen porter picking them, for that matter!)

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I’ve started using some new organic produce from a farmer just starting out, and one of his first ‘crops’ weren’t really that – broad bean tops! This is the top ‘flush’ when the plant flowers, and should be pinched off to encourage or ‘force’ energy into bean production instead of further upwards growth. They are edible (taste like the beans) and shouldn’t be thrown away!

These tops can be steamed as a veggie, or sautéed as a side, or as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall uses it – in a light omelette. Here at the bar we added them to our fish dish as well as to the nettle gnocchi above, creating a hyper-seasonal dish that really can only be created for two weeks of the year, which is special.

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My favourite part about the onset of cold weather is the mushrooming season, with pine mushrooms hanging around for a relatively short period this year in comparison to last, but we pickled nearly 10kg so they’ll make an appearance later on. Also citrus – I’m mad about kumquats, and despite them being so laborious (I’ve got a lot of helpers ehe!) we pickled some this year in a new Stephanie Alexander recipe I’ve never use before, and of course marmalade – their best use, I think.

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The hardest part of the winter menu for me is the dwindling fruit supply available, because after quinces, there’s really only oranges, apples and pears to work with. I guess we still have chocolate!

The above is just a trail of smaller versions of the traditional German Apfelkuchen (apple cake), but they’ll probably make it to the menu today because the tart apple-lemon flavour combined with the buttery flaky pastry is so hard to beat, and a breath of fresh air after the popular apple crumble that everyone seems to crave on a cold winter night.

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