Kitchen Garden first visited Pialligo Estate in August last year and met horticulture manager Michael Thomsett. In a recent update he said it is exciting times on site with a great vintage from the 3ha vineyard, the main harvest being Riesling and Merlot, and they have produced lovely extra virgin olive oil from the 400 Corregiolo olive trees.
THE MARKET GARDEN
With a degree in environmental science from the ANU, Tom Mungoven is the manager of the four-acre (1.6ha) market garden. As a qualified chef, he has been cooking commercially in Canberra since 2004 and, from 2015 to mid-2016 he worked in the Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden at Queanbeyan South primary school.
On a perfect winter's afternoon, Tom took me down to see the market garden. The rich soil, the Molonglo River reflecting the sky and trees, the vast rows of young garlic and the dark green broccoli plants created paddock to plate heaven.
THE HERB GARDEN
The newest development in this rustic fenced area near the Glasshouse dining area is well spaced alpine strawberry plants. Once tasted, no other strawberry can compare. Mustard leaf is doing its bold winter performance with thyme, sage and parsley. In spring the Academy garden classes will recommence with participants taking home their own planted organic herbs.
THE KITCHEN PRODUCE
Darren Perryman has been Head Chef at Pialligo Estate since November 2016. The Farmhouse has been closed for renovations and is soon to relaunch as a more country experience so the emphasis has been on the Garden Pavilions and the Glasshouse which is featuring Sunday roasts.
Darren grew up in the northwest UK and foraged with his grandmother who lived across from a large woodland where nettles and mushrooms were gathered. He and Tom talk often about what is being planted and staggering plantings so there is not a glut of any one crop. They currently have 200 cauliflowers planted and curds are starting to form so they are being covered with the outer leaves of the plants to keep the curds white for picking in July.
Tom prepares a weekly list of available produce for the kitchen and this currently includes purple, yellow, white, red and orange carrots, broccoli and broccolini, celery, red cabbage, kohlrabi, mixed radishes, baby fennel and baby leeks, rhubarb and Sebago potatoes. The menu for the Garden Pavilions feature garden produce including rocket pesto with buratta, peppers with chargrilled octopus, the Estate's own olive oil with sourdough, broccoli and cavolo nero with chicken and pumpkin with smoked almonds. Tom said he is regularly eating produce from the garden to check the tastes are on cue.
FROM ORCHARD TO FARM SHOP
From the 1000 fruit trees planted during summer 2013 there have been good crops of stone fruit, red and white cherries and pears and the remaining fruit has all been preserved except the persimmons which are ripening in the store. The persimmons are two varieties, Hyakume and Tanenashi.
Among items for sale are pickled eggplants, green tomato chutney, sauerkraut, kimchi, preserved pears and cherries and Mojo Verde created by the chefs to use excess end-of- season green peppers.
During our visit, diners had moved from the lovely pavilions to sit in the sunshine with wine and coffee in a raised courtyard looking across the paddocks to distant Parliament House. Others were admiring the bulbous fennel bases, fennel fronds, cabbages, pumpkins, large bunches of kale for sale and the broccoli in Tom's hands.
The things Darren is liking a lot right now are the cauliflower from the garden. The chefs are serving it with sauce romesco in the pavilions and Darren also likes it at home eaten simply blanched, fire roasted over coals on the BBQ, with lemon yoghurt, brown butter, jalapeno salsa and pickled pink peppercorns. He is also enjoying the mustard leaves that Tom grows for the kitchen in the herb garden. Darren says they are a welcome addition to their salad mixes, just just enough kick to give them some well earned zing.
For Tom, among winter vegies broccoli leads the way with pumpkin, his favourite variety being the golden nugget which is great for roasting with the skin on and is the perfect size for a single meal.
Darren was driving 'Pepe Saya', the man behind the gourmet butter (whose name is Pierre Issa), around the Pialligo Estate property when they came to the persimmon trees which were still hung with the glorious orange fruit. Pepe showed Darren a photo of a dessert he had created using persimmon. Darren developed it into his own recipe of what he calls 'jellified layers' adding a special mousse.
For 1 ripe persimmon:
100ml sweetened whipped cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and added
as much honey as you like (Darren uses Canberra Urban Honey)
Whip the cream to soft peak and add the mascarpone and vanilla seeds. Whip again to stiff peaks and place in the fridge to set for an hour.
When ready to serve, slice the ripe persimmon into rounds that are stackable. Starting from the bottom piece, pipe on some mousse and place the next slice on top. Repeat this process until you reach the top. Drizzle with generous amounts of honey.
Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.
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