Friday, 16 August 2013

The Family Table. Part 9. Paulette Whitney from Provenance Growers

A couple of years ago when I first started writing this blog I thought about what it was that I wanted to share.

It started as a way of me sharing my food knowledge and my passion for preparing real food for our families.

More importantly though I like to think that I give people the confidence to appreciate that the magic that is the Family dining experience is NOT just about the food.

While the food is what draws us to the table it should be considered but ONE of many things that are shared and indeed NOT the most important one.

LOVE to me should always be the single most important ingredient that is shared at our family table. Without LOVE the food and the entire dining experience is just another meal. But with it our souls as well as our tummies are nourished.

It is with this in mind that on Fridays I will be sharing with you my new series- The Family Table- where super special guests share their family dining experiences with us. It is a way of appreciating that there are infinite ways of dining together.
My wish is that every single one of my readers makes The Family Table part of their own family life.

I am so excited about this series and have some of my very favourite family sorts lined up to share with us their Family Table experiences over the coming weeks.

This week I am sharing with you a lady who I truly admire.  She is a mother, a wife, a Horticulturist, a Real Food crusader and a general lady of awesome.  She has the most amazing knowledge of plants of anyone I have ever known.  She supplies several of the restaurants in Hobart with her incredible organic produce that she grows just outside of Hobart, many of which most of us have never come across.  It is her incredible and relentless drive to grow and keep alive rare & unusual heirloom variety edible plants that is nothing short of inspirational.
I feel so so grateful that there are people like Paulette in our world.

You can read her blog here.
You can find her on Facebook here.
Or on Twitter here.

Over to Paulette ~

1. Can you please share a little about how your family shares food? 

We eat together every night. Matt was a chef until six months ago when he quit his job to be full time in the garden with me, and this year we are relishing the fact that we have every evening together as a family. Most nights we like to sit around the table, but on Sundays, after the farmer's market we have movie night and enjoy a simple dinner of tasty market booty while sitting on the couch. Dinner usually begins in the garden, Heidi our youngest loves gardening and chooses her favourite kale, carrots or whatever she fancies, and helps to harvest and prepare them.

2. Do you have hard & fast eating rules?

We don't have any rules, but I encourage my girls to taste everything at least once. We also can't bear to waste food here since we've raised so much of what we eat the thought of throwing it in the bin seems obscene! I think eating real food is of the utmost importance, we only have one body and we should look after it as well as we can. We also only have one planet and should treat that accordingly, so my food 'rules' would be to eat with the greatest respect for your health and the health of our planet. And when you choose to take care of one the other follows. Real food comes without packaging, is local, fresh, chemical free and minimally processed and ultimately more delicious than it's industrial counterpart. But rules are also made to be broken, we do love pink marshmallows toasted on the fire, chocolate, chips and lollies sometimes!

3. Can you share with us where your cooking influences/inspiration are from?

Like everyone, my mum was my first influence. We always ate at the table, she was constantly collecting recipes and experimenting and including us in the process, from selecting produce to cooking and washing up. We also spent a lot of time camping and in the company of fishing/hunting types so there were often whole deer or massive bluefin tuna being butchered on our kitchen bench. I am so grateful to her for having raised us with an open mind when it comes to food. When I started seeing Matt his cookbook collection became an obsession to me. I read Larousse cover to cover and I adored Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion for the way it gave me technique and a licence to invent dishes with what was to hand. Now I am influenced by friends who are wonderful cooks, customers at our market stall who share recipes, by what we grow in the garden, and by the insanely talented, beautiful, generous and inspiring chefs we are lucky enough to work with down here.

4. Do you have a favourite cuisine?

We don't have a particular cuisine that we favour, rather we are led by ingredients. We had a wonderful crop of tomatillos this summer, so Mexican was often on the menu, I also seem to have a penchant for Japanese vegetables and herbs, right now it's a kale fest, and we have just butchered our two pigs, so I imagine it will be the festival of pork for quite some time after.....

5. Can you recall a super special meal or eating experience that has stayed with you forever?

Two meals spring to mind. The first is my mum bringing silverbeet rolls stuffed with mince and rice and baked in a tomato sauce to the hospital for me after the birth of my first daughter. It was the most nourished I have ever felt in my life! The other is a lunch I worked on with a local chef where the entire meal was made with food we gathered from land and sea on a sheep property on Bruny Island. It was a truly amazing experience watching the chef coax so much flavour from what we had to hand, cooking with fire and seasoning only with seawater, smoke and kelp.

6. Would you please share the recipe of your favourite family meal with us?

Our menu is bonkers in this house! It is thrown together with what is to hand, we rarely plan a meal then go shopping, rather an ingredient is handed to us by a fellow stallholder at the farmer's market or we have a glut of a particular vegetable, kill a rooster, or, in the case of tonight's meal, something turns up on our doorstep!

A couple of weeks ago we had our first paddock kill of our two pigs. The butcher who came to do the job is a kind hearted soul, and seeing our attitude to using every part of our pigs he rocked up a couple of days ago with some very fresh (read: still warm!) calves offal. Tonight we braised the cheeks of those calves. So here is a vague recipe: (Recipes are a foreign concept to me, I read them, then shut the book and cook, or, more often I don't look at them at all!)

Braised veal cheeks with wasabi 'green sauce':

Veal cheeks

4 veal cheeks, around 800g (brisket or shin would do)
lardo, diced, or pork back fat, substitute bacon grease, olive oil....
2 medium brown onions
a head of garlic
2 big carrots and a handful of small ones
small bunch of thyme
a couple of bay leaves
a good lug of sherry
a bunch of parsley
couple of cups of chicken stock
salt & pepper

Render the lardo (cured & spiced pork back fat, we only use this because we have it from our pigs)
Season the veal cheeks and brown in the rendered fat. Remove and pop into heavy casserole pot and deglaze the pan with sherry. Wipe out the pan, render a little more lardo and soften the onions, adding the garlic, crushed bay leaves and thyme to cook for a few moments, then deglaze again and add to the casserole. Top up the pot with chicken stock, the chopped large carrots and the stems from the parsley. Bring slowly to the boil then put on low heat or a slow oven for at least 4 hours, adding the small carrots for the last 30 minutes. Skim the fat from the top and keep for next time.

Wasabi green sauce
This is another concoction from what was to hand. Today I propagated wasabi and had to cut the plants back. Thinking I'd usually serve a rich beef dish with gremolata or horseradish, I hoped to make something between the two. I chopped and chopped about ten wasabi leaves and stems with a small clove of garlic, some parsley leaves and the zest of a small lemon. I added a couple of little, salted capers, a little olive oil, salt and lemon juice and it was delicious, but not as pungent as we'd imagined. You could substitute parsley with a little grated horseradish or, if you have a horseradish plant, the young leaves are lovely used like this.

We served all of this with Heidi's massaged kale salad (sounds odd, I know, but it works!) and potato mash loaded with butter and the cream skimmed from the top of our raw milk.

7.)  What song would be playing at the dinner table?

For us the food we choose is as much about being part of a community and creating our own culture as it is about fuelling our bodies. Our friend down the road nourishes our ears and souls by hosting travelling musicians in his paddock. Recently we were treated to this wonderful woman, Liz Stringer, accompanied by Van Walker and Jeff Lang singing in the forest, in the rain. This is Elsie's favourite track. 


  1. I have attended a dinner where Paulette did the edible flower arrangements. A very clever, dynamic woman.

  2. I follow Paulette on Instagram & love looking at all her produce.

  3. What an Interesting and very personal family table ,Thankyou Ruth.

  4. Oh, festival of pork *faints*. Yum! Thanks for another great Family Table


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