Monday, December 21, 2009

All things are go!

Just a short post this time with an update on a couple of things that have happened at Piccalilly in the last few of weeks.

It is obviously the lead-up to Christmas at the moment, and we are very busy, working all the hours in the week, but there has been a breakthrough to lift our (mainly Iain's) spirits: We tasted our first Piccalilly-grown tomato on Friday last week!

It was a cherry-sized yellow one, that on further investigation, contained very few, tiny yellow seeds and sweet yellow flesh. The skin was a little tough but we decided that was fair enough due to it being very slow to ripen. Once the weather warms up we hope there are many more to follow, and hope that some of you are lucky enough to taste them on the plate at Piccalilly!

Iain (too exhausted to get outwardly excited) holding the solitary tomato, it had to be cut into very tiny pieces so everyone could have a taste.

We spent last weekend working hard at rejuvenating our iconic front door. The 1860's cedar door has been slowly deteriorating since long before we moved into our beautiful corner building in Battery Point two years ago. The time finally came for us to give it a face-lift.

The corner of the building getting all the attention, is north facing and consequently has the full force of the Tasmanian sun on it for most of the day. The sun and other types of weather have been causing the paint and the antique timber underneath to suffer badly. There were several cracks that allowed daylight to be seen through the closed door. Someone in the distant past had tried to fix the the door with putty and good faith but without lasting good results.

We didn't realise just how bad it was until we saw it all fixed up!

Step one with the help of Iain's very willing parents, was to remove the burgundy-coloured paint and filler with a flexy scraper and a heat gun so as to not damage the old timber. The bottom third of the door was very delicate and spongy due to a little bit of rot. The paint around the hand carved moulding had cracked allowing water to damage the timber.

Once the paint had been removed the door was then primed and given a light sand to show the full extent of the cracks, dents and rot. We briefly entertained the thought of leaving the timber naked but it was in such a bad state that it just wasn't possible.


We then applied an epoxy and very hard-wearing filler to the cracks and soft areas on the lower half of the door, and spent several hours sanding it back to create a smooth finish for the Hobart icon. It was then primed again, before it was time to start applying some colour.

After filling and sanding.

Four coats later and with the brass fittings freshly polished it was ready to dazzle our Tuesday diners!

Finished and beautiful!

We also have a photograph of last week's Wessex pork shoulder, you can see the thick fat layer and rich dark meat! Yumm yumm!

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe new year, with plenty of good food, wine and travel. We hope to see you soon for pork and tomatoes...

Monday, December 7, 2009

More New Things

We have had an exciting November and early December. We have been contacted by Guy and Eliza at Mount Gnomon Farm, in Tasmania's north west. They are breeders of rare breed Wessex Saddleback pigs. These pigs have a very high level of fat and a beautiful sweet meat with a dark, rich colour. We are using the fore-leg and shoulder for out pork mornay dish.

The pigs are large and quite tall with a white belt across the shoulders and down both front legs. Originally from England was kept as a bacon big and is still classified as rare the world over but breeders in both Australia and New Zealand are having great success.

At Mount Gnomon Farm they are kept free range and allowed to graze and dig and wander where they like. They also have a fantastic blog site, that revolves around the goings-on of the farm, piglets, ducklings and beautiful vegetables. If you do not like to see photographs of very cute little piglets and know that the are being grown to be eaten then this blog is not for you, however if you like pictures of very cute little piglets being lovingly raised in a natural and happy environment to produce the best quality meat then you will love it!


We have also been approached by another local organic vegetable grower form the Huon Valley. Beautiful peppery radishes, sweet carrots and fat, tender spears of asparagus! We have been experimenting with a dish involving the asparagus and a 2 hour cooked egg with truffle oil and roasted hazelnuts!

Another new product we have found is Prickly Box honey from Bruny Island. The bees are making the honey from the scrubby bushes that skirt the bay where our oysters are grown. The honey has a light flavour and is beautifully matched to the saltiness of the oysters, a nice synergy of geography and in taste. We are making an emulsion of the honey with lemon juice and Ashbolt extra virgin olive oil with lots of black pepper.

We have had our first big week of pickling for the summer. A box of quail eggs arrived from our good friends at the Wursthaus. We decided there was no way we could get through the whole lot (about 350) and thought we should pickle some, here's how it went.

Lots and lots of quails' eggs

Firstly the eggs are hard boiled by starting them in cold water and bringing it up to the boil then immediately refreshed in iced water to stop the coking process.

Pendleton vinegar with soft bay leaves

Eggs on the way to the boil

We made a pickling liquid from the Pendleton Estate chardonnay vinegar, tender new seasons bay leaves, black pepper corns, brown mustard seeds and two star anise. The bad part of pickling 350 quail eggs is the next step in the process, peeling them. Quail's eggs have a soft shell but a tough membrane sandwiched between the shell and the white that also needs to be removed. It took just over three hours to peel the lot of them.

After the peeling

The pickling liquid is warmed to allow the aromatics to infuse and poured over the eggs. They are then sealed into jars or in our case cryovac bags and pasteurised and left for at least two weeks for the vinegar to work its magic on the eggs! The best part of pickling a large number of quails' eggs was the looks on Tom and Marcus's faces when they came in to work to find them ready to peel! We cant wait to get our hands on some stone fruit and berries to put down for winter!

ready to be pasteurised

The final product, time will tell!

Our tomato plants are also going great guns! The plants have tripled in size and there are tiny green tomatoes appearing all over them. Bring on the warm weather!

November and December promised to be a tumultuous time for Piccalilly. Our sous chef and our assistant restaurant manager were both due to leave us to take on different roles. Both Courtney and Klaa had been with us since shortly after the beginning of Piccalilly. Their replacements are taking on their new roles and responsibilities with relish! We are excited to see the new direction Piccalilly will take with some new blood both in the kitchen and in the dining room. We have also taken on a brand new first year apprentice and are very excited to see him progressing so quickly and gaining new skills!