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"Grazing autumn pastures"

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Autumn · 14/5/2014 09:13:12
Tags: Autumnpasturesbakedbeeffillet

My European food adventures seem a long time ago! After tours to markets, farms, chateaux and local restaurants in France and Italy, I’m looking forward to building these experiences into our food adventures in Gippsland. And it was the end of winter over there, and it actually got me looking forward to winter at home. Winter is a relatively quiet time on the farm, and warming fires and slow cooked meat meals and roasts accompanied with a good red is looking good!
But before we relax there has been a lot of farm activity over the autumn. Our 2013 spring calves have been weaned, and cows pregnancy tested by the vet. This allows us to prioritise the best grass to the young growing cattle, while the pregnant cows are on a restricted diet to keep them in good shape for calving in the spring.

With good autumn rains we have some excellent quality grass to fatten our 18month old (2012 spring) steers. These are wonderfully quiet cattle and once they have reached the required weight and fat cover they will be marketed through Melbourne butcher shops (as well as Prom Meats butchery in Foster) under the Gippsland Natural brand.
To maximise the meat quality we ensure these cattle have access to good grass and remain stress free throughout their lives, but particularly in the month or two prior to processing. The growing level of interest and demand for grass fed beef is very satisfying. I find it rewarding that increasingly, "purely grass fed beef" of a known provenance is listed on restaurant menus replacing the "grain fed" description that used to be seen as premium quality.
And now we have the big players of the meat industry (Coles and international processor JB Swift) chasing producers of grassfed beef to supply their specialty brands. Not sure whether it’s the better nutritional value (higher omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals etc) compared to grainfed, or simply the emotional attraction of a finishing system that is so much more natural than the feedlot.

Certainly our slice of paradise in south Gippsland is ideally suited for grass finishing of cattle. And I suspect this theme of natural beef is what makes Australian beef so popular internationally. I was overwhelmed by the reaction of butchers, market stall holders and restaurateurs in France and Italy. They loved that I was an Australian, and the smile grew even wider when they learnt I was a beef and sheep farmer. One night a chef asked if I could supply his and three other restaurants with my beef – and this was straight after being introduced!
So in the next month or so, before the weather turns really cold, we will be selling most of our steers, and all but a handful of our 2013 born lambs have been fattened and sold. The intention is to run as few animals as possible over July and August when pasture growth is at its slowest and low-lying paddocks get waterlogged.   
One dish I’m looking to repeat (with a better technique) this winter comes from Serge Dansereau’s "French Kitchen" cookbook – baked beef fillet with mushrooms in pastry crust. I had a go at this last year, then saw him prepare and cook the same dish on SBS’s French Food Safari. In summary:
sear a 800g beef fillet (centre cut) on all sides, then allow to cool;
finely chop some mushrooms (in a food processor) then cook with some finely cut shallots in a frypan with butter and oil, until all the liquid has evaporated and add a teaspoon of thyme leaves then set aside;
lay some slices of prosciutto (wide enough to wrap the fillet) on a sheet of plastic wrap, so they slightly overlap, then spread the mushroom & shallot mix over the prosciutto. Lay the beef on the mushrooms and roll the plastic wrap to cover the beef and refrigerate for 1 hour;
remove the plastic, then wrap the beef in a pastry sheet and brush with an egg wash; cook for 5-10 minutes in oven at 220 degrees until golden, then for a further 20 minutes at 140 degrees;
rest for 5 minutes then serve with a red wine sauce;
Facebook us if you need more details of ingredients. Bon appetite.




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