Wild cooking: from Tasmania with love
Over the past couple of years, Analiese Gregory – “one of the most intriguing chefs of her generation”, as the introduction to her new cookbook describes her – has been gradually withdrawing from civilisation. The 36-year-old New Zealander forged a reputation working at some of the world’s leading restaurants, including The Ledbury in London, Bras in Aubrac in France, Mugaritz in San Sebastian and Quay in Sydney. (Her father is noted chef Mark Gregory.) But in 2017, she left all that behind to relocate to Hobart, Tasmania (“a small island at the bottom of the world,” as she puts it), and head the kitchen at Franklin, the restaurant opened there by chef David Moyle in 2014. Two and a half years later, she left again, this time retreating to her remote farmhouse 40 minutes outside Hobart, where she’s been living alone for the past year.
I say alone, but she has the company of an extensive menagerie: two goats, Nanny and Fanny, a flock of geese, a pair of pigs (destined for charcuterie) and anything between 10 and 45 chickens, depending on the time of year. In some ways, it sounds idyllic: a two-acre estate at the end of a dirt road with a 100-year-old pear tree near the Huon River. Once a week she goes diving for abalone and scallops. In other ways, it sounds like hell. The 1910 weatherboard farmhouse is falling apart. The pipes overflow. The windows peel. And there are five fireplaces and no other source of heat, so Gregory is constantly lighting fires.
When she left Franklin, she planned on taking three months off to complete her debut cookbook, How Wild Things Are, and return to restaurant life. Then the pandemic hit and she was forced to rethink. For years she had been troubled by anxiety and panic attacks, which were exacerbated by working in high-stress kitchens. That was part of the reason she left Quay so abruptly. Having concealed her condition for so long out of fear it would damage her career, she decided it was time to come clean (which she does very frankly in the book) and change the way she works for good.
She hatched a plan to open her own place – what she calls an “anti-restaurant”, with none of the usual overheads. It would be a 10-seater in her shed; open for lunch maybe three days a week, giving her time to garden and grow as much produce herself as possible; with one other person on staff to swing between the kitchen and floor. Sadly, her gourmet shack won’t be up and running for at least a year. But in the meantime we have her cookbook, which feels as much like a travelogue as a recipe book for its spectacular snapshots of the Tasmanian landscape. You can almost hear the lapping water and rustling trees as you turn the pages.
Some of Gregory’s recipes are inspired by restaurant dishes, such as The Ledbury’s potato galette. Her cashew miso cream with young vegetables takes after Michel Bras’ famous vegetable “gargouillou”. The mulberry clafoutis is based on one served to staff at Bras. But this is not a restaurant book so much as Gregory’s dinner-party crib, full of things she likes to cook for family and friends. That includes potato gnocchi with lap cheong sausage, confit lamb ribs with date syrup and toasted spices, and Basque cheesecake (elevated but accessible dishes that anyone would want in their repertoire). There are also Antipodean signatures, such as wakame jam (from the edible Japanese seaweed now widespread in Tasmania), wallaby tartare and possum sausages.
Amid current restrictions, it’s particularly hard not to envy her those surroundings. As the book recounts, “you can light a fire on a beach, fish off the rocks, swim in a river, pull a cray, dangle a line, shoot a roo, skin a possum, boil a billy, or just lie on the ground in the pitch dark and see a star world that makes worries vanish”. For the moment, I’ll settle for a batch of her manuka honey madeleines.
Wallaby tartare with beetroot, radicchio and pepperberry
Prior to moving to Tasmania, I had never eaten wallaby. Then one day, on a jaunt to Bruny Island, a friend bought me a wallaby rendang pie from the local store.
There followed a chance meeting with a wallaby hunter through some local fishermen, and before I knew it, I was at Bruny Island Game breaking down wallabies with Richard, the owner. He treats them with the utmost respect – the same way game is treated in Europe. Wallaby has been a food source for Aboriginal Tasmanians for thousands of years, and besides being delicious it is an ethically responsible choice.
I enjoy eating it raw in a tartare or sealed at a high temperature and served rare. It is very lean, so I tend to follow the same methods with it that I would to cook venison.
400g (14 oz, or 1 large) purple beetroot
40ml (1¼ fl oz) red-wine vinegar
or 20g (¾ oz) honey
3tbsp olive oil
130g (4½ oz) diced wallaby topside per person
10g (¼ oz) chives, chopped
10g (¼ oz) shallot, chopped
Pinch of ground pepperberry
15g (½ oz) puffed wild rice
½ radicchio, to serve
3cm (1¼ in) horseradish root, to serve
• Trim the leaves off the beetroot. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with water and simmer until soft, about 40 minutes.
• Drain the beetroot, discard the water and peel by hand, then cut into roughly 3cm (1 1/4in) cubes.
• In a clean pan, combine the beetroot with the vinegar or honey, salt to taste, and two tablespoons olive oil, and cook on a low heat until the liquid is reduced and glossy, about 10 minutes.
• Transfer to a blender and purée on high for four minutes. Cool and set aside. This recipe will make slightly more than you need, but any less and it won’t purée properly.
• Trim any sinew from the wallaby and dice it into 1/2cm (1/4in) cubes. Mix with the chives, shallot, remaining olive oil, pepperberry and wild rice and season to taste.
• Serve with the radicchio leaves and the beetroot purée, and microplane some fresh horseradish over the top.
How Wild Things Are: Cooking, Fishing and Hunting at the Bottom of the World is published by Hardie Grant at £22