Barossans know how to celebrate, and have been doing it longer than anyone else in the form of the Barossa Vintage Festival, Australia’s first wine festival dating back to 1947.
Originally an end of grape harvest dinner for growers and winemakers, the festival has grown to embody Barossa life through wine, music, art and food. At this year’s festival (Saturday, March 30 to Sunday, April 7), local chef and producer Saskia Beer brings Barossa food to the fore with a series of cooking classes demonstrating ‘Autumnal Barossa’, and a taste of the Beer family table with breakfasts at The Farm.
Closer to home, she embraces the long-held tradition of the autumnal feast with friends and fellow producers, relishing the region’s abundant produce that comes to life in time for end of vintage festivities.
“Autumn is the time of the year when the valley is awash with produce we love to bring together on the plate, including game, lamb, quinces, grapes, figs, quinces, heritage fruits and vegetables,” Saskia says. “Everything in season around the time the grapes are ready for harvest is what the Barossa table is all about.”
Saskia’s harvest table this year featured her own Barossa Farm Produce and The Black Pig Berkshire pig range along with sustainable produce from friends in the region who joined her for the celebration: Jan Angas’ Hutton Vale lamb; Louise and Richard Langford’s venison; Victoria McLurg’s Barossa cheese; William and Claire Wood’s Carême Pastry; Michael Wohlstadt’s heritage pork; and yabbies and verjuice from winemaker and part-time poacher Wayne Ahrnes, whose Smallfry wines were served. Market gardeners Brenda and Al Oakey added colour to the conversation and menu with their Aldna Farms vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Grapes and vine leaves, which Barossa won’t see again until the end of the year, took pride of place at Saskia’s table and featured heavily on the menu.
A statuesque Berkshire ham, simply glazed with mustard and cloves, set the tone for the celebratory feast that included a dish her parents Maggie and Colin have made a modern Barossa classic, Grape Harvesters Pheasant.
This close link between Barossa’s food and wine community is never more prominent than during end of vintage celebrations. Many winemakers have interests in food, just like Richard Langford, whose venison is a side project outside his role as Chief Winemaker for Elderton; and Smallfry winemaker and proprietor Wayne Ahrnes whose verjuice has been embraced by local foodies. Conversely, many food producers are also grape growers, just like the Beer and Angas families.
“Barossa’s food heritage is believed to be one of the longest-running food culture settlements in Australia, with multiple generations of the families who started it still involved today,” Saskia says.
Such passion and success continue to attract new generations to the region, injecting energy and a modern focus that has opened up new audiences across the country to the wonder of Barossa food.
Louise Langford is part of the new influx, having left a very urban life cooking in top Sydney restaurants to make a home in Barossa.
“Ten years ago, my experience with venison was with silver service and white linen. Now, it is in the paddock. It isn’t a path I ever imagined, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is an appreciation that goes far beyond what you learn in a restaurant kitchen.”
SASKIA’S BAROSSA TABLE MENU
- Sciaccatta with Shiraz grapes and rosemary
- Saskia’s salumi with vine wrapped Barossa Cheese Geo
- Yabbies with thyme aoli
- Roast free range Barossa goose with onion, sage, cumquat, pancetta and liver stuffing
- Grape Harvesters pheasant with grapes, verjuice jus and crispy vine leaves
- Barossa Heritage pork loin with quince, sage and thyme
- Hutton Vale lamb with rosemary and garlic
- The Black Pig Berkshire ham glazed with mustard and cloves
- Milk fed venison, rare roasted with red currant, preserved lemon and chocolate
- Aldna Farms’ tomato and shallots with red wine vinegar, an aubergine, parsley and basil salad with vino cotto, and organic zucchini with mint and Barossa Cheese Peri Feta.
Grape Harvesters Roast Barossa Pheasant
1 free range, corn fed pheasant
1 orange – zest and squeeze for juice
¼ bunch thyme
1 clove garlic, sliced
10 juniper berries
50ml olive oil
30ml Maggie Beer verjuice
Murray River salt
The Pheasant can also be substituted with a Barossa Chook
Grape and herb salad
Grape and herb salad ingredients
1 sprig tarragon
4 sprigs thyme
5 stalks flat leaf parsley
1 witlof bulb
50g pancetta, rind removed, sliced into lardons and fried off in advance
½ cup of white grapes cut in half
½ cup red grapes cut in half
20ml Maggie Beer vino cotto
30ml Maggie Beer verjuice
20ml extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon – zest and juice of half
1. To prepare the pheasant, make an incision between the skin of the maryland and breast buffet (frame), then separate the legs from the breast buffet, keeping the backbone on.
2. For the marinade, bruise the juniper berries, strip thyme leaves and mix together with orange zest and juice, sliced garlic, and olive oil, then rub into the bird.
3. Marinade for at least six hours, but preferably one to two days ahead of time, turning the pheasant at least once a day.
4. Take pheasant from the fridge two to three hours in advance, allowing it to reach room temperature, then season with salt and pepper.
5. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees (fan forced) and place the pheasant in a roasting pan, skin side up.
6. Cooking time: 10 minutes for 800g-1kg bird. Twelve minutes for 1.1kg-plus bird.
7. Remove from oven and rest for approximately 25 minutes before carving.
8. To prepare the salad, thinly slice shallots, strip two sprigs of thyme, slice the base of the witlof bulbs and separate the leaves. Pluck the parsley and tarragon leaves then mix all the ingredients together with the pancetta, vino cotto, olive oil, juice of half a lemon and a dash of the verjuice, seasoning with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
9. Pre heat a fry pan with a little olive oil a knob of butter and add any juices from the resting pheasant and the remaining verjuice – reduce for a minute or two – add the red and white grapes and cook for another minute but make sure the grapes hold their shape. Reserve to sauce.
10. Lay the salad on a large platter, then place the carved pheasant on top, and finish by spooning over the grapes and juices.
The 2013 Barossa Vintage Festival
Saturday, March 30 to Sunday, April 7
Saskia Beer Autumnal Cooking Classes will be held on April 1, 2 and 5 from 12-2pm at The Farm, Nuriootpa.
Bookings are essential at $55 per person.
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