Farm to Table #1: Claydon Park, Milton
Recipe, words & images by Harriet Davidson
The farmer should play a significant role in the way we eat and cook in our kitchens. We’re wildly privileged in this country with our access to beautiful produce year-round and climate obviously plays a leading role here, but this is also hugely thanks to our dedicated growers focusing on small-scale, sustainable farming. Produce boxes have become a brilliant way to access this produce and give us the opportunity to form relationships with the people growing our food.
These boxes, packed with the season’s bounty each week, give us a truly exciting way to cook that’s truly produce-driven, seasonal, local and a very sustainable way to do your groceries. Plus, they keep things interesting in the kitchen pushing you to cook with produce you might not necessarily pick up at the markets. It’s a beautiful way to eat, keeping us in touch with the seasons and with what the grounds want to give us while reducing food mileage and upping our nourishment.
This year has been a wild ride but for many, it’s given us the time to be more mindful in what we consume and how we consume. And an increase in buying directly from farmer’s is a beautiful silver lining.
In this new series for our Journal, Farm to Table, food writer, stylist and cook, Harriet, visits farms and the people supplying our cities with produce boxes before taking one back to her kitchen and creating recipes from the produce she finds herself with. Add in a pantry with grains, nuts and legumes, some beautiful olive oil and good quality salt and you’re set. We hope this series introduces you to brilliant growers and producers but also inspires a way of cooking and eating that’s driven by what’s growing.
For our first piece in our Farm to Table series, off the main street of coastal-country town Milton on the NSW South Coast, down a long drive way lined with coral trees, sits family-owned Claydon Park. Four acres of organic, chemical free produce beds is surrounded by fields currently home to 3-week-old piglets and their mothers, sheep and horses. Beyond that sits the green rolling hills of Milton.
Partners, in both life and business, Andrew and Phoebe, walked us around the family farm as they picked one of their produce boxes and talked us through their story, what supplying organic produce to the town involves and how a global pandemic has changed people’s eating and buying habits.
“Mum and Dad bought the property 6 or 7 years ago. It was incredibly overgrown,” Andrew tells us. “They had friends come down from Sydney for a working bee to help clean it all up and found three vegetable beds where the orchard now sits and that sparked the idea to start a produce farm.” Now, the farm is run by Andrew and Phoebe, with help from the family.
On this sunny spring morning, Andrew’s father, Phil, zips around on the mower, his mother Karen wanders through with a wheelbarrow full of supermarket food scraps for the pig’s breakfast and his 18-month-old, Billy, sits in the snow pea beds eating spring peas straight from the vine. It’s hard work but this family makes it feel like a dream.
It’s been a wild year in Milton between bush fires, followed by floods and then a global pandemic. With the trauma has come a few silver linings, one of them being a shift in people’s buying, eating, and cooking habits, especially when it comes to produce.
It’s been a wild year in Milton between bush fires, followed by floods and then a global pandemic.
“Produce boxes through COVID went gangbusters,” says Andrew. “We’d sell 60 easily. People didn’t want to be in supermarkets, they wanted to buy directly,” Phoebe explained. “We balance supplying produce boxes with selling directly at markets and to local restaurants and cafes.”
Claydon Park supplies restaurants and cafes in the area including Small Town, recently-opened Gwylo, Pilgrims and their family-owned Duke Café, as well as sell at local farmer’s markets.
“The produce boxes are good because it minimises the waste,” says Andrew. “The stuff you don’t sell, you can put into a box. The beauty of them is that people are eating exactly what’s being produced.” This means that the farmer is the one setting what should be being harvested and eaten according to the seasons, and we therefor as cooks and diners, are servicing the farmer and in turn, the climate.
“People come back time after time saying it pushes them to cook with new and different ingredients and they really like that. If people just ate what was in season all year round, it would reduce wastage significantly.”
“Now that it’s warmed up, we’re putting in carrots, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber. That’s always exciting because you come out of winter where everything grows so slowly and now we can really watch it all take off. We’ve also just got fennel, leek, shallot and artichokes in the ground.”
The Riley family’s long-term goal at Claydon Park is to be completely self-sustainable and grow all of their own seedlings. “You collect your seed from plants going to seed, like wide leaf rocket and coriander, which cuts out the costs and you know the quality is the best it can be,” says Andrew. “But we’re a long way from that – we need a greenhouse, and I need to bloody learn a heap more.”
Now that it’s warmed up, we’re putting in carrots, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber.
What’s the difference between Claydon’s produce and something you might find in the aisles of large-scale supermarkets? Well, a lot. Claydon park is completely chemical free to begin with. “All we use on the farm is our own compost which is aged horse and cow manure from our animals. This is mixed up and laid out on our beds. We use all organic fertiliser so there are no chemicals involved,” explains Andrew. “We’re always thinking of the soil. Plus, the product is just better, and is better for you. The proof is in the pudding.” And let us tell you, the pudding tastes mighty fine. If you’re in the area, get in touch with Claydon Park via their Instagram – if you’re in luck, you’ll be able to pick up one of their boxes for your coastal weekend getaway.
We took one of Claydon Park’s boxes back to the kitchen and spent the morning preparing a spring lunch with their vegetables and a beautiful piece of pork from the farm. This lunch menu has been prepared completely from the goods in Claydon Park’s produce box, all complimenting a roast leg of pork from their free range, happy, healthy pigs. There are a couple of extra ingredients thrown in here and there, but on the whole, their beautiful produce needs little done to them and have been prepared to let them shine. It’s a light and bright feast destined for a long, sunny Sunday lunch.
Spring roast pork w/ lemon and herbs
Claydon’s farm, along with the produce beds, includes pigs, cows and lambs that are sold through the local butcher. It’s hard to imagine animals that have had a happier, healthier life. The pigs at the farm are fed twice a day with the food scraps from the local supermarkets. Spending a little more on good quality, sustainable farmed, meat is so important, and so worth it. It’s not often I cook a roast but goodness, when it’s a product like this, how could you not?
This roast leg is the star of the show for this spring lunch, prepared simply to compliment Claydon’s beautiful vegetables.
Leg of pork
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
Rind of 1 lemon
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to season
Remove pork from fridge two hours before cooking to bring to room temperature. Score skin with a sharp knife in diagonal lines one inch apart deep enough to just hit the meat of the leg. Rub entire leg generously with salt.
In a mortar and pestle, combine fennel and coriander seed, lemon rind, rosemary and thyme. Grind into a paste until fragrant. Massage pork with mix and set aside until ready to cook (if you have time, do this 3-4 hours before removing from fridge to allow flavours to develop).
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 175C deg. Place pork in a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil making sure to keep rub on the pork.
Roast pork in the oven for two hours, basting every hour, before bumping up the oven to 220C degrees for half an hour. This is when the crackle happens. Remove pork once the crackle is nice and crispy and rest for 20 minutes before serving.
To serve, place on carving board or serving dish and slice in thickness of the rind, making sure everyone gets a piece to go with their Claydon vegetable sides.
Whole roasted spring cauliflower w/ lemon, parsley and anchovy
This can be served as a side, or as the star on the table for a vegetarian option. Claydon Park had these beautiful baby spring cauliflowers but if you can’t find small ones, use one large one and be sure to cook it for slightly longer. The zesty sauce is a lovely vibrant hit.
3 baby cauliflower (or one large)
Rind of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp capers
3 anchovy fillets
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for roasting)
Pre-heat oven to 180C degrees.
Trim the stem of the cauliflowers, leaving the leaves attached.
Steam cauliflower over water on stove top for 5-7 minutes, depending on their size, until just started to soften. (If using a large cauliflower, steam for longer)
Remove cauliflower from pot and pat dry before placing in a small baking dish so they sit snug together. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until soft and slightly charred on the outside.
Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, combine parsley, lemon rind and juice, capers, anchovy and olive oil and grind to a paste.
To serve, place cauliflower on a dish and drizzle with lemon, parsley and anchovy sauce.
Cabbage, fennel and walnut salad
I love this dish for its textures. The fresh slaw-style salad gives the meal a nice crunch. The beauty is in massaging the cabbage enough to release it’s liquid, which adds to the dressing for the salad.
Half a small red cabbage
1 tsp salt
1 green apple
1 fennel bulb
Handful parsley leaves
Handful dill leaves
½ tbsp fennel seed, toasted
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup sultanas
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Using a mandolin, thinly shave cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle over salt and splash with ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar. Using your hands, massage cabbage for a few minutes to soften. The cabbage should release liquid which will help to dress the salad.
Shave fennel into the bowl and mix through grated apple before adding in torn parsley and dill. Mix through toasted fennel seeds, walnuts and sultanas.
Splash salad with remaining vinegar and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, place salad in serving bowl, garnish with extra herbs and another drizzle of olive oil.
Harriet's table is set with IN BED linen placemats in peach, napkins in stone and a tea towel in stripe. Harriet’s pink and light blue bowls are from made + more Melbourne, all other props are Harriet’s own. With special thanks to Andrew & Phoebe at Claydon Park, Milton.