Autumn 2012

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ON and off the beaten track

Goast of PontvilleWell folks ... I’m back again.
And I’m well indeed. Thanks for asking. Anyway all this regular walking is so good for a chef who eats a bit too much!

Brighton municipality has four walking tracks ... 16 km of them, stretching from Pontville in the north to Old Beach in the south. We’re pretty lucky that Council cares so much for our health.

I told you a few months back that I love the Herdsmans Cove-Green Point-Bridgewater track.

Now I’ll tell you a bit about the three other tracks –

Riverside Walk (that runs from Bridgewater along the Derwent towards Boyer), the Old Beach track and my favourite, the Pontville- Bridgewater track.

Each time I go on these walks I take Boris – apart from Geraldine he’s my best mate, but I keep him on a lead. I wouldn’t take Geraldine for a walk on a lead – wives can be hard to control.

What Boris and I really like about the Pontville-Bridgewater track is actually off the beaten track. Confused? I’ll explain. The folks at Brighton Council, who built the track, took it from Brighton, upstream along the Jordan River to the Pontville Bridge ... and then they turned the track left to keep going along the river.

Pontville- Brighton trackWhen I walk the track I take a detour and wander across the bridge into historic Pontville, along both sides of the Midland Highway. You have to be careful crossing the highway – but it will be easier when the bypass goes through.

There are some quirky names in Pontville – Glebe St for one, and then there’s Cheyne, Prince and Marlborough streets, which form a one- way ‘U’, so I reckon they should be named as one street – but I don’t work for the council, so don’t blame me.

Did you know there are a couple of small apple trees in a little park on one side of the Midland Highway? Anyone can pick them in season ... but don’t waste your time this year, the fruit would have been eaten by now.

Did you know there’s a conjoined cottage – someone told me that’s what you call two houses built as one – with two sets of sandstone front steps that have been worn down over time. Convicts did it, I reckon. Could be wrong – I’m a chef not a historian.

Did you know that the old gaol, built in Pontville around 1840, between Midland Highway and the Jordan River, held the convicts, who built the bridge and St Marks church on top of the hill? The gaol had sandstone walls almost 6m high, but the convicts still were able to escape. They built it, so they had a few clues on how to leave it. In 1934 the gaol was demolished because the walls were in danger of collapsing. So much for convict labour!

But the convicts and the early free settlers have left a legacy that makes Pontville an important historic chapter in the history of early Tasmania.

Take a look for yourself. You don’t stand a ghost of a chance meeting some old bloke in irons and arrows on his uniform! Trust me ... but I’m a chef. Boris might know more about things that go bump in the night at Pontville. Ask him.

TREK to the north ...


I’ve rambled on about the top end of the Pontville-Brighton walk. Pontville is full of history, but further south, where the 4.4km walk begins near Andrews St, it’s a great place to get the legs working. The mostly gravel track heads north, along the left bank of the Jordan. I’m told there’s a family of platypuses happily at home in the reeds.

The track takes you to the ford across the Jordan at -- surprise surprise – a road called Ford Road. When the Jordan is in flood the road is closed at the ford. That’s when it’s lovely weather for ducks and there are a few of them around at the ford. On our walks Boris, my four legged mate, just looks at them. I think he’s smiling.

The track becomes a footpath for a bit until your reach the Midland Highway. Looking left and right you then cross the road and follow the track past the sports ground and equestrian centre until it ends near Blackburn Av. There are some beautiful spots along the walk, but don’t forget to take a detour into the Pontville Historic Precinct.

Now you know I’m no historian, but I think I’m safe in telling you that there is no other town, village or city in the wide world with the name Pontville. The name comes from the French words pont (bridge) and ville (village). A French bloke must have wandered this way in the early 1800s, but I don’t know who he was. Neither does Boris, and he speaks French.

The other wander you should take is the River Walk along the Derwent. The 2.7km track begins at Riverside Drive and heads towards Boyer. Near the start there’s a jetty for everyone to try their hand at fishing. Geraldine joins Boris and me on that walk. It’s not that I need protection ... but it is rather remote.

TREK to the south ...

old-beach-track-400You begin the Old Beach walk at Jetty Road, where there’s a jetty and boat launching ramp.

Now this jetty has an interesting history. A couple of convicts, cousins John Earle and James Austin, were transported to Van Diemens Land for stealing honey and beehives. After they served their sentences, these two cousins began a ferry service across the Derwent in 1816. It was the first regular crossing of the Derwent and that was almost 200 years ago, folks!

John Earle operated the ferry from Old Beach and James Austin operated it from what became Austin’s Ferry on the western shore. Old Beach was at that time a fairly go-ahead sort of place. It

even had the Three Archers Inn operating in the 1820s. Old Beach became an important location on the Hobart-Launceston route, but it slipped quietly into obscurity when the Bridgewater Causeway opened in 1836.

Now folks, as you know it’s a thriving Hobart suburb which you can see as you walk the 2.2km track eastwards towards Cassidys Bay.

It’s a beautiful foreshore you wander along and Cassidys Bay is one of my favourite resting spots, with boats moored offshore and Mt Wellington looming behind. Very peaceful. There’s bird life aplenty and Boris shows some interest in the local wildlife – but he’s always on a leash.

Seagull reading Uncle Chris's RecipesThis time folks I’ve had to cut back on my recipes. I wanted to show you the three walking maps my cartooning mate George Haddon has done – this edition it’s more about fitness than food. But I’ve got some healthy and yummy seafood recipes here.

Fish is a delicate food item that needs care in preparation. Fish needs a very short cooking time and I always maintain that a fish is better undercooked than overcooked.

POACHED fish with a

caper sauce

Make a vegetable poaching liquid with: 1 onion,1 carrot,1 leek all cut into pieces. Add a sprig of dill and thyme, 1 small bay leaf, 4 white peppercorns crushed, a slice of lemon, 250 ml white wine,1 litre water and 2 teaspoons salt.

Cook for about 20 minutes, reduce heat to simmer and add fish for about 8-10 minutes. Remove fish with a slotted spoon and place on a cake rack on top of the pot. Cover the fish with foil to keep it warm while you make a caper sauce.

In a small saucepan add 1 tablespoon of butter, stir in 2 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Slowly add 300 ml of the warm poaching liquid and stir until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, take pan off the heat and add 1 egg yolk and juice of half a lemon. Mix well and finish with 3 tablespoons of capers.

Place the fillets on pre-warmed plates and pour over the caper sauce.

POACHED fish in a

butter sauce

1 tablespoon butter,
3-4 shallots finely chopped,
small piece fennel,
1carrot and 1 leek finely chopped,
100 ml white wine,
100 ml of vegetable or fish stock,
salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and fry the shallots, carrot and leek until soft but not coloured.

Add liquid, reduce the heat and poach the fish fillets for 5-8 minutes. Pour liquid into a small saucepan, add 75 g

of butter to the poaching liquid and whisk. Season and serve the butter sauce with the poached fish and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

PAN fried fillets

Clean and dry the fish fillets, put a tablespoon of flour seasoned with salt and pepper in a plastic bag, add fish and shake vigorously to coat the fish with the flour mix. Shake off excess flour, then fry fillets in melted butter over medium heat, basting all the time.

Cooked fillets should have a a brown crust while the flesh is moist in the centre.

Place the cooked fillets sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley on warm plates, increase the heat until the butter foams (don’t let it burn). Squeeze a lemon into the hot butter and pour over the fish.

BAKING a whole fish Make this marinade to flavour the fish.

1 tablespoon lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic crushed
3 tablespoons chopped herbs 1 tablespoon mustard

Mix the ingredients and brush on fish, both inside and out, and rest in fridge for 1 hour.

Oil a baking tray and place a sliced lemon and rosemary or dill on the base. Place the whole fish on top, brush again with marinade and some salt and pepper. Bake in a 220C oven for about 20 minutes. While baking, brush the fish with the marinade at least once.

FISH curry 300 g fish pieces

300 g green prawns
1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic
1 grated onion
1 grated apple
2 tablespoons curry
1 piece fresh ginger grated
2-3 tablespoons grated coconut 100 g chopped dates
300ml vegetable stock
200 ml sour cream
almond flakes, roasted

Place fish and prawns on a plate and season with lemon juice and pepper.

Heat butter in a pan, add garlic, onion and apple and cook till soft, add curry, ginger and coconut and cook till soft, add dates, stock and sour cream and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add fish and prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the roasted flaked almonds over the dish and serve with steamed rice. Delicious!

Let’s go underground

HOW to grow great garlic

Garlic-400As the weather starts to turn a little chilly, it’s time to get involved with the underground. Not crime ... underground vegies. Especially garlic!
I reckon it’s the cool climate that injects a burst of extra flavour.

There’s little better than home-grown Tassie garlic, particularly as nearly all the stuff you buy is imported and, in my opinion, frankly second-rate. Plus it has often been treated with growth retardants and goodness knows what other chemicals.

Garlic is best grown from cloves taken off good quality, locally grown garlic bulbs. All you need is a good sunny spot and soil that drains well.

As garlic likes a slightly alkaline soil, add a handful of lime (available at your local nursery). If you are planting into a bed that has been manured in previous years, so much the better.

Plant cloves 10 cm deep, pointy end up, and about 15-20cm apart, mulch and water if conditions are dry.

It’s that simple. Harvest time is when the bottom half of the foliage turns brown. That’s usually in early summer.

You’ll likely have several garlic varieties to choose from, including softneck, hardneck and even giant-sized elephant

easiest to grow, but it pays to grow a couple of kinds to make up your own mind.

WHEN is an onion not a potato . . .

It won’t be an easy task, but for an oniony taste sensation try growing potato onions.

Potato onions have nothing to do with potatoes but are a perennial similar to shallots with a mild taste and grow like an onion.

Eat them fresh or cooked and they are yum. And they are great for pickling.

Once every second home gardener grew them but sadly their popularity plummeted, simply because commercial growers found them difficult to harvest mechanically.

Today the hardest part is getting hold of bulbs.

Bulb imports into Tasmania are banned, but occasionally good nurseries stock them. You may need to beg a few from a local home grower if you can.

And if anyone knows a reliable source for potato onion bulbs in Tasmania, let me know at and I’ll share it with Uncle Chris readers. After all, sharing is what vegie growing is all about.

The good news is that once you have got some potato onions growing your future supplies are assured. A large bulb can produce up to 10 or 12 new bulbs in a cluster. So keep some for eating and some for planting next year.

The routine is to plant from mid autumn to winter and harvest in summer when foliage has begun to yellow.

As bulbs age, they increase threefold or more in size and weight each year. Hang them in clusters in a sheltered, airy spot and use them for pickling or cooking over the next few months.

PERFECT potatoes  

Other undergrounders for early planting now are potatoes.

Tasmania is spud-growing heaven. Buy a few different varieties of seed potato (always choose certified ones) and plant in a trench in well dug soil. As they grow up, dig more soil over them.

This simple technique encourages bigger crops and protects the potatoes from light that causes them to produce chlorophyll and turn green (green potatoes can cause the mother of all stomach upsets).

Plant a few more crops over the next two or three months and your harvest will be extended nicely.

Regular watering and fertilising will have them ready for lifting after they have flowered.