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Australia: Fact Sheet

The flamboyant Peta Mathias hits the gastronomic road again with Taste Takes Off - a revamped overseas version of Taste New Zealand. New Zealand's footloose TV foodie explores the flavours, the style and the sights of 10 destinations around the Pacific. Peta's lived the food traditions of the world and each Taste Takes Off travels to a country seeking out the people and stories behind the flavours.

This episode promises a gastro tour through this less well known but exceptionally scenic, historic and wine drenched area of Australia.

Beechworth - The tiny town's very famous 'Beechworth Bakery'
Alpine Valleys - Chestnuts
Murray River - Cod
Rutherglenn - Muskats and Tokay fortified wines
Milawa - Brown Brothers, the family dynasty, their history and their passion for unusual varieties of wine

Just three hours drive to the North East of Melbourne you'll discover the Alpine Valleys, Rutherglen wine regions and the vibrant towns of Bright and Beechworth. The North East valleys are a gourmet's paradise. The varied terrain and rock solid climate provides the ideal growing conditions for some of the country's finest ingredients, with chestnut and walnut groves, asparagus, olives, mustards, cheeses and Murray cod all on tap to give the local chefs an unsurpassed array of raw materials. The region also produces world-class wines - Rutherglen in particular is renown for it's rich reds, Tokays and Muscats. Taste takes off on a gastro tour of this less well known but exceptionally scenic, historic and wine drenched region of Australia.

The historic town of Beechworth was founded on gold in the mid 1800s and in more recent times a local named Tom O'toole struck gold again when he opened the Beechworth Bakery. A gamble at the beginning, the bakery has become one of Australia's greatest retail success stories. Tom started with just two staff, now he employs 75 people and the bakery has an annual turnover of over $3 million. Tom attributes his success to following three simple rules:

1. Take care of the customer
2. Take care of the customer
3. Take care of the customer

Tom's 200 product lines are simple and family orientated, favourites include bushman's pasties, Ned Kelly pies and cream buns called beestings. The Beechworth Bakery Echuca now has a turnover of $2 million. Every weekend visitors come from far and wide to spend up large at the Beechworth Bakery and what they buy doesn't really matter they just want to be part of this legendary success.

Contact: Tom O'Toole
27 Camp Street Beechworth
Tel:  03 5728 1339
Going Nuts
Brian and Jane Casey have been growing chestnuts in the Alpine Valleys for 16 years.  Their property, Mountain View Chestnuts, has over 1000 trees producing three varieties; Purdon's Pride, Red Spanish and DeCoppi Marone. With an average consumption of just one chestnut per year for each Australian, Jane and Brian are on a crusade to educate people about the versatility of chestnuts. Jane heads the National Chestnut Association and works closely with local chefs developing new recipes, which she has published in a chestnut cookbook. 

Contact: Jane and Brian Casey
Mountain View Chestnuts
RMB 5780 Hughes Lane, Eurobin
Ph  61 3 5756 2788


Just down the road from Mountain View Chestnuts in the alpine town of Bright is Patrizia Simone's popular restaurant. Patrizia loves chestnuts and she shared one of her favourite recipes; chestnuts with pigeon, a classic pasta dish from her Italian mountain home.

Pigeon and Chestnut pasta

2 breasts of pigeon
400g fresh pasta papadelle
Italian parsley
Bay leaf
Tomato paste
Roasted chestnuts
1/4 cup of wine
1/4 cup of olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese

Sauté the pigeon in oil and add rosemary, sage, and bay leaf frequently turning. Add chestnuts and tomato and continue to cook. Add wine and rest. Remove the pigeon and slice.

Cook the pasta and drain.

To serve:
Toss the sauce through the pasta
Place pigeon on top
Finish with parsley and parmesan cheese

Divine Wine
All Saints in Rutherglen is one of Australia's original wineries, established back in 1864 by two enterprising Scots; George Smith and John Banks. Today the vineyard is family run by the Browns who are renowned for producing some of the best fortified wines in Australia and the world. Their oldest muskat, known as museum is an astonishing 80 years old. All Saints keep their wines exclusive by selling only to visitors at the cellar door and their wine club members.

Contact: Eliza Brown
All Saints Wine
All Saints Road, Wahgunyah
Tel: 61 2 6035 2222
Fax: 61 2 6035 2200

A Noble Enterprise
Like many other regional specialties Murray Cod is in big demand by local chefs in Victoria.  Simon and Philipa Noble have met the demand by establishing a unique aquaculture venture growing and selling Murray cod on their property Brimin Lodge.  The fish are grown in tanks in a specially built, environmentally controlled fish barn.  They are sold when they weigh between 400 and 800 grams, which takes about a year.  Public tours of the tanks are available by prior arrangement.

Contact: Simon & Philipa Noble
Brimin Lodge 
Brimin Road, Rutherglen
Victoria 3685
Tel: (02) 6035 7245

Peta Cooks
Murray cod has a rich creamy texture similar to a barramundi. Peta gives the fish a Vietnamese flavour by steaming it over beer with vegetables, chillies and shitake mushrooms and serving with a spicy ginger sauce.

Murray Cod Steamed in Beer

Serves 5

5 dried shitake mushrooms
1 stalk of lemon grass
2 cups of beer
2 spring onions, julienned
1 leek, green cut off and white julienned
2 small chillies, chopped
1 handful of dill, coarsely chopped
1 piece of ginger about half a thumb long, peeled and julienned
1 medium sized carrot, peeled and julienned
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 kg Murray cod fillets
Large bamboo steamer

Soak mushrooms in hot water until they rehydrate. Squeeze dry and julienne.
Prepare the lemon grass by removing the outer leaves, chopping the top off and cutting off the hard green stalks - smash it a bit with the knife handle. Place the lemongrass, along with the beer, in the pot under the steamer. Mix together the other ingredients.  Place half of them on the bamboo rack, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place the fish on top and cover with the rest of the ingredients, sprinkling again with salt and pepper. Cover with the lid. Bring the beer to the boil, place the steamer on top and steam for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Remove carefully from the steamer to a platter and drizzle a little ginger sauce. Serve with rice.

Ginger Dipping Sauce

1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves of garlic
1 small fresh red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp water
5 tbsp limejuice
3 tbsp nuoc mam/fish sauce

Grind the sugar, garlic, chilli and ginger to a paste with a mortar and pestle then add the water, lime juice and nuoc mam.

In the Family
Brown Brothers is one of Australia's best-known family businesses. It was in 1889 that John Francis Brown made his first wine and named his fledgling company Brown Brothers as he hoped his brothers would join him. Today, the company has completed 115 consecutive vintages and grows an extraordinary 50 grape varieties. The vineyard also houses a sophisticated testing ground for new varieties dubbed the kindergarten, as well as an epicurean centre where you can complement one of their top wines with a dish that's designed to match perfectly.

Contact: Brown Brothers Milawa Pty Ltd
Milawa Victoria 3678
Tel: 61 3 5720 5500
Fax: 61 3 5720 5511

Additional Information

The Rutherglen Wine Experience
57 Main Street, Rutherglen
North East Valleys
Victoria 3685
Tel: 1800 622 871