Autumn 2014

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Our rich harvest

What do flavoursome beef, succulent lamp, gourmet shitake mushrooms or olives, grown in a grove that made the top 500 most important in the world, have in common? They are all grown or produced in our region; a food-growing oasis that stretches from Geelong Bellarine along the Surf Coat to Apollo Bay and inland to Colac.

The local paddock to plate story not only lowers our food miles, and helps support our regional economy, but the produce is clearly world class too.
Here’s just a taste of what we found, and we know that we’ve only just peeled the surface of what can only be described as a foodie haven.

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Garlic

Ami and Frans Hillege urge garlic lovers to buy-up newly harvested, locally grown bulbs now, while it’s still fresh. “Buy as much as you can and make it last because the next local season doesn’t start until November. Support the local growers, because without them you have no choice,” say Ami.

Ami and Frans started planting garlic on their Gerangamete property three years ago with a mere 500 bulbs. They harvested about 5000 in 2013 and this year in Autumn the goal is to plant 10,000. “So it’s growing exponentially,” Ami says.

The couple grows their own garlic because they don’t want to buy imported bulbs that have often been heavily sprayed. “Most people don’t realise, when they buy garlic in September or October it might look good. If it’s Australian it’s almost a year old, but the chances are it’s going to be imported. We can’t grow enough organic garlic in Australia to support the local market.”

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Frans and Ami select the best plump, juicy bulbs from their crop to plant the following year. They don’t use pesticides and rely on “good old fashioned cow and chook manure” to produce the garlic.

Ami says the soil needs to have a pH of between 6 and 7 and garlic doesn’t like weed competition. Last year she mulched the crop, which worked well. It’s ready for harvest when the two outside leaves start dying down. “Then it’s all hands on deck ans we dig the crop with a fork”. The couple grows Californian purple, selected for it’s 10 fat, juicy cloves in a bulb. Once dried, cured and cleaned, Ami plaits the garlic to sell on the Otway Fields stall at the Birregurra and Torquay markets. Planting starts again in April, so the garlic si ready for the November harvest.

Rustic sausages

The traditional art of hand-making sausages is a tri-weekly task that butcher, Miles Hazel, absolutely loves. The owner of Birreguraa Farm Foods and Provedore enjoys the process that involves turning the often undesirable cut of meat, into something that people recognise as a sausage. “When you make sausages, you have something to show for what you’ve done,” he explains.

Birreguraa Farm Foods and Provedore is renowned for it’s rustic brand of hand-made sausages, which included tempting flavours such as grass-fed beef with Forrest stout, lamb and rosemary, plian pork – made using 100 percent free range pork and the most popular off all, pork with fennel.

Miles is working with local Birregurra suppliers to incorporate more bush foods into the sausages and the latest venture is pork with bush tomato. “We’ve also had aniseed myrtle with the pork, which is a subtler version of the fennel,” he explains.

While the pork is a heritage breed sourced from Pomborneit, the lambs come from local suppliers and the Scottish Angus is grown by Miles and his wife Annie on their Irrewarra farm. Miles typically makes sausages using beef blade, lamb shoulder or forequarter because these cuts have a 20 percent fat content.
“The meat to fat ratio is critical because meat that’s too dry will be unpalatable,” says Miles.

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It takes about an hour to whip up a 15kg flavour batch and in Summer he might do seven a week. After the first mincing the meat is mixed with flavourings, a little preservative and Miles likes to add water, beer or wine – depending on the flavour – to moisten the mixture.

It’s coarsely minced again before being placed into the hydraulic sausage filler. “Commercial sausages use finer mince, that’s of a more even consistency, but I want to show my customers that I’m putting real meat in the sausage,” says Miles.

The hydraulic sausage filler is about 30 years old and works a dream. Water pressure forces the meat out through a long nozzle, and into the casing made from beef intestines. It’s a mesmerising process as metres of sausage coils like a rope on the sterile stainless steel bench.
Miles knots the bottom end of the long sausage and then twists, loops and folds to make bunches of 15cm sausages ready for cutting. These hang in the cool room overnight so any inconsistencies in the skins settle and transform into “beautifully shaped” sausages that are arranged in the meat tray the very next day.

Beef

When Udi Sharabi and partner Lisa Baum started Otway Prim six years ago, one beast was sufficient to supply their meat-eating customers. Now they distribute the equivalent of two butcher shop’s worth to a customer base that extends from Melbourne through Geelong and the Surf Coast.

“Our customers are people conscientious about where their food comes from,” explains Udi. “We produce grass-fed beef that is aged on the bone and offer a product that is natural, wholesome and uncomprimised by additives, hormones or preservatives.”

The meat is cured in what Udi call “the traditional way”, which means it’s allowed to hang for at least two weeks. “This process lets the meat shed it’s moisture content and the meat fibres to break down. The result is more intense flavour and improved tenderness,” he says.

Udi and Lisa bought their Pennyroyal Valley property 2o years ago. They loved it’s natural spring-fed creeks and that it’s sheltered by the Great Otway National Park. After living a gypsy-style life, they wanted to put down roots and started researching a business that would suit their property and philosophy.

The couple realised a gap in the local meat market and started buying bred-to-type British breeds such as Angus, Herefords and Murray Greys. “These breeds generally are early maturing and do well in the climatic conditions of the Otways.” say Udi.

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Udi sources beasts – steers, weaners and heifers – from other farmers throughout the Otways, and finished them on his Pennyroyal property. When they are in prime condition, the beasts are sent to a licensed abattoir for customised, chemical-free processing.
“We like our beasts to reach prime condition while young and tender. If they have good fat cover it protects the carcass from the chiller, then you get the drying out effect in the meat.

“We have different cuts that many butchers no longer stock because they buy from the abattoir already boxed,” explains Udi who lists popular cuts as skirt steak, brisket, beef short ribs and beef ribs.

While Udi can’t supply offal, everything else from the beast is sold. “We have a lot of orders, for our bones. People us them to make broth, soup or stock. We sell lard or kidney fat to make suet.”

Meat is usually sold in bulk packs. “These are designed to promote the appreciation if the wide range of cuts and products,” says Udi. “And by that give dignity to the animal that paid for it’s life to feed a family. Our customers are conscious of that,” he says.

“Popular are the 15kg packs that represent an eighth of a beast. If eight customers buy the pack, the whole beast is gone.” Udi admits his favourite cut is rump steak. “Rump is a good judge of meat quality, ” he says, adding “of course ours is the best.”

  • Otway Prime
    otwayprime.com.au
    Buy online or at Apollo Bay, Newtown or Golden Plains Farmers’ Market
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Otway prime beef ribs

Birregurra’s Royal Mail Hotel likes to use as much local produce as possible. Right now Otway Prime beef ribs are popular on the menu.

  • Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1kg beef ribs (cut into four)
  • 2 tbsp soya (dark)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 head of garlic (diced)
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 60ml light soya sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ginger shredded
  • 500ml beef vegie stock

Method
Marinate the ribs in soya light and dark, garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, brown sugar and beef in vegie stock for three hours or overnight. Then seal ribs and pour marinade over ribs and bake for 2 hours 30mins at 160°C. Reduce stock and serve over ribs. Serve with mashed potatoes and vegies.

  • The Royal Mail Hotel Birregurra
    49 Main Street, Birregurra
    035236 2626

Shitake Mushrooms

Shitake mushrooms are highly sought after for their medicinal qualities. They are known to be high in antioxidants but are also great with eggs. Best of all you can grow this gourmet fungus at home.
For the past 6 years, Mike Edwards from Special Effects Nursery, near Colac, has been selling, for $35 apiece, 60cm logs inoculated with shitake spores. They are popular amongst foodies and home gardeners who want something a bit different.

While oak logs work well, Mike has also experimented with a range of local eucalypts including local manna and blue gum. Much of the timber comes from thinning blue gum shelter belt plantations. “The small timber is no good for firewood, so using it to grow mushrooms is a perfect way to re-use a waste product,” says Mike.

The logs are drilled with small holes so that a dowel, inoculated with the shitake spores, can be inserted. The logs are incubated for at least a year, so when they arrive at your house it’s simply a matter of soaking in cold water for 24 hours and the fruiting bodies, or mushrooms, should appear within one to three weeks. Each log produces about four crops annually that range from between 150-200g up to about 400g.

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Once the crop has been harvested, the log needs to be soaked in water for at least 24 hours and rested for about 3 months, The log will continue to bear shitakke mushrooms for at least 5 years unless it dries out completely and the fungi die.

The fungus eats the log sugars, so the wood eventually breaks down and rots. Mike has noticed the logs that rot out more quickly usually have a greater amount of sapwood, a food source for fungi.

According to Mike, there are a few tricks to keeping your log alive ans shittake bearing. “Hang it in a purpose-built shade or mushroom house that can be kept cool and well-watered.” His grown in a fernery, and are misted three times a day. As well as giving off humidity, the ferns harbour brown tree frogs, which control any insect pests. The slugs in Mike’s shed are also an advantage. “They do us a favour by eating any dead mushrooms, which stops disease developing,” he says.

When the log arrives to it’s destination Mike suggests dunking it in water for 24 hours to induce fruiting. “Then hang it. Depending on the time of year, withing a few weeks you should start to get mushrooms. They grow quickly in warm, humid conditions,” Mike says , stressing the importance of keeping the log moist and out of direct sunlight.

Pick your own apples

Pick-your-own delicious tasting apples from the pretty Allenvale orchard just minutes from Lorne and a hidden oasis that abuts the Great Otway National Park.
Jenny and Quentin Young have lived and enjoy the tradition of opening up their orchard to pick-your-owners at harvest. “Usually on the Easter weekend we put signs up all around town to let everyone know that the apples are ready,” says Jenny.

Scales are set up, and there’s an honesty box in the shed. Apples are usually priced at $3 to $4 a kg. Locals flock to pick the delicious fruit and bushwalkers often pick an apple as it’s on route to Phantom Falls.

Crops vary with the seasons, and despite a good spring, the hot dry summer spell meant there are fewer fruits on the limbs than last year’s bumper crop when Wolseley Wines, at Paraparap, picked 100kg of windfalls to make into cider.

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Varieties include Jonathan’s and Cox’s Orange Pippin. The orchard also contains Nashi pears, plums and a handful of peaches and nectarines. Jenny preservers the plums, makes chutney, lumberjack cake and plenty of apple crumbles.

Most tress in the orchard were planted more than a century ago when the Allen family farmed the property, running a dairy, grew tobacco and other vegetables to supply Lorne.
Since their tree change from Melbourne, Jenny and Quentin have developed the property with five rustic, quaint cottages for rent. The orchard is also proving a popular venue for weddings, with it’s lush green tress, backdrop of national park and there’s even the pretty St George’s River.

Tips to apple picking at Allenvale
– Don’t come until the signs are out
– Bring a container or bag for your bounty
– Park at the Phantom Falls car park and follow the track
– Apples are priced from $3-$4 kg.

  • Allenvale
    150 Allenvale Road, Lorne

Olives

When Joan and Peter McGovern planted 3500 olives trees on their Teesdale property, the couple admit they know “diddly squat about olives”, that was in 2002. Fast forward 12 tears and their Camilo grove is listed as amongst the important 5oo in the world.

The couple bought the property house because “we lived in an apartment block in Melbourne with a woman who had done something similar, but on a much smaller scale and it sounded idyllic at the time,” explains Joan.
But the gamble has paid off, “we’ve got unique products and done different things,” she says, listing the extensive range that comes under the Camilo label. There are olive oils, oil infusions, olive jam, olive relish, olive salts and baked olives.

When the McGoverns bought the blanket canvas property there was just a handful of trees including some river gums. They’ve planted native wildlife corridors that attract mobs of kangaroos as well as healthy looking groves tat include Kalamata, Pendolino, Koroneiki, Volos and their popular Ligurian-style olives.

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Surprisingly last year’s dry produced Ligurian oil with an intense flavour early in the season, but at the later harvest, which mellowed out to produce a nutty, creamy flavour. While there’s always something to do – such as pruning, de-suckering, weeding – it all ramps up at harvest, from May to July, when a mechanical harvester comes onto the property to literally shake the fruit from the trees. Olives for pickling are hand-picked.

The couple processes their oil on site. While hygiene is important, once the olives have been processed, it’s vital to allow the oil settle and clear so there are no defects. Then it’s stored in stainless steel tanks in the cool room.

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Under Australian standards once the olive oil is made the it should be sold within two years from that date. To ensure the oil lasts longer Joan advises exluding heat, light and oxygen. “Once a bottle is opened you need to use it within about 4 months,” she says. Joan is lobbying to have the Australian standards mandated for oliive oil. She is keen to prevent poor quality and sometimes rancid olive oil being dumped on Australian supermarket shelves and urges buyers to check bottles for an expiry date, but more importantly to support local and Australian growers.

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“Look out for the Australian certification label that ensures the oil has bee through lab testing and is uncontaminated with sunflower and canola oil.”

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Joan sees this as the way forward. “Olives have been consumed for thousands of years. When I grew up the oil was used to get wax out of ears – it was not nice stuff. Globally now it’s recognised as being healthy, but also a lovely product that enhances your food in every possible way.”

  • Camilo Olives
    camilo.com.au
    Available online or at Farmers Markets in Newtown and Golden Plains

All aboard for flavour

Gerry Iglesias is known for being one of the first chefs in Geelong to serve garlic prawns on the menu. His latest innovative venture a “boat takeaway” is also proving popular.

The Spanish-born chef started The Mussel Boat aboard a vessel moored at the Geelong pier three years ago with it’s simple menu. Gerry’s famous paella, calamari and Portarlington mussels done three ways: In red wine, tomato and chilli; with white wine, garlic and parsley; or simply natural, with lemon on the side.

Gerry usually arrives to start prepping the mussels just before lunch. “The secret to good mussels is they need to be fresh,” says Gerry as he cleans and prepares edible bivalves that were delivered that morning. “Nothing is pre-prepared and there’s no microwave here,” he explains proudly.

“I clean the mussel, peel and cook and straight away give to the customer,” he says. While Gerry now has his sea-legs it took a few months for him to get used to the bobbing of the 5m by 2.5m boat kitchen with it’s bright red interior and well-cleaned benches.

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He loves the freedom of stepping aboard, far from the pressure of his previous restaurants Flamenco in Torquay and for 17 years, Bamboleo in Geelong.

“In here, I am free. If the weather is very hot, I close up ad go home,” he says. Good days bring hundreds to the water based takeaway on Geelong’s pier.

In summer he prepares and cooks about 200-300kg of mussels a week, a figure that drops to about 100kg in winter.
For Gerry cooking is in the blood with a grandfather, mother and brother all Spanish chefs. He can, and often does, eat mussels any time of the day. A custom his brother-in-law agrees with, quipping they are good for your sex drive, heart and nervous system.

  • The Mussel Boat
    Geelong Pier
    Open daily for lunch

Lamb

A casual conversation with a chef about the quality of local produce marked the beginning of a life-changing venture for the Thomson family – Nigel, his wife Moira, and his sister Georgie.

The Winchelsea-based trio knew they had a good lamb product, and so they hatched a plan to supply directly to restaurants and chefs. Two years later they are not only up for a series of prestigious foodie awards, but now slaughter and average 30 beasts a week and distribute to local restaurants and online clients under the brand name Barwon Lamb.

While Georgie looks after the on-farm butchering or processing room and organises the orders, Nigel manages the 1200 first-cross ewes. “It’s often a juggling act to ensure we meet all our orders,” he says.

There are two lambing seasons a year – Spring and Autumn. The sheep graze about 850ha over three properties and grass supplemented with crop stubble, “but we don’t feed our sheep hormones or additives,” explains Georgie.

Once ready – at about 6 to 10 months – the lambs are transported to the local abattoir and returned to the on-farm processing facility. “This gives us greater flexibility and full control over the product,” Georgie says.

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The brother and sister team know about lamb. Both grew up on the family farm, and from 1870 the Thomson’s forebears operated butcher shops around Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula.

Georgie and Nigel agree the traits needed in a good lamb include good meat yields and even fat cover for tender meat. “Too lean and the flavour is depleted,” they say. “We try to supply meat that consistently meets these standards”.

Chefs often visit the property to talk with the Thomson’s butcher and to explain exactly what they want in the cut. While shoulders are popular with chefs and foodies and slow cooking is another trend in the gourmet market, Georgie and Nigel have just released a smoked and pickled lamb under their Barwon Lamb brand.

“Already cured it’s great as a cold meat or ideal for people who don’t like pork.” Nigel, Moira and Georgie are proud of their achievements to date. They won a Silver Medal at the 2013 Royal Melbourne Show Fine Food Awards and are finalists in the Weekly Times Coles Farmer of the Year award, to be announced on 21 February 2014, and have been nominated for the Delicious Produce Awards 2014.

  • Barwon Lamb
    Buy packs online at barwonlamb.com.au or at Farmers’ Markets at Newtown and Golden Plains

Farmers’ Markets

  • Apollo Bay Farmers’ Market
    Third Sunday of every month
    Apollo Bay Youth Club, 19-21 Moore St, Apollo Bay
    9am – 1pm
  • Newtown Farmers’ Market
    Fourth Saturday of every month
    Corner Shannon Avenue and West Fyans Rd, Newtown
    8am – 1pm
  • Golden Plains Farmers’ Market
    First Saturday of every month
    Corner High and Milton Streets, Bannockburn
    9am – 1pm
  • Birregurra Summer Markets
    Second Sunday of every month (from December to April)
    Birregurra Park, Main Street Birregurra
    9am – 2pm
  • Torquay Beachside Markets
    Second, Fourth and Fifth Satuday of every month
    Esplanade at Torquay, right next to the Aquavue Cafe
    8am – 2pm
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Crack it

Packed with protein and available in a variety of sizes, the humble egg has a lot to offer. Gail Thomas takes a closer look.

Foraging in the nesting box straw for warm, freshly laid eggs, mumserving them up softly boiled for breakfast with toast soldiers to dip into the oozy yolk, the thrill of breaking open a double yolker or the colourfully wrapped chocolate Easter variety – eggs are as simple as they are complex. We take a closer look at the wide range of eggs available from tiny speckled quail eggs that may weigh just a few grams to textured rich jade green emu and massive glossy cream ostrich eggs weighing in at over a kilo.

Eggs can be used whole, separated for whites and yolks, boiled, poached, fried, scrambled and more. Greeks and Eastern Europeans give their hard boiled eggs a vibrant Easter makeover with the help of a little food dye and some decorative patterned transfer motifs or by steeping them in water that has been boiled with onion skins. Sometimes flat leaf parsley or other herbs are placed around the eggs which are then wrapped in a piece of pantyhose before steeping, resulting in the leaf imprint on the shell.

The eggs are then rubbed with pork fat, candle wax or olive oil to produce a glossy shine and are traditionally eaten at breakfast on Easter Sunday with ham and rosehip tea. Along with being baked into plaited sweet mastic flavoured Easter bread, bowls of dyed eggs are served to the table where guests crack them against each other to see whose egg will remain intact the longest and bring good luck for the coming year.

The couple grows their own garlic because they don’t wan’t to buy imported bulbs that have often been heavily sprayed. “Most people don’t realise, when they buy garlic in September or October it might look good. If it’s Australian it’s almost a year old, but the chances are it’s going to be imported. We can’t grow enough organic garlic in Australia to support the local market.”

Hardboiled eggs can take on a whole new dimension when pickled in spiced vinegar as a perfect accompaniment to cold meats or terrines, give them an aromatic bronzed hue in the hot smoker or for an ornamental marbled effect crack the shells of hardboiled eggs and steep in black tea or water to which food dye has been added. Bantam and hen eggs have brown or white shells determined by the breed of bird however the unique Araucana breed are the only hens to lay blue eggs.

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These versatile orbs are a complete protein package with freshness being paramount as when an egg ages so does its structure with the yolk going from a slightly acidic pH to more neutral while the albumen of an older egg is clearer and more alkaline than that of a fresh egg. Paul and Julie Kos of Kossies Free Range Eggs at Stonehaven in the Barrabool Hills began their operation in 2008. “We’re very passionate about what we do and as a
producer we’re at an exciting time as the industry is going through so many changes,” explains Julie.

“We currently have 9000 Hy-Line Brown chooks but we’re going to a massive expansion and through our networks we’re putting on about 150,000 birds within a 12 month period. We’ve now gone into our own rearing facility down in Cororooke growing out our own day old pullets. We are trying to be totally integrated in the business and can grow about 460,000 chooks a year.”

The couple has also tapped into marketing their pullet eggs as Bubba eggs which should be available in supermarkets from about May this year. Pullet eggs are 42-49g from young chooks around nineteen weeks through to about twenty four to twenty six weeks old. “They are a luxury item with a thick texture and sweet flavour,” adds Julie. “Maybe people thought pullets were a different breed of chook or something but I could see their potential and I really wanted to promote them.

I thought we should market them to young children and make it fun and to mothers wanting to make healthy food choices for their children so I came up with Bubba Eggs. We’ve also found with these smaller sized eggs kids like to have two eggs, just like mum and dad!” While hen eggs tend to be the daily staple explore some alternatives that are readily available in Asian food stores.

Delicate hard-boiled quail eggs are perfect whole as a garnish in salads, for added effect toss them in spicy dukkah, poach or fry them as a topping for canapés. Shelled hard boiled quail eggs marinated in an aromatic soy mixture take on a rich taste and hue and are particularly good with pickled red ginger. Duck eggs add a rich flavour to pasta, cakes and custards. Gran always preferred these for baking her feather light sponges however, duck eggs are not suitable for making meringues or soufflés as they lack globulin, a protein that enables hen eggs to trap and hold air when whisked. Asian style preserved duck eggs are somewhat of an acquired taste.

The yolks of salted duck eggs are used as a filling in traditional moon cakes as egg yolks contain oil and when processed a white ring is formed like the ring of the moon. Preserved Pai Dan eggs, also known as thousand year-old, or century eggs,are coated in a mixture of salt, lime, wood ash and rice hulls resulting in an aromatic almost black jelly-like white and pasty yolk. These pungent eggs are traditionally served with pickled ginger, simply shelled and eaten uncooked.

There are also balut eggs containing an 18 day old embryo which are eaten boiled and are favoured by pregnant women for of their iron content. Emu and ostrich eggs have a deliciously fine flavour and silky texture. One emu egg is equivalent to six to eight hen eggs making it easy to whip up a one-egg frittata to serve six or if you’re expecting a crowd, opt for an ostrich egg which equates to around twenty four hen eggs! The textured jade green shells of emu eggs have multiple layers varying from dark green through to white making them particularly attractive for carving, painting and decorating.

The Geelong Gallery’s collection includes some 19th century mounted emu eggs featuring intricate work by silversmiths Charles Brownlow, Edward Fischer and John Hammerton and Sons. Likewise glossy ivory ostrich eggs are keenly sought for decorative purposes. Local ostrich farmers Victoria and Michael Hastings occasionally have ostrich eggs for sale – try one as a custardy topping for a traditional South African meat bobotie. They also sells blown ostrich egg dyed in pastel colours at their specialty leather outlet The Vault in Winchelsea.

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Oriental quail eggs

These make an eye-catching addition to hors d’oevres wih pickled ginger or in an Asian inspired salad

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 12 hard boiled eggs, shelled
  • 1 cup mushroom soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 dried chilli
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 1 cup water

Place marinade ingredients in saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour over quail eggs and store in fridge in screw top jar for at least 3 days before using.

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Footy fever

The echo of car horns singing out their approval in unison, biting-cold, hot-pies and the clip-clop of boots as the players make their way on to the oval. There is no other sport quite like Australian Rules football that captures our region’s attention. Every weekend thousands of people from all walks of life converge on ovals all over to cheer on family, friends or complete strangers.

The region is undoubtedly football mad. This district has a deep-rooted history of producing some of the best players to have ever kicked a Sherrin. With an abundance of talent sprouting from this part of the state year after year, we felt it fitting that we head to Highton Reserve to take an indepth look at arguably the most successful junior football development club in history, the Geelong Falcons. We have also cast our eyes over the season that was in our local leagues and examined how each reigning premier is shaping up for season 2014.

The Geelong Falcons – a hotbed of AFL talent

If a TAC Cup club’s success is measured on its capability to produce elite footballers, then the Geelong Falcons stand head and shoulders above the rest. Dubbed by some as a ‘football factory’, the Falcons have nurtured a significant portion of the game’s nobility. Current greats such as Gary Ablett Jr, Jonathan Brown, James Bartel and Luke Hodge all began their development in the navy blue and white.

The man who has had a hand in these careers and many of today’s champions is Geelong Falcons regional manager, Michael Turner. Michael, a former Geelong captain and All-Australian, began his role with the Falcons in 1995. He is entrusted with developing the region’s most talented players from Lara through to Warrnambool. Under Michael’s guidance the Geelong Falcons have produced more draftees than any club in Australia. “The main KPI (key performance indicator) for me is how many players a club has on AFL lists. At the moment we’ve got 47 on AFL lists and a player at every AFL club,” Michael explains. In an ever dwindling pool, the Falcons had three listed players taken in the 2013 AFL draft and two picked up in the Rookie Draft. A reasonable outcome according to the veteran manager. “It is getting more difficult to get drafted and rookied. A few years ago there used to be 150 to 160 picks between the draft and rookie but this year there were only 90, so that’s 60 to 70 less kids getting drafted,”Michael says.

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Each season a TAC Cup side selects a final squad of around 50 players, made up predominantly of 17 and 18 year olds. The reality is that the majority of these young men will not go on to be signed by an AFL club. The Falcons’ emphasis is on each individual player’s development, conscious that not every hopeful has what it takes to crack the big league. “When kids come into our TAC Cup program they get pretty excited and their parents do too because they immediately think about the draft. What we say to our kids is that they’re here to reach their full potential. So if we invite 90 kids in – which we do for pre-season – they can only do their best.”

“Some kids will be very good local players, some will enter the VFL, others might go interstate and some will get drafted,” Michael explains. Under the guidance of head coach, Andy Allthorpe, the Falcons had a successful 2013 season. They finished top of the ladder in the regular season but bowed out in the preliminary final to eventual premiers, the Eastern Ranges.

In 2014, Andy and the rest of the Falcons coaching staff are hoping their team can break a 14-year premiership drought. This objective won’t be easy but with state-ofthe- art facilities and around 60 casual and full-time staff at their disposal, the Falcons have a strong platform to launch from. Positions at the club range from coaching to medical roles and according to Michael, the progression of his staff is as important as his players. “We also run a development program for our staff. A lot of our staff, whether they’re medical, high performance and particularly coaching go on to AFL clubs. Every coach we’ve had so far has gone to an AFL club,” he says.

The costs associated with running a successful junior football organisation like the Falcons are hefty. Michael estimates that last season the club spent roughly $15,000 on medical expenses, particularly strapping tape. While the Falcons receive significant funding from the AFL, the club places a strong emphasis on raising its own revenue. Sponsorship from local businesses – whether cash or other donations – are vital to the prosperity of the club. “Most of our sponsors enjoy being with us because they want to help the boys reach their full potential,” Michael says. Throughout our conversation Michael continues to come back to this point of his players reaching their “full potential”. You onlyhave to enter the top floor of the pavilion at Highton Reserve and gaze over the Falcons’ Hall of Fame to realise that many of the game’s stars have this club to thank for identifying and honing their potential. “I’ve got no doubt that Geelong has the best football structure in Australia,” Michael adds. If you are interested in sponsoring the Geelong Falcons, contact Michael Turner on 0418 524 495.

Around the local leagues

As round one edges closer and closer, anticipation is building for what should be an intriguing 2014 football season in our local leagues.

Having triumphed over Grovedale by 20 points in the 2013 Geelong Football League grand final, South Barwon are looking to secure the magical three-peat in 2014. The club won the admiration of football followers the nation over during an emotional 2013 season. Following an on-field accident in June, Swans’ co-coach Casey Tutungi was tragically rendered a quadriplegic. South Barwon’s ability to use the inspiration of Casey throughout the season and during a gruelling grand final showdown was a testament to the strength and character of the club.

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Premiership success will again be the focus for the Swans in 2014. Leading the GFL powerhouse club will be former Geelong star Matthew Scarlett, and returning champion Warwick Knuckey. While the club has lost about six players from last year’s grand final side – including captain Anthony Biemans – South Barwon president Richard Holz believes his team will again be pushing to play finals in 2014. “We endeavour to play finals and put ourselves in the best position so that we can aim for the top three. As the season progresses we will review our goals. It’s no different to what we have done in previous years,” Richard says. The Swans will be aiming for their eighth premiership in ten seasons this year.

Fellow heavy-hitters, Queenscliff, will also be looking to continue their dominance in the Bellarine Football League. This season the Coutas have their sights set on making it four premierships in a row. Queenscliff gave Drysdale a thumping to the tune of 53 points during last year’s grand final. The two clubs will resume hostilities when they meet in round one this season. The Coutas will again be led this year by playing-coach Tom Limb. The 2013 Geelong & District Coaches Association Coach of the Year will be looking to equal the BFL record for number of successive preimerships this season.

The Coutas have lost star duo Daniel Gibbs and Dan Measures but will look to cover these loses by blooding their talented juniors coming through the under-18 side. In the Geelong & District Football League, North Geelong will be desperate to keep the premiership cup in its clutches this season. The Magpies ended an 11-year premiership drought with a 20-point win over Bell Post Hill last season and in doing so dashed the Panthers hopes of becoming the first club to win four consecutive premierships in recent times.