The Hobart

New Beginnings Sprouting at Fat Pig Farm

by Ollie Benson
New Beginnings Sprouting at Fat Pig Farm

Since making Tasmania their home, Matthew Evans and Sadie Chrestman’s impact on food and farming in the state has been significant. And despite their decision to close their restaurant at Fat Pig Farm for a well-earned break, their influence is certain to continue. Indeed, in Keeley Bytheway, it already is.

Keeley has been running the market garden at Fat Pig Farm for the last two years, working closely with Fat Pig Farm’s head chef Niccola, and growing produce destined for the restaurant’s kitchen. Since the restaurant’s closure, and with Sadie and Matthew’s support and encouragement, Keeley is now running the 1.5-acre garden as her own business, growing vegetables for her weekly veg boxes.

Keeley’s passion and interest in food sovereignty and small-scale farming began during a gap year where she spent time volunteering at The Falls Farm on the Sunshine Coast. She moved to Tassie at the start of 2019 to study, and it was while attending a soil workshop at Fat Pig Farm that she caught the eye of Nadia Danti, the former head of the farm’s market garden. A short while later, when looking for an assistant gardener, Nadia reached out to Keeley to see if she was interested. She needed little convincing.

At the start of 2022, with Nadia taking on other projects, Keeley was offered the role as the farm’s head gardener. All up, it’s been a fast transition from student to assistant, to being responsible for produce that was served at the restaurant, and now to running her own small business, and although she admits having lots still to learn, walking the talk is something she’s determined to do. And while it’s daunting, she fully appreciates the opportunity of growing produce at a farm with the backing of Fat Pig Farm’s owners, in soil that has been lovingly built and cared for.

Being her own boss now means she can grow varieties of veg­etables she hasn’t previously had the chance to do. And at this time of year, there’s one vegetable that Keeley prizes: purple sprouting broccoli. A close cousin of the ubiquitous standard broccoli and the hybrid broccolini, purple sprouting is in a different league. Coming into season during late winter and early spring, during the ‘hungry gap’ when not much fresh produce is around, its slender, sweet stems and compact florets are full of flavour and freshness. It’s also a gardener’s friend, a cut-and-come-again vegetable that keeps on giving with regular harvests.

Purple sprouting broccoli requires short cooking. Simply boiled or steamed for a few minutes until the stem is tender, it can be served as it is or with more bold flavours. It’s delicious when paired with soft-boiled eggs, or served as a gratin, and Keeley’s delicious go-to is to flash fry the stems with garlic and butter.

The new chapter of Fat Pig Farm is already underway, and with Keeley’s involvement, it’s continuing to be delicious!


PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI GRATIN

This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage UK:

Ingredients:

200g purple sprouting broccoli

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 anchovy fillets

200ml cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

20g breadcrumbs

Method:

Steam the broccoli over boiling water for around five minutes, until tender to the point of a sharp knife. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovy, and cook gently for a few minutes, crushing the anchovies down into the oil. Add the cream, let it bubble for two to three minutes until thickened and reduced by about a third, then add black pepper to taste, and salt if needed. Put the broccoli into a shallow gratin dish or ovenproof pan, pour over the cream mix, add a trickle of oil and scatter bread­crumbs on top. Grill for a few minutes until golden and bubbling, and serve at once.

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May 2024

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