Know Your Honey…Smoked

It’s not unusual to hear that a product or method of production was discovered by chance. So when Kris Sweres from Blend Smoked Honey tells me that “The concept of Blend came about completely by accident” I’m not surprised, but naturally I’m intrigued. When he goes on to mention that post-holiday “drunken tomfoolery” was involved, I’m all ears.

Kris’ partner, Rebecca bought a Hunter valley trip for Kris 40th last year. And so they went… “I just became this wine dude. I don’t normally drink a lot of wine. While we were down there we visited this winery that had a smokehouse attached to it… we tried this smoked cheddar”. They were pretty impressed. Coming back from the Hunter Valley trip Kris decided he was going to recreate that smoked cheddar.

So he fired up the cold smoker at home, came back after about an hour, lifted the lid and found a jar of honey in there. And my question to Kris is obviously, “how is there a jar of honey in there?”. “Well, exactly”, he says… A few beers had been consumed, he can’t exactly confirm what he was doing with the honey, but at some point he inadvertently placed it in the smoker. So, naturally, they tried the honey with the cheddar and found it was amazing.

And so it began… for six months he mucked around with flavour profiles, different techniques, different smoking woods and spices etc. and came up with a standard recipe. And that is how, in late November 2014, Blend Smoked Honey was born.

Plenty Blend Blog-2

At first Kris thought his mum would be the only person who would buy his honey. But quickly people embraced the sweet, smoky stuff. Kris attributes the power of social media as one factor in Blend’s steady growth over such a short period of time, and if you’ve ever taken a peek at their Instagram account, you might see why. Beautiful photographs and boundless enthusiasm. But I think there’s more to it than that. For us at Plenty (we stocked Blend on our retail shelves shortly after they launched) it was about a quality product, something quite unique from a producer whose devotion shines through in the way he markets and distributes his own product. Producers taking care of their own distribution is something, as a food retailer, we love to see. It allows direct contact with the craftspeople and there is no better way to market a product than that. Kris says there’s “such a feeling of happiness when someone gets your product”. And you can see he means every word of it.

It seems a simple and beautiful concept, but occasionally we are still asked at the cafe, “what is smoked honey”… well, it’s “Raw local honey, gently smoked and blended with artisan ingredients. Handmade in Queensland using small batch pure honey. Sweet, smokey, unique”.

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Kris gets the raw honey from different places and different beekeepers. This is what gives each batch a different character.  The last batch was clear and nutty, suggesting perhaps a nut orchard nearby. The batch before was like maple syrup in texture and flavour. He is currently using Farmgate Honey, from Murray, another good friend of Plenty.

Honey is such a beautiful product and you get the feeling that while Kris didn’t set out to work with it specifically, he has certainly developed a great affection for it as a result of Blend. He explains that it doesn’t need refrigeration and has an unlimited expiration. The only thing that can spoil honey is moisture. Although as Kris says “add water you get mead!” (an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water) so arguably, the honey isn’t spoiled!

 

One thing Kris really delights in is the first hand interaction with the beekeepers. He says “meeting beekeepers is fun, getting out of Brisbane, to places like Woodford, Esk and Pomona.” They are a different breed of people, a little crazy, some might say! Their concern for the bees and the ecology is the driving force, honey is a by-product of the process. “The most important thing to them is the bees”.

Blend are still a small batch operation, producing about 40-60kg jars per run. They do this at Wandering Cooks, in South Brisbane, which Kris describes as “such a supportive and professional environment”.

We talk for a long time after this about the joys of collaboration, of how rewarding it is to align with likeminded business. We share an enthusiasm for the new wave of food business mentality; operators and producers working together sharing stories and helping each other navigate through the landscape.IMG_2905

Kris talks fondly of how Mikey from Picklehead Pickles lent invaluable support with some of the logistics of setting up the business. The boys have since formed a competitive BBQ team named Shank Brothers BBQ (“there’s a league of competitive BBQ enthusiasts?” I ask, “it’s a thing” Kris replies). The BBQ community have really helped propel the concept and the product.

A beautiful example of this is a recent get together at Meat At Billy’s where Kris was able to slather his smoky honey all over one of Tim (Eggcettera) Somes’ suckling pigs… I can’t help but wish we’d been there.

 

I ask Kris is he was still chefing when he started Blend… “I still am” he replies. It is early days and he’s still growing the business, but not to the point of compromising anything. One day, maybe, he can give up the day job and chase his dreams of extending the range or getting in to primary production.

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The other question we get asked a lot at Plenty is “how do we use smoked honey?” Kris says “on grilled meats and cheese. A really sharp, aged cheddar, haloumi, blue cheese, brie… all cheeses. Grilled pineapple and triple cream brie. Root vegetables, roast baby carrots and beetroot. All the BBQ stuff… pork ribs. Boerewors. Lamb. As an adhesive for your rub. Put it on before, rub goes down, then it sticks! And then finish as well. Pork and Blend are besties. Fish… salmon, glazed ocean trout BBQ’d on cedar planks. On a nice thick cut piece of bacon. Crispy bacon waffles.”

I could listen to this all day…

 

 

 

You can find Blend Smoked Honey in and around Brisbane at stockists such as Plenty West End, The Jam Pantry, Petersons Meats, Meat at Billy’s. And Blend is starting to appear on shelves in Victoria and NSW as well!

Plenty Blend Blog

 

 

Recipe – care of Blend Smoked Honey

Blend Smoked Honey and Orange Xmas Ham Glaze

Ingredients

1              Quality leg ham

2 tbsp    ‘Pommery’ Dijon mustard

4 tbsp    Blend Smoked Honey

½ cup   apple juice

1 cup     orange juice

2 tbsp    quality orange marmalade

1              rosemary sprig, torn

1 tbsp    crushed whole cloves

2 tbsp    cracked white pepper

1 tsp      ground cinnamon

 

Method

Preheat oven to 160˚C. Meanwhile carefully remove the outer skin layer of ham leaving the white layer of fat underneath. Remember the ham is already cooked/smoked so you’re just glazing it to add an extra depth of flavour.

In the fat layer score a criss-cross pattern and rub in the mustard, marmalade and rosemary. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl and gently spoon over the ham before popping in to the oven.

Cook for approximately 50-60 mins whilst basting the ham every 10 mins with the glaze and juices in the bottom of the pan. If the glaze is getting too ‘sticky’ (which happens when the moisture is evaporated) just add a touch of water to thin it out very slightly. In the last 5 minutes of cooking baste one last time and give the ham a quick blast at 190-200˚C.

Keep an eye on it as it can burn quickly at this stage. The gentle smoky flavour of the honey, offset with mustard and the other ingredients add a sublime level to the humble xmas baked ham. Sweet, sticky and dead easy! Enjoy!!

 

 

Know your Bacon, Pork and Ham

Our modus operandi at Plenty is “Know Your Farmer” and true to our word, we are cultivating some fine friendships. One particular recipient of our affection is the team who toil and tend to Kilbilli Farm in Maryvale. After all, they’re part of the family, literally.
IMG_4565And then there’s the matter of the pigs… my own personal affection for the beast will no doubt imbue this piece with metaphorical drool and porcine exaltation. For many of us who call hospitality home, there is no greater lust than that we lavish on the mighty pig. Or more specifically: pork, bacon, ham, sausage; belly, hocks and trotters.

Back in December 2013 the arrival of ten rare breed, British Black pigs at Kilbilli was a very exciting new development. Not just for Jess and Kyna but also for their Plenty family back in Brisbane, licking their greedy, selfish chops in anticipation of the sweet meat to come, and the opportunity to see our first full farm to plate enterprise come to fruition.

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Six months on and we are experiencing early blooms of the incredible relationship a food business can share with a farm and the farmer. Something quite wonderful happens when you cut down the number of hands your food is passed through to get to you. It is a feeling, somewhere between honourable and humbling, of doing something right by the farmer and the animal; of making a better choice.
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As Jess explains: “Kilbilli Farm British Black porker and baconer pigs are bred 20km up the road on Judy Barnett’s stud property ‘Black Beauty Pigs’. We are able to work with Judy to secure a year round supply of these rare breed pigs, for growing out to supply the consumers of Plenty.
“We receive our piglets at approximately 6-7 weeks of age, as they are weaned from their mother. These pigs will stay with us until they are finished at approximately seven months of age, or approximately 70kg live weight.

“These lovely pigs are pasture reared from birth to finish. They are provided a daily morning feed of fresh barley sprouts made on farm. Their feed is supplemented in the evening with a natural cracked grain and mineral/vitamin mix for ensured protein and energy levels, without the additives. This is also backed up by the pigs natural desire to forage and ‘dig’ in the pasture.

“The barley sprouts are an excellent source of protein for these growing pigs and provide similar benefits as what wheat grass does for humans. In my opinion, the benefits of ‘green’ feed should never be compromised in the diets of any animal that would naturally forage or graze. Hence the inclusion of the barley sprouts into our grower pig and steer diets, for all year round green feed.

“We love seeing our pigs express their natural behaviours! They run, chase each other, dig in the earth with their snouts and ensure they never miss a feed, by running as a mob, ears flapping as they go.”

From the hill on Kilbilli the pigs are taken a short way down the road to Carey Bros Meat Works in Yangan. There’s no sugar-coating the reality that this is an abattoir, but it is bordered by ranges, surrounded by land, farms and the sounds of the bush.
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Then it’s just around the corner to Carey Bros Butcher Shop where Mark, Brendan and the team produce our incredible ham, bacon, pork belly and Cumberland sausage. Our own Plenty Patriarch then collects the loot and transports it via our refrigerated trailer back to 284 Montague Rd. And of course from here, it graces our menu and soon, will also be available in retail packs in our fridges. Stunning pork products, from pigs we have met, touched, laughed at, enjoyed during life and, possibly, secretly shed a quiet tear for in death.

 

“Hope you enjoy our proudly produced pork products, raised ethically by your local team of farmers in the southern downs!” says Jess.

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When you combine authentic skill with amazing ingredients, the result is always a dish far greater than the sum of its parts. Michael, Head Chef here at Plenty, proves that week by week with dishes such as pork belly with white bean puree, poached eggs, blistered tomatoes and house made focaccia.

 

We owe a great thanks to Jess and Kyna at the farm, Mark and the boys at the butcher and an enormous, heartfelt, belly-rumbling thanks to the pigs.

And guess what, just last month, a new mob arrived at Kilbilli…

 

Farmer Jess Hodges giving one of the piglets a belly scratch

Farmer Jess Hodges giving one of the piglets a belly scratch

Know Your Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of those foods which speaks to almost everyone. Some grow out of it, some grow in to it and some remain firmly devoted to it.

Someone who is doing great things with ice cream is Grant Lew from Lick! Ice Cream.
Grant’s beginnings in the game came after he and his wife had their first child. “After a couple of weeks of having our newborn at home, my wife was exhausted and I wanted to make her a treat. I had some Baileys liqueur in the cupboard and frozen raspberries in the freezer, so decided to make her an ice cream with that. She ate it and loved it. It was at this time that I was looking to start a business with my sister Carina (the other half of Lick!), and thinking there was a niche in the market we started Lick!.”product shot 2 Lick

There’s something truly special about Lick! Ice cream and Grant’s background as a fine dining chef is undoubtedly a major factor in this. “My goal was to produce the best customised ice creams and sorbets that I knew how. By putting a massive emphasis on quality, keeping the ingredients natural and staying away from additives and preservatives. I started by customising ice creams for restaurants and fortunately have worked with some of Australia’s finest chef’s. An arm quickly grew into a retail range that we started to supply. Demand just kept getting stronger and stronger and we are now 9 years old.”

With most of their product being gluten free as well as preservative and additive free, there are some pretty wonderful points of difference about Lick! Ice Cream, not least the flavour! They aim for a natural product, and as such source some amazing base ingredients.
product shot 3 Lick“In Australia we are blessed to be surrounded by great fresh produce, and a lot of that can be found locally. For example the macadamia nuts used in our Macadamia Praline are direct from a farmer in Beaudesert. The Rhubarb we use is grown at an organic farm on Mt Tambourine. Fans of Lick! support us as a local producer and we are no different from our suppliers. The main ingredients for our ice cream base are 100% Australian. We are proud of that.”

 

One thing we really love to know is how our provedores like to enjoy their labour of love… and Grant has a red hot penchant for the icy treat… “I love eating ice cream and sorbet together, it takes me back to when I was a kid having a ‘Splice’ ice block.” That’s pretty genius, if you ask us!
As for childhood memories…
“One of the best memories when I was younger was at the Ekka having a Strawberry Sundae. And now having Lick! as the ice cream producer for the Ekka in 2012/13 has been such a privilege. I also remember having vanilla ice cream with a ton of milo sprinkled over the top and eating that after school. It gives me a kick to see my two young girls Abbey and Jade do the same :)”

At Plenty we are experiencing first hand the enjoyment of sourcing directly from people whose hands tend the product we sell or use as ingredients in our dishes. We are privileged to know more about where they come from, why they’re doing what they’re doing.
As Grant says “Being a producer and wholesaler of our product, I get to see and use some of the best produce around. I get to meet the growers and the end consumer. Production is always varied and interesting and I enjoy customising flavours to match the imagination of talented chefs. But most of all, I never get tired of receiving messages of peoples love of Lick!. It is humbling that fans take the time to write or tell us about their experience with Lick! and how it can bring such joy or pleasure to their day. In the end, what more could we ask for.”

You can find the gorgeous Lick! Ice Cream range in our freezers at Plenty.

http://www.lickicecream.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/lickicecream.au?fref=ts

 

product shot Lick

Know Your Cheese

Know Your Cheese

Cheese-maker and co-owner of Casa Motta, Alessandro Motta was lactose intolerant as a child, hard to imagine for a man who has as much passion (and talent) for buffalo mozzarella as he does. Alessandro (who outgrew his allergy) moved to Australia with his family when he was 12 years old. Overcome by the nostalgia of Rome, he embarked on replicating his favourite cheese.

It took seven years to perfect, through years of home cheese making and a trip to the Convent of Valle Chiara in the Roman countryside, where he learnt how the nuns handcrafted their buffalo mozzarella, from farm to table.

While working for Olympus Cheese in 2012, Alessandro entered the Home Cheese Maker Awards. And he won gold for his buffalo mozzarella. Owners Michael, Desiree and Emmanuel Gavriel were so impressed they decided to invest in his talent and Casa Motta was born.

He sources the milk for his cheese from the Thompson farm, near Maleny. Mal and Margaret Thompson are the owners and Alessandro speaks fondly of them:
“The farm has a very wholesome feel about it so much so that the owners live on the farm and milk their own buffaloes. They live their life the old fashioned way. They have quite a small herd of buffaloes, about 30, and each makes about 7 litres of milk a day. The buffaloes are the size of a cow, they eat and drink as much as a normal dairy cow however produce only 1/3 of the milk. That is the reason why their milk is so rich in protein and fat and why the cheese tastes amazing. It is thanks to the properties of the milk from this special animal that gives the cheese those great organoleptic properties.
“The buffalo were originally brought from Darwin and later crossed with an Italian bull to give the milk the same properties as those found in Italy. That is the reason why my mozzarella will taste just as good, if not better than the Italian buffalo mozzarella. Moreover the buffaloes are left free to graze so that they can produce a great tasting milk everyday thanks to the fresh grass that is found daily on the farm.”

When talking to Alessandro about his cheese, you get a sense of real emotion and passion behind the process. So I really wanted to know, what is his favourite food memory of his beloved cheese? His answer… “The caprese salad! Buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of pepper.” And for Winter-time, “a steamy mozzarella in Carrozza” – deep fried mozzarella served as a side dish.

Alessandro

There’s a wonderful enthusiasm that radiates from Alessandro, equal parts driven and dreamer… as all farmers, producers and providores should be…

“For me to know that my product is stocked in the kitchens of Brisbane is a great achievement. It is like for Leonardo Da Vinci to know that the Mona Lisa is displayed at the Louvre everyday in Paris!!!!”

You can find Casa Motta buffalo mozzarella in our fridges and on our menu at Plenty.

Casa Motta logo

Know Your Beef

Quality produce is quality because of the care, expert knowledge and attention to detail that goes into it, not the price tag.

By this definition Maryvale farmer Jess Hodges produces serious quality beef and from Kilbilli Farm, she will be proudly supplying Plenty with her produce.

Jess Hodges, Kilbilli Farm

Jess Hodges, Kilbilli Farm

Spending time in agriculture in the far west Channel Country and the Northern Territory before returning to south-east Queensland, Jess brings an impressive skill set to her own venture.

“We’re producing yearling beef fed on pasture supplemented with grain and barley sprouts,” she said.

“It’s nothing at all like a feedlot, it’s all out in the paddock and the barley sprouts we grow hydroponically.”

The carefully crafted diet is one of the most important ways Jess is able to maintain constant quality throughout her beef.

“If you get a steak it should have a little bit of fat, not too excessive, and some marbling through the muscle and thats what we aim for,” she said.

“It’s about taking it right from the beginning, from seeing a calf born and feeding it to a point that you’re happy to sell it to a consumer.”

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As well as supplying the kitchen, Jess is also hoping to offer her beef directly to customers at Plenty.

“We are hoping to have different cuts available for sale and importantly not at an exorbitant price, they will be products that the everyday person can afford,” she said.

“It’s really about having that opportunity to cut out the middleman and thats how we are able to offer reasonable prices.”

Jess says the growing trend of consumers looking to connect with where and how their food is produced can only be positive.

“Its really important to give the right picture about how a product is really being produced, here the steers are actually out in the paddock and eating grass so we like to show that,” she said.

“At the end of the day you have to get satisfaction out of what you do and we do.”

From the paddock to you plate, Kilbilli Farm beef will be Plenty.

Kilbilli Farm to Plenty West End

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Know Your Quail

A core ethos of responsible, locally sourced food is ingrained in Plenty and Pittsworth farmers Clive and Erika Wylie have made it clear they share this value.

With decades of agricultural experience acquired throughout the world from China to Borneo and all across Australia, the couple know a thing or two about producing honest food.

With their latest venture, Banyard Game Birds, Clive and Erika are focusing their vast knowledge and experience on producing one thing; quality quail.

Clive Wylie, Banyard Game Birds

Clive Wylie, Banyard Game Birds

As a founding director of Inglewood farms, Australia’s leading producer of organic free-range chickens, Clive Wylie has already made himself instrumental to agriculture in the Darling Downs and jumped at the opportunity to continue working in the region.

“I’d known about this little qual business for seven or eight years and I’d been chatting to the owner for quite a few years and when he decided to move on, the wife and I decided to buy the business,” he said.

“We bought it only about six months ago and it’s really a fascinating little business.”

Clive says Banyard Game Birds concentrate solely on producing the best quality quails by managing the entire process from start to finish.

“We actually breed our quail, incubate them, hatch them out and have our own little abattoir making it a fully self-contained business,” he said.

“We do bring our feed in but we are looking at setting up our own little feed mill so we can source all our own ingredients.”

Clive and Erika see the benefit everyday in the quality of quail they are able to produce by controlling the whole process.

“We’ve been involved in food production for a number of years and one of main things that appealed to us about the business was we are really able to offer a sense of knowing where your food comes from,” he said.

“It’s really nice to be fully in control of that.”

Down the Great Dividing Range to Plenty, Clive and Erika’s quail will be gracing our fridges and your plates from our November launch.

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Know Your Honey

Beekeeper and owner of Farmgate Honey, Murray Arkadieff, may well have pollen in his blood.

Following in the footsteps of his parents, Murray was the proud owner of his own smoker and hive tool at the tender age of ten and many years and thousands of stings later he’s still holding on.

Murray says roughly one-third to two thirds of the food we eat is required to be pollinated by bees, a fascinating fact that drives his interest in the field.

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Appearing on our shelves and menu at Plenty come November, Farmgate Honey’s range of all natural products definitely stray beyond the usual fare.

Perhaps the most inviting offering is their fresh-from-the-hive comb honey.

“We produce a lot of comb honey and sell it still in the frames, It has a lovely taste and a delicious chewy texture,” he said.

“We export it to Guam, Egypt, Italy, Japan; it goes all over the place.”

Murray and his team run over 1200 hives within an 800-kilometre radius of Brisbane, travelling thousands of kilometres every year in pursuit of honey flow.

“A lot of people see beekeeping as just an old man in his backyard working a couple of hives but for us we’ve got three workers, big trucks and we are out in the bush for days at a time camped in swags,” he said.

“Different varieties of trees yield nectar and flower at different times of year depending heavily on the weather so you’ve got to really chase the honey every year to find out where it is.”

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These variables make for a complex and flavoursome honey that can change from season to season while maintaining a consistent quality.

Producing roughly 100 tonne of purely natural honey a year, Murray and his team are expert beekeepers and expert honey wranglers.

“The honey comes from the bush, it’s all Australian and we work hard to get it,” he said.

Plenty West End, Know Your Farmer. November 2013.