By Stan Gorton
WELCOME to the inside story behind Series 2 of River Cottage Australia!
The Narooma News just like during the first series will again be bringing you running coverage of each episode.
We will highlight the local characters and scenery of the Far South Coast of NSW featured in the hit show that airs on The Lifestyle Channel on Foxtel.
Host Paul West at the start of Episode 1 says this latest series is all about ramping up production at the River Cottage Australia farm located at the amazingly picturesque and heritage-listed village of Central Tilba just south of Narooma.
The vegetable garden out the front of the farm house has indeed flourished, hardly recognisable from the bare grass that he and River Cottage UK founder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall dug up at the start of Series 1 last year.
Paul explains he wants to start spreading the wealth of the farm at local farmer’s markets and events and for that he will need a big crop of something.
Delivering the cash crop are Fraser Bailey and Kirsti Wilkinson from Old Mill Road BioFarm near Tuross Head, who promptly arrive with a truckload load of tomato seedlings, some good old-fashioned advice and willing labour.
The pair is instrumental in the Sustainable Agriculture Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) organisation and its weekly markets at Moruya.
From their website: “Old Mill Road BioFarm is a family business that aims to enrich local food culture, encourage more small scale farmers, connect those farmers to the consumer and promote the idea that we are not superior to the environment but are part of the ecology. We do this by growing food for the plate, simple hey?”
Fits nicely with the River Cottage ethos, hey!
Back at River Cottage, the pigs are moved aside and fenced off with electric wire and part of the enclosure is turned over in preparation of the planting of the crop.
These are no ordinary tomatoes as the seeds were sourced from the Bega Valley Seed Savers, a volunteer group dedicated to growing and saving the seeds of non-hybrid and heirloom varieties of mostly edible plants.
It is one of the many worthwhile projects of the SCPA – South East Producers organisation, a real champion of the local small-scale agriculture scene.
In honour of all things veggie, Paul prepares a terrine of braised vegetables in a tomato sauce and they all tuck into it sitting in the garden.
Next it’s time to give some guidance to young and occasionally troublesome Digger dog, the collie cross mascot of the show.
Paul and Digger head up to the dusty plains of the Monaro district around Cooma for a few lessons from expert dog handler and human trainer Neil Lynch.
Digger is let loose on the sheep and you can tell he has the instinct and like Paul is full of determination.
The show cuts to aerial drone shots Paul walking on Cemetery Beach at Tilba and juxtaposition of going from the dry and dusty high country plains to the ocean illustrates the diverse wonder and beauty of southern NSW.
Then it is time to head out onto the big, beautiful, blue Pacific Ocean for “a little bit of a snack”.
Paul goes spearfishing at Montague Island just off Narooma with local retired professional abalone diver Stephen Bunney, now manager of Narooma Produce and Saddlery.
Along for the ride is Stephen’s spearfishing buddy Simon Wilson.
Stephen told us he was impressed with Paul’s determination despite some pretty ordinary diving conditions – the initial plan was to go after a kingfish.
The water was particularly murky with little current on the day they dived, which just happened to be Australia Day.
And as such the Narooma News spotted the crew filming their departure at the Narooma wharf and snap a couple of pics for this article.
Despite the conditions, Stephen was able to spear a nice blue morwong fish alongside the island and the scene moves to the island.
Paul expertly fillets the fish and cooks it in parcels with white wine – and Stephen has confirmed to us that it was indeed delicious and the best morwong he has tasted!
Now an editor’s note on behalf of National Parks – Montague Island Nature Reserve is just that - a protected reserve. Paul and the producers received special permission to land, fillet and cook on the island.
The rest of us can easily access the island via one of Narooma’s many excellent charter operators and get a guided tour with one of the Discovery Rangers who live on the big rock.
Just don’t try and come in the next couple of months and the island’s historic lighthouse keeper’s buildings are getting a make-over including new rooves.
Back on land, pig breeder Martin Noakes from the village of Bredbo also up on Monaro Plains is back, this time making a delivery of Claudius the boar to service Paul’s two Berkshire sows Pinky and Dolly.
Who could forget Big Boy from Series 1 that turned out great on the spit in the last episode?
There are some great shots of the three not-so-little pigs together in their enclosure and thankfully the electric fence system holds up protecting the growing tomato crop.
But Paul is not so sure the two girls are pregnant and so calls in the services of vet Luke Dawson and his high-tech ultrasound machine.
Luke is from Bega and Cobargo Veterinary Hospitals and is described as the newest vet at the country practice.
Looking very professional in his green overalls, Luke gives the Paul the good news that both girls are indeed pregnant.
And as is tradition on River Cottage Australia, Paul has prepared a thank-you gift of an iced cake with a key ingredient grown on the farm, but can you guess what?
Luke does so picking up on the subtle flavour of the zucchini that Paul harvested from the garden and used in the recipe.
And so ends the first episode of Series 1 and we can’t wait to see what he and the River Cottage menagerie get up to next week!
Stay tuned to the Narooma News for all your Far South Coast news and happenings!