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Matthew Evans, a food-critic-turned-farmer, shares his adventures and relationship with food as he gets back to basics and learns to live off the land.
April Smallwood

6 Jan 2010 - 4:52 PM  UPDATED 7 Oct 2016 - 4:48 PM

What about where you live inspires you and your food?
The depth and integrity of the place. It’s green and fertile and gorgeous in the Huon Valley, and so many of the people I meet are the real thing; producers who do it for love, not for money or fame or to sell things to fancy restaurants. They create wonderful food that they eat themselves.

What has been the best thing about moving to Tasmania?
The air. There’s more of it, in the days, in the way people treat you, in the clarity of the sky. And the beauty that comes with the light down here. Every season is breathtaking, even more so if you head into the wilderness.

What has been the most unexpected?
The welcoming nature of the locals. I feel that the area and the markets have embraced us in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. As a novice on the land, every helping hand is a hand well appreciated.

Why is it important to know where your food comes from?

I think you should be able to trust food. We used to think of it as our friend, but mass production, factory farming and the distance we are from the source of food has led to distrust. So much of the food we eat is vacant food – devoid not just of nutritional value, but of soul.

What is the difference between the ingredients you grow yourself and those you get from the supermarket?
Where do I start? The depth, complexity and intensity of flavour. The incomparable texture. The way good ingredients make good cooking utterly simple. The difficulty is getting ingredients that are truly, at their heart, good.

How has growing and rearing your own produce changed the way you relate to food?
I have been simplifying my cooking for some time now, but when you suck on a pea pod in the garden, the bit you’d throw away, you realise there’s more to flavour than just the bit you eat. I’m more careful to utilise everything, particularly if it’s from one of the animals – because it’s from a sentient being that has died at my hand or my command.

Do you have a secret food shame?
I love Kettle Chips (though they’re nowhere near as good as they were when they first came out) and I’ll go a Tim Tam or four just about any time of the day.

What ingredient can't you live without?
Onions. They make soup. They embellish beans and lentils.  They add sweetness to the barbecue, complexity to stocks and body to risotto. Used well, they can be anything from hot to crisp to naturally caramelised (without adding sugar). Many meals would be lesser without them.

What can you learn about a person from the way they prepare their food?
A good cook is confident. A novice is scared by ingredients. But I think you learn more about a person by the way they eat – a hearty appetite is a sign of other healthy appetites in life.

Can you pick a favourite recipe "”

To impress...
Roast loin of free-range pork with wild fennel and garlic.

For the best comfort food...
Rice pudding under a nutmeg skin, baked with cream and demerara sugar.

For an easy weeknight dinner...
Top quality pasta with olive oil, garlic and lemon.

Tell us about your favourite food event in Australia.
The Vanilla Slice Festival in Ouyen in Victoria; the snot block is a home-grown favourite; it’s a daggy event that attracts thousands of ordinary food lovers; and it celebrates something sickly sweet, which is just what should be celebrated in a frivolous, fun manner.

Anything else you want to tell your fellow foodies?
If you ever get the chance to eat home-grown turkey, do. The flavour makes the commercial stuff look bland and insipid. Mine were sweet, moist, flavoursome and really easy to roast.

Visit the Gourmet Farmer website to watch full episodes and access the recipes from the show along with a raft of online exclusive extras.