20 Apr 2011 - 4:49 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Flinders Island. A majestic, mountain studded blip of land that juts out of Bass Strait. Unlike its more famous brother, King Island, at the western entrance to the strait, Flinders Island goes about things quietly.

Yes, the beef is superb, fattened on the salty pasture that fills the lowlands just as it is on King. The lamb is rightly famed, too, in particular the milk-fed stuff. And, if you’re into game birds, there’s nowhere else that I know of in Australia that boasts the variety of the island, in such numbers. But there’s no dairy on the island, which is partly why it’s lesser known.

The reason I was there was to cook lunch. We sourced and cooked up a feast of local produce and served it at a long table last week. Over 100 people dined in a paddock on Partridge Farm, with glimpses of Big Dog Island to the south, and deer, Dorper sheep, grapes and pheasant closer to home. At this farm, Rob and Lorraine Holloway make people like me, who try to source our own produce directly, look like total lightweights. They have his and hers pantries; his with innumerable pieces of fish and meat, cryovaced and frozen; hers with home brew, Fowler’s bottles full of fruit, olives, tomato sauce and more. They hunt in the season, have their own orchard and their own vineyard to make their own wine. They age cheeses they buy in from Pyengana (sometimes for up to three years), dive for crayfish and abalone, and make their own sausages. It’s a while since they had a pig, but they have in the past and will again, so then they’ll make their own bacon and ham.

Our A Common Ground lunch was a posh one, using local wine and trying to cook local produce in a way that the residents of Flinders may not have seen before. My mate Ross O’Meara turned Cape Barren geese into confit and sausages (the bangers mixed with venison from Partridge Farm). We poached mutton-bird in the goose stock then grilled them over flames. Nick Haddow wrapped garfish in vine leaves which were then fried. Lamb from two farms was braised with garlic and tomato and red wine and olives. And we nicked some figs from the oldest fig tree on the island to bake with manuka honey and serve with an apple-and-pear compote. It was $170-a-head, and those that reckoned it was too expensive held a short table 170 cents-a-head lunch on the other side of the island. They have a good sense of humour, Flinders Islanders.

I think the event went well from the feedback we got. We couldn’t have had better weather or more support from the community. It certainly wore us out, though, with the family holiday at the end being more like a convalescence.

I came back to a farm that had been drenched in my absence. Fences along the creek are covered in muck. The electric fence has shorted out and one pig has taken to visiting the neighbour’s paddock, which I’m sure they’re not thrilled about. And the sow I thought was pregnant looks less like dropping a litter now than she did before I went away.

The leaves have started to change on the silver birches. Night is coming in a little earlier than before. Only one chook seems to be laying. We can feel the change in season almost without looking, just by the change in the sounds on the farm. If the possums had left me any quinces, I’d cook them on a day like today – one with patches of sun and the risk of cloud. Instead, I’ll try to revive the sourdough starter, and go and patch the hole in the fence that the pig keeps making use of.